Books Are So Last Year
Book of Maps
One of the reasons that I started designing Spaceship 47, is that I enjoy this sort of game, but I wanted to improve upon some of the negatives I felt were common in them.
The first and biggest was set up time. I love Level 7: Omega Protocol, but having to wait around while someone looks at the map in the rulebook, gets the tiles out and makes sure they are connected at the correct points and oriented the right way, before the game started was such a joy-suck.
As I mentioned previously, I had seen the Giant Book of Battle Maps and realised that a book of maps would be great for this type of game. Simply have your scenario book say "Turn to map 3" and put your Heroes and any enemies on it and BOOM! ready to play.
In fact it is such a good idea, that it seems very popular at the moment, some examples are:
An Inappropriately Timed Idea
I had a play test arranged with my friend that is a fellow sci-fi fan for this past Wednesday using TableTop Simulator. On the Monday night just as I was going to sleep I thought about using cards instead of a book for the map that the playing pieces would be put on. The cards would be arranged so alternate columns were offset so that each card would be touching six other cards (apart from the ones at the edges of the board). Like this:
Each card has arrows on the edge of the card to show that movement between this card and an adjacent one is possible. In the example below, players could move to the card below and to both cards that are to the right of this card.
In the top left is the targeting circle, which shows you if you are able to target another card. If the targeting circle on the card you are on shares at least one colour with the targeting circle on another card, you can target it. In the example below, if another card's targeting circle contained either black or green, then you would be able to target that card.
In the top right is the number of Heroes and NPCs allowed on this card. In the example below only 1 creature is allowed on the card.
In the bottom right is any other information needed to be displayed. In the card below is the fortitude defence of this section (this will make sense once you have played Episode 2).
In the bottom left is the number of the card, this is to make sure that the card is placed in the correct position when dealing them out.
So, this is an interesting idea, but I quickly dismissed it as me just trying to find something interesting to add to the game. How would it be of any better value than the book of maps? In a couple of ways it would be worse: It would take slightly longer to set-up (although not nearly as long as setting up something like Level 7). The cards would move about as people put their pieces on them (although I've already worked out how to solve that).
Added to this the fact that I only had one evening to re-do everything, I went ahead with the play test using the book of maps idea.
A Play Test With Another Human!
Fast forward to the play test, during which, I realised the potential of the cards-as-a-map. In Episode 2 the very first map sees you trying to get into a Research Station on Mars while a Sentry Gun is firing at you. The map as play tested is shown below:
Those big dark orange rectangles with the [N]a on them? I was placing cards on them to fill out the rest of the map and the Sentry Gun would randomly fire at them. If the Sentry Gun hit a card it was discarded leaving an impassable area making things worse for the players. This is quite a dynamic board, with the status of what the players are looking at changing. And it is not the only one I have designed so far for Spaceship 47. Given the dynamic nature of the maps, it would be easier if the map was made up of cards.
For the above example, The spaces that could be targeted were quite limited but with cards-as-a-map, I could have any card be targeted as they would all be able to be flipped over once hit. The card could a big crater on the flip side.
Having cards as the playing surface also unlocks more potential. My friend TheDiceMechanic was talking about an RPG adventure he was reading and about how the players should've been able to raise and lower water in the room to make a path for them to get to the other side. I could easily do that with cards as the playing surface, but with a book of maps it would require picking up all of the pieces, flipping to another page and remembering where the pieces were and putting them all back.
So the next playtest will be using cards as the map. One thing I don't like is the untidy look of the map, with the offset columns "poking out". I could arrange the cards as in the image below:
The cards in the longer columns are rotated 90 degrees so that the playing area is now perfectly rectangular. This still allows the same range of movement as before and (to me) looks tidier. However, that will be a ball ache for me to design as I am essentially designing two decks, one portrait and one landscape and meshing them together. So for the time being the play test will use the previous arrangement.
Anyway, that's where I am at the moment. Let me know if you like this change, or feel I should stick with the book of maps. Any other potential pitfalls I may not have thought of?