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Tradewars - Homeworld: Starship abilities

Another aspect of the game that I am *examining* is "Startship abilities". Way back, in an earlier prototype, there used to be a fifth (5th) pile players could draw cards from. This pile had cards with "special abilities" which would boost your starship in some fashion.

Examples could be "Firepower +1" or "Resistance +2" and even "Roll the initiative dice twice."

Because casual gamers never *explored* those cards, they did not buy them during playtests, I figured that I could remove them and reduce the amount of cards by 15 cards! However as playtesters put it: "It might be interesting to use those cards in certain situations..."

So I re-thought the "special abilities" and decided that starships could have "special abilities" on the starship cards themselves!... I thought this was smart, however I have been questioning their use/usage.

My first problem is that you need to read the card to understand the ability. Adding "Firepower +1" could come in handy SOMETIMES. That having been said, most players completely IGNORE the special abilities... Therefore I am wanting to re-design the special abilities such that there be ONLY two (2) abilities player can use every now and then.

Specifically we are talking about a starship having NO ability, a DEFENSIVE ability and an OFFENSIVE ability:

1. No ability
2. Defensive player may roll the initiative dice twice
3. Offensive player may roll the initiative dice twice

These are the MOST relevant and interesting cards. Sure in MtG "+1 Something" cards get played and used. But in my starship battles, having to CHECK the cards for their special abilities is NOT OBVIOUS. What is obvious is when a player *loses* an initiative roll to his opponent. Having the ability to ROLL AGAIN is a HUGE advantage. Well maybe not *huge* but BIG for certain.

Right now only two (2) cards have this ability and I think they are probably the move relevant to the game. So my idea to use only these two (2) abilities stems from the fact that I want players to USE the special ability when playing the game.

Obviously when making any type of change, I need some time to think and determine if the change is desirable or not. It would certainly SIMPLIFY special abilities and would make the MORE RELEVANT in terms of the game.


Last *nebulous* aspect

This is the last aspect of the game that needs clarification (or revision). Certainly HOW it needs to be changed is yet to be conclusively determined. All other aspects of the game have been revised and clearly improve the game...

Note: Because of starship capacity, the stronger starship may have the SAME ability BUT they will have higher "depletion time". So using a special ability with a Destroyer class starship will cause a 6 turn depletion time, while the same ability for a Utility class starship will only have a 2 turn depletion time.

Ability names

And so there were two (2):

1. Defensive player may roll the initiative dice twice

The name of this ability is rather *simple*: "Counter Measures"

2. Offensive player may roll the initiative dice twice

The name of this ability is also straight forwards: "Enhanced Targeting"

Note: I am still undecided about this *change*. I will need to ponder further to see if this is the direction that I want to go in...

Note 2: It has also come to my attention that this ability could be use for any starship. This is INCORRECT. Only the starship with the special ability can allow the use of the ability. Obviously if you do combination attacks, for example, that is a situation that permits the use of the ability...

More on abilities

I have determined that allowing a player to roll a dice TWICE (2x) is a very powerful ability... I'm not certain that having ONLY those two (2) abilities will make for a well balanced game.

However, instead of modifiers on Firepower or Resistance, which seem not very effective in many circumstances, perhaps something like "Defensive player may add +1 to his initiative roll". This gives a *slightly* WEAKER ability which may end up being more balanced.

Players could use those abilities types of abilities to improve their odds and sometimes sway a battle... Perhaps this is MORE strategic than just rolling the dice twice.

Again more ideas, more thinking... I need to see how I would balance this and if this is really the proper direction for the game!

Note: I think there needs to be more *thinking* about combo attacks where a smaller starship is used with a larger one... There could be a balancing issue.

Not decided yet

Well what to do with starship special abilities is still an *open* issue. I will playtest the game as it is - with my casual gamer's group, and we will see how the game ends. With the changes for version #9 and #10, there are sufficient things that will definitely alter game play. Things like *Unlocking starships* will encourage more trading and it will sort of be a race to try to beat the opponent.

Trader starships may still not be used - it's possible. However I am confident with the latest changes and how those changes would affect a hard-core gamer (someone who uses everything available to them to win).

Another aspect I considering revisiting is the fact that Trade starships cannot *initiate* an attack. Personally I am thinking if a starship is in the space lane, it should count as a starship. Obviously Trade starships are weaker than Fighter starships by their nature. But maybe they should count as a starship that is defending the homeworld?!

So there are about three (3) issues that need resolution. I'll wait to get feedback from the casual gamer group to see what are the players reaction to the new rules and the outstanding issues...

New direction

Last night it came to me just before hitting the sack... I returned to the *unpleasant* solution of "Starship Abilities" and having each starship with its own ability. It just feels WRONG.

Firstly you need to check the starships in the Space Lane and see what is written on each Starship card. Then you need to decide which starship ability you are going to use... And then you need to place the black dice (d6) to deplete the ability.

Everything about this sounds so in-organic.

