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Tradewars - Homeworld: Playtesting

Well I have a pretty firm date for a playtest on 27 September... Although it will NOT be a "blind" playtest, players will be encourage to experiment with the cards and challenge EACH OTHER to see who wins. I will only be there mostly as a spectator once I explain the game and how to play. I can't wait to see how NEW players to the game strategize to defeat their opponent.

I also have a *pending* playtest on 6 October. It's not certain the group will be present - however I will be waiting to see if I can meetup with another group of designers. This again will be another playtest where I will again be a spectator (after game instructions).

I am also trying to *get connected* with a larger group of designers who have local chapters in several provinces in Canada. I will be soon creating a "The Game Crafter" demo game which will allow me to send out copies of the prototype (or demo) to different organizations for BLIND playtesting. This is not immediate since I still need to rewrite my game rules...


Great playtest session tonight

Well the night came and has gone... But the playtest session will be forever fantastic!

Although the players weren't the most *hardcore* gamers, they understood the game's purpose. So much so, that they had great ideas at the end of how to improve the game. I was truly hoping for a great session and we played the game for 2 hours... A little bit LONG - but the players were patient enough and it has given me a ton of feedback that I need to sift through to improve the game.

Here is some of the feedback from players:

  • Too much addition: much like Magic: the Gathering, players felt that the addition of Crew ratings with a Starship's bonus complicate combat.
  • Research Facility cards (15) should be removed from the game. Starship bonuses should be removed from the game. Instead each Starship should have a *Special Ability* similar to the Research Facility cards. Players can choose when it is most appropriate to use that ability.
  • Lower the end-game scoring goal to 100 quickSilver. Seems like so little - but it took 2 hours to get to that amount!
  • Lower the Homeworld's health to 15 (or 20) points. With revised combat and initiative rules this should be more appropriate.
  • Revise the rules of combat: no double-attacks like in MtG. Simplify based on the initiative roll.
  • Revise "roles". Some roles were never used in the game and seem useless to players.
  • Reference cards should indicate the rules to configuring starships for battle or missions.
  • Allow starships to attack starships on missions to deny a player from scoring points.
  • Remove the starship class restriction from missions.

All this feedback is used to streamline the game into a more *skirmish* oriented game. Another suggestion was to revise the *initiative roll*. Player's felt that if a defending ship had the higher roll, it should be able to attack its attacker. This is a change from the original rules, which instead said that the attack would simply end... unsuccessful.

So this is a LOT to figure out... I hope I can churn out an improved version before the 6th October, the next playtesting session on my calendar!

Update: I have started working on the corrections for the latest version of the game. I hope to get all of this done this coming week!

Changes to the game

So I figured I'd list some of the *changes* to the game... It being in it's 8th version, means that suggestions are starting to "focus" the game.

One of the changes requested was to *Revise "roles"*:

  • Trader Role (New): Allows a player to bank up to 3 cards from his hand.
  • Soldier: Force an opponent to discard 2 cards and allow the player to draw 1 additional card.

Another change was something I call "informal diplomacy". This is a sort of negotiation that can occur while players are playing. An example would be "If you agree to give me half the points of your mission, I will not destroy your Trade Starship". Something *ruthless* like that! Haha.

I am also considering adding a "Depletion time" for starship *Special Abilities*. The time delay would between 2 to 6 turns.

Players can NOW attack Trade starships (on a mission) to deny their owner the points! Of course players can use "informal diplomacy" to negotiate agreements.

Initiative rolls will occur before EACH battle (between 2 starships). The opponent chooses the starship he wants to attack, then both players roll their *initiative dice* (Blue dice). If the both player's rolls are identical nothing happens (the attack is cancelled). Otherwise the higher of the player rolls means that players starship has the initiative and may attack the opponent.

We will be adding *Energy Rating* (or Capacity) to the Starship card. It will allow players to follow a simple rule: Capacity <= Resistance + Firepower. (or Energy Rating <= Crew Rating + Weapon Rating). This rule will make some starships stronger (potentially) than weaker ones.

So far these are the changes to the game... I'm still working on getting them all in!

