Monday, November 3, 2014

Boardgames: Iron Dragon, Sentinels, Reflections on Starmada

Some folks from out of town were around this weekend, and so a gathering was had and games were played!

First we played Iron Dragon.  I am told it is a long game, but frankly it broke my time-sense and I could not tell you how long it took.  My initial allocation of cards caused me to allocate my effort in the south-east at the two magically-joined cities and up the coast of the Olde Worlde.  This worked fine in the early game, but sorta screwed me in the late game.  I'm not sure how else I'd've played it given the cards I had, though.  As Jared commented, being able to trade cargo loads or contracts would make the game much more interesting, but probably slow it down even further.  It would also be interesting to build an index of possible opening moves (with your 60 starting cash to build) based on available foremen, drawn cards, and desired margin of safety to cover things like floods destroying your tracks.

After Iron Dragon we played three games of Sentinels last night, and another this afternoon.  The three games last night were not super-notable; played some new heroes, fought some new villains, won two games and lost one.  It turns out you can stab Satan to death, and La Capitaine is not, as I had assumed, a French supersoldier set on rebuilding Napoleon's empire, but is instead a time-travelling pirate.  The game this afternoon was interesting, in that everyone else died and we pulled off a victory with me as the "last best hope".  It took a long time, and my fellow players were less than excited because, while Sentinels does give you some support abilities when you are dead, they aid players who are still alive, which places you somewhat at their disposal.  Inexperienced player that I am, I was perhaps not ideal for making suggestions regarding support abilities.  It worked out against all odds, though, which was kind of neat.  Looong game, though.

There was also some reminiscing about Starmada, both how much fun it was and the process of the decay of the metagame.  Pre-generated fleets were suggested as a countermeasure, and while they could work, I think you/we would need to design the inter-fleet meta as a cohesive whole in order to achieve balance this way.  This is certainly possible (and is the standard solution for most games, like Firestorm Armada and Battlefleet Gothic), but would be substantial work.  I also suspect this process of coordination would take a lot of the fun out of Starmada, since we do so enjoy designing ships.  I still think Colonial Battlefleet's tech system might be a solution, in that it would let you build fleets whose access to powerful capabilities like long ranges, strikers, and catastrophics weapons were all similarly restricted, and would also let you cut out certain broken combinations entirely.  The problem, of course, is that there are a lot more 'techs' in Starmada than there are in CBF, and it seems unlikely that we will predict and eliminate all potentially cheesy combinations in designing a tech system.  I suspect another flaw of a CBF-style tech system for Starmada is that similar traits in Starmada are generally better when used with other, similar traits (Increased Hits + Repeating + Variable RoF all one one weapon), while in CBF you don't really see these sort of self-similar synergies.  Further thought is required.

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