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Game #6/12 - The Skurge - escape from an unstoppable enemy, rescuing what you can on the way

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The Skurge

An 18 card Euro-style adventure game for 2 players about racing home from an unstoppable enemy.

OFFICER: “Captain! What’s that?”
CAPTAIN: “Dear God! Something’s torn that planet in half!”
OFFICER: “We’re taking damage from the debris.”
CAPTAIN: “Take evasive manoeuvres!”
OFFICER: “I’m picking up multiple life forms spawning from the epicentre.”
CAPTAIN: “That’s the Skurge! A self replicating biological nightmare destined to consume every other living entity! We need to get to Earth and warn them. There’s a jump gate 5 systems away; set a course!”
OFFICER: “What about the outer colonies?”
CAPTAIN: “We’ll have to save what we can. Let’s GO! GO! GO!”

During the game you will visit planets looking for resources and survivors. Naturally, you'll also find mercenaries looking to take those things from you.

Files for playing:
Rules:
https://www.mediafire.com/file/kqradtyxjv8oc61/the_skurge_rules_01.pdf/file

Cards:
https://www.mediafire.com/file/tin84rd8qcgrjfd/the_skurge_cards_01.pdf/file

Additional resources needed:
1 Meeple/player
~26 Red, 6 Green, 10 Yellow, 2 Pink, 2 Orange & 5 grey Cubes

Game play:
The game is played until one player moves off the end of the map, or a player is caught by the Skurge.

Each turn the active player will move to a new location and perform 1 of three possible action sequences. The action sequences allow the player to:
- perform repairs to their ship,
- take on resources,
- spend resources to gain artefacts and rescue survivors,
- activate defence systems to slow the Skurge

At the end of the player's turn, the Skurge advances and it advances faster with each turn.

Reflection:
Half way through the challenge! This was the longest development yet. Partly due to the short break I took in the middle as I felt I was suffering from developers’ block a bit and the game wasn’t heading in the right direction for a while. The break helped and after tweaking some of the mechanics and balancing the player actions with the flow of the enemy, the game flowed nicely.

The theme for this one was advancing wall of doom and I took heavy inspiration from the game “F.T.L.” to use the advancing powerful enemy as my “wall”. The rest of the game fell into place once I’d settled on the concept of running away from an all powerful, unstoppable enemy.

The game is tougher than I originally wanted so I added a difficulty variant to help new players. If you play on the hard difficulty and make a wrong choice, there is effectively no recovering from it, the normal difficulty setting, gives you a bit more time before the Skurge catch you.

It was a tough game to balance, the players have 5 turns to move across the map, repair their ship, collect resources, set traps and rescue people. With so much to do in such a short “time” frame it was very difficult to get the distribution of actions across the locations perfect without feeling repetitive, but I think I managed it.

I feel their could be more flavour text on the locations, but I either ended up with loads of text on the card, or something not very coherent so I settled on a simple description.

Anyway, I'd love to hear how others feel it plays.

If you're curious, here's the link to the other game so far:
Game#5: “Green, Chems & Steel”
cards: https://www.mediafire.com/file/5g4t1pz6084v80b/money_drugs+guns_cards_03...
rules: https://www.mediafire.com/file/5u9ezmwc877ftto/money_drugs+guns_rules_02...

Game#4: “Those Magnificent Men”
cards: https://www.mediafire.com/file/q2bptjpkqgx2r34/those_magnificent_men_car...
rules: https://www.mediafire.com/file/62ifvf6ihzlv3ui/those_magnificent_men_rul...

Game#3: “Anisoptera”
cards: https://www.mediafire.com/file/3eznffiwsg6la9d/anisoptera_cards_01.pdf/file
rules: https://www.mediafire.com/file/yltl0cu438mtzc1/anisoptera_rules_02.pdf/file

Game#2: “Dyadic”
cards: https://www.mediafire.com/file/bhceed33r1za0d5/dyadic_cards_01.pdf/file
rules: https://www.mediafire.com/file/xevx4z5jll69ae2/dyadic_rules_01.pdf/file

Game#1: “Gene Dreams”
cards: https://www.mediafire.com/file/gnoyog6ylt5qtrz/gene_dreams_cards_05.pdf/...
rules: https://www.mediafire.com/file/opo9fv2mda5nuid/gene_dreams_rules_04.pdf/...

