Tag Archives: Mars

Sands of Mars update

Since I missed updating last week, I’m going to dive into some updates to the rules for the Martian colony game that’s being slowly worked on.

Spent part of today rethinking my rules for Sands of Mars. There were some parts I liked and some that felt clunky. On the clunky side, there wasn’t the meshing I wanted when it came to playing become action. There was plenty of action, but I felt that it wasn’t as complete as it could be. Something about what we were doing and what our goals were didn’t quite get there. This, I felt, affected how much fun we had. Therefore, I went and looked at what streamlining could be done as I reviewed my notes from the playtests.

I felt that it’s been long enough since I first put things together that going back to the beginning and reviewing my thought process was the place to start.

So, for successful habitation of Mars, humans need oxygen, food, water, and shelter

 

Shelter can consist of additional items, namely stuff that makes the shelter nice to live in. we now have electronics, appliances, and furniture.

To translate into game terms: Devices needed to generate O2, and H2O, and provide an environment for living, and an environment for growing. humans on a colony are going to want to communicate with each other and with the earth; therefore additional items are needed. some sort of satellite communication gear and terrestrial system to do the same. And to run it all, power generation. Change this up, it can be nuke plants or solar panels. 1 Nuke plant == 5 Solar Panels <– That may change. will have to play with it some more.

[this is about as far as i got last time, feels incomplete]

Okay, so the premise is that the players control robots which go about building these things; shelters, o2 generators, H2O generators, communication gear. each of those are comprised of smaller components, namely mechanisms generated by nanofactories.

The players search the map for places to put these items (stable locations), places to get materials to build the mechanisms.

Collapse minerals and iron into a single field. That’s the ticket. Add the third type as Soil that has to be moved. A nanofactory will move it from current location, if it’s not Stable to a location that is. That takes a certain number of turns. Once moved (some token will have to be used here) then a Farm can be built.

Get rid of everything but the designated Radio spot. Collapse it down, make it simpler and easy to put on a sector.

Stable — supports one structure on it
Soil — martian surface that can be easily converted into a arable earth
Minable — There are raw minerals close enough or in the surface that make this an excellent location for planting a nanofactory to produce material
Bedrock — Supports two regular structures on it or one tall structure (E.G. satellite uplink, Nuke Plant, or Radio Tower)
Non — while the surface is stable enough to traverse regularly, there is insufficient support under the surface for building.
Unstable — Player makes die roll when traversing, 1-3 nothing happens, 4 & 5 loses 1 action this turn, 6 turn ends
—-
Players can plant a nanofactory on an unstable or non region if it has soil or minable, but that factory will be destroyed in X turns due to the instability of the ground. There might even be room for a card that will allow for the temporary or permanent stabilization of a sector but at the cost of production.

How long would this new game last? 1 turn == 1 month, 12 turns == 1 year.
Each robot gets 4 actions per turn. Actions are Move, Probe, Start Nanofactory, Start Building

Nanofactories and Buildings are done the same way, utilizing a machine colony that the robots have tucked away inside of them. Each turn, the robots can produce enough new colony material to divide it once — starting a new building or a new nanofactory.

Nanofactorys produce only one thing now — materials — therefore end goals have to be changed up. But more than that — Building require a certain amount of material PER TURN to complete. (More cards in the deck that alter/enhance/detract from this function of the game)

Material (Mat for short) is a

Buildings — Shelter, O2 generator, H2O generator, Farm, Solar Panel, Satellite Comm, Nuke Plant, Radio Tower

Build times:

Shelter: 2 Turns :: 2 Mat/Turn to complete
O2 Gen: 2 Turns :: 1 Mat/Turn to complete
H2O Gen: 2 Turns :: 2 Mat/Turn to complete
Farm: 2 Turns :: 1 Mat/Turn to complete
Solar Panel: 1 Turn :: 3 Mat/Turn to complete
Satellite Com: 3 Turns :: 2 Mat/Turn to complete
Nuke Plant: 4 Turns :: 3 Mat/Turn to complete

Enhanced by ZemantaMake the Nuke plant optional and there we go. Materials have been reduced to a single resource, getting rid of something I felt was too complicated. Locations continue also be a resource, but this time, they’re generalized giving the players some freedom in planning but also giving me the ability to mess around with the game tiles and the distribution of usable sites across them. Some playtesting is needed now to see how well these ideas work and so I can get a feel for the number of items needed for a “win”.

Play Test entry: Martian Sands

Friday nights is one of the regular game nights with friends Twiaz and Effulgent_Inara. They were nice enough to give Martian Sands a trial run. There were several good surprises and a lot of excellent feedback.

