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Secrecy in Space: a new game mechanic (I hope)

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Ska_baron
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Okay, enough lurking for me... Time to put you guys to work!

First though, I'll say what an amazing resource this place is and it has very much inspired me to brainstorm dozens of ideas and flesh out a few for now... =)

Now, on to my game. It's a combination resource gathering/management conquest game set in space. Unfortunately, after looking around here and BGG this theme becomes more and more trite, but maybe I can add something to the mix.... (I've probably been more inspired by both Vanished Planet and Terra Prime while brainstorming this stuff)

So I want players in my game to be able to have hidden ships in their fleets but still be able to keep everything in order. To this end I was thinking about FLEETS being represented by tokens on the actual board and the individual SHIPS will be cards. Each player will have a mat in front of them with 6 areas for the FLEETS where players will put purchased ships face down. (so they can easily see them, but opponents will only know which ships you purchased, but not where you put them. Although if I could somehow keep secret the type of ships each player bought, that'd be great. The only problem I feel is the risk of cheating where players pay for one ship, but take another...) Anyway! When buying - let's say - a carrier, you would pay resources, pick up the carrier card and 5 fakes (cards that have the same backs, but blank faces) and put a card in each of the 6 FLEET areas - thus keeping the ship's location secret until engagement!

Please let me know what you think of these ideas and I'd love to hear feedback/help/suggestions.

-Jonathan

comfixit
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Secrecy in Space: a new game mechanic (I hope)

I like the hidden fleets idea.

What you might consider is having a few different colored decks representing the mass of the ship. So a large transport might be similar mass to a destroyer perhaps. And a probe might likewise have roughly the same mass as a fighter. A fleet of ships could be similar to a bunch of space mines etc...

So now in the game it could be assumed that the players have some sort of long range radar that can show masses of some objects (ie. the deck color and number of cards) but not the specifics.

That would allow you to save on blank cards but were left with the problem of them knowing exactly what your purchasing.

The solution for this could be trying to balance all the ships as much as possible so that every red deck ship is the same resource cost. But with that you will need to balance the utility of each card as well.

Then your opponent only knows you purchased a red card for the red card value. But you could have purchased Space Mines, Fighters, Spy Vessels, Diplomatic Transport, mini cargo ship or whatever. Blue cards could perhaps be carriers, destroyers, troop transports etc etc etc.

Sen
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Secrecy in Space: a new game mechanic (I hope)

One way to keep the type of ship quasi-random would be to have ships cost the same.

so, having a few ships types costing the same amount of resources (you may make things have variable prices like 1 ore + 1 d-crystal + 1 anything else gets you a Class 3 ship, be it an Asteroid Harvester, a Recon Fighter, or a Warp Barrier - hehe I'm just making stuff up!) would allow players to pick from a stack of same-cost cards or counters or whatever. Meaning that other players would know what the buyer paid, but not necessarily the specific type of ship was purchased.

Instead of blank cards, what about just having a shield that protects where the cards are placed and have 5 separate mats for each fleet? I'm not sure what's more costly / awkward. But that's just another thought.

Are there only a specific number of slots available per fleet? or are the ships just a stack of cards?

Julius
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Secrecy in Space: a new game mechanic (I hope)

I like what has already been posted. It sounds great. As a bonus, you can have different masses of ships move at different speeds.

I'd like to suggest secret mission cards as well. For example, you might have a mission to deliver a few big freighters full of goods to another planet (galaxy, station, etc), but the other player's don't know that. They might think you're moving an armada of capital ships across the board.

One of my space fighting games had a rock-paper-scissors like combat system that worked quite well - capital ships beat cruisers, cruisers beat fighter squadrons, fighter squadrons beat capital ships. I don't know if that does anything for you or not, but I thought I'd mention it.

With the face down thing, you can also add some cool reconnossainse (badly, badly spelled) elements. Long range scanners (an event card) might allow you to peek at another player's fleet or mission cards.

You can also have a 'cloaking device' - such as an event card you put into play instead of a ship... which allows you to replace it with a ship from your hand (tricky, eh?).

Your game mechanic sounds very, very cool.

sedjtroll
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Secrecy in Space: a new game mechanic (I hope)

I like the 'decks of similarly costed ships' idea very much. Each deck could have some ships that are good for a militant fleet, some that are good for, say, reconnescence (sp?), and some that are good for transporting (otehr ships, or goods, etc).

Hmm... maybe goods and things could also be on cards, so you put cards under your carrier and your opponents don't know whether you are dragging cargo across the galaxy, or towing in an assault fleet to take them out.

Add in some inter-player negotiation (like "let's have a peace treaty"), and this might be going somewhere. The theme could be that players represent different governments who are on the one hand co-existing in the same galaxy, but on the other secretly plotting to take over the world (or whatever). Typical Diplomacy-style theme. this could be like Diplomacy in Space, but with stuff to do other than just attack people. I'd probably suggest NPC things to attack/interact with as well.

