Ed S.
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While watching Star Trek TNG one night with my wife, I was inspired to think about a game in which the players controlled robots that were waking humans from stasis. That became the idea for a rogue-like computer game, but then, in making the paper prototype, I thought it'd be fun to make it into a board game.

So, after months of part-time sketching in my notebooks, I'm now play-testing the first versions of the game with handmade cards and place-holder chits. If you're in/around Portland, Oregon (or will be in Santa Clara, California for the California Extreme Arcade show in July) and want to help test, please get in touch!

I'm blogging about my experience developing the game over here: http://nstategames.blogspot.com

The reason I'm posting is that I have a bidding/voting mechanic I'd like some feedback on. This mechanic comes into play at the end-game, and is the last step before tallying points. The rest of the game could be thought of as "strategic resource gathering".

Each player has a collection of colonists they've rescued. Each colonist has three traits (3 different traits from a complete set of 13 traits). One colonist in each player's hand is "secret" and serves as the "ideal" they're trying to express in the colony that's being formed. Each player starts the bidding/voting by placing (for free) one of their colonists into a proposed council. If there are 3 players, there are three council members (2 for 2, 4 for 4).

Then the first player may choose one colonist from her hand to replace a colonist on the council. Every other player is given an opportunity to block this nomination by spending voting points (colonists in their hand, or points gained throughout the "resource gathering" part of the game). Bidding goes round and round, with votes for and against until everyone passes (or can't bid).

The goal is to have as many traits in the council matching your secret leader. When everyone but one person is out of cards to nominate or everyone has forfeit nomination, the secret leaders are revealed and scoring happens. For every trait matching a leader's trait on the council, the player gets a point (multiple matches are best).

Players can also just "turtle up" and not spend any of their colonists and get points for cards they have left. There are also "glory points" that can be gained during the "gathering" part of the game that can be spent for "double points" during bidding or cashed in for 2 points during scoring. Might also be worth mentioning that there are "veto" power cards that can (won't always) pop up during the "gathering" phase too. Considering other "special power ups" that can be spent to influence the voting/council too. Depends on balancing.

I'd love to hear about any obvious flaws in this system, or hear about games with similar systems. I haven't play-tested it much yet, but nothing has jumped out at me so far.
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John "Omega" Williams
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Metamorphosis Alpha (1st Edition)
And the brief TV series The Starlost.

Both play with the idea of a runaway generation starship.

If you are focusing more on the colony founding and interaction then it moves into the space empie builder allmost. Not a bad thing mind you. My first game back in the 80s was pretty much that.
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Ed S.
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Thanks for the tips!

I'll have to look into Metamorphosis Alpha, the description "dungeon crawl in space" does evoke my thoughts on the "resource" phase of my game. I've never heard of Starlost, I'll dig up some clips.

Only difference here is that this isn't a generation starship (as I understand it), because everyone is in stasis for the entire trip. The emphasis of the game is mostly the emergency evacuation of the ship with a dungeon-crawl mechanic. I originally planned it as a computer game that would be more of a "rogue-like", but the paper-prototype was interesting.

In this thread, I was hoping to get some feedback on the bidding system. I'm trying to weed out gotchas early on. Want the end-game to potentially be anybody's game as long as everyone has collected a minimum number of colonists or glory points (resources/power essentially).

It's intentionally a mechanically simple game, meant for a short play-time with lots of character flavor to (ideally) spur a bit of story-telling.
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John "Omega" Williams
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http://www.hulu.com/ark (sadly never completed)

As for the bidding system. Looks mostly viable so far.

What about instances of player alliances? Is there a second place as were that an enterprising lower tier player could be aiming for by supporting someone else? Or id it very colonist for him/herself?
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Ed S.
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Right now, it's everyone for themselves. The fiction is that there are special interests that have invested in enhancing/corrupting the AI of the robots that are doing the rescuing (and may have themselves engineered the catastrophe that created the emergency). None of the colonists are violent toward one another, so everyone will go on living in the colony -- so that may be a consolation if one of "their" colonists makes it into the final council.

There are a few special powers/cards that can be played during the council vote/bid stage. Some invoke veto, some prevent veto, some make a player's vote worth double, others nullify traits, others amplify traits. So there should be some volatility and unpredictability until the end. Ultimately, the more colonists you rescue, the more dead you deliver to the morgue and the more creeps you vent into space, the better off you'll be in the council-forming stage.

Hoping to get a few testing sessions in with folks from my independent game developer group this weekend.
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Cat Lord
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1: On average from your playtests/projections, how many colonists should players have at the end of the game?

