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Project: Last Hope - a co-op/pseudo co-op strategy/adventure game

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Kevin R Brown
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Joined: 08/28/2009

Hello!

I've just laid down the rough rules and mechanics of a work in progress, and now I'm just out looking for some feedback on specific areas of it in order to fine-tune things a little bit.

The game has a science fiction theme and premise; this is what I have written for the introductory flavor-text:

EARTH: 2409

Humanity, having become an extra-planetary species nearly two centuries ago, inhabits a solar system that is rapidly becoming sterile. While the asteroid belt is abundant with as much construction material and water as could ever be wanted, non-toxic soil for agricultural purposes is scarce and rapidly becoming depleted.

Unable to realistically hope to send manned ships to even the nearest star, Alpha Centauri, an initial bloom of grand delusions involving inter-stellar exploration and colonization gradually fades away. Eventually, there is widespread acceptance that the final chapter for the life that had originated in Earth's solar system was finally here.

Project: Last Hope is established.

A fleet of massive, autonomous cloning vessels is constructed. Their directive is to travel the milky way galaxy – and to even venture beyond it, if need be – seek-out a life-bearing world that is already inhabited by a complex, intelligent species, make first contact with the extra-terrestrials and establish a human colony that would work in partnership with these yet to be known benefactors and beneficiaries.

One final goodwill gesture, thank-you and goodbye from the Earth to the Cosmos, and some small hope that mankind may yet continue it's story in another time and another place.

AQUEA: YEAR 2677

Over a million light years away from Earth and eons since Project: Last Hope was initiated, a cloning vessel would reach it's final destination. It was intercepted by a task force of war ships from the planet Aquea; a world upon many separate species had evolved to sapience, and which was currently embroiled in a full-scale global war – the bloodiest it had ever seen.

The patrol demanded that the vessel halt, identify itself and it's intended destination, and prepare for boarding and inspection. Unable to understand the message, it neither halted nor responded. The war ships fired upon it – an action whose consequences would be spitefully remembered on Aquea for so long as there would be life there to remember it.

The cloning vessel's intricate, fibrous artificial brain – containing both it's orders protocol and the entire recorded history of the human race - was severely damaged. A fail-safe was triggered to avoid a total loss of the mission and data; hundreds of daughter craft – extraction & manufacturing ships, breeding ships and reconnaissance ships – were launched. It was too late to avoid the corruption of the protocol data, however, and so the fleet attempted to rebuild it's protocol, in accordance with the fail-safe, from the most recent information in the memory logs.

Huge sectors of memory were wiped or damaged, however, and – against all odds – what remained as the most up-to-date records were the diseased thoughts of a regime that, from 1939 to 1945, had led the Earth through it's own bloody world war.

...So, players play as resistance fighters on Aquea that have just been forced to band together against the alien invasion (the aliens being us), and the tone of the game will be heavily drawn from World War II. The little introduction is pretty simple/generic, but I'm hoping to build on i throughout the rulebook and game components (namely cards) with bits of flavor text.

CO-OP vs PSEUDO CO-OP?

...The first thing I wanted to ask for opinions/criticism on was this core frame of the game. I originally thought that I wanted to do just an outright co-operative game, but as I thought about the theme and began following my muse I wound-up drafting a different idea:

The players do cooperate in order to defeat the invaders (if they don't they will all lose to the space-Nazis), but they also jockey for victory points along the way in a very competitive fashion because only ONE player will be considered the winner of the game.

So, everyone can lose, or one player can win.

The objective of this is to generate real tension between players in order to enforce the idea that they are working together only after being forced into such a position by the appearance of a much greater threat.

The primary ways I want to handle this are through a) the distribution of player objectives, and b) through space battles. I'll just rip out some excerpts from the rough draft of the rulebook for example's sake:

Assign Objectives

After each player has refreshed their hands, if there is only one Objective Card on the game board or no Objective Cards at all, the Active Player takes on the role of Operations. They draw a hand of cards from the Objectives Deck equal to the number of players in the game other than themselves and any player already committed to an objective + 2, then chooses and discards 2 of those objectives.

These objectives must be kept secret from the other players!

Going clockwise around the table, the Active Player then assigns each player other than themselves one objective by placing it face-down on the game board at any location they wish (this objective is not revealed to the player!), placing their choice of either a Poor, Standard or High Grade Salvage Marker on it from the Junkyard and then placing one of that player's Faction Symbols over it.

After each player has been assigned an objective, they may (again, going clockwise around the table starting from the Active Player) choose to commit to their objective or reject their objective:

If they commit to their objective, their marker remains on the objective and they may move a Strike Team towards it in the next phase in an attempt to complete it (it is not revealed to them until they have moved a Strike Team onto the location it is sitting at). Completing objectives will reward the player with Victory Points and whatever Salvage Marker was placed on it.

If they reject their objective, their marker is taken off of the objective. After all players have finished deciding whether to commit to or reject their objective, the Active Player may choose to commit to one of the objectives that was rejected by placing one of their Faction symbols over it. All other rejected objectives are removed from the game board, and the Active Player loses 2 Victory Points for each one (remembering that no player's Victory Points may go below 0).

Armada Draw

The Active Player begins this last phase by revealing the top card of the Armada deck. If it is a Sensor Signature card it is placed face-up on the Sensor Range space, on top of any other Sensor Signature cards already sitting there. Each player, starting from the Active Player and going clockwise around the play area, then is given the option to either initiate a blockade of the enemy armada that has built-up so far (they throw one of their Faction Symbols into the Blockade space to indicate this), add as many of their Salvage Markers as they wish to the Bounty space as incentive for players to initiate a blockade, or simply pass the turn.

