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Subject: MLSC (or: "How to completely over-analyze a game's playability.") rss

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Jason John
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Major League Space Cadets: A (so-called) league of players attempting to play the game using a set of standard rules that removes any potential ambiguity from gameplay judgements.

Also: a group of slightly-insane engineering majors who suddenly have found a source of free time.

So, I just got my two copies of Space Cadets, in order to prepare for some massive head-to-head games, once the dueling senario comes out. I have started getting a group together to play and, if there's enough interest, start experimenting with some duel games. My personal so-called "goal" would be to attempt to put on a (small) tourney of Space Cadets, perhaps as a fundraiser for the board game club at the school, so they can get more games.

Of course, that's a totally realistic goal and I'll certainly have the free time to do that. But that's a story for another day. The first elephant in the room I wanted to tackle would be the ruleset.

Now, don't go yelling at the Engelsteins, they did a very good job with the rules. But there are certain, small, unaddressed issues. These things usually go to "house rules."

For Example:
Space Cadets Rulebook wrote:
At the start of the Action Step the WO turns over the Torpedo Tube cards. He then places Torpedo pieces to match the
shape on the card. No Torpedo pieces may extend outside the shape, and the pieces may not overlap.

During Step 6, the WO fires one torpedo for each successfully completed puzzle.

Nice, easy, and simple. Until someone gets a close-call. When is the final state of the station reached? The exact moment the timer expires (AKA a "snapshot" at the 30 second mark?) Or is it at the end of any movement made prior to the end of the 30 second mark (AKA the "last shot" in basketball?) Does having a hand on a piece nullify the puzzle (like chess?) Are "crooked" pieces (AKA pieces which were clearly placed in a specific spot, but were moved due to being "jostled" around) allowed, and if so, to what extent?

Little details like these are usually not that big of an issue, especially in a co-operative environment. However, what happens in head-to-head? Let's say one group with another group at a tournament in a convention. One of the WO gets their piece down just as the clock expires, but doesn't remove their hand until after the time expires. One of the sides, based on their house rules, would call it a good puzzle. The other, based on their house rules, would call it a bad puzzle due to the piece not being released before time expires. Usually, not a problem, but what if this is the difference between the target ship jumping out with the win or blowing up? What if this is during the final match? What if there was prize money on the line? This little "glitch" could be worth a significant amount of money!

As a real-life example, I present to you the WFTDA, the "largest" body of flat track roller derby at this point in time (NOTE: "largest" term not verified, hence the quotes.) A few months ago, one team found a "loophole" based off of the definition of a "pack" and what happens when there is/is not a "pack." This tactic allowed for teams to slow the pack with minimal effort. Now, this is not a roller-derby forum, so to avoid a long discussion, I will simply show this: Now, that is a worst-case senario, and the ruleset has changed since then, but this is what I am trying to avoid in Space Cadets games.

Of course, the way to get past that is to agree to a ruleset prior to play. However, there are lots of these little tidbits. You don't want to get into a 15 minute discussion of rules before each game, do you?

That's the primary concept of this so-called-ruleset. It's mission is 3 fold:

1) To act as a authoritative set of clarifications that two sides agree to play by, to avoid "house rule" problems.

2) To enable head-to-head play in a "broad" sense, while keeping within the spirit of the game.

3) To challenge expert players with a series of rules that allow for games played by multiple groups to be fairly compared.

Basically, it 1) prevents arguments, 2) is friendly to head-to-head play, and 3) allows for games of multiple groups to be fairly compared.

Now, I am in no means a Space Cadets expert, which is why I am here. As I attempt to formulate this ruleset, I will post these thoughts up here for further discussion. Hey, if this gets enough interest and gets done I may even post the final product up here for all to see!

Now this may seem like overkill. And it most assuredly is. However, for high - level play, things like this are, rather unfortunately, required. Worst-Case, I get a lesson on how hard it is to write rules. Reasonably-Best-Case, I do something awesome for the community. Even-more-best-case, this gets so big the MLSC gets on national TV and becomes the next generation version of Football.

Ok, maybe not that far.

So, let's start with . . . Oh, wait. This is turning into a really long post. Go take a break.

No, seriously, take a break.

Ok, you've taken a break? Good. Now let's get started. Today we'll discuss the weapons station. There will be more meaningful discussion, like how timing would work in a head to head game, but I'm pretty sure you're already tired, so we'll start small.

Q1: How may the WO set up his station, and what must/must not be present at the start of the action phase?

My Thoughts: Table-space shouldn't be a problem, nor should arrangement of puzzle pieces. The only problem for arrangement of puzzles is for seekers: how does one indicate that the 2 puzzles are connected? Putting them next to each other may not be enough if the others are as well. Finally, the initial location of hands should not need to be standardized, but no early card flipping should be occurring.

Rule: The WO may set his station up at his discretion, pursuant to the following:
1) Puzzles may not be looked at.
2) Connected seeker puzzles must be overlapping each other, in some fashion. Merely touching is not enough. The puzzles may be separated after the time begins.
3) No part of one's body may be touching the pieces prior to the start of the clock.

Q2: Are any restrictions required during play not mentioned in the book?

My Thoughts: I don't think so.
Rule: None.

Q3: When is the final state of the station determined?

My Thoughts: Kind of explained up above. Personally, once time is up hands should go up.

Rule: When time is called, hands must immediately be raised and may not perform any more actions. Any tile not 100% on the card is taken back. The hand does NOT need to be removed to be considered "on the card." EDIT: Any tile in the air as time expires will count if it lands in its spot.

Q4: What is a "Successfully Completed Puzzle?"

My Thoughts: For inspiration, I went to the rules for another popular puzzle solving competition, a rubix cube

WCA Regulations wrote:

10e1) For each two adjacent parts (for example two parallel adjacent slices of a cube) of the puzzle that are misaligned more than the limit described in Article 10f, these two parts are considered to need one move to be solved (Half Turn Metric).

Thus, a "perfect cube" shape is not required: the last turn may be up to 45 degrees off and still register as a solve. Similar thought processes were used to make the rule for this game.

Rule: A puzzle is considered solved if, at the resting position of the puzzle:
1) All of the "centers" of the white squares are covered.
2) None of the "centers" of "non-white" squares would be covered if the puzzle card extended forever in all directions.
3) If the piece was moved to its intended location, it would result in all boxes being filled.
(In other words, the "center" of the square is what counts.)

So...any thoughts?

(Clarification: This is not a "official rules errata." It is, as the forum it is put in implies, a variant of the rules. If you don't like it, that's fine, play the way you wish.)

TL;DR: Working on more specified ruleset that adds in really small details to avoid arguments for head-to-head play. Look at bolded questions and answer.

Yeah, a TL;DR in a BGG thread. If there's any thread that deserves this treatment, this is the one. Thank goodness I didn't go on a rant on roller derby.
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