2a: Does a given player have control over which colonists they receive or what their Leader starts with?
|__ 2b: What happens if multiple players has the same leader type?

3: A major concern I am having is with conspiracy, especially with only two players.

4: I would suggest the council being #Players+1 instead of #Players just to put more traits out there. A council of 2 just seems a bit lackluster and prone to ties.
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Ed S.
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Great questions.

1. Projections vary based on number of players. There will always be about 40 available living colonists (of 80 cards) of varying traits. Each of the 80 are unique combinations of three traits. When a stasis pod is removed from its "socket", a character card is drawn and a "state" chit is drawn at random to determine if it is a living, dead, or a creep. The ratio of states is currently 2:1:1. Some colonists won't be rescued (for various reasons), but I'm guessing 80% will be. So let's say 32/p (16 2p, 10 3p, 8 4p).

2. No control over leader. Some control over who they rescue.
2a. All character cards are a unique combination of 3 traits (which are really three groups of 4-5 traits).

3. I'm right there with you. This is going to be a challenge.

4. Interesting thought. Especially with the 2p council. Since the colonist deck might be depleted by game end, this might manifest as each player having the option for 2 (or more) initial nominations. This could also be the inspiration for another "power up" (I'm calling them "bequeathments", gained when laying a dead colonist to rest in the morgue).

Thanks so much, great feedback.
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Cat Lord
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Could you elaborate on the "creep" status and why it's different from dead and alive? Because right now I put the odds at 50% alive, 25% dead, 25% creep (with the listed ratio).
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Ed S.
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Sure, "creep" can probably be thought of as a zombie. While the players' robots or survivors (living pods returned to medbay) cannot directly attack another player's robot, the creeps can. Part of each player's turn is to (optionally) move one Creep on the map (if any are out). These Creeps will most likely be used to block off passages by standing there, but can also knock pods out of a robot's inventory.

Creeps come into play when they break out of a "creep" status pod. This happens after a set of turns (still tuning how long, probably 3). Once they break out, they are available to be moved by any player on the "creep" phase of their turn.

Hope that answers your question.

Delivering a "creep pod" to the airlock before it ruptures grants the player a Glory Point to be spent for points or influence at the end of the game.
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Cat Lord
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All right, so it sounds like 50% of colonists die (since I'm assuming creeps can't vote) unless you weight it towards survival more. About 20 colonists per player, and (currently) only 2-4 of all 40 likely survivors in the game - less due to sabotage by creep (potential point loss for being dishonorable?)- are on the council. Of the council's 4-12 traits (because in a two player game, the two councilors can share two of their three traits), whomever holds a secret leader with most of them (hooray for overlaps of any variety) wins.

What's the advantage of doing anything but putting all of your resources into more than one of your councilors?
It seems like you're just hoping the other players overextend themselves but really you'll just want to stockpile into buying things at the end of the game since if one of your candidates is usurped, they no longer count for anything.

Could you list the advantages of winning the council?

EDIT: My catchphrase is coming into play - is there a rulebook I can read?
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Ed S.
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I do have a rulebook, but not comfortable sharing it yet (want to get some more play-testing under my belt, for one thing). But hopefully I can clear up some things.

In regard to "dishonor" -- I (perhaps) sidestep the issue with the notion that controlling the creeps is not a manifestation of the will of the leader's faction, but instead "fate". An excuse to put in some player vs. player conflict, without jeopardizing the fiction of interest in a united survival.

Winning the council (having a leader whose traits harvest the most points from the final trait-tally of the council, after adjustments by special cards played) is winning the game. Nothing else matters. The player who put the colonist on the council doesn't matter. The council ends up just being a pool of "traits".

The wildcards here are the Bequeathments (special cards gained by taking dead colonist pods to the morgue), some of which are beneficial during the council-forming phase. These are how I am inserting more drama (less certainty, turn-abouts) into the end game. One example would be a "veto" card to automatically disqualify a nomination. Another example would be a card played on a council member that would double the value of all traits on his/her card. Another I'm calling "entrenchment" in which a player abstaining from a vote may add "defensive" tokens to a council member that act as "nay" votes to any attempt to replace them. I'm planning to use these special voting adjustments sparingly as tuning elements.

I understand if this wildcard element makes it tough to assess other aspects of the council-forming phase. My intention is to word them in such a way as they could potentially benefit all players (except veto of course), so they're not necessarily trumps.