As for secrecy, I've been thinking a bit about the War of the Ring mechanic where the fellowship moves secretly - they don't actually move on the board, they just advance on a track, and when the become revealed, they move a number of spaces equal to the number on the track. I was looking for another use for that mechanic, and it occured to me that it sounded like Hyperspace travel. While in Hyperspace you move faster, but all you can do is move... and people don't know where you're headed. I couldn't think of a good reason to WANT to go somewhere without opponents knowing where you're going though. Maybe this ties into your idea...

So you have fleets, but without spying on you, your opponents dont know whether you're set up to attack, or to mine resources, or what. then you can move secretly if you want to, which could be just to get 'accross town' in a hurry, or it could be a suprise attack.

The actions in the game would probably tie into the various ways to win, which there would probably be a militaristic victory, a production type victory, etc...

- Seth

Emphyrio
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Secrecy in Space: a new game mechanic (I hope)

If you can't spell "reconnaissance", you can go to m-w.com, type "recon" into the dictionary field, and it will tell you the correct spelling. :-) To make it even more confusing, the corresponding verb is "reconnoiter".

To take the "single-cost" concept even further, you could have all cards cost the same, but vary the number of ships on the card. So you could buy a card representing one battleship, or a card representing two cruisers, or a card representing ten fighters, or whatever.

Of course, then you have a problem representing the state of a squadron of fighters half of which have been destroyed. You could use an "all-or-nothing" mechanic, or have replacement cards denoting "5 fighters" or "1 cruiser". Maybe this comes back to the "several stacks of same-cost cards" concept.

Sen
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Secrecy in Space: a new game mechanic (I hope)

Emphyrio wrote:
If you can't spell "reconnaissance", you can go to m-w.com, type "recon" into the dictionary field, and it will tell you the correct spelling. :-) To make it even more confusing, the corresponding verb is "reconnoiter".

To take the "single-cost" concept even further, you could have all cards cost the same, but vary the number of ships on the card. So you could buy a card representing one battleship, or a card representing two cruisers, or a card representing ten fighters, or whatever.

Of course, then you have a problem representing the state of a squadron of fighters half of which have been destroyed. You could use an "all-or-nothing" mechanic, or have replacement cards denoting "5 fighters" or "1 cruiser". Maybe this comes back to the "several stacks of same-cost cards" concept.

Interesting and I like that all cards cost exactly the same - the only issue is discerning one from the other :D to search through a whole deck for 1 specific card is pretty time consuming. But perhaps worth it if the rest of the game works well.

The numerous fighters on one card can lead to the problem mentioned. I would prefer a "cleaner" method than replacement cards, but one that still does justice to the difference in cards without being "all or nothing" - something I tend to dislike in games like this.

Maybe you can denote level of damage on the card with chits/dice/whatever and those cards cannot be "hidden" from view until all cards on the unit are fixed or scuttled - their warp drives are leaking trackable Biondi particles or some such BS :D

larienna
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Secrecy in Space: a new game mechanic (I hope)

I had a space video game design that I wanted to try convert as a board game. The biggest problem was hidden stuff. I posted a thread about it. ( I can't find it )

In my case it was even worst because not only I hide the fleet composition, but also the fleet and troops locations. So that it would be possible to hide a fleet or even an army in an ennemy system or planet. The idea was to be able to play also the rebel tactic where you do not have a fixed location.

Various mechanics have been made so far to hide fleet composition(cards) and target destination(cup with tokens. Else you will have to use a pen and paper. I just took a look at "Stellar Conquest" today, and it requires writing many thing on a piece of paper including a copy of the map where they can write stuff on it. The problem is that it makes your game dependend on paper and might make the game more complex.

By the way, I think "Reconnaissance" was imported from french this is why english speaker are should not be familliar with the spelling.

Sen
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Secrecy in Space: a new game mechanic (I hope)

If you wanted the sort of duplicate hidden fleets, it may be more game friendly (and even realistic to some degree) to have decoy fleets on the table (so chits that have same colour as real fleets, but have no fleet number/symbol on them when flipped).

Representative of mis-information, decoys, drones, etc. Would allow for guerilla tactics and make use of enemy probes, etc. for them to sus out actual locations as opposed to just running in headlong if you make movement/attacking costly - so scan twice, fire once.

You may even be able to mock guerilla movement / hidden fleet movement by using a shield every round or something.

I think there are some elegant solutions to this problem without having to resort to pen/paper.

Rick-Holzgrafe
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Secrecy in Space: a new game mechanic (I hope)

sedjtroll wrote:
While in Hyperspace you move faster, but all you can do is move... and people don't know where you're headed. I couldn't think of a good reason to WANT to go somewhere without opponents knowing where you're going though.

Good grief, I can! Haven't you ever played Twilight Imperium? Your opponents would go NUTS if you could put a big fleet on the move without anyone knowing where they were going! :)

Seriously that would probably not be a good idea in TI3 (which is already an excellently balanced game) but might be very cool in some other space conquest game, or even in a WWII naval-action game. Any theme where warring nations don't have the technical capability to track a fleet on the move, and would be surprised when one showed up in their own neck of the woods.

