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Subject: Game idea: Planet Colonization rss

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David Sevier
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Sparked by the Fantasy or Sci-fi thread. I started thinking about this and came up with some interesting ideas. Figured I'd start jotting them down to get feedback.

Basic style: I'm thinking it'll be mostly a build your city type game. Each player is a group of colonists on the new planet and is working towards their own ends. However, heavy player interaction will be needed since no single group will be able to do much on their own.

Victory conditions: I like the idea of the computer game 4x style where there are multiple possible victory conditions that players could be working towards. This could be a Political Victory (have your city become the Capital of the new planet), a Trade Victory (Become the dominant Trade city, perhaps?), and what have you. Might also have scenario based conditions that replace or add onto the standard ones.

Basic rules: Two-step simultaneous turns of Planning and then Acting, like Ad Astra or Race for the Galaxy. Players will collect resources, build buildings, expand, perform science, etc.

Scenarios: The type of planet you're colonizing should have a huge impact on the game. Is this a mining planet where you're extracting/processing resources to send back to the manufacturing centers? An agricultural planet that produces food for other colonies in the system? A rebel/splinter group hiding from external forces? Is the planet rocky? Wet? Cold? Hot? Is there life here? A breathable atmosphere?

So many options for scenarios. Might even have cards that 'build' the planet. So you could have a Cold, Wet planet with a non-breathable atmosphere but has Alien life that lets you do Scientific Scenario. Or a rocky planet with no atmosphere that allows for mineral extraction, Science, or Rebel scenarios.

That's all I have so far. Lots to think about and ideas to hash through.

What do you guys think?

Too close to anything pre-existing? Any aspects that you think should be expanded upon?
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B D
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Mephansteras wrote:
Too close to anything pre-existing? Any aspects that you think should be expanded upon?


This seems to be very interesting It reminds me of Alpha Centauri which was one of my favourite games, so I'll be keeping a keen eye on this thread

Mephansteras wrote:
Basic style: I'm thinking it'll be mostly a build your city type game. Each player is a group of colonists on the new planet and is working towards their own ends. However, heavy player interaction will be needed since no single group will be able to do much on their own.


Why won't they be able to do much on their own? Aliens? External threats?

Mephansteras wrote:
Scenarios: The type of planet you're colonizing should have a huge impact on the game. Is this a mining planet where you're extracting/processing resources to send back to the manufacturing centers? An agricultural planet that produces food for other colonies in the system? A rebel/splinter group hiding from external forces? Is the planet rocky? Wet? Cold? Hot? Is there life here? A breathable atmosphere?

So many options for scenarios. Might even have cards that 'build' the planet. So you could have a Cold, Wet planet with a non-breathable atmosphere but has Alien life that lets you do Scientific Scenario. Or a rocky planet with no atmosphere that allows for mineral extraction, Science, or Rebel scenarios.


I assume you're thinking that some advance party have already 'scanned' the planet and know the layout before sending colonists to the party.

Another option would be to have the colonists going to an unknown planet and exploring it as they go along. So why not have various environments available? Kind of like the different land types of Settlers - have different tiles to explore and see what they hold.

In either case, you could have a set of agricultural tiles, mining tiles, water tiles, forest tiles, etc. Then for each new game select a random subset of each and combine them to make up the planet for that particular game.
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Laura Creighton
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In the late 1970s or early 1980s, somebody at the University of Toronto ported Stellar Conquest to the pdp/11 and then the Vax (both running UNIX). And we all played the heck out of it. SC really was a game that screamed for computer assistance -- as a board game it really was all about bookkeeping. But it had different planets, some of which were good for breeding new colonists, and some which were airless but were great for robot industries and others I forget now. But I haven't thought of this game for so many, many years.

Yes! A game like this can be fantastic!
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Meaker VI
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I kind of think that a game about planetary colonization should have more than one planet, otherwise it's just a thematically different form of settlers. Maybe send them to a star or planetary (Jupiter with it's 50+ moons) system.
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David Sevier
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Hmm. The inclusion of moons could be interesting. But I think the main difference between what I'm trying to do and Settlers is that you can get wildly different environments to settle. Colonizing a rocky asteroid is very different from colonizing a lush habitable world.

Go out too far and you're not doing anything different from Starfarers of Catan, which is still just another variety of Settlers.

So I'm less worried about the basic scope than I am in making it mechanically interesting and different.


On the idea of having planets pre-scanned vs exploration, I think that's a fun concept to play around with. Also, it works well with the Scenario idea. Some games you'd start with a pre-mapped planet. Others, you could simulate being crashed/stranded on an unexplored planet and need to reveal the tiles as part of play.
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David Sevier
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Double-post, but since this is a bit of a different track.

