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Putting the AI in Fail (Part 3 of the Where I Am Series)


Spaceship 47 is the board game of the best 90s Sci-fi TV show that never existed. It is a co-operative campaign game for one to four players, where each player will take control of a single character and work together as a team to complete the missions. This is the third in a three post series discussing where the game is at the moment. Here are links to the first and second posts.


Just like characters in 90s Sci-fi TV shows, the player characters in Spaceship 47 do not die, there is no health to keep track of, the win and failure conditions of the game rest entirely on whether the players succeed at the mission. Therefore, the game needs enemies that can make the players fail their missions. This is what this blog post is about.


Enemy AI

Enemies in Spaceship 47 will be represented by large square cards with all possible actions for the creature listed on it. An example is shown below:

A card showing the name of an enemy, the values for its defences, and three separate sections each with the description of an action in it (default move; Punch Attack; Alternative Movement)
An example of an Enemy card

The Strong Mutant has three different actions:

  • a default move (denoted by the white square);

  • an attack action (denoted by the purple cube)

  • and a movement (denoted by the blue cube).


Great, so there are three actions that this enemy can take, so what? How do the players know which one to use when it is the enemy's turn?


I'm so glad that you asked that. Below shows the two enemy action boards that can be used during the game. The enemy cards sit above the board (as in the left hand example).



The enemies in a mission will be labelled A through L. Not all letters will be used in a mission - in the example of the enemy card above only three enemies (A, B and C) are used.


During the course of the mission, the players will be told to add coloured cubes to the columns of the enemies. This can be seen in the example below, where one purple and two blue cubes have been added to enemy A's column.

9 columns each with 8 equally spaces squares placed vertically on the column. Each of the top for rows of squares are connected by a line.   A space for a deck of cards is to the left of all of the columns.  The four lines for the top four rows connect to the space for the cards.  A purple cubecovers the topmost square in teh first column.  Blue cubes cover ten second and third squares of the first column
An example of the enemy action board with cubes on it

When it is the enemies turn to act, a card is drawn and laid down in the space on the left.


As above image, but an example card is in the space for cards.  On the card, a black triangle is pointing at the top most line.  The card contains the letters A to H and an even number next to each letter (either 0, 2, 4 or 6).  Four of the letters also have a green star next to them.
Example of a card used to determine enemy actions

This is shown in the image above. This card performs three functions:

  1. it chooses which action the enemy will take

  2. It shows the strength of any attack the enemy makes on this turn

  3. It shows whether an enemy has saved against any condition that the players have put on the enemy.


What Action to Take

In the example in above, the arrow on the card points at the top row. Therefore all enemies use row one to determine their action. Enemy A has a purple cube in row one, so will use its Punch Attack action. Enemies B and C have no cubes in row one, so they will use the default action of moving towards a Scientist.


Strength Of Attacks

The card that was drawn shows that the strength of enemy A's attack is 6. If enemy B had attacked the strength of its attack would also be 6, while the strength of enemy C's attack would have been 2.


All enemy attack numbers are even numbers, while all player character defence values are odd numbers - this ensures there are no ties and no confusion for the players about whether the attack needs to exceed the player's defence or whether it needs to be greater than or equal to the defence.


Saving Against Conditions

Enemies B and C will save against whatever condition is imposed on them by the payer characters that is signified by the green star. There is no symbol for Enemy A, so it will not save against any condition.


In addition to the above, the numbers in a column represent the health of the enemy. If the enemy takes damage, a red circle is added to the space with the highest number in the column of that enemy. In the example below, enemy A is quite severely injured, with only two health left. This means that because the enemy action card has picked the fourth row it does not act at all this turn.


Similar board to previous, except the blue cubes are not there.  Instead red discs cover squares 3 to 8
Example of damage tokens being applied to a monster

Conclusion

I am hoping that this system will make the enemies seem smarter, as the cubes are added to their column for a specific reason, and the actions that are listed for specific cube colours can be actions that the enemy would do in reaction to the events that are happening in game.


This hasn't been play tested much and I am worried that it feels like there is too much for the players to handle, and so will fall apart in play testing. But that is exactly what play testing is for.


That completes the Where I am series of blog posts! Now all I need to do is:

  • Design all of the episodes, but at least design episode 1, so that I can start play testing;

  • Design all of the cards for all of the characters, or at least design enough to start play testing;

  • Work out the story arcs for each character and the goals that they need to hit to level up, or at least the first goal so that I can start play-testing.

Sheesh, there is a LOT left to do!

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