I was originally going to restrict the abilities to three (3) and have starships with one of three (3) possible starship abilities. But I was unhappy with that solution. It just felt repetitive.

So here is the NEW direction for "Starship Abilities":

1-When a starship is *unlocked*, players draw one Starship Ability card from a separate pile (of four cards).
2-The separate pile is ordered by values of one (1) to four (4). Or it could be random, players can choose the option they want to play.

Some things worth mentioning:

1-No more need for a black dice to deplete the ability. It will happen naturally by being discarded into the players deck.
2-Players no longer need to check each individual starship to determine what ability they can play.
3-It opens up the possibility for OTHER abilities in the future.

So the starship abilities look like this:

1. Hull Plating = +1 Resistance
2. Enhanced Targeting = +1 Firepower
3. Counter Measures = Defensive player may roll the initiative dice twice (2x)
4. Doomsday Device = Roll two (2) black dice. If a pair appears, destroy one enemy starship

All of these abilities can be played at ANY TIME. Two things happen:

1. Players benefit from the abilities but are not overwhelmed by them (since there are only four (4) cards/abilities).
2. They act like INSTANT cards
3. The number of cards in the game increases by four (4) not fifteen (15) as before...

So that's my plans for the "Starship Abilities". I'm still going to ponder some more - but I am happy with this solution since it is pretty straight forward. So no final decision just yet...

Tactic cards

So I have named the *new* cards "Warfare - Tactic" cards... because they behave like instant cards. You can basically play them any time. On your turn, during an opponent's turn, during a space battle, etc.

I was running out of colours for the cards, so they are PINK! Unfortunately that was one of the only remaining colours. Brown was too similar to Orange, so I decided on using Pink.

I need to finalize the cards so that they can be uploaded to The Game Crafter and that I can order these latest corrections. I should get those changes done tonight and hopefully have the time to upload and order the corrections...

Update: I completed the TGC cards and uploaded them... But I'm just questioning spending $15.00 for 16 cards. Almost a buck a card! :( Bringing back the tactic cards as another pile of cards is really tempting... I know it's 15 more cards (technically 11 more) - but it's also more pieces of artwork.

I'm torn. Because I feel the four (4) cards would add a lot of value, I'm just thinking a tactics deck might add even more value...

Players would have five (5) piles to buy/build their deck with. Although that's how it was originally, I removed them from the game because my casual gamers group didn't even touch their 5th piles. But for a hard core gamer, who likes to benefit from all aspects of the game, they might be more valuable.

I need to wait and think about this some more. Another deck right now is *tempting* to add.

5th Buy/Build Pile

Although it will require more artwork (15 additional tactic cards), I firmly believe that the "Warfare - Tactic" cards which act as instant cards will really add another layer to the game.

I went into my game's Spreadsheet (where all the heavy lifting occurs) and clicked on the "Research Facilty" tab. It had all of the old cards that existed for an earlier version of the game (before I decided to remove them from the game).

The good thing is there are some interesting tactic cards. I had to edit them, because some were obsolete in their function... But I came out with fifteen (15) real interesting cards.

I firmly believe that my casual group won't even touch the cards in that pile! ;) But for the more hard core gamer who likes using everything that is available to him/her, this 5th Buy/Build pile should make for some more interesting space battles... For SURE.

I may sleep on it before I actually make the new cards. But that would make my TGC order for 60 cards. More reasonable than just 16!!!

Note: We have interesting cards like the "Cloaking Device" which stops a player from playing any additional Tactic cards. So this is a pre-emptive assault card. Or the "Doomsday Device" which when used a player rolls 2 d6s. If they are a pair, the player gets to destroy an opponent's starship!

This pile should also spice up the four (4) player versus battles...


I am currently working on the Tactics Buy/Build Pile. Finished all of the card faces, now need to do the card backs (design-wise). Then I will produce the bleed version for The Game Crafter (TGC).

I have already notified my artist about the fifteen (15) additional cards and upped the estimates/budget to produce the extra artwork.

I was hoping to have the final version for my next playtest (which will occur on 2 March). Like I said earlier, I'm not too certain my casual gamers group will buy/use the extra cards but I know they will make a big impact with more hard core gamers. The tactics are pretty cool and I had just enough variance to cover all fifteen (15) cards. So there are no *forced* tactics card.

Obviously tactic cards will NOT be used in the solitary scenario (The Derelict). And the reason for this is because they would make the scenario much too easy to win! Imagine: The starship has a Resistance of nine (9) and it takes three (3) starships to destroy it. With the Tactic cards, all you would need to do is use a tactic which reduces the Resistance to 3 and you could beat the alien starship with only ONE starship... Much too easy!

But for duals and versus play, the tactic cards should prove to be very interesting!

Update: I got all the cards done (including the bleeds) and uploaded all of them to TGC. I also purchased four (4) copies of the latest changes for just under $20.00 (including shipping). Not too bad!

I wish shipping would be faster since the corrections should be made by 26 February. The problem is that it may take like 10 days to ship! :( So I know I won't get them for the next playtest session...

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blog | by Dr. Radut