I'm not designing wargames these days, but if I weren't I would be seriously tempted to build a game around your hyperspace mechanic, Seth!

Scurra
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Secrecy in Space: a new game mechanic (I hope)

Rick-Holzgrafe wrote:
sedjtroll wrote:
While in Hyperspace you move faster, but all you can do is move... .
Seriously that would probably not be a good idea in TI3 (which is already an excellently balanced game) but might be very cool in some other space conquest game, or even in a WWII naval-action game. Any theme where warring nations don't have the technical capability to track a fleet on the move, and would be surprised when one showed up in their own neck of the woods.
Of course, half the fun in that is also that (a) Hyperspace would be dangerous - not much good trying to jump out on someone only to find you've lost half your fleet, and/or (b) Hyperspace is unreliable - not much good trying to jump out on someone on Mars when your fleet arrives at Saturn instead...

As for the "single card representing multiple ships" idea: there are plenty of ways around that, including, say, using damage markers to represent the ships if there are multiple ones etc.
And I wouldn't worry about things like searching for particular cards. This is a game, and therefore imposing artificial limits on that can be considered part of the fun. If the player has to draw three and choose one instead, that may improve the tactical and strategic elements as they have to choose the most useful card at that moment, rather than having a choice of anything. (cf Princes of Florence, where you draw five bonus cards and choose one, which gives you almost a free choice but not quite.)

jwarrend
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Secrecy in Space: a new game mechanic (I hope)

This is a cute idea. One potential problem that may pop up on the playability side is the "I have to keep checking my fleets to remember what I have where" problem, which won't exactly be a flaw in the game but could be annoying. Having six different fleets with several ships in each could easily lead to player confusion and forgetfulness, so just something to watch out for.

Another question that will pop up is combat resolution. When combat occurs, does everyone get to see the composition of the combatants' fleets, or do you need to develop a method to resolve combat such that only the two involved players get to see the fight?

The foundational question is of course why secrecy is needed in the first place, and what it adds to the overall experience. I can see potential but also lots of potential problems. There's definitely a concern that the game will feel like "multi-player solitaire", with each player just kind of bumping around in the dark until they hit something. It's nice in games like Axis and Allies to be able to see combats resolved even when you're not involved in them. Taking that away will definitely lose something intangible.

Here's a different direction you could go in: Allow a technology upgrade called a "cloaking device", which has the same effect as what you're describing, but it only applies to one of your fleets, and it only works during travel; once you initiate combat, you have to "uncloak". This will have some of the same effects but the overall scope will be more limited so the game as a whole could "work" better.

By all means try out the idea and let us know how it goes; there have been some great ideas suggested how to make it work. I just worry that there will be playability issues that are harder to nail down in advance but that may give problems in live playtesting.

Good luck!

-Jeff

emxibus
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Re: Secrecy in Space: a new game mechanic (I hope)

How about instead of hidden fleets, just have hidden/variable destinations. Your opponents can see your fleet makeup but doesn't know exactly where they are going. I've seen games where they have a movement scale where higher numbers allow for farther movement. The points on the movement scales increase and decrease based on use. You could have one scale for each fleet. I think this method works best if you are using a planet-to-planet movement scheme.

If I remember right there was a game on this forum that used a form of this movement.

MattMiller
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Secrecy in Space: a new game mechanic (I hope)

Seems to me the equal-priced, or groups of equal-priced, ship cards idea should work fine. If you're willing to allow some random restrictions on ship purchases, the "hunting through the deck for the ship I want" problem could be solved by giving each player a hand of, maybe, 10 ship cards that are currently available. The player can buy a ship from his hand, and then draw a card to replace it.

As for dummy cards v. keeping track of fleets behind a screen: I think the latter approach is better. Of course, it reduces the number of cards required, and reduces the amount of clutter in the fleet boxes. But it also allows players to keep the ship cards face up, making it much easier to keep track of what's in which fleet.

And now on the topic of full-blown hidden movement ...

My brother once came up with a method for handling hidden movement of a small number of units (such as fleets). We never used it in a game, but it might be interesting to try in a context like the one being discussed here.

To implement this idea, the board is divided into some reasonably large number of regions, each with a unique label. Next, there is a code book that maps these region labels into arbitrary (but still unique) codes. The book might have several pages, each defining a different mapping. This codebook is laid out with the region labels in a systematic order (e.g. if the region labels are numbers, then each page of the codebook would list them in simple numeric order). This makes it easy to look up the code for a given region. But to find the region for a given code, you'd have to hunt all over the whole page.

Players "move" their units by keeping track of the labels for the regions they occupy. This is done off-board and out of sight of the other players. At an appropriate stage in each game turn, a page of the codebook is chosen at random, and everyone looks up the codes for the regions their units occupy. These codes are then displayed to the other players in some fashion. Any two units that have the same code are in the same region and can interact (reconnoiter, fight, etc.). But if nobody bumps into a given unit of mine, other players will have a hard time finding out where it is, because all they know is the coded region label.