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Cat Lord
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I think I'm getting the big picture, and if you're worried about your game's mechanical integrity, that's what makes this form great. For what it's worth, I have a game that I leave open to BGG's scrutiny. We can judge one aspect until it works, but without the big picture we might not have a solution that fits the rest of the game.
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Cat Lord
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I think I'm getting the big picture, and if you're worried about your game's mechanical integrity, that's what makes this form great. For what it's worth, I have a game that I leave open to BGG's scrutiny. We can judge one aspect until it works, but without the big picture we might not have a solution that fits the rest of the game.
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John "Omega" Williams
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Fear of Idea theft is very very common for neo-game designers.

Heres the basic brutal fact of it.

Your ideas are worthless. Your game is not worth stealing from untill it is actually done and out there. And once its released, free or on the shelves. Its fair game to lift ideas from. Till then. You are wasting energy worrying over something that isnt likely to happen and if it does happen, theres not alot you can feasably do about it.

So forge ahead with your game designing. Squirrling it away wont get the inevitible rules holes spotted and plugged.
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James Hutchings
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edsito wrote:
I'm blogging about my experience developing the game over here: http://nstategames.blogspot.com


You might want to put that blog on this geeklist.
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James Hutchings
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Omega2064 wrote:
Your ideas are worthless.


This, plus your ideas are a combination of other people's ideas. For example Talisman is largely Dungeons & Dragaons crossed with Parker Brothers-style family game mechanics.
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James Hutchings
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Quote:
The colonists in the game each have three traits, one from each of three different categories. The number of items in each of these categories is hovering around four, but they're far from set in stone.


I found this (from the blog) a bit confusing on the first read.

It sounds like you're saying this:

i) There are 13 keywords.

ii) These keywords are divided into three groups (call them group A, group B, and group C).

iii) Each character has exactly one keyword from group A, one from group B, and one from group C.

But it was confusing because I initially expected traits to be like attributes ie everyone has the same attribute names, but each one has a different number associated with it (eg all characters have Strength, but one character might have Strength 15 and another Strength 6).

It might be better to call the traits 'skills' instead (if all of them are good to have).

It might also be a good idea to explain what the division between the three groups is. For example if they're physical, mental and social you could say "each character has exactly one Physical Skill, one Mental Skill, and one Social Skill." Or if characters can gain or lose traits during the game, "starts with" instead of "has".
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James Hutchings
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edsito wrote:
If there are 3 players, there are three council members (2 for 2, 4 for 4).


Suggest "There are as many council members as there are players", or just "Each player nominates one character to the council."
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James Hutchings
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edsito wrote:
I'd love to hear about any obvious flaws in this system, or hear about games with similar systems. I haven't play-tested it much yet, but nothing has jumped out at me so far.


I'm not sure that you'd consider this a problem, but it doesn't seem that connected to the theme.

It sounds like you could make the game about political parties recruiting would-be politicians, or a dating gameshow or website, and it would fit the theme just as much.

So if you want a 'themey' game, you might want to think about what sort of thing happens in Battlestar Galactica or whatever your inspirations are, and then about how you can represent that as game events.

Similarly, it doesn't sound as if one trait is very different to another. It seems like the only factor is whether it matches the various 'ideals'. Again, for a more theme-heavy game you might want to think about what someone with Computer Psychologist can do that someone with Astrogater can't and vice versa.
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Ed S.
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Thank you for your candor, but maybe I didn't express myself adequately. I see how you might interpret my reluctance to post the rules as "squirreling it away" -- that's not my intent. I'm happy to share a clearly expressed set of rules, I simply have two concerns posting what I have now:

1. They're sloppily written, with some contradictions which *I* know are obsolete/change, but I haven't updated, and some inconsistent (thus confusing) nomenclature. Working on cleaning that up.

2. My purpose of posting here (initially) was to air out the voting mechanic in isolation and not confuse it with things like movement rules and turn order.

I am aware of the "incestuous" nature of game design. Standing on the shoulders of giants (or just a lot of dwarves) lets us all see farther. I have no illusion that I'm a precious flower of unique ideas. My game is a combination of a lot of elements I like from other games (tile-laying maps, "supply lines", indirect conflict).
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Ed S.
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Good point. The theme makes more sense with the rest of the game considered. What we've been dwelling on here is the end-game colony foundation system in which the players do their best to use the colonists, glory points and special powers (bequeathments) to their best advantage.

I'm in the process of making the rules more presentable and will post for all to peruse.

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Ed S.
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Just wanted to follow up and say the voting mechanic worked well in the few playtests I've done so far. Definitely needs to be seeded with at least 3 (ideally 5-10) colonists/cards per player. Other rules (movement, acquisition) of the game are being tweaked to make it likely that everyone will end up with enough votes, special cards and "bonus votes" to make the colony council selection exciting at the end.

Blogging about it at http://www.nstategames.com.
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