Orders of Magnitude

Empire-building among the stars
mundungus
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Orders of Magnitude

Postby mundungus » Mon Jan 04, 2010 5:41 am

I'd like to again point folks to my attempt at a campaign game, Orders of Magnitude (OoM).

Here's a photo of a mockup:

https://webdisk.lclark.edu/drake/oom/oom-mockup.JPG

Other files are here:

https://webdisk.lclark.edu/drake/oom/oom-3jan2010.pdf
https://webdisk.lclark.edu/drake/oom/tiles.pdf
https://webdisk.lclark.edu/drake/oom/tech-tree.pdf

I have tested this some. It appears to be a very playable game. I would be delighted if it had some influence on SovStars.

Some thoughts / designer's notes:

Obviously, I'm a fan of Antoine de Saint-Exupery's maxim, "A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." I see no good reason to distinguish between, say, outpost, space stations, and starbases.

The "starcassonne" mechanism in OoM for galaxy building / exploration seems to work quite well. The reward for being connected to other players seems to help quite a bit; there is a backup "wormhole" mechanism in case someone is cut off, but I haven't seen it happen yet.

I have one player doing their entire turn before the next player does anything. This seems the simpler thing to do, but I'd be interested in hearing the merits of the alternative.

Being able to move three hexes, rather than just one, is important. I tried doing just one hex of movement (trying too hard to be simple), and it doesn't work: there aren't any surprises. Three seems to be the sweet spot; as is so often the case, Dan has found it. (Of course, if different units have different speeds, a whole new wormcan is opened.)

I'm not hugely excited about my victory conditions, but they work. It would be interesting to see several scenarios using the same system, e.g., invasion, battling empires, rebels vs empire, pirates...

I offer three levels of integration with Starmada. Maybe that's overkill and the middle one isn't needed.

Dan's idea of having a fleet correspond to a bunch of ships that aren't specified until combat time is a brilliant bookkeeping-avoidance device. I also like the idea of computing the CR of a damaged or depleted ship, and have tried to clean it up a bit.

In closing, let me point people to a fascinating book on game design I'm reading:

http://www.amazon.com/Art-Game-Design-b ... 527&sr=8-1

All this IMHO, FWIW. Happy empire-building!

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Re: Orders of Magnitude

Postby mj12games » Mon Jan 04, 2010 3:09 pm

mundungus wrote:Obviously, I'm a fan of Antoine de Saint-Exupery's maxim, "A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." I see no good reason to distinguish between, say, outpost, space stations, and starbases.

In my thinking, there are a couple reasons for the distinction... but I'm open to discussion:

1) It is a simple way of making starbase construction a multi-turn process.

2) It is a simple way of having starbases take multiple hits to destroy.

3) Outposts are just "supply points", while starbases allow new construction. I can see an argument that there is no difference between an outpost and a space station -- but there is room for expansion.

The "starcassonne" mechanism in OoM for galaxy building / exploration seems to work quite well. The reward for being connected to other players seems to help quite a bit; there is a backup "wormhole" mechanism in case someone is cut off, but I haven't seen it happen yet.

Please explain "starcassone".

I have one player doing their entire turn before the next player does anything. This seems the simpler thing to do, but I'd be interested in hearing the merits of the alternative.

One of the things I hate about empire-building games is waiting around for my turn... so it's really a personal preference rather than an objective "this is better than that".
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Re: Orders of Magnitude

Postby mundungus » Mon Jan 04, 2010 3:38 pm

cricket wrote:
mundungus wrote:I see no good reason to distinguish between, say, outpost, space stations, and starbases.

In my thinking, there are a couple reasons for the distinction... but I'm open to discussion:

1) It is a simple way of making starbase construction a multi-turn process.

2) It is a simple way of having starbases take multiple hits to destroy.

3) Outposts are just "supply points", while starbases allow new construction. I can see an argument that there is no difference between an outpost and a space station -- but there is room for expansion.


1 and 2 can be accomplished simply by limiting base purchases to one per system per turn. I don't have supply in my rules, so I don't have much to say about 3. I would like it if the system (or possibly the system including optional rules) would generate convoy raids as an emergent effect.