'Course, there's a danger that somebody might just happen to glance at the part of the code page that contains the code for my unit, or that some dogged cheater might take the time to hunt through the code page, or some freakishly intelligent player might memorize the whole code book. Some of this could be mitigated by limiting players' access to the book (the book might be passed around while players encode their positions, then closed and set aside before anybody reveals their codes), but only playtesting can reveal whether these are serious problems.

Just thought I'd throw this idea into the soup here and see if anybody likes the taste.

-- Matt

Ska_baron
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Secrecy in Space: a new game mechanic (I hope)

Wow, thanks everyone for replying to my idea. You all have given me much to think about (Mainly I was kind of overwhelmed by wanting to include EVERYTHING into this game, but I think if I focus on nailing down this mechanic, that the rest of the game could form nicely around it!)

I'll try to respond to everything/one in an organized manner...

Quote:

What you might consider is having a few different colored decks representing the mass of the ship. So a large transport might be similar mass to a destroyer perhaps. And a probe might likewise have roughly the same mass as a fighter. A fleet of ships could be similar to a bunch of space mines etc...

Great idea (I mean look at how many replies it got), and this is the one in the frontrunning. I'm thinkig of having say 3 classes: Heavy, Medium, and Light for ships. Heavy will include: Battleships, Dreadnoughts, but also, colonizers (benign and needed for developing new planets). Same for the other classes - a mix of ships so you'd say "I wonder if she's buying a couple battleships to wipe me out or a couple colonizers to expand"

Quote:

So now in the game it could be assumed that the players have some sort of long range radar that can show masses of some objects (ie. the deck color and number of cards) but not the specifics.

I like this mechanic too, so you can at least know what types and how many ships are in your opponents fleets.

Quote:
The solution for this could be trying to balance all the ships as much as possible so that every red deck ship is the same resource cost. But with that you will need to balance the utility of each card as well.

Yeah, that'll be where the work comes in I guess =) Overall, a great jumping point that I really needed and like. Thanks comfixit!

Ska_baron
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Secrecy in Space: a new game mechanic (I hope)

Okay Sen, you brought up a lot of stuff that I'd been thinking about already - like using a shield, although I like comfixit's idea of being able to see your opponent has 3 heavy, 1 medium, and 6 light ships in fleet 2, but maybe that's not what should be focused on...

Quote:
Are there only a specific number of slots available per fleet? or are the ships just a stack of cards?

Just to throw it out there, I've been toying with the idea of tankers to somehow limit fleet size thematically. Then you also have possible cannon fodder OR you need to save your tankers so you can get back to repair. (Anyone ready Allies and Aliens, by Roger Macbride Allen, btw? It's influencing my thinking about starships/space travel)

Quote:
Maybe you can denote level of damage on the card with chits/dice/whatever and those cards cannot be "hidden" from view until all cards on the unit are fixed or scuttled - their warp drives are leaking trackable Biondi particles or some such BS :D

I like this both mechanically and thematically (precious, precious Biondi...) =) and it also plays to what Jeff was saying about combat resolution. I think that exposing what's actually IN your fleet should be a part of battle. "If I attack now, I may win, but then so&so knows that I have a huge contingent of mine-laying ships close to one of his production planets, so maybe I'll wait til fleet 3 gets closer to attack"

Quote:
If you wanted the sort of duplicate hidden fleets, it may be more game friendly (and even realistic to some degree) to have decoy fleets on the table (so chits that have same colour as real fleets, but have no fleet number/symbol on them when flipped).

Representative of mis-information, decoys, drones, etc. Would allow for guerilla tactics and make use of enemy probes, etc. for them to sus out actual locations as opposed to just running in headlong if you make movement/attacking costly - so scan twice, fire once.

Definitely love this idea! Maybe ten Fleet markers on the board and you can only put ships into 6, or you COULD have ships in all ten, or not... Or maybe you can purchase a Heavy class ship that actually simulates a fleet. Of course, then you need to have the shield so other players cant see what's going on, and that wouldn't allow for players to form semi-plans based on knowing how many H/M/L class ships someone has...

Also, I think "Scan Twice, Fire Once" should be a heading in my rules about combat =)

Nestalawe
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Secrecy in Space: a new game mechanic (I hope)

I like the concept of hidden information in games, at least in games where it fits thematically etc. And I agree with Jwarrend'c comments though - A) Players have to remember themselves what they have where, and more importantly B) If two players fight, then they will have to reveal their fleets anyway. Its not important that the two combatants know what eachothers fleets are, they are fighting after all. But in a 3+ player game, the other players will see what they have as well, which debunks the whole reason for keeping the fleet compositions secret in the first place. Unless of course you build that into the theme of the game somehow, i.e. whenever there is a combat, the whole universe knows about it somehow.

