Topic: To Smithereens - a board game developing

To Smithereens

Hello, all! Here's the actual game post. I'll cut to the chase:
If you want to just look at the rules (as they stand), here they are: … sp=sharing
And here's the photo album I'm embedding from:
The album has a bunch of sample photos of what the ships can look like as you build them.

So, To Smithereens is a 1v1 game. The story is that two scouts from opposing corporations/pirate interests have arrived at this ridiculously rich asteroid, and wish to bring the location back to their respective employers. Naturally, this would be an exclusive mineral exctraction opportunity, so each must try to kill the other.
Except their ships are puny scout vessels, so they have to build up their defenses and offenses, and their utilities to help do that.

While the Asteroid is, for some reason, trying to kill them.

Funny enough, I hadn't even thought of this being a Hyacinth-themed game until thinking of that last mechanic. But here we are!

So, players mine from the asteroid, use the resources to build up their ships, and blast the hell out of each other until one of them is dead. That's the game engine.

The game mechanics break down into a few segments: the Asteroid, which has behavior rules largely determined by the player's mining choices; the Defense Cards, which determine the results of attacks, represent the number of hits a player has taken, and can be used in combination to give a player with a lot of hits a chance to recover...somewhat; and the ship's parts themselves, which follow a core set of rules, and function as little mini-mechanics themselves.

My objective with this game is to make something wherein the Theme is integral to it, serving as the intuitive "why" behind every rule. It is also to make a game that is fun, challenging, and rewarding. I particularly want to make it such that different games call for different strategies, affording different opportunities for the players to win.

I'm open to absolutely *any* input, questions, and concerns. Whatever thoughts you have are welcome, as this forum (small as it now is) remains one of the best collection of creative perspectives I've ever had the pleasure to be a part of. Of course, if game theory/testing is decidedly not your thing, feel free to ignore this essay smile

The Start

Here is a photo of the game at the start:

What you see, from left to right:
The red tokens are to be placed on parts to indicate they are damaged. They are removed when the part is repaired.
The deck of cards is the Defense Deck (the combat cards).
The collections of twelve labeled tiles are each player's part pool. I'll do a rundown of those in a minute.
The two tiles in the center are the players' respective scout shuttles, each starting with 5 Power tokens.
To the right of the shuttles are the six tile piles representing the asteroid surface from which the players mine their resources.
Beyond the piles, the twelve triangles are the (damaged) shuttle and part upgrades that can be unearthed whenever a player exhausts an asteroid pile (which triggers a semi-reshuffle of the asteroid, and makes it angrier).
Then, you have the resource pool, from which players draw as the mined tiles dictate.
Below the pool, you see the Attack tokens. These bastards are added to the resource pool over the course of the game, and whenever they are drawn from the pool, both players are attacked by the Asteroid.

The Gameplay

The game starts. Every player's turn starts with them Mining (ie, drawing a single tile from any pile on the asteroid). They follow the tile's instructions (usually to draw a certain number of resources).
The resources available to them are 1) Power (blue), the most common resource, 2) Common Minerals (silver), and 3) Rare Minerals (golden). These are used in varying combinations to craft and repair parts.

Then, they choose whether they will Mine a second time to end their turn, or to perform Actions.

Basic Actions are Building parts/applying part upgrades, moving resources from different storage, repairing damaged parts, and/or scrapping parts to get them out of the way. Players can perform as many Basic Actions as they desire, provided they have the required resources.

Following any Basic Actions, players choose whether to perform a single Advanced Action. Advanced Actions are Attacking, upgrading the Shuttle, or using a particular part/upgrade function that costs an Advanced Action.

Then, players declare their turn is over.

The Parts

At the moment, I have 12 parts for the players to build, plus the default shuttle:

Shuttle - powers some parts, stores up to 5 Resource tokens of any combination.

