I had an idea lately for a space map design. Most space games use a point to point movement (ex: Twilight Imperium, Eclipse) because you do not need to show the space between the system.
I was thinking to use a small hex grid to represent space a bit like in "Stellar Conquest" or "Space Empire 4X", but the problem with these maps is that there is not much space to place tokens and ship in a system. So I was thinking to use space around the star for placing system component. I have 2 layout example:
The first example use the space between the hexes, The circles are planets or objects around the star:
The second example use surrounding hexes to place the planets. But even if these planets have a hex of their own, the players still need to move from a star to another star to reach the planet because all the planets are located in the star location even if represented in adjacent hex.
I really like the 2nd system, the only drawback is that there must be a minimum distance between stars to make sure the orbits does not overlap. Second, if the ships can stop their movement in the middle of the space, they cannot land 1 space away from the star, else the player will think the ship will have reached the system. So either the ship is granted an extra move and reach the system, or he must wait outside the system and enter on the next turn.
What do you think?
What about a main map + sub map concept? The main game board is a hex map that represents the various systems within the galaxy, but when you move your ship token to a system, you mark your position on the map and move your ship token to a smaller, zoomed in, hex map for that system that shows the actual planets.
I'm not a big fan of multi map systems, but depending on the number of systems, you might be able to print them along the signs of the gameboard.
I thought the first example you presented would work better for a game that focuses on travel and arrival at specific systems. I guess it depends on what happens when you reach a particular system. Do the players actually visit the planets or is it sufficient to say that they are accessing all of the planets when they arrive?
I am working on a game with a similar design for a board. How I do it is I use numbered fleet tokens that correspond to a stack of cards. That way adding ships to a fleet doesn't result in additional pieces on a board but rather additional cards in a stack. There are a number of drawbacks however like how you have a necessarily limited number of fleets.
Only 1 fleet marker is placed on the board, so I do not have tons of tokens to place in a system.
Once you reach a system all the planets are accessible.