Ska_baron
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Secrecy in Space: a new game mechanic (I hope)

Maybe this is all getting too far into the rest of the game and this thread should be moved, but continuing onward... =)

Quote:
I like what has already been posted. It sounds great. As a bonus, you can have different masses of ships move at different speeds.

As do I. As far as speed...It would be simpler to have speed by class, but for some reason I really want to give individual ship types speeds: in the HEAVY class: Battlecruisers-medium speed, Dreadnoughts-slow, Battleships-slow, but armed better than BCs and less than D's....
This makes me feel like you can customize your fleets more to what you want to do. Think this is adding unneeded complications/details?

Quote:
I'd like to suggest secret mission cards as well. For example, you might have a mission to deliver a few big freighters full of goods to another planet (galaxy, station, etc), but the other player's don't know that. They might think you're moving an armada of capital ships across the board.

Definitely want to have secret (and public) missions. Thoughts on SECRET MISSIONS: maybe have 4/5 face up that anyone can choose from on their turn to complete whenever OR draw one from the top and it's secret (maybe add a bonus if you complete one secretly) -- Kinda like TtR I guess, but with faster trains!

Quote:
You can also have a 'cloaking device' - such as an event card you put into play instead of a ship... which allows you to replace it with a ship from your hand (tricky, eh?).

Love this concept! Or I was thinking you can buy from a seperate deck of "cloaked" generic ship cards - for cheap. Then when you reveal that fleet you can pay the resources to turn it into any kind of ship you want (with obvious limitations - maybe only LIGHT ships or only certain types of LIGHT and MEDIUM ships). So this way you keep the resources around or if youre left without any then you just wasted resources making in the first place and it's a "decoy." This also adds a little to tactics when you see a bunch of carriers in your opponent's revealed fleet, you can respond by buying a Corvette (say they're good vs. fighters).

Thematically then, fleets are just far away (not cloaked)... although just thinking about this makes me wonder if a fleet comes out of hyperspace (I'll respond to that more in a little bit) near an enemy they "scan" them and can see them (maybe only that one player if combat doesnt ensue) because their in radar range. If a fleet comes out next to an unmanned planet, they reveal nothing - unless they want to colonize it and then they reveal their Colonizer. Still thinking that for combat everyone gets to see... it wont be fun if you dont get to see others beat up on each other =)

Ska_baron
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Secrecy in Space: a new game mechanic (I hope)

Seth -

Let me first say that I wanted to include a super cool economy like yours in Terra Prime, but it's blatantly yours (I'd always know anyway) and it just doesnt look like what this game's gonna be about, but who knows in the end. Anyway!

Quote:
I like the 'decks of similarly costed ships' idea very much. Each deck could have some ships that are good for a militant fleet, some that are good for, say, reconnescence (sp?), and some that are good for transporting (otehr ships, or goods, etc).

I've said earlier, but I really like this idea too. Keep different types of ships (military, trade, diplomacy) in each class to keep things secret.

Quote:
Hmm... maybe goods and things could also be on cards, so you put cards under your carrier and your opponents don't know whether you are dragging cargo across the galaxy, or towing in an assault fleet to take them out.

Interesting... It made me think of maybe having a sepereate deck of just add-ons/extras that would go with the ships like mines, drones, trade goods/tech upgrade/research. Hmm...

Quote:
As for secrecy, I've been thinking a bit about the War of the Ring mechanic where the fellowship moves secretly - they don't actually move on the board, they just advance on a track, and when the become revealed, they move a number of spaces equal to the number on the track. I was looking for another use for that mechanic, and it occured to me that it sounded like Hyperspace travel. While in Hyperspace you move faster, but all you can do is move... and people don't know where you're headed. I couldn't think of a good reason to WANT to go somewhere without opponents knowing where you're going though. Maybe this ties into your idea...

Okay, I really like this hyperspace idea and had been toying with it as well. I haven't played War of the Ring, but I've read about the mechanic some... let me go ahead and bring in emxibus's comments too which culminate in a possibility...

Quote:
How about instead of hidden fleets, just have hidden/variable destinations. Your opponents can see your fleet makeup but doesn't know exactly where they are going. I've seen games where they have a movement scale where higher numbers allow for farther movement. The points on the movement scales increase and decrease based on use. You could have one scale for each fleet. I think this method works best if you are using a planet-to-planet movement scheme.

Possibility for HYPERSPACE: (the only probelm is the ungodly # of cards involved)
- Each player has a deck with each planet on them
- When a fleet wants to move, choose the appropriate planet card and put it face down. Remove the fleet token from the board and put it onto the planet card (it's destination).
-Then calculate distance by counting hexes from initial spot (kinda tough, because then you have to remember where you were coming from... ugh, fixes?)
-each turn add hypertravel tokens equal to the lowest speed of ships in the fleet
-when you've added enough, reveal and move the fleet!

Suggestions? (I previously mentioned tankers and I dont know how they'd fit into this just yet...)

