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  • paulbaalham

Meaningful Decisions

Updated: Apr 3, 2021

Two bits of feedback I got from the last play test were:

1) a player that can spend 3 ability points can ALWAYS hit an enemy with a defence of 2

2) no interesting/meaningful decisions for the player

This has sparked a lot of thinking and I've gone down rabbit holes not strictly related to resolving the feedback.

Meaningful Decisions

I'm actually pretty sure the no meaningful decisions is due to the mission goal. Because the players only have one goal, it is obvious each turn what they need to do to advance towards that goal. Maybe by adding a secondary goal which they must complete as well to get all of the rewards available would help the players have to make meaningful decisions.

For example, in the first mission, the players have to rescue all of the Scientists in the research station. But what if the players get a reward for each Scientist they rescue but also get a reward for each computer they rescue from the fire ravaging the research station?

I dislike Gloomhaven's rules on loot. Nothing has ever snapped me out of the immersion of a board game's setting more than not being able to pick up loot after you clear out a dungeon (like a sensible adventurer would do). However, the fact you can only pick up loot while you are still in combat, means that you have to make a meaningful decision every single turn as you don't want to die from the monsters you are battling but you also want to get the loot before it magically vanishes as soon as you have killed the final enemy.

So with my main solution of lack of meaningful decisions being how I set up mission goals, the following ideas may be unnecessary, but I have thought about them so I wanted to share them in case people thought this would add to the playing experience.


1) One ability track instead of three

At the moment there are three ability tracks - Physique, Vision, Intelligence - with each character having a different number of maximum points in each ability. So the big beefy character that uses heavy weapons that you don't need precision aiming for - you need to be able to hold the weapon steady as it is fired - has a higher maximum number of Physique points than other characters. The character that uses sniper rifles has a higher maximum number of Vision points than other characters.

When making a skill check or using a weapon to attack, the player decides how many points they wish to spend on the action, with more points spent meaning a greater chance of succeeding.

The trouble with this approach is that each character has a "dead track", which they don't tend to use as they have no abilities that use that track. I have tried coming up with more abilities so each character has something useful that uses each ability track, but I think that each character now has too many options and will cause the players analysis paralysis.

One solution to the "dead track" problem is reducing the three ability point tracks to a single track of points, probably called endurance or something. Even though one single pool of points would be used for all skill checks and attacks, the maximum number of points that a player can spend will depend on which ability is being used for the skill check/attack. For instance if the skill check was trying to spot something in the distance, then the character that is better at seeing can spend three points on the skill check, whereas if the skill check was for hacking a computer as they aren't as smart as they are good at seeing, then they would only be able to spend 1 point on the skill check.

Advantages: Removes "dead" ability tracks

Disadvantages: The maximum number of points available would have to be higher than any of the current maxima and therefore it might be that the players can now just make more attacks before they need to recover their endurance rather than encouraging them to do anything else.

2) What the Points Spent Mean

At the moment, when you choose how many points you spend on a skill check, you then roll an eight-sided die and add the roll to your spent points to get your total. If your total is greater than or equal to the target number for the skill check than you have succeeded.

The values of the eight-sided die are -1, -1, 0, 0, 0, +1, +1, +2. This means that if the target number is 2, then if you spend three ability points then you are guaranteed to succeed. I could easily resolve this by rejigging the numbers on the dice or the difficulty of skill checks. But what if the number of points you spent weren't added to a dice roll, but were in fact the number of dice you would roll:

  • The dice could be standard six-sided dice, with the player succeeding if any of their dice is equal to or greater than the target number;

  • The dice would be custom dice with success on a certain number of sides. The player needs to roll a number of successes equal to or greater than the target number to succeed;

  • The dice used could be Go First Dice that I had in the original system for Spaceship 47 (but there would be only two colours of six sided dice). The target number would be the number of dice that were rolled in opposition to the player's roll. The player would succeed if the dice that rolled the highest was one of their dice (there would be no ties).

Advantages: It fixes the the problem of automatic success as there is always a chance of failing, keeping the tension in the game.

Disadvantages: Does it seem unintuitive to turn spent points into dice you can roll? I could just fix the problem by rejigging the numbers in the existing system instead of introducing anything else.

3) Actions have a time cost

At the moment, turn order is fixed and is the same for every single round of the game. There are 15 slots on the turn tracker with a fixed order: Enemies, Engineer, Deadeye, Officer, Lawyer, repeated three times (see image below).

I was wondering about trying something different with the turn order. Namely, the way turn order works in Patchwork or Tokaido. Each action that the players make would have a set time cost.

Whoever is the furthest back on the track takes the next action. So the enemies would go first.

To make things easier, the enemies token would always move the same number of spaces forward no matter what action each individual enemy takes.

This now means that the Engineer is the furthest back and so would take the next action, which only moves it 2 spaces.

Speeding forward a bit, everyone has taken a turn. The Engineer is the furthest back so gets to take another turn. However, if the Engineer chooses to use an action that only costs 2 spaces it could actually take two actions in a row.

In the actual implementation, tokens could be placed on top of each other, but that would have made the diagrams too confusing.

Advantages: It might make choosing actions a bit more of a meaningful choice as the players try and line up their actions for combos or trying not to let the enemies take the next turn etc.

Disadvantages: Is the added complication of this system worth what little extra tactical thinking it would introduce?

4) Limited Use Abilities

In the first draft of Spaceship 47, before the spend points and roll dice syste4m that @Grami_WER came up for me, there were abilities that could only be used twice per mission. The ability was written on both sides of a card, but one side said flip this over when teh ability is used and the other side said discard the card when the ability is used.

When I switched to spending ability points, I thought it was weird having a actions limited by the amount of points you had left to spend as well as actions that were limited to a certain number of uses per mission, so I converted them to actions that you could use any time.

However, what I have removed is the fact that the player needed to time their uses of the power well to maximise the use out of them. Perhaps I should reintroduce them.

Advantages: I already know this works in terms of making players have a meaningful decision about when to use the abilities.

Disadvantages: It kind of feels like there would be two system sin play at once, the points spend abilities and the limited use abilities. I am not sure if that is a good thing or not.

5) Stances

Another idea that came to me is the use of stances. Always on effects that a player can switch between at the cost of an action. For instance, the Lawyer (who is the Tank/Defender) could have a stance that means an enemy has to make a Physique check to leave the Lawyer's section and a stance that increases their defences. The Engineer's drone could have several different modes and it would take the Engineer an action to reprogram the drone to switch it to another mode. The player would have to choose which one they want at any one time and changing stance would cost them an action to do.

Advantages: There's always a decision the player needs to make as to whether to stick with their current stance or switch to another one. As the Hero levels up they could get more stances and/or improved stances.

Disadvantages: I have not played many board games that use this system so I am not sure if it is a good thing.


So there you go, five ideas that I might introduce to Spaceship 47. Which was your favourite? Any other ideas I should consider? Thanks for reading.

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