Been thinking about what I want the game to be like, so I came up with a basic set of things I want in the game.

1) Tile-based land to provide extra re-playability
Only challenge here is dealing with multiple planet types. Might need to color code tile backs and have a given planet specify which tile types can be used. Downside of this is that you'd need a large set of tiles to make different planet types viable.

2) Resources and Resource Harvesting/Production
These include both physical resources like Metal or Food as well as more intangible ones like Research or Political Influence
Politics in general I think has some great applications for increased player interactions.

3) Buildings
Not sure if these will be On-tile pieces or more of a tableau set-up. Could be a combination of both, I suppose. But these will be basic things like Mines/Farms/Research Stations and more complicated buildings like Starports or manufacturing centers.

4) Simultaneous Planning phase (like Race for the Galaxy) with a set ladder of Action phases that are activated depending on the Plans
Only issue here is whether the game has an Area Control aspect to it. Either we allow all players to have buildings on a Tile or we have a mechanism to handle players with conflicting desires. The Political resource could be used there, perhaps?

5) At least 6 player support
Should be more manageable since much of the game will be done simultaneously

6) Multiple win conditions
May include Secret Win conditions or Scenario based Win conditions. I really don't want to go for the generic 'Play until someone gets X victory points' win. I want more interesting things, like a Political Victory where someone amasses a large amount of Political Influence in order to get their colony declared the Capitol. Or a Research based Scenario where one of the victory conditions is to amass a certain amount of Research points by placing research stations in areas with Alien Life. Maybe a win condition where a player who builds an Economy that is bigger than all other players combined wins.

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Meaker VI
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I'm not sure you need different tiles for different planets, you could simulate the same effect by having cards explaining different climates or having each planet made up of different tile types (Metal-rich asteroid is 4 iron, 2 rock; Lush forest-world is 4 forest, 4 plains, 1 rock, 3 water; hostile-atmosphere is 4 acid-seas, 4 rock, and 3 alien plant life).

You could have a subset of tiles representing every type of material on any given planet (the above, rock, forest, plain, water, acid, iron/metal, alien), or maybe you just have a "liquid" tile that represents a liquid body on a planet, but a planetary description card explains the local properties (You'd have liquid, flatland, hills, mountains, craters, plant life, and badland tiles).
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David Sevier
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Hmmm. Ok, that could work.

What about going with a set of Base tiles with Modifier chits?

So I could have something like -

Mountainous
Flat
Craters
Liquid

And then have chits that are placed on them:
Ice
Vegetation (with various levels/differences)
Minerals (with various levels/differences)
Hostile
Blank (This adds in some amount of barren terrain)

That gives a pretty flexible way to generate worlds without needing a ridiculous number of components. The chits could be specified by the Planet.

For example:

Asteroid

An Asteroid could be made up of, say, 14 tiles. An asteroid probably doesn't have any Liquid, so you'd omit those when drawing tiles.
You take 4 Ice chits, 6 Mineral chits, and 8 Blank chits. Mix them together and randomly draw 14, which are distributed amongst the tiles.

Blank chits are then removed.

You now have an Asteroid ready to be used! It may be mineral rich, or it may be mostly barren rock with a bit of ice and a few mineral deposits.

Or

Terrestrial Planet (Non-hostile)

Made up of 19 tiles laid out in a circle. All tile types are valid.
It uses 6 Ice chits, placed at the poles (top 3 and bottom 3 tiles)
You then take 6 Vegetation, 6 Minerals, and 6 Blank chits and randomize them, taking 13 chits and placing them in the non-ice tiles.

This should give you a fairly interesting planet that may have some dead zones but overall should be pretty interesting.

Slight modifiers to this give planets skewed in different directions. (No set ice, increased # of Vegetation chits, extra Liquid tiles, etc)


This system would give you a lot of options. You'd probably want a deck of Planet cards that are either drawn randomly or selected by a Scenario.
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linoleum blownaparte
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Meaker VI wrote:
I kind of think that a game about planetary colonization should have more than one planet, otherwise it's just a thematically different form of settlers. Maybe send them to a star or planetary (Jupiter with it's 50+ moons) system.


I think one of the major differences from Settlers is that in Settlers the environment is static. An ore hex will always provide the same amount and kind of resources throughout the game, that is, 1 ore per settlement.

If the game incorporates terraforming these planets, that could be a huge difference from Settlers. Because the players are literally trying to change the terrain to their advantage. Also, terraforming introduces a cool theme aspect where a player cannot "hog" all the benefits of any of his actions. If I go to great effort and expense to terraform a planet to have a breathable oxygen atmosphere, that benefits not only me but also every other player trying to colonize it (unless their species is allergic to oxygen ).