Ska_baron
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Secrecy in Space: a new game mechanic (I hope)

Scurra-

Quote:
Of course, half the fun in that is also that (a) Hyperspace would be dangerous - not much good trying to jump out on someone only to find you've lost half your fleet, and/or (b) Hyperspace is unreliable - not much good trying to jump out on someone on Mars when your fleet arrives at Saturn instead...

I like the idea of hyperspace being dangerous/inaccurate. Also opens up a possible tech upgrade to improve it.

Quote:
As for the "single card representing multiple ships" idea: there are plenty of ways around that, including, say, using damage markers to represent the ships if there are multiple ones etc.
And I wouldn't worry about things like searching for particular cards. This is a game, and therefore imposing artificial limits on that can be considered part of the fun. If the player has to draw three and choose one instead, that may improve the tactical and strategic elements as they have to choose the most useful card at that moment, rather than having a choice of anything. (cf Princes of Florence, where you draw five bonus cards and choose one, which gives you almost a free choice but not quite.)

Very interesting because I'd just been thinking that either everyone has their own ships to choose from (allowing for possible racial distinctions) or that everyone was choosing from the bank - which has the downside of "I cant build anymore carriers because everyone else built them all!"

This does add a more "game" feel, but I don't know how I feel about it to be honest... I don't know if I like the "realism" approach that I've been working with better or it's just what I thought of first... How do you guys feel about it? It would simplify things if you had a limited hand of ships to build whenever you wanted...

markmist
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Secrecy in Space: a new game mechanic (I hope)

jwarrend wrote:
This is a cute idea. One potential problem that may pop up on the playability side is the "I have to keep checking my fleets to remember what I have where" problem, which won't exactly be a flaw in the game but could be annoying. Having six different fleets with several ships in each could easily lead to player confusion and forgetfulness, so just something to watch out for.

Just a quick idea. Would screens and stand up cards in holders (like LOTR:Confrontation) work? This would cut down on having to check your fleets constantly.

Ska_baron
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Secrecy in Space: a new game mechanic (I hope)

Whew, okay my responses to Jeff and then I'll let everyone catch up (if youre still paying attention that is)!

Quote:
This is a cute idea. One potential problem that may pop up on the playability side is the "I have to keep checking my fleets to remember what I have where" problem, which won't exactly be a flaw in the game but could be annoying. Having six different fleets with several ships in each could easily lead to player confusion and forgetfulness, so just something to watch out for.

Another question that will pop up is combat resolution. When combat occurs, does everyone get to see the composition of the combatants' fleets, or do you need to develop a method to resolve combat such that only the two involved players get to see the fight?

The foundational question is of course why secrecy is needed in the first place, and what it adds to the overall experience. I can see potential but also lots of potential problems. There's definitely a concern that the game will feel like "multi-player solitaire", with each player just kind of bumping around in the dark until they hit something. It's nice in games like Axis and Allies to be able to see combats resolved even when you're not involved in them. Taking that away will definitely lose something intangible.

Here's a different direction you could go in: Allow a technology upgrade called a "cloaking device", which has the same effect as what you're describing, but it only applies to one of your fleets, and it only works during travel; once you initiate combat, you have to "uncloak". This will have some of the same effects but the overall scope will be more limited so the game as a whole could "work" better.

Thank you for pointing out problem areas. Even though it's a relatively early stage, I'd love to play test as smoothly (haha) as possible. I am kind of worried about the solitare feel and hope to alleviate that by having missions/incentive to expand out (and thus fight). I agree with your thoughts on keeping combat secret and as I've said, I kinda like that that could be a price for initiating combat: Showing your hand. It also makes me worry that people will be doing their own thing and not be able to plan enough to react to their opponent's plans because they dont know anything.... Obviously I want things to be secret, but I want that to ADD to the game, not kill it from the start.

sedjtroll
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Secrecy in Space: a new game mechanic (I hope)

Ska_baron wrote:
Scurra-
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Of course, half the fun in that is also that (a) Hyperspace would be dangerous - not much good trying to jump out on someone only to find you've lost half your fleet, and/or (b) Hyperspace is unreliable - not much good trying to jump out on someone on Mars when your fleet arrives at Saturn instead...

I like the idea of hyperspace being dangerous/inaccurate.

I don't. At least not in a game where hyperspace movement plays a major roll. In a game where most of the movement is 'normal', not hyperspace movement, then sure - a Hyperdrive could be an item that is sort of powerful (move around the board very quickly), but has drawbacks (might not wor right).

