Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Starmada Campaign Rules, Take 2

The last version of the campaign rules met with limited popularity during playtesting.  The primary criticisms were as follows:
  • Random appeals meant you could get really screwed for reinforcements just by chance.  Of the four total losses, each of which was followed by a reinforcements check by the loser, two of the reinforcements rolls came up 1s.  Likewise, tech was simply too unlikely to be useful, as were special appeals.  The arbitrary nature of special appeals rankled as well.
  • Overloaded flotillas were absolute bears to kill.
  • High-engine, low-cost striker carriers could launch every game and then evade enemy fire, meaning that guns were largely useless except for shooting down incoming ordinance (or against foes also using guns).  That strikers were recovered for free after the game added insult to injury.
  • The ability to field the same ships over and over seemed unrealistic.
  • The ability to capture only one system per game, and even then only half the time, meant that expansion would be unduly slow.
  • Scenarios felt somewhat contrived - the whole point of scenarios, as expressed in Starmada Core, was to give the game a little variety beyond "Last fleet standing."  In a campaign system, this is unnecessary - sometimes you will want to run to conserve your forces.  Basically, a campaign system does a better job of providing a context to a battle than a scenario could.
So, to address these concerns, we spent a good portion of last week drafting a new campaign system.  This one abandons the "Play a game with ships from the registries and it counts as a campaign turn for all players involved" approach, which had a nice asynchronity property (in that you didn't have to get the whole gang together to play a turn of the campaign).  However, the new model is significantly more 'realistic', drawing heavily on Master of Orion and other 4X games, and having a full economic model of the game universe.  We've removed scenarios and VP entirely, dropped flotillas back to a hard 40SU limit, added replacement costs for strikers and seekers, restricted maximum engines to 15, and added locality to all independent elements in the game.  We also have some draft rules for pirates, but they're still extra-super alpha, and are not included here (I'm not really happy with them yet, and not just because I'm playing pirates :P ).

And so, without further ado, I give you our Starmada Campaign Rules, V2.  It's not written up all pretty-like, but it'll do for a 'working notes' draft.

Kudos to Matt Britton, Tim Vaughan, and Jared Goerner for helping in development (we saw how well solo development worked out last time...).  Tim, Matt, and I ran a first playtest turn this last weekend, but Jared was out of town, so we've put it on hold until he gets back (because we really don't want to leave his empire in stasis and have it come back only to face a single, monolithic enemy empire, or to be marginalized on the borders of two much stronger warring states.  I think there'd be a lot of opportunity in such a situation, but hey, that's why I'm playing pirate).  I'll post a map here post-turn 1 after Jared's run his first turn.  I'm also sad to say that it seems unlikely that our other two pirate players, Mark and Alex, will be as able to play as they wished...  This is part of what I'm looking to fix in the upgraded pirate rules, but I'm still not sure how I'm going to do it.  Suggestions, internet?

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