The "starcassonne" mechanism in OoM for galaxy building / exploration seems to work quite well. The reward for being connected to other players seems to help quite a bit; there is a backup "wormhole" mechanism in case someone is cut off, but I haven't seen it happen yet.

Please explain "starcassone".

As I've wandered around this design space, I've sometimes thought of doing a 4X game that relies primarily on the tile-laying mechanism of the board game Carcassonne -- hence, Starcassonne. There's a bit of that going on here.

I have one player doing their entire turn before the next player does anything. This seems the simpler thing to do, but I'd be interested in hearing the merits of the alternative.

One of the things I hate about empire-building games is waiting around for my turn... so it's really a personal preference rather than an objective "this is better than that".

Eliminating downtime is a good thing in a face-to-face game. In a play-by-email game, it's probably more important to get as much done as possible before turning things over to the next player. I'm not sure which is better for a campaign game like this. Maybe doing a lot of simultaneous decision making (as in the plotted movement in Starmada) is good.

Being able to stop the game and record the state whenever a session happens to end is important for a campaign game. That argues for doing everything on paper, but that would be (to me) very unappealing if the game was being used as a board game without Starmada integration. If VBAM is out there (and being revised) for those who want a deeply detailed campaign, maybe SovStars should focus on the simpler end?

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Re: Orders of Magnitude

Postby mj12games » Mon Jan 04, 2010 3:44 pm

mundungus wrote:1 and 2 can be accomplished simply by limiting base purchases to one per system per turn. I don't have supply in my rules, so I don't have much to say about 3. I would like it if the system (or possibly the system including optional rules) would generate convoy raids as an emergent effect.

Limiting base purchases to one per system per turn might take care of (1), but (2)? (i.e. how does limiting base purchases provide multi-hit bases?)

Convoy raids are certainly possible.

As I've wandered around this design space, I've sometimes thought of doing a 4X game that relies primarily on the tile-laying mechanism of the board game Carcassonne -- hence, Starcassonne. There's a bit of that going on here.

Sorry -- I should have been more clear. I've never played Carcassone, so I don't understand the reference.

If VBAM is out there (and being revised) for those who want a deeply detailed campaign, maybe SovStars should focus on the simpler end?

That's the intent. SovStars is not a campaign system -- it is a board game that can serve some campaign functions if players want it to do so.
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Re: Orders of Magnitude

Postby mundungus » Mon Jan 04, 2010 3:58 pm

cricket wrote:how does limiting base purchases provide multi-hit bases?

I guess it's really the ability to have multiple bases in the same system that provides multi-hit bases. In other words, where you have bases at three strengths, I represent the same thing by one, two, or three bases in the system.

Note the following from the "Light Bookkeeping" section of OoM:

When resolving a battle using Starmada, each side chooses forces of up to the indicated CR. If several units of the same type are present, it is legal to include a ship larger than any individual unit. Thus, a stack of three bases might represent one gigantic station.


cricket wrote:Sorry -- I should have been more clear. I've never played Carcassone, so I don't understand the reference.

I recommend it. Carcassonne is one of my favorite "gateway games", used to introduce serious gaming to people who know of nothing but Monopoly and Scrabble.

That's the intent. SovStars is not a campaign system -- it is a board game that can serve some campaign functions if players want it to do so.

Noted.

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Re: Orders of Magnitude

Postby mj12games » Mon Jan 04, 2010 4:06 pm

mundungus wrote:Note the following from the "Light Bookkeeping" section of OoM:

When resolving a battle using Starmada, each side chooses forces of up to the indicated CR. If several units of the same type are present, it is legal to include a ship larger than any individual unit. Thus, a stack of three bases might represent one gigantic station.

Ah... I missed that.

So you are correct. The three-in-one nature of starbases can be achieved with generic "bases". However, I firmly believe that some form of supply/maintenance rules are critical in a game like this. So the question would be how to maintain that if the outpost/space station/starbase distinction is eliminated.
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Re: Orders of Magnitude

Postby mundungus » Mon Jan 04, 2010 4:44 pm

cricket wrote:The three-in-one nature of starbases can be achieved with generic "bases". However, I firmly believe that some form of supply/maintenance rules are critical in a game like this. So the question would be how to maintain that if the outpost/space station/starbase distinction is eliminated.