I'd prefer the drawback be that you spend an action (time/effort) announcing that you are going into hyperspace travel

Han Solo wrote:
Jumping through hyperspace ain't like dusting crops, kid. Without precise calculations we could skip right through an asteroid... and that'd end your trip real quick.
And another action to come out of it. Then, while in hyperspace, you move faster than normal, maybe 2 spaces per move instead of just 1. So if you're going a short distance, it doesn't make sense to use the hyperdrive. For moving 1, 2, 3, or even 4 spaces it's actually worse to use the hyperdrive than just to fly there (except maybe if you want to get past someone who's in the way). But if you want to move more than 5 spaces (note: at exactly 5 spaces you'd overshoot), then you start to get a benefit out of moving through hyperspace as far as time and energy goes. Depending on the size of the board, maybe 3 spaces instead of 1 would be better. That would still make it silly to use Hyperdrive for short trips, as you'd likely overshoot your destination.

Sen
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Secrecy in Space: a new game mechanic (I hope)

markmist wrote:
jwarrend wrote:
This is a cute idea. One potential problem that may pop up on the playability side is the "I have to keep checking my fleets to remember what I have where" problem, which won't exactly be a flaw in the game but could be annoying. Having six different fleets with several ships in each could easily lead to player confusion and forgetfulness, so just something to watch out for.

Just a quick idea. Would screens and stand up cards in holders (like LOTR:Confrontation) work? This would cut down on having to check your fleets constantly.

You read my mind.

Someone has a Palantir.

This is a great solution for each player keeping track of his own fleets and will keep things nice and clean without a shield. Also keeps valuable table space clean :D (just watch for damage of cards with some of those card holders - use the softer plastic if you can find them over the hard stuff that'll scrape your cards)

Re: everyone seeing who has what wouldn't be such a big deal if you have a mechanic allowing you to reshield and reorganize fleets eventually. I like watching other players fight - and it gives you an opportunity to check what is what, what is damaged, etc. etc. who you as player 3 or 4 should be targetting next.

Here's one thought though:

The biggest problem that some in my game group have is that they hate games that rely on memory - probably because that's not their strongest suit. Having all these decoys, chasing ships that aren't there, and going into battle blind (without some assurance of a reasonable chance of victory) would frustrate them to the point of giving up on the game. While some players will embrace this hidden stuff, it will also alienate some players who imbibe alot ;) or just weren't good at history.

You need to balance the known with the unknown. And to this end, this is why I like the "mass of ships" idea or the "all ships of this colour cost the same and there's only 4-5 possibilities" - it gives you somewhat grainy resolution information. Enough to know that if I have a fleet of 5 heavies including 1 transport and he has 3 heavies and 2 medium mass ships, I should be able to win the battle, even if all his ships are warships (but judging on his flight vector, he's probably trying to colonize Magna Prime...so one of those heavies will be unarmed...).

You want players to know enough that they can make somewhat informed decisions on their actions and to promote activity/interaction (combat) between players as opposed to escalation and timidity. After all, what's the point of trying to keep everything secret if no one ever attacks each other? That's no fun :D

Games aren't always like life. We need to compress the scale, both in time and distance in order to enjoy it in one night's session (unless you want this to be some epic scale game that lasts over several nights which would make my wife yell at me for not cleaning off the dining table). In reality, yeah, I'd like all my ships to be cloaked a la Romulus, but in a game, having everything unknown could make for one long, boring game with little interplayer activity.

So, to make a long post short, you may eventually need to balance game mechanics with fun. I think the core concept is great, you just need to keep some things in mind. IMO and from experience playing with gamers of all ages and types for years.

a) a lot of memorization does not make for fun
b) a lot of randomness does not make for fun
c) a lot of activity for no payoff does not make for fun
d) a lot of blindness does not make for fun
e) a lot of down-time between your turn and another player's turn does not make for fun
f) a lot of complexity that adds nothing to game play does not make for fun

Of course, this all depends what you're going for, of course - and who you want this game to appeal to...sci-fi geeks? family gamers? war gamers? ages 8 +? Is this game hard core or beer-and-pretzels?

Ska_baron
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Secrecy in Space: a new game mechanic (I hope)

Thanks again Sen for your lengthy comments, it's always good to keep things in perspective. I mean it is a GAME and I want people to have fun with the vision that I bring to life =)

Anyway, on to the LOTR Confrontation (or Stratego) style stand-up cards. Markmist, I like the idea in theory, but it might not be feasible for this set up. Ideally I'd like it to be a 2-4 person game so the possibility of seeing your opponent's layout would be present, but even more than that is physically being able to show 5, 8, 12 ships in a fleet with a stand up card... I'm not very mechanically inclined though, so maybe I'm just missing something.

And Seth, you are quite right that if i want to make this a major component then it should probably be reflected that way in design. However, this does bring up one of my bigger issues right now and that is board design. I have numerous layouts in mind - all modular. The one that I'm leaning towards the most is one with hex tiles with smaller hex spaces on them. Since hexes dont fit nice and nealy circumscribed within a larger hexagon, there are 5 whole hexes in mine and 7 partial hexes. They match up when you lay them together though and give you a good way to lay down a larger patch of space than just hex by small hex. My issue then becomes planet distribution and travel. If hyperspace is planet to planet, they need to be far enough apart (sometimes) to justify hyperspace being a strong element - or so I'd think....