At the end of the phase, if one or more layers chose to blockade the enemy armada, the armada cards built-up thus far in the Sensor Range space are discarded and their instructions are followed in order to put Last Hope vessels into play from their appropriate deck. The blockading players then engage in a space sortie, and continue doing so every subsequent Orbital Support phase until the enemy fleet is destroyed.

If a Red Alert! card is drawn instead of a sensor signature card, the entire pile of Armada cards built-up is discarded as they would be if players chose to blockade them, their instructions followed in order to put Last Hope vessels into play from their appropriate deck, and the Red Alert! card is also discarded and it's instructions are followed (often drawing a very deadly Last Hope battlecruiser or dreadnought into play at the center of the Armada). Any Salvage Markers placed as bounty are simply discarded.

The fleet brought into play via Red Alert! Will engage every player, except those previously engaged via a blockade action, in the same way that players involved in a blockade action would be engaged, and the players will be considered ambushed on the first sortie.

See the combat section in this book for further details on resolving space sorties.

...Looking over it, I don't know if perhaps I'm sacrificing too much entertainment value or overall playability for the sake of generating some tension between players. For starters, the way it is presently set-up likely means that the game would only be workable when played by 3 or more players, which I'm not so sure about. I initially wanted a game that could be played solo and upward. Secondly, the objective distribution component of the game would obviously eat-up a lot of time as there is a lot of decision-making for each player to do, and this may a) hurt the overall cadence of the game, and b) cause the game to break down if burdened with a larger group, which further puts constraints on exactly how many people would be needed for a session.

Should I just abandon the 'pseudo co-op' notion and just go with a purely co-operative model?

Suggestions? Criticisms? Let me have it. :)

(I apologize in advance for any spelling/grammatical mistakes; I haven't edited any of the rules text yet)

scifiantihero
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Joined: 07/08/2009
Hmmm.

Without much context, those rules excerpts are pretty intense, and don't make a lot of sense. (They seem like they could be perfectly well written as part of a whole, though!)

So at some point in the game, it's up to someone to hand out objectives, which would then give the other players a chance to get points, but if they want, they can can just make the player handing them out lose points?

Correct me if I'm wrong about how I interpreted that. However, it seems like weird mechanic. Won't everyone just lose a bunch of points when it's their turn to hand objectives out?

The "Armada" text is too confusing by itself for me to really venture any thoughts on (other than 'spaceships are awesome!!')

So maybe it's just me, or maybe it would be easier to comment if the entire rules were posted. I would certainly read them and tell you what I thought, and I imagine others would too!

The theme seems a little bit . . . contrived . . . is the best word I can think of, but it isn't an exact fit. I guess what I mean is that I would be very happy playing a game where the back-story made me think more about the game and less about why they designed a computer that was capable of making nazi clones, and why the solar system ran out of places to support life when they have all the technology to make giant, super, nazi-clone-producing, armada carrying (yet too dumb to translate messages) space ships. But then again, I'd be perfectly happy seeing these themes explored in a novel, or an episode of star trek (I totally thought of the beginning of Enterprise's forth season when I read about the space nazis!).

I rambled a bit. Sorry!

I think it may just be that the flavor text you posted contained more for me to think about than the rules bits. Probably with more rules, I'd be pondering them instead of the space nazis.

:D

Kevin R Brown
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I apologize about the lack of

I apologize about the lack of context; I'd be happy to throw-up a PDF file of the rough rules as a whole, but I'm afraid I haven't got any webspace to put it up on.

Well, unless DropBox works. Does this work for you?

http://dl.getdropbox.com/u/1613373/Project%20Last%20Hope.pdf

If not, alas. I'll try to tackle your questions independently:

Quote:
So at some point in the game, it's up to someone to hand out objectives, which would then give the other players a chance to get points, but if they want, they can can just make the player handing them out lose points?

Yes, and sort of. A player hands out objectives - which are one of the very few ways to obtain Victory Points - as well as reward cards to try and entice players to take-on the objectives (...so taking on the objectives is also one of the only ways for players to get the resources they need to field better and better troops). If a player chooses to reject their objective, they don't get to pursue it (and therefore also give-up whatever potential reward was there) - and the player who was handing-out the objectives may choose to do one of the rejected objectives themselves. So the first player who gives-up an objective is taking a fairly big chance; if they are the only player who rejects the objective, the player who was handing them out does not lose any Victory Points and they just gave-up an opportunity to earn Victory Points and resources.

Quote:
Correct me if I'm wrong about how I interpreted that. However, it seems like weird mechanic. Won't everyone just lose a bunch of points when it's their turn to hand objectives out?

Well, players have to be a bit careful. They could, say, all band together and try to screw over whomever is dealing out the objectives one turn by rejecting every objective, but that is a potentially very hazardous move because some objectives are worth a lot of Victory Points. What if the person dealing out the objectives put a really high-reward (in terms of Victory Points) objective onto the table and stuck a really large resource reward on it to boot? Then, after everyone has rejected their mission, the player who dealt-out the objectives will just take the high-reward objective for themselves and just eat the comparatively small Victory Point loss from the other rejected missions.

Does that make it sound better/less weird?

Dralius
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At first reading your post I thought Project: Last Hope sounded like a grittier version of a game I'm developing under the working title Final Frontier.

They are both themed in space and are semi-cooperative. "So, everyone can lose, or one player can win." Fortunately the similarities end there.

As much as i would like to make your game even less like my own i must honestly must say the semi-cooperative objective will bring in tension like you want which in my opinion is good.

You may need to tweak the reward system so that players don't play to loose forcing the other players into a corner trying to save the group. Make it significantly damaging to a player to reject a mission so that it will only be done in extreme circumstances.

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