Thursday, September 19, 2013

09: Taking The New Combat System For A Spin

So on last Tuesday night, John, myself, and a mutual friend of ours got a chance to sit down and play Space Frontier together.  This would be the first time that the new combat system was tested with all the custom dice that I'd painstakingly created.  Overall the game was fun and our friend, who had never played it before, enjoyed it.  The play-through tested a lot of rules besides the combat system that hadn't been employed together in a single game, and the amount of useful input was staggering.  Here's some thoughts on the game and how it plays so far.

Good Points:

  • Exploring space is fun and rewarding, but not without risk
  • Harvesting resources and building your fleets is enjoyable, especially as your empire grows.
  • Missions add a lot of flavor to the game and the market shard/planetary trade system works well.
  • The game was long but not ridiculously so.  It felt about right at 2+ hours after rules explanations.
  • The combat system does work much better and quicker than all previous attempts, yes!
Points that need Improvement:
  • The game starts fairly slowly and the first few turns seem to be always identical.  Our friend didn't notice this because it was his first play-through, but it is something I'd like to fix.
  • The combat system, while improved, still could be faster.  I noticed that calculating which dice to use when attacking with a lot of different ship types was time consuming, as was figuring out which dice were used in defense.
  • The economy of the game is in need of work.  It is too hard to get money and not enough varied things to spend it on.
  • The victory point system needs tweaking.  Everything gave 1 point and that isn't going to fly for final release.
  • The map seems a bit large.  Even with 3 players there was a lot of empty space.
  • Asteroids and other "terrain" didn't slow ships down any because you can almost always just go around at no loss of speed.  This made the terrain irrelevant.
  • The "rich getting richer" seemed like a problem.  If someone starts the game a bit lucky, that can snowball into them being unbeatable.
  • There's not enough reason for the players to work together at the present time.  They need more communal goals to pursue so they don't just go off and play "build lots of ships solitaire" in their own corner of space.
  • Research and the various tech trees are... TOTALLY imbalanced and are being removed from the game for purposes of play-testing until we can get the rest of the game right.  This functionally makes all of the 4 factions the same with only cosmetic differences, but uniqueness can be added later when we have a perfected core rule-set.
Now if the list of "bad things" seems longer than the list of "good things," that is because... it is.  That is not unusual though and it is far more valuable to get negative feedback from a play-test that needs improvement than to declare your game without fault.  John and I have been making tweaks to the rules and I plan another play-test today with a different group of friends.



  1. Nice overview of the challenges you are working through. I'm guessing these are similar for most games of this nature. I love space games, and can be suckered into just about anything.

    I look forward to watching your progress.

    Richard Bliss

  2. Thank you for taking the time to come on down to our obscure corner of the internet Richard. I imagine a lot of posts will be about game balance and playtesting experiences in the future as I've covered a lot of "the basics" in terms of what Space Frontier aims to be.