And So It Begins...
Spaceship 47 is the board game of the best 90s Sci-Fi TV show that never got made. To this end it is a story driven game allowing the players to create the story of the first season of the show themselves.
The premise of the show is that Earth has started exploring the galaxy and made friends with a couple of alien species. All of a sudden, an alien species called the Draydun attacked Earth. There was no Earth space force and the space faring ships were under control of different countries - there was chaos. The captain of Spaceship 47 realised that the situation was dire, so managed to organise the five nearest spaces ships to work together and punch a hole in the Draydun's fleet for Spaceship 47 to escape through. Spaceship 47 let off a time-dilation bomb, which slows down the passage of time in the vicinity of Earth. The scientists on Spaceship 47 estimate that Spaceship 47 has 10 weeks until the time dilation bomb stops working and the Draydun finish off their invasion. Spaceship 47 has 10 weeks to find allies, new technology and information before returning to rescue their home.
The players need to know everything that I've described above or they will have no idea what they are doing in the game. But what is the best way to impart that knowledge to them in a board game? The obvious solution is to have the above rewritten as read-aloud text before the start of the first session. It could be read before the start of every session as a sort of opening credits.
However, it would be great if I could show rather than tell the players the set up. But how to do that? Obviously everything in the set up needs to happen or there is no story for the players to explore. But if I make it playable, then the players may fail to get through the Draydun defences or they may fail to set off the time dilation bomb, and without those, there is no rest of the game.
Problem 1: How do I implement the telling of the set up to the players?
Image taken from Den of Geek post here.
Most TV pilots have the main characters starting apart and then meeting up. For example, Star Trek: Voyager starts with Voyager chasing a Maquis ship, both ships get flung to the other side of the galaxy, the Maquis ship is destroyed, a lot of Voyager crew are killed, the surviving members of both crews merge into the crew of Voyager, the EMH is activated and Voyager picks up Neelix and Kes. There are few pre-existing relationships between the 9 main characters.
How would I represent this aspect of a TV pilot in a board game? If the characters start apart, there will be a period of time before all of the characters are together. Should the players take it in turns to advance their own character's story until they all meet up? This means that each player will essentially be playing a solo game as until the characters meet, they won't be interacting. I can imagine the down time on this would be quite boring. Maybe instead of each player going through their character's story on their own, the other players could play supporting characters that are never seen again after the pilot episode? I'm not sure this is entirely satisfactory either, but I am not sure why I think this.
Problem 2: How do I start the characters apart and bring them together?
So those are the two problems I am having with writing the pilot episode of the game.
As I was trying to get my thoughts straight in my head about this, I took to Twitter to talk about them and one of my Twitter friends, @whodo_voodoo , had a suggestion:
Which got me thinking that maybe the game starts off with the players playing characters that get the chance to warn Earth of the impending assault. The Draydun destroys their location, but not without the players putting up a fight. You could actually tie their fate into the rest of the game, by having the number of rounds that they survive for in their resistance, being the number of rounds that the players get with the main characters in the next part of the pilot episode. I need to think about this a bit more.
I'd be grateful to hear any thoughts you have on any aspects of the pilot episode of the game.