Thanks for all the imput everyone, it makes me want to work on this more than I already am!

Sen
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Secrecy in Space: a new game mechanic (I hope)

Ska_baron wrote:

Anyway, on to the LOTR Confrontation (or Stratego) style stand-up cards. Markmist, I like the idea in theory, but it might not be feasible for this set up. Ideally I'd like it to be a 2-4 person game so the possibility of seeing your opponent's layout would be present, but even more than that is physically being able to show 5, 8, 12 ships in a fleet with a stand up card... I'm not very mechanically inclined though, so maybe I'm just missing something.

What about a kind of Scrabble like holder, but for cards instead?

In my normal work, I've used them before, for elderly people with arthritis, visual impairments, etc.

http://www.rehabmart.com/onehand.asp

comfixit
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Secrecy in Space: a new game mechanic (I hope)

Back to the theme of allowing people to kind of guage what the other person has, I suggest giving the different ships within the color classes different speeds (does require a bit of honesty on the users part). Perhaps Battleships are faster then Transports etc...

This allows for some interesting things that could give out clues. Perhaps 2 battleships have to break off to defend some other ships, those might split up and move faster then the maximum of what a transport could kind of giving them away.

Also players could play games, purposely moving large ships very slowly to invite an attack from a weaker opponent who thinks they will be picking on a less defensible formation.

I reccomend making planets random and the resources available also random. Perhaps unexplored space tiles are face down, when anyone enters the hex everyone gets to know whats there as it becomes "Charted". You could then roll a die or draw a card when a planet is first discovered to know what resources are available. Valuable planets will probably be sources of conflict among players who want the resources.

Also if someone really wants to know whats in a fleet they could send in a scout ship of some sort. Sure its going to die, but at least they can see whats floating out there.

Also I would reccomend scout ships (or even better probes) should allow the person with the probe to look at the cards in that same hex. (That way other players do not know the makeup of the fleet). At the same time you could say that a battle exposes the fleets involved to all players as the high energy transmissions involved in battle perhaps can be detected remotely by all parties.

Just some more thoughts

Nando
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Secrecy in Space: a new game mechanic (I hope)

Ska_baron wrote:
Possibility for HYPERSPACE: (the only probelm is the ungodly # of cards involved)
- Each player has a deck with each planet on them
- When a fleet wants to move, choose the appropriate planet card and put it face down. Remove the fleet token from the board and put it onto the planet card (it's destination).
-Then calculate distance by counting hexes from initial spot (kinda tough, because then you have to remember where you were coming from... ugh, fixes?)
-each turn add hypertravel tokens equal to the lowest speed of ships in the fleet
-when you've added enough, reveal and move the fleet!

Suggestions? (I previously mentioned tankers and I dont know how they'd fit into this just yet...)Put the card down, count the distance, put the markers on the card, put the fleet on the card, then remove some markers each turn. When the markers are gone, put the fleet back on the board and reveal/discard the card. The problem here is that players can count the markers and guess where you're headed. I don't have an answer for that right off.

jwieringo
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Secrecy in Space: a new game mechanic (I hope)

Quote:
Put the card down, count the distance, put the markers on the card, put the fleet on the card, then remove some markers each turn. When the markers are gone, put the fleet back on the board and reveal/discard the card.

Quote:
The problem here is that players can count the markers and guess where you're headed. I don't have an answer for that right off.

What if each player had differently numbered counters? For instance, each player would have a multitude of x, y, and z's (variables represents different numbers). Players would then be able to place different numbered counters onto their fleet/ship. Opponents (in theory) could still count them but would have to take an estimate on which number is below the counters.

An example:

Jon: Jon places two 3's and two 1's onto his ship, face down.
Mark: Mark could techanically count them but wouldnt know what the hidden numbers are. Are they all ones for instance? or twos? maybe only one is a three?

Cogust
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Secrecy in Space: a new game mechanic (I hope)

Wouldn't it be much smoother to add markers onto the destination cards instead of removing them? That way the other players won't have a clue if you're coming out from hyper space this turn or in five turns.

To keep track of where the jump was made from you can place a jump counter with the fleet's number on it and keep it there until the fleet comes back into normal space. One could then allow other players to send a probe or scout ship to the jump point to determine the jump vector and so on.

Ska_baron
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Secrecy in Space: a new game mechanic (I hope)

Sen, the cardholder actually looks like a fantastic idea, the only downside is having to have 5/6/however many of them in front of you (one for each fleet) and that's a bit of space. However, this looks like the best idea yet!

Comfixit: Thanks for the ideas, I'll post more on this when I post my rough cut of this game.

Nando and jwieringo, I think I'm leaning towards Cogust's idea: This is why this forum rocks so much. It's those DUH moments when someone comes up with something perfect that I just didnt think of! TOKENS! I think jump tokens (even like the name) would be perfect =)
Any comments though about the # of cards this would entail? Say there are 20-25 planets in the game... too many? or would that be fine?

As always, thanks for your ideas/inspiration!

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