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Crazy Idea: "Build your own space opera" board game

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larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008

Everybody seems to have very unique tastes in matter of space opera. This is why there is so many space opera board game because, people want to do it their own way.

So my idea is to make an inventory of all space opera board games then make some sort of Piece Pack to create space opera.

The game will come with several rule set. The game would be split in various module usually found in space opera: Research, combat, production, politics, Victory, etc. Each module would have 2 or 3 different rule set.

Now you can mix and match the ruleset you want according to your tastes or design your own additional rulesets.

Games like "Kingdom Builder" seems to be similar to what I am describing.


Now I am wondering is designing such game could actually possible, and if it would be actually easier than designing a real game. I would probably not test all rule set combinations, but should playtest modules separately which makes it easier to test.

- I will need to use components that are generic enough to be used for various purpose. Cube and disk could do the thing. But also cards of planets could have a red, green, blue, yellow value ranging from 1 to 5, without indication on what they represents.

- I will need to have very few special text abilities to make sure the pieces could be adapted to any situation. One idea that I had to have tech upgrade without text, is to make most components double sided, and most technology upgrades would consist in flipping those pieces which would now have different values on their flip side.

- Restrained value range: Possibly, having a value between 1 and 5 would be optimal. As it could be used for rolling X dice, or rolling a die under this value.

Do you think such project would be possible?

Could it actually be easier that designing a single board game since I don't need to make sure the cohesion between the rulesets are perfect?

Do you have a better idea on how to handle mechanics that generally have unique text on them?

Mosker's picture
Joined: 03/30/2014
(More than a yes)

To the first question: absolutely.

I immediately started thinking about computer games which often try to be all things to all players, and compensate by making everything from diplomacy, to construction, to tactical combat on autopilot.

There is no autopilot in tabletop, but you can relegate unwanted (by the particular players at a session) aspects to base currency. Say, for example, you don't want to deal with scientific or artistic accomplishments. Fine, every card with a science accomplishment has text you ignore(with regards to your final question) , and a low number of, say, "groats", a universal currency.

So for every card or token dependent on science or art or anything specific, you simply have minimum groat conversion. If you still want progression in an "everything else" category, don't think specific trees for the various aspects, think about one groat ladder.

This should help you maintain balance during design, and spare the players the discomfort of looking at a pile of unused components.

Joined: 01/27/2017
Heirarchy of Needs

Combining bits of both ideas, you can make up about six different "planes of competition" and then the players assign them ranks of importance.

If we go with four Colors (I'd avoid using Red AND Green here for accessibility), they are always in the same order but the players assign the planes they want at the desired importance.

For example, Red is always the most valuable and complicated, then Blue, then Yellow, then Gray. This lets you balance the planet/hero/resource cards nicely.

The players want Diplomacy at the Red level, so they put the Diplomacy placards in the red slots on their player mats. Each plane can have simple, moderate, and complex versions of the rules... typically Red would use complex rules, players can haggle over complex or moderate for the others, and the two planes left out of the Color lottery use their simple rules (that stuff basically just works, but it's never a source of advantage either).

Does this make any sense?

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
Somebody on BGG suggested 504

Somebody on BGG suggested 504 as a source of inspiration. The main different with my game and 504 is that all the "modules" will be present. For example, there will always be a combat module, victory module, research module, etc.

So your idea is still related. In that case the various rules sets for each module is ranked by complexity level. So it's like if there was a beginner and advanced game mode, but distributed among different modules.

Unless you want a very complex game, you cannot put all the module in the highest complexity level, so you'll have to choose.

Joined: 01/27/2017
504 looks interesting

Wonder how well 504 could possibly be balanced.

The system I described would have 360 permutations if you just look at 6*5*4*3, but since positions 2, 3, and 4 could have moderate or complex rules the actual permutations are 6*(5*2)*(4*2)*(3*2) = 2880.

That's... a lot of playtesting :)

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
"That's... a lot of

"That's... a lot of playtesting :)"

Well, I would test mechanics separately, but not the cohesion of the mechanics together. It would be up the the players to explore. I will test a few complete sets to know if in general if it works, but I will not perfectly test every combination. That still mean that certain combinations could be horrible.

This is one of the reason I thought it could be easier to design as I only test modules separately.

Joined: 07/23/2010
The idea sounds great. But

The idea sounds great. But if people find out that you didn't playtest everything then no one will buy your game. You have to playtest every combination several times.

Joined: 01/27/2017
Not every combination

nswoll wrote:
The idea sounds great. But if people find out that you didn't playtest everything then no one will buy your game. You have to playtest every combination several times.

Not every combination, but I would say test every module in every position. Assuming the setup I suggested, it would mean testing each “plane of competition” as:

Red (complex rules)
Blue (complex rules)
Blue (moderate rules)
Yellow (complex rules)
Yellow (moderate rules)
Gray (complex rules)
Gray (moderate rules)
No color (simple rules)

Since each game has one Red, one Blue, one Yellow, one Gray, and two No Color, it’s possible to kill a bunch of birds with each stone. Still makes for a lot of tests, and each time a particular option comes up it should be in a different combination than the other times it was tested.

ElKobold's picture
Joined: 04/10/2015
An interesting design

An interesting design exercise, but it would fail as a product. Much like 504 did.

You would be basically placing the responsibility of figuring out where the fun is on the player. Considering how many times on average a game is played these days, you'd better be certain that a player gets an absolutely best experience on the very first play, rather than hoping that 'mixing and matching' what the player thinks he'd like would lead to the experience that's actually good.

If you want to make a space opera, just make one. Pick the niche you yourself like, and make sure your game is absolutely best in that niche compared to everything else on the market. Or it's a niche that wasn't done before. This is how you get an audience.

Just my 2 cents.

let-off studios
let-off studios's picture
Joined: 02/07/2011
504, GURPS, and Beyond

ElKobold wrote:
An interesting design exercise, but it would fail as a product. Much like 504 did.
I'm glad someone else mentioned 504 before I did. I find it fascinating, and I'm grateful I purchased it. At the same time, no typical gaming group is interested in "figuring it out," and instead I press it to my fellow game designers as an exercise in learning, not a game.

I often think of that game as one specifically-intended for designers and tinkers, as opposed to the game-playing public. Setup of a given permutation of the mechanics seems so arcade and obtuse at times, I can't imagine a typical gaming group working their way through more than a couple versions unless they were doing so primarily to study the interaction of mechanics, rather than enjoying game night.

I do remember the GURPS role-playing system from my pre-teen and teen years. They had a general rules book that dealt with the foundations of their game system, then kept it alive (as in, commercially-viable) by releasing sourcebooks and campaign handbooks for different milieus, with games as diverse as superheroes, TMNT, and even Conan the Barbarian (which had a flavor distinct and discrete from GURPS Fantasy).

It was entirely possible to pick-and-choose the sourcebooks you wanted to add to the original GURPS, but you could also play the game completely independent of any or all of the sourcebooks/expansions.

Jay103's picture
Joined: 01/23/2018
ElKobold wrote:An interesting

ElKobold wrote:
An interesting design exercise, but it would fail as a product. Much like 504 did.

You would be basically placing the responsibility of figuring out where the fun is on the player.

Yeah, 504 seems ridiculous to me. Mechanics that make up 504 games, and maybe there are 20 that work well (maybe)? And you can spend a few hundred hours trying to figure out which those are?

A successful version of that, imho, would've found those 20 and told the players what they are. Then it's 20 fun games in a box, rather than 504 random, untested games in a box.

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