|An actual space station which is probably not home away from home for diplomats, hustlers, entrepreneurs, and wanderers. Picture from NASA, obtained via commons.wikimedia.org.|
The idea was inspired by seeing a review of Among The Stars, which commented that it was really quite cool that the game was based around building space stations and wouldn't it be great if more games were about space stations rather than building galactic empires and the usual stuff along those lines. That sounded like a good sentiment to me, but I thought what I'd like to do would be something a bit political based on the sort of space station where humans and aliens could work out their differences peacefully, but often had different agendas that might make that lofty aim a little tricky.
I pondered on this for a while and had one mechanic that I thought could be interesting (I'm sure there was something that inspired this, but can't remember what it was): using cards for events and actions, but selecting some of the cards that will be available to you for each turn right at the beginning of the game. So you get the opportunity to lay the skeleton of a strategy early on by, for example, ensuring that you will have the card that allows you to launch a military attack on turn 4, or an assassination on turn 2. With cards like this, incidentally, I wanted to make sure that any card had multiple possible uses, so you will have some flexibility, plus there should be additional cards available each round which would give more options than those that have been pre-scripted.
So we are looking at a game that is at least partly card driven, but I also liked the idea of using a form of action selection or worker placement. I would actually hesitate to use the term worker placement as among many gamers that seems to evoke a game where placing a worker is as much to deny your opponents an opportunity as it is to gain something yourself, and I don't think I'll be going strongly down that path, but I do like the idea that you control an ambassador, an attaché, and maybe a couple of other agents and each round you select what each of them will be doing. You could have a central board representing the space station, with areas for choosing assorted actions, and perhaps some of the cards that get played would require an agent to be placed on them to activate.
With this sort of stuff in mind I got out my supplies of blank cards and got started on knocking together a first prototype with some guesses at what could be on the cards for actions.
That was probably my first mistake. A little while later I had a small pile of cards with a load of incoherent writing and scribbling on them, much of it crossed out and none of it really making any sense. When someone tells you to prototype early, they probably mean you to have at least a bit of an idea of what should go on the cards, tokens or whatever.
This is starting to ramble on a bit, so I will pause here and continue soon with something about my next steps.