Basic Parts: require only Common Minerals and Power to construct
Armor - Disintegrates to absorb Hits
Container - stores a limited number of Minerals and Upgrades
Thruster - uses Power to dodge attacks (ie draw one fewer card during an Attack)
Refinery - combines more common resources to form rarer ones
Cannon - Shoots stuff
Tether - attaches to an asteroid pile to double mining output, or to the enemy ship to steal resources/prevent attacks

Tech Parts: require Rare Minerals to build
Mine - explosive charge to be hidden in an asteroid pile
Splitter - splits and extends power from either the Shuttle or a Power Core to other parts
EMP - can disable/hinder the opponent from doing things on their next turn
Solar Strut - extends power and generates actual Power resources
Power Core - powers parts
TactiComp - affords Offensive or Defensive abilities depending on which side is facing up

Each part has a subclass of either System or Tactical. System parts can be powered by the Shuttle, whereas Tactical parts must be powered by a Power Core. Many of the parts have limitations on where they can be placed (eg the Power Core must have at least 3 open sides for venting): this makes for a level of forethought required in building your ship, to avoid making things difficult for yourself later.

For the details on each part, see the game rules (linked above) or check the pics of the Player Reference handbook at the bottom of the photo album.

The Asteroid - Saniss 130991

This game is set mere days after The Hyacinth Disaster. The scouts are here because of interception of scattered radio transmissions made at the time. This would be before Lykaeon would be able to sneak in.
As such, besides the standard Resource tiles, many of the asteroid tiles reflect the events of the story:
A dead guy in an Exosuit, 3 tiles - drawing these requires adding the black attack tokens to the resource pool
Receptor Broadcast, 2 tiles - when Grimm's and Argus' receptors are unearthed, the top tile of all six piles are turned face up
Crashed Smithy, 3 tiles - players can spend 1 Power to get 2 Rare minerals when they find these
Giant Power Cell, 2 tiles - players can spend 1 Rare to get 3 Power when they find these

These Hyacinth-related mechanics are simply flavors, they will not require anyone who hasn't heard the audiodrama to know what they're about. I was thrilled that these things can be included to add theme and mystery to the game. In playtesting so far, they add a lot to the mining process.

In addition to adding attack tokens whenever an Exo is found, one is also added each time a pile is exhausted. After that, the asteroid shifts a bit, and players move the top tile from the other piles into the empty space, then re-deal the previously drawn tiles back onto the asteroid. Left out, however, are any Special (Hyacinth-related) tiles and any 1 Resource tiles. This makes the Asteroid surface 1) progressively more rich and 2) progressively more sparse in tiles, allowing the end-game to have more resources and more attack tokens.
Players take one upgrade from behind the exhausted pile when they draw the last tile, and store it if they have a Container.
Upgrades are detailed in the Rules and in the Player Reference handbook.

Whenever the asteroid attacks (black token is drawn), each player deals with it as regular combat (drawing a card), with the difference that Critical Hits from the Asteroid require a player to break off a part of their ship, which the other player must then also dodge. This has made for a few tense chain reactions.

Earlier in testing I used dice, which could not be strategized for. Having switched to cards, I'm much more a fan.
There are 52 cards: 7 Dodge cards, 18 Half Hits (two of which will make a Hit), 18 Hits, and 9 Critical Hits.
Besides the Hit type on the cards, each one has a color/category of either Basic, Tech, System, or Tactical. These categories represent the salvage a player gets when they take damage from the card, and can be used in various combinations to boost repairs or builds.
Each card also has a Collect bonus on the bottom, which can be combined to give players more gameplay-oriented boosts. Since each card can only be played once, players have to choose whether to save cards for the different levels of Collect Boosts, or use them for repairs/builds. Choices, choices...

When a player (or the Asteroid) attacks, the defender draws as many cards as the weapons used dictate. They combine half hit pairs and choose which to keep as damage, they keep all Hits, and Critical Hits cut through any defenses. Defenders may use thrusters to draw fewer cards (which costs 2 Power each thruster), or absorb a Hit with Armor.