On the topic of *Expansions*

I have just recently been thinking about the *expansion* of "Tradewars - Homeworld". Previously I had though that player would purchase new editions of the game for OTHER races... While this sounds cool, having other races, there is a problem posed by such an expansion...

The difficulty with a *complete new race* means that it should be sufficiently different from the initial Human/Exterra race... Although this sounds cool, I'm not sure such an expansion would be sufficiently different. And there is where my problem lies.

But perhaps I have been looking at the problem from the wrong perspective... What if the Human race have been scavenging the galaxy and have found remains of other races, technologically speaking. This could alter the development of said race and create new and innovative technologies...

How would this all work you ask? Well since the game is divided into *modular* parts, it would be possible to design other cards that could be substituted for default cards in the game deck. These packs would probably bring a *minor* amount of variance - but are never the less *expansions* to the original game! These packs could be less costly to make instead of a new edition with 11 more dice and 75 more cards.

Players want to see incremental improvements or modifications in the game - to encourage interest in the said *expansions*. I see this as an opportunity to release a small set of ALTERNATE cards which can be used to replace existing cards in the game! With the game's modular design it would be possible to do so, PLUS it would be a form of Deck Customizing like in Magic: the Gathering.

I have already spoken with my artist about RACES, but we assumed the former: a complete new edition of the game. The later, booster kits, opens up a different set of requirements and can still be very attractive to the gamer who wants to own the complete game!

Note: I think a booster pack could be a viable *expansion* kit. Instead of being like in most CCG where the cards are random, they could be FIXED. So booster pack A = "these cards", booster pack B = "those cards", booster pack C = "other cards", etc. Possibilities are 8 or 12 cards (since there are 4 modular decks in the game).

More on *expansions*

Another idea I had was that *expansions* could be new "Scenarios". For example, in a four (4) player game, one player can be the Space Pirates that the other three (3) players are trying to defeat. Obviously this means that the Space Pirate Player must have stronger Upgrades which compose his *Master deck*.

This type of *expansion* could also include another dice, such as a blue d8 used for combat instead of the traditional d6... Tipping the odds in the favour of the Space Pirate player! I think this would be cool that not only does such an expansion come with cards for the game BUT also a new dice...


When creating expansions with different races/nations, a good thing to do is to list off the possible nations/races and then list of possible strategies. Then design them so that they favor a couple of these strategies over others. You can make them a turtling race where their ships have high attack and good initiative bonuses but have horrible defense. Or you could make it so that there's one that doesn't do a whole lot of damage but when they attack they get some bonus to help them out instead.

My game in the end will have 17 different races each with their own feel for their army. Then within those 17 races, there will be different nations which will all take a different spin on their race's tactical feel. In my game I have a swarming race, a race that is all about ranged attacks. One that is a grindstone, another than is all about manouver, and another that is about a headlong cavalry charge to break down the rabble.

Perhaps this will help think of ways to do expansions.

Can't think up 17 races

Well see that is the thing: I can't think up of enough difference to create new races... So I need to explore other options such as *scenario* expansions and maintain the one race... Scenarios are tough to design also but given enough time, I think I could create a few different ones. And if you need to buy a booster kit for that, well that's sounds good to me! :)

So I want to stay away from NEW races and focus on *incremental* expansions. They could be scenario related. Like for example this is my scenario expansion I have been thinking about:

One player is the *Space Pirates*, players draw faction cards to see who will be the Pirates. That player can then replace cards in his Master Deck with the ones designed for the Space Pirates. He would also change his initiative dice to be a d8 instead of the regular d6! Something along those lines...

Theme Streamlines

You don't need 17 races nor within those races or 23 seperation nations. Even if you only came out with two additional races, that's completely fine. You could make one race have really good ships but some pretty crappy crews or a great crew and ship but their weapons technology is bad.

I wonder if I would be able to come up with differences for you? But that's a talk for another time. The beauty of expansions is that, you can do scenario expansions and if you suddenly do find the needed inspiration for race expansions, then you can make those too!

Also, it was easy for me to come up with 17 different races because I'm building my game around a world and a book I'm writing. The 17 races were already there, each with their own unique military style and tradition. When these things are already set up, it becomes easier to make the different races different so don't fret overly about races.

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blog | by Dr. Radut