I'm interested in any game where individual actions have impact for all the players. Especially because we don't need yet another "everyone builds their own world on their isolated player boards" game. Why not just play RFTG in that case.
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Scott Westgard
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This idea really is one of the "Holy Grails" of sci-fi BGD. Since computer games can crunch the numbers/randomize so much better, simplifying the idea to a playable board game amongst people of average intelligence will be a feat unto itself. If you look to target hobby gamers, you can complicate it a bit more, at the expense of it becoming slower to play.

Finding the balance, without spoiling the fun or over-randomizing, could prove to be a monumental task.

good luck!
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David Sevier
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Yeah, I'm thinking randomness of set-up but little or no randomness in the actual play. That would provide great replayability while keeping the gameplay tight.
 
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Carl Nyberg
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How many planets and asteroids are there going to be on the board?
 
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Eric Smith
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bill437 wrote:
How many planets and asteroids are there going to be on the board?


I think the idea is that the players are all colonizing one planet... the board is the planet surface.
 
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You could do something like MOO, where there are different classes of stars (yellow stars, red stars, blue stars, etc) and within each star system there is a mix of planet environments (moderate/suitable for life, icy/water planets ,rocky/good for mining, barren/minimal of everything, hostile/unsuitable for use until terraforming, asteroids/uninhabitable, etc).

For example, yellow stars are more likely to support habitable planets but may/may not have one or two other planet types. Blue stars are more likely to have mineral-rich planets, red stars are more likely to have harsh planets, etc.

The game board could be created randomly by pulling x tiles from a bag of y tiles and arranging them face down. On the back are just the coloured stars themselves. Once explored, they are flipped up to reveal the planets within the star system (anywhere from 0 usable planets up to a maximum say 5 planets). Initially you would have to go the actual tiles to see what planets were there but eventually you could research tech to let you peek at all the tiles one space away, then later maybe 2, etc.
 
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David Sevier
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That's one way of doing it, but Carl has it right. I think this is all going to be focused on a single planet.
 
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Meaker VI
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Mephansteras wrote:
Hmmm. Ok, that could work.

What about going with a set of Base tiles with Modifier chits?

So I could have something like ...
Asteroid ...


Exactly, something like that would work great.

Linoleumblownaparte wrote:
I think one of the major differences from Settlers is that in Settlers the environment is static. ...If the game incorporates terraforming these planets...


That could be interesting, and is something I wasn't thinking about at all. It'd work well with the above system too.

bhundawg wrote:
You could do something like MOO, where there are different classes of stars (yellow stars, red stars, blue stars, etc) and within each star system there is a mix of planet environments (moderate/suitable for life, icy/water planets ,rocky/good for mining, barren/minimal of everything, hostile/unsuitable for use until terraforming, asteroids/uninhabitable, etc). ...


Also an interesting idea, but I think that is too vast of a scope for the idea here - you can't have multiple systems, each with multiple planets, each with varied & unique terrain.

Mephansteras wrote:
That's one way of doing it, but Carl has it right. I think this is all going to be focused on a single planet.


I still think having more than one, but not many more, planets would make it more distinct. Maybe it's a habitable/rocky main planet and orbiting moon(s), an asteroid field, an uninhabitable/gas giant's planetary system. Maybe 60 hexes that make up the whole system (4-player settlers has 42). Then you open up the use of space a bit more.
 
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David Sevier
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Moons or Multiple Asteroids could work ok. Functionally it'd be similar to having different islands in the Seafarers of Catan expansion for Settlers.

And fairly easy to work in, I think.
 
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Mephansteras wrote:
Moons or Multiple Asteroids could work ok. Functionally it'd be similar to having different islands in the Seafarers of Catan expansion for Settlers.

And fairly easy to work in, I think.


I think it would be more like the overseas trading partners that the ports help us reach. We know they are there, but we don't really need anything on the board to represent them until there is game mechanic that interacts with them.
 
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David Sevier
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I think that would be scenario based. You only create Moons or additional Asteroids if these are places that players can Colonize.

For instance, it might be interesting to have a scenario where there is a plant that has abundant water and vegetation, but is poor in minerals with a Moon that is barren but rich in Minerals. Some players could focus on Farming or Research on the planet while others colonize the moon to mine and process resources that all colonies will need for expansion.
 
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Forrest & Ryan Driskel
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Oh yes, tons of ideas to explore with this theme. It has been one that has bounced around in my head MANY times.