Now, I thought about the passive nature of attacking as some of you mentioned. I agree that it's odd for a game to put so much of the attack outcome with the defender. So, I've made some of the card combinations allow for the attacker to dictate targets.
I've also (more importantly) given a bunch of ways for an attacker to attack:
Railguns (cannon parts stacked up to do massive damage)
Missile Launcher (an upgrade which allows targeting when Critical Hits occur)
the Attack side of the TactiComp gives some targeting ability
The Tether can be used to block an opponent from doing Advanced Actions until they break free, and steals resources
The EMP can disable the enemy ship for a turn
and Mines can be placed in the Asteroid itself to cause trouble for the finder.

So far, the fact that attacks tend to be a bit passive in their execution feels balanced by the thought and preparation that can be put into them beforehand. It's been pretty satisfying to see the Mrs draw two Crits and realize she can't do anything to block them big_smile
In other words, combat is more about the periphery tactics and choices (do I attack now? Do I save resources? Do I hope I don't hit their mine? Should I trust they'll hit mine? Should I build a TactiComp? Another Gun? A railgun????) than it is about the actual attack itself. But so far it's still felt pretty satisfying to destroy an opponent.
What this system *does* allow for is that a defender who's getting beat up a lot feels a little bit more in control when they can use their Damage cards to their advantage.....providing they can do so before amassing 7 of them and dying.
Ultimately, this will have to be playtested much more and by more people.

Here's my mockup of what the actual printed cards will look like. The "effects" part of the cards have not been tested:


I think that's it so far. Thoughts? Feelings? Rage? I know a lot of this simply has to be played in order to form real opinions on, and to that end I offer you a chance to try it out! I'll happily send a prototype kit as soon as I'm at the stage where I feel the game can be played without having to have me there to ask questions. That's a vital testing goal.

When we started testing, the game took almost 3 hours each time. This was ridiculous. We changed some stuff, streamlined things, consolidated parts and cut others (the repair drone was neat, but I haven't been able to make it work), and now a liesurely game takes about 90 minutes. This is still a *tad* long, but the last few games have not *felt* long, which is important. It's a strategy game where most of the learning curve involves remembering what the different parts do. Once that's down, turns can go by very quickly, and under determined play, we've finished games in less than an hour.

We've also played games where the Asteroid killed us off in half an hour tongue

Final Fun Thoughts:
Last night, the Mrs and I played a tense game. I was clearly behind for the first half, but I was able to cling on just long enough to build myself a TactiComp, put it in Defense mode, and this helped me catch up. I had 5 hits, so 2 more and I'd be dead. Near the end of the game, she and I were tied with 5 hits. In this particular game, the asteroid hadn't been much trouble because we'd turned two of the Exo tiles up with a Receptor broadcast, so we knew where not to dig.
Then she hit one of my mines. She had six hits.
Then she hit me with a cannon. I had six.
Then the asteroid finally turned up two attack tokens. I had plenty of armor, so I wasn't worried. Unless i pulled a Crit...
Then my lovely wife decides to use her upgrade: the Squealer, which she found in the asteroid. It makes both players draw double the cards in an asteroid attack.
It was a risky move.
She drew a Crit. I did not. I won.
It was intense, and fun.

Today, we playtested, and we uncovered all three Exo tiles in rapid succession, adding a total of 6 attack tokens to the asteroid. I started getting hit badly. Drew 4 Crits and had to break off several expensive parts. I had 6 hits. The Mrs had 2.
So I switched to pure defense. Just my shuttle and a bunch of armor. And I intentionally exhausted pile after pile until all the attack tokens were in the pool: 10 of them.
Over and over, I was able to block a hit with my armor, and I didn't draw any of the other Crits.
The Mrs did! And so I won, coming back from a broken ship and 6 Hits.

Despite these two wins of mine, she's still won most of the games we've played. Literally beating me at my own game.

Overall, it feels like it's coming together, and that's pretty cool.

Here's a link to a photo album. It shows me just building a hypothetical ship, drawing cards, and pissing off Saniss 130991.
At the bottom of the album is the player handbook prototype including a super subtle reference to a very obscure franchise ;P

Last edited by Writhyn (Today 00:19:07)

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