Maintenance rules can be good to prevent players from "turtling up", staying in place and building larger and larger navies.

Supply is only important if cutting off enemy supplies is a reasonable tactic. If players build empires without long tendrils and never launch expeditions deep into enemy territory, supply may be needless bookkeeping. On the other hand, if the rules can be engineered so that such missions are a good idea, life might become more interesting...

(I think the current OoM rules, which do not include supply, do encourage players to rush out and grab valuable choke points as the galaxy is discovered. Later in the game, forces are concentrated at such points, but some are also used for exploring the remaining territory, which can sometimes open new routes of attack.)

Assuming we do want such rules, we could simply require a continuous chain of friendly units back to a base (any base) to constitute supply. It might be reasonable to add a third type of unit, a convoy. This unit would have little if any combat ability, but would be much cheaper than a regular fleet (perhaps 2 or 3 for the price of a fleet).

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Re: Orders of Magnitude

Postby mj12games » Mon Jan 04, 2010 5:25 pm

I admit I am going through a "minimalist" phase -- however, the concept of generic "bases" leaves me a bit cold, for some reason. Maybe it's the symmetry of the current system, with the progressive cost of units leading to a situation where outposts cost $1, space stations cost $5 and starbases cost $10.

Perhaps it could work like this:

SDF = $2 (1 battle die)
Fleet = $3 (2 battle dice)
Base = $5 (1 battle die)

Bases are needed to produce new units, one per base. Exception: a single base can be produced at any system where at least one SDF is present.

Maintenance is still $1 per unit.

Supply must be traced back to a friendly base, via a chain of controlled systems.
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Re: Orders of Magnitude

Postby mundungus » Mon Jan 04, 2010 8:47 pm

cricket wrote:I admit I am going through a "minimalist" phase -- however, the concept of generic "bases" leaves me a bit cold, for some reason.


Yeah, striking a balance between simplicity and richness it tricky. I love the game of Go but it's not big on story.

Perhaps it could work like this:

SDF = $2 (1 battle die)
Fleet = $3 (2 battle dice)
Base = $5 (1 battle die)

Bases are needed to produce new units, one per base. Exception: a single base can be produced at any system where at least one SDF is present.

Maintenance is still $1 per unit.

Supply must be traced back to a friendly base, via a chain of controlled systems.


I would argue for giving them all the same number of battle dice and just changing the prices. One parameter is easier to balance than two. When resolving battle, counting is always faster and easier than adding up a bunch of numbers, even small ones. If these units are all just abstract agglomerations of Starmada ships, it's easy to say that each one is of the same fighting strength. If the strategic value of their abilities can be balanced, making them all the same cost has an appeal, too.

Can you say more about why you believe supply and maintenance are essential? Are they worth the bookkeeping?

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Re: Orders of Magnitude

Postby mj12games » Mon Jan 04, 2010 8:55 pm

mundungus wrote:I would argue for giving them all the same number of battle dice and just changing the prices. One parameter is easier to balance than two. When resolving battle, counting is always faster and easier than adding up a bunch of numbers, even small ones.

I perceive the logic in this.

If these units are all just abstract agglomerations of Starmada ships, it's easy to say that each one is of the same fighting strength. If the strategic value of their abilities can be balanced, making them all the same cost has an appeal, too.

Well, the strategic values/limitations are as follows:

1) SDFs are needed to "control" a system, but cannot move on their own.

2) Fleets can move on their own, but cannot exert control over territory.

3) Bases are needed to build new units, but again, cannot move.

Frankly, I think the 2/3/5 progression reflects this quite well.

Can you say more about why you believe supply and maintenance are essential? Are they worth the bookkeeping?

As envisioned, there's no bookkeeping... simply count your units and pay that much.

Maintenance is important to prevent "turtling". Supply is not as essential -- and perhaps I'm over-complicating the game in that respect.
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