Comments

To-Do

I grabbed these files yesterday, and will assemble a set for playtesting. I have vacation time next week and plan on going through this a few times.

Have you tested effectively with one person running both players? I don't imagine that would be too confusing or complex. Any suggestions?

SOLO Rules

Cheers for downloading! I would really like to hear your thoughts about it.

Most of my testing was done with myself running both players. It was slightly confusing because of the double turn. I would get about 3 rounds in and forget if I'd taken 1 turn or 2, doubly confusing when taking the extra "move & action" action :)

I have added a specific (less confusing) set of solo rules. The existing link picks up the new file.

Feedback

Finished up a couple games and I have some feedback for you. Overall I had a tough time with this one. A couple reasons why:

  • There seem to be a lot of blind choices, and the "mis-steps" you mention are devastating. The only way I see to avoid going to a card where you lack the resources to gain anything is to memorize the cards beforehand, and that doesn't seem to add to the fun.
  • If the other player seems to pull ahead of you, it's easy to feel there's no way to regain position or points. Sometimes that's just the way it goes (and the game is short enough to acknowledge this), but when it seems to be due to a blind choice, one can feel simply powerless and de-motivated to play again.
  • Ammo seems over-abundant, and you rarely have a chance to trade it for anything beyond additional ammo (placed on a future card...?). Also, is there any limit to ammo your can carry?
  • I saw mention of a "Skurge trap" in your rules, but I saw no cards with anything that looked like a Skurge trap. What am I missing? I could really, REALLY use a Skurge trap every once in a while. :)
  • Starting the game with the radar not repaired seems such a terrible choice that it should not be an option at all. In some cases, it seems like the radar dish is the only way to actually gain things on a turn, depending on your current loadout and luck.

I do like the thematic separation of data/supplies/artifacts/survivors, but this becomes a frustration because:

  • So many actions require specific trades.
  • If you stumble into more points than your opponent, it seems to be several layers of luck that helped you make it there.

Is there any way you can think of to streamline the collection process? Maybe there's a cost listed on the planet side of the card, and the player who pays entry can choose what they want to collect?

Although real-estate and the number of turns are both tight, is there any way to rubber-band a player lagging behind, either in position or points?

Feedback & Changes

Let-off Studios - thanks for the feedback, I really appreciate you taking the time to play this.

I agree with your comment about the level of blind choices. I wanted to create that feeling of having to make hard decisions based on limited information. the size of the bars on the undiscovered side of the locations was meant to do this. But, I see this falls short. I'm going to change it remove the bars and, instead, show some of the choices you will get when you discover the location. for example, it will show 1 of the four actions on the top row, 1 of the two actions on the middle row, and the single bottom row action. I think that will help make the choice of planet to go to less random.

Quote:
If the other player seems to pull ahead of you, it's easy to feel there's no way to regain position or points.
I understand this, and I thought about changing it, but since the game is so short, I felt whatever I introduced, removed the tough choices you had to make. I feel the changes to the back of the locations should reduce the "bad luck" element.

Quote:
Ammo seems over-abundant, and you rarely have a chance to trade it for anything beyond additional ammo (placed on a future card...?).
It's funny, I had a lot of tests where ammo just didn't turn up when I needed it. I'll try and get some stats together and see if there is an imbalance in the ammo availability.

Quote:
Also, is there any limit to ammo your can carry?

No - there is no limit for ammo.

Quote:
I saw mention of a "Skurge trap" in your rules, but I saw no cards with anything that looked like a Skurge trap.

Ah, my rules aren't lear enough on this. The "trap" is the "bomb" icon. The "bomb" icon allows you to place an ammo on a location, this cancels out a skurge that is placed on the location. There are about 5 locations that offer this action.

Quote:
Starting the game with the radar not repaired seems such a terrible choice that it should not be an option at all.

Ah - this seems to be a problem with my rules. No one should start with the radar available. The only parts of your ship that work at the start are the "move+action" action, 1 cargo space and 1 data space. The extended storage, the radar, the +1 ammo and 2nd action slots all start damaged and must be repaired during the game.

I'll post the updated rules and cards tomorrow.

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