• paulbaalham

Going Round In Circles With A Map

Man, I am having an absolute nightmare designing Spaceship 47 at the moment. It boils down to the use of a book of maps for the game. This was intended to make set up of the game instantaneous - you wouldn't need to find all of the tiles in the box and consult the map in the rule book and construct it while your players got bored of waiting. The enemy stats would also be written on the map as would the round + turn tracker. However, it has presented some problems of its own and I've been thinking about alternatives. Let's go through the advantages and disadvantages of each one.

Book of Maps: Map = Act

In Spaceship 47, each mission that the players go on is supposed to feel like an episode of TV, with the campaign being a a single season of TV. From my research, episodes of TV tend to be separated into the following:

  • Teaser: Start exciting

  • Act 1:  Where the real story truly begins.

  • Act 2:  Conflicts appear  

  • Act 3:  Things get real bad 

  • Act 4:  Everything's downhill 

  • Act 5:  Tying up loose ends 

And so I imagined each act of the story being a different map. Once the players complete an act/map, then they move onto the next one.

When the book is open, the map would be on one page and all of the other information:

  • enemy stats

  • map goal

  • mission goal

  • environment information

  • turn/round tracker

would be on the opposing page. This would speed up set-up of the game considerably (example image below).

The book of maps throws up a couple of problems, the first of which is how do the Heroes proceed to the next map? I solved this by having a clear objective for the current map (e.g. kill all the enemies; find the datapad containing the ship schematics etc.). As long as that was completed, all of the Heroes could proceed to the next map. This restricts the Heroes to having to be in the same place though, which is not ideal. Due to the size of the book of maps and the playing pieces, there really isn't room for branching and allowing the players to split up. I think there should be times when the players should be allowed to choose to split the party to accomplish tasks.

The next problem is exploration. As it stands, I am designing very linear adventures. Heroes start in map 1, complete it, move on to map 2, complete it move onto map 3 etc.

This linear style seems antithetical to a board game where interesting decisions are the meat and potatoes of the fun. In the type of game I am designing, exploration seems to be a big part of it. I'm not sure how enjoyable this linear style would be.

Positives: The players experience everything I have designed; keeps a tight focus on the story

Negatives: Doesn't allow the players freedom to explore the environment they are in.

Book of Maps: Branching Maps

A bit like the previous idea, but instead of a linear progression of maps, the maps would branch out, and the exit the players take on their current map determines the next map they go to.

Positives: Feels more like exploration

Negatives: There will be parts that I design that the players won't visit; it is harder to tell a story if you don't know where the players will explore.

Book of Maps: Entire episode on two opposing pages

If I used smaller playing pieces instead of 1 inch bases for minis, then I could get the maps for the entire episode on to two opposing pages. I could still include different versions of the same map. For example, if a cave-in occurs on round 3 of the mission, then the players flip to the next page, which has exactly the same map, but has now got inaccessible parts due to the cave-in. Hopefully this would keep things interesting.

Positives: The players can split up, explore where they want to go;

Negatives: I would have to work out where the enemy stats and other information would go; being able to see the entire episode at the start of the game session may take away some of the mystery of what is going to happen.

Poster Maps

This is the same idea as the previous idea, but instead of a book, the maps would all be on posters. I may even be able to get the other information on to the poster map as well. This may mean bigger playing pieces could be used.

Positives: The players can split up, explore where they want to go;

Negatives: Being able to see the entire episode at the start of the game session may take away some of the mystery of what is going to happen.


There are a couple of games that use cards for the maps that get explored.

For example, 7th Continent (image of 7th Continent to the left).

The cards tell you which orthogonal direction you can go and which card to take from the organised box to put down to reveal the terrain in that direction.

The Adventure Games use oversized cards to represent the rooms you move through. They tend to be in a column but occasionally there are offshoots to the left or right.

With both of these approaches I feel there is not enough room on the cards to make strategic maps for battles. So I am not looking to use these at the moment. But I remain open to persuasion about them.

One thing I will not contemplate is using map tiles. If the only solution is to use map tiles then I will abandon designing Spaceship 47 (again!)

So I am in a bind really. I have started mapping out the stories of each episode, but it s hard to do so without knowing the map situation.

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