Space Station 7, more words, still nothing playable

Moving on from my previous post on Space Station 7, I got to work on solidifying some ideas so I could actually have some sort of prototype to play around with. I still have some way to go on that front, but I have a lot more ideas thought through and written down.
Awesome though it is to post pictures of the ISS I really must put some effort in to provide pictures of my own. Picture from NASA, obtained via commons.wikimedia.org.

So the idea for the game is a combination of card play and worker placement or action selection. I envisage the game involving play passing round the table with each player taking a short turn which essentially involves placing an agent somewhere and resolving the result, and continuing until everyone passes, after which agents are recovered, time moves on, and we go through the whole thing again.

 The main spots to place agents would be either a main board, representing SS7 itself, which provides a few opportunities for action, or a player's own mini-board representing their homeworld and colonies, providing other actions, some of which might be specific to the race/species that the player is controlling. Tying in to this, cards would have multiple uses, and be playable in a couple of these locations to allow one of the card effects to take place. For instance, a card might allow for use in building up military strength if played with an agent on a homeworld, or for calling for another player to suffer economic sanctions if played with an agent on the council chamber on the station itself.

I feel that about four locations on the station should work out about right (this could easily change later) and so far I have thought of using:
  • Command & Control for actions about resolving event cards (oh, I haven't mentioned that yet -- better do that soon).
  • The Council Chamber for political actions that would basically be votes that could advantage or disadvantage one or more players.
  • The Forum, a "mingling" area where players could build influence with non-player factions.
  • Down Below, where actions can be used to interact with the black market, use espionage actions, and so on.
I envisage most of the main action cards including one action available for one of the SS7 locations and one for a homeworld or colony location.  I may make it three actions on each card, but suspect that getting enough information onto the cards for that (while keeping them manageable) could be a struggle.

A final use for the cards (for now) would be to discard them to supplement something else.  A discarded card could add one (possibly more -- that's a matter for testing and balancing) vote in the council chamber, for instance.  Or you can discard a card to move an agent, effectively getting an extra action (this could be huge -- maybe you need to discard more than one card in this case).  In fact, there could be a value printed on the cards to specify its strength when used in this sort of way.

To balance all this, players need to receive a set number of new cards each turn, so the choice is to save or spend.  If hands got replenished to a certain size each turn, the "correct" thing to do would almost always be to use all your cards every time.

With all these goings-on, I think we will need to have some resources that need tracking.  Resources is probably not the right name for them, but it'll do for now.  Whether these get tracked by moving a marker along a racetrack, by collecting counters, or something else, is not relevant at the moment.  For now I think we probably need something to represent political support (which could translate to votes in the council chamber), an economy, and military strength.  All of these are massive abstractions, but they seem about right.

Of course, something I haven't really got into at this point is victory conditions, but it would be nice if everyone had their own (possibly secret) victory conditions, some or all of which could be related to the resources being tracked.

I'll just mention events now, even though I'm not planning on using them in the first prototype.  I figured that it would be nice to have some sort of external stimuli for the players to give them something extra to think about each turn.  If done right, this should help develop a narrative for the game and add an extra layer of interest.  This could be along the lines of an attack by space pirates, the arrival of mysterious "other" aliens, or discovery of an ancient ghost ship.  Players would then be able to commit resources to resolving the challenges presented and may gain something useful as a result.  I am not entirely sure how to handle this, but it would be nice if there could be scenarios set by different decks of event cards.  I've seen this done well in the game Rune Age.

Anyway, the upshot of all this is that I still don't have a prototype, but what I do have is a much clearer idea of where I am going.  Of course, that is bound to change, but you have to start somewhere, right?

My plan right now is to make a list of a bunch of actions that could be on cards and then construct enough cards to play through a turn or two with two players, just to see if the basic mechanics look okay.  When that is done I'll write up another post and we'll see where we can go from there.

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