One fun idea I had was stargates, and then an iPhone app that would tell you the world layout based on some code. This way, play across multiple sessions could be linked. Couldn't figure out a great reason why it would be useful though.
 
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Meaker VI
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Mephansteras wrote:
I think that would be scenario based. You only create Moons or additional Asteroids if these are places that players can Colonize.

For instance, it might be interesting to have a scenario where there is a plant that has abundant water and vegetation, but is poor in minerals with a Moon that is barren but rich in Minerals. Some players could focus on Farming or Research on the planet while others colonize the moon to mine and process resources that all colonies will need for expansion.


This is exactly what I was thinking. While you could have off-map resource centers, developing the local area and being required to focus on more heavily on one area or another would be interesting. An asteroid field could have many, easy to obtain, small resource production centers that get used up quickly, and require a large investment in colony infrastructure; while a earth-size planet wouldn't require as much work to colonize and would have greater variety of resources, but they might be harder to get at.
 
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John Fox
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I like the idea of terraforming as well. As the game progresses you can "Buy" upgrades and change the progression of your part of the planet. So that a water poor planet can eventually be given water sources.
 
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Eric Smith
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I like it... but Terraforming seems like an all or nothing thing. All the species (5-6?) can't terraform one planet into (5-6?) different atmospheres with biomes completely alien to one another.

My suggestion...

Each alien is attempting to explore the map, establish colonies, and develop the machinery to Terraform the planet. No one species will be able to do it alone. During the game, players will need to sometimes co-operate & sometimes compete to create much of the needed infrastructure. Each species will of course need its own bio-spheres to live in, and its own food supplies and will have to build that themselves. But they could co-operate on mining other general resources, construction of common terraforming equipment, and solving certain research questions.

While the "physical" exploration and development is going on, each race is also working to build alliances and political strength so that when the terraforming switch is to be thrown, it is their own species' primary environment that is chosen for the planet.

Placing influence in other players bio-spheres, making sure that your species is renown for solving certain terraforming research issues, dominating the landscape with the most populous species would all be viable paths to winning in that final "vote".



 
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John Fox
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I would say that the game could be set up to have a common building phase, in which everyone builds new outposts or receives new tech from other planets at the same time, and exploration turns that are done individually.
 
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David Sevier
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Not sure about terraforming. It's going to be in, of course, but I'm not sure how that's going to be handled. Could be a co-op scenario. Maybe I could have sliders for where the atmosphere of a planet is and various technology/buildings could shift that. Needs thought.

As for different races, that will again need thought. I'm always a fan of alien races, but I'm not sure how well having multiple races try to colonize a planet at the same time will work. Another area that needs thought. If you're doing non-hostile competition then it'd be easy enough to simply let each player choose a race for their faction (you can have duplicates) and simply say that all of the races belong to an Alliance of some sort. That would give a nice cosmopolitan feel to it, and a nice change from the normal 'Race X fights Race Y and Z for dominion of the galaxy' that you get so often.


Here are my current thoughts on how a turn would play out:

Turn order: I'm not sure if I want to have set initiatives that can be changed by cards (or maybe by using Political points?) or if I want to simply have a First Player token that moves each turn. Both have their merits.

1) Planning (Simultaneous)
Like Race for the Galaxy, each player plays a card that says what Phase they want to use this turn. Playing a Phase card gives you a bonus in that phase

2) Exploration
Going by player order, each player may spend resources to Explore a Tile. How much exploration needs to be done might depend on the Scenario. An unmapped planet would need to have both Tiles and Chits explored, while a Mapped planet might just need to have the Chits explored. A few scenarios might just eliminate this Phase all together.

3) Trade (Simultaneous)
Players may Trade between one another and with any external sources allowed by the Scenario. External sources will have set trade ratios, while players of course can trade things as they please.

4) Building
Going by player order, Players can spend resources to Build various cards/buildings. I'm thinking these are going to be mostly generic with perhaps a few faction specific things. Still haven't decided if buildings are going to be cards or actual pieces on the board. I really like pieces, so I'm leaning towards that, but cards lets you build a lot more things with better variety.

5) Resource Gathering (Simultaneous)
Players gain any resources that their buildings produce.



Well, it's all still fuzzy. I'm still debating if the Planning phase is useful or needed. I also want to do more with Research and Politics, but I haven't decided if that would be something that would happen in its own phase or even how they'll be used.

Kind of inclined to have Research be part of the Building phase, with Politics its own phase. Maybe have each player get a set of Political cards that they can spend political resources to play? It'd add a lot of direct player interaction to the game without being necessarily violent or destructive.
 
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