I was happiest with having the base mechanics validated. The move & explore with players making the map as they played was easy to pick up on and use. We also went through the entire deck of hexes. So I have room to increase that number and give the players a variety of terrains to experience.

Here are a few shots from that night:

Starting set up
The starting set up
A few turns in
A few turns into the game

 

Final board
All sectors deployed

 

There was a few weaknesses explored. The environment deck needs some work, especially since it is predicated on a version of the rules not used since I first thought it up. These cards, which are like the Mythos cards in Arkham Horror, are used to tweak the game world and give the players an additional challenge. The problem we ran into was that the cards all did the same thing, taking away from the players’ action pool. There is a lot of room for these cards to work in and it should be relatively easy to come up with a broader set of alterations to game play. I’m thinking this may take a couple of weeks to messing around with it to have a solid set to go back with.

Another weakness was not having the buildings and resources distributed well. We found problem during the endgame, when we looked at the win conditions. According to the rules, we needed two more buildings than I had indicated on the sectors. To resolve it, we decided to build wherever was available. For me, this means I need to go back over all of the sectors and look at to distribute it better. It is going to involve some math to make sure I have the right balance. Ideally, the players should be able to screw themselves if they’re not paying attention but it shouldn’t be so hard to strategize, only spending a few minutes every turn to plan. This should take about a week of evenings to get balanced properly.

But the best part was being able to play out the entire set of sectors. According to my notes this happened in round seven, most of the way through the game. I was afraid that 52 cards was too many for players to get through. I was shown that it could be too few. This can be fixed with a few additions, but those may come later. I want each game to be different, not just in where or how the sectors get played, but in that the players are treated to new sights the first three or four times they play. There seem to be two directions to test here. The first would be to set a limit on how many sectors can be put out each turn. The other would be to add more sectors to the play deck. I’m leaning towards the latter. Something else to check on the playtest trail.

A few other design notes:

The hex sectors are split up into different groups. They are currently labeled A,B, and C. The original idea was to use these as part of the environment card. Some event only affecting the B sectors and things like that. However, Tiwaz pointed out that this was also a way an explorer might prioritize or categorize the explored area, each designation indicating some sort of availability of resources or building sites. This makes a lot of sense, so here a few ideas that have been bouncing around my head since then.

A — Highly desirable sectors. Most of them have the room and geologically stable ground to build multiple buildings and are home to several resources to take advantage of.

B — The second most desirable sectors, they share many of the same qualities as A sectors; Geological stability, and so forth, but do not have the same abundance of resources or building sites. Most B sectors allow for only one building to be constructed or for one resource to be utilized within its bounds.

C  sectors are hard to navigate due to difficult terrain. These sectors are primarily composed of drifting sands of unknown depths that have caused the robots to become stuck in sand pits. When exploring C sectors players need to roll to see if they become stuck and have to spend an extra action getting themselves unstuck.

D — These are unclassified sectors and often have anomalies associated with them. Anything can be found in a D sector, their contents are scattered and random. These are replaced with a special set of different sector cards when playing this game competitively.

With this sort of setup it becomes easier to adjust the difficulty of the game by adding in or removing certain sectors. But adding in that little complication can come later, after I’ve got the game in a stable, playable state.

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Dev Blog: Martian Sands

Working on a new board game right now, that I’m calling Martian Sands. The premise is simple; the players take on the role of robots working to get a Mars colony up and working before the humans get there.

There are three primary goals for the players. The first is exploration. I want the players to be able to construct a surface as they play and use that to satisfy their second goal, gathering resources. The resources are important for their ultimate goal, constructing the buildings for the colonists.

Here are a couple of pics of some early work:

 

Sheets of uncut hexes

 

Three up hexes

Leftovers

 

I have a total of 52 hexes, not counting the starting hex. Players get to arrange the board as they play. It’s part of the discovery of the landscape. It works really well.

Blanks

But the not so far part of this process was writing the text on them. A playtest with using cards to describe what was found on the hex was a bit cumbersome. Having to keep track of what was found where didn’t work out so great. So I had to spend a few hours coming up with a key and then printing that out onto cards. Not exactly the most fun I’ve had in game creation.

Hexes partly done

Currently I have a good idea of what the rules should be, and the hexes have been marked along with a set of environment cards. It’s now a matter of sitting down to see what works and what doesn’t through playing. See where the weak points are, where things make sense and where they don’t. It’s the grunt work.

It’s also very, very fun.

I hope to post some next week after a few play-throughs.