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- Space Scavengers -
Update: Early Winter 2018

TO SUM UP: Blind playtesting and development has proven invaluable. The bidding mechanic had been critiqued and then reworked. There's a main Tactics Deck that comprises the main set of resources, while Edge Cards are now separated into identical, smaller decks for each player. Playmats have been implemented to provide for easier score tracking. Tokens to nudge scores remain in the game, providing skill/prioritization/optimization-based variance for evenly-matched players.

I had sent the game out to Game Smiths Playtesting in Colorado, USA, ( and the game is much better for it. A key critique I received was that the game seemed to revolve around the players engaging in a flurry of activity, with the end result of them still wishing and hoping they would win - as opposed to skillfully using their resources to purposefully win and/or sabotage their opponents.

The new schematic for bidding and winning Sectors has been tested with my local group and is in good shape. It will be slightly tweaked for Unpub 8, which happens about a month from now, and we'll see how the general public (and fellow Armchair Designers) will respond to it.

The sectors have a Key Tactic and a secondary Tactic. These Tactics are the same as regular suits in a classic deck of cards, but instead of Hearts, Clubs, and so on it's Piloting, Radar, Shields, or Lasers.

A key Tactic will be considered "full power," while a Secondary Tactic will be considered "half power" and any other suit is "weak."

FULL POWER: number value listed on card
HALF POWER: half of card's number value
WEAK: 1, regardless of card's number value

Imagine a Sector with a Key Tactic of Shields and a Secondary Tactic of Lasers. A player has a number of cards in their hand:

    * Shields 14
    * Radar 20
    * Shields 8
    * Laser 12
    * Piloting 14 + Play Again (this is an example Edge Card)
    * PASS (there are 2 of these held by each player at all times)

From these cards, the player must play two and has several options, including but not limited to:
- Play both Shields cards for a bid total of 22
- Play Shields 8 and Piloting 14 Edge for a total of 9 (Piloting is "weak" in this Sector and has a current value of 1) and a chance to play an additional card
- Play Shields 14 and a PASS card to lock their bid this round to 14
- Play both PASS cards to "opt out" of the current bid

All players reveal their bid cards simultaneously, and if Edge Cards allow an additional card to be played, they see what's been revealed and then can make their choice based on the current state of affairs. At that point, a player can use a PASS card to opt out, and bluff other players into playing their higher-value cards.

This bidding mechanic is satisfying, tactical, and lends towards strategic play: something playtesters seemed to want - particularly those who are fans of bidding games. I'll have more eyes on it during Unpub and I'm interested to see feedback from a larger sample size of playtesters.

The playmats I'd included in the recent build streamline the scoring process at the end of the game, which helped, and allow players to see at a glance the current state of who needs to be sabotaged next with a mischievous Edge Card (for example).

Companies are still a factor, and help players both predict how other players may bid, as well as nudge scores, so well-matched players can eke out a victory. Alien Escape Pods provide a collection score bonus, while Alien Tech provides a set-based score bonus.


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gamejournal | by Dr. Radut