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  • paulbaalham

Spicing Up Character Actions

One of the bits of feedback I got in my last play test was that it seemed too obvious which player powers to use at any given time. I put this to one side while I worked out the bigger problem which was the enemy actions, but it has been brewing in the back of my mind and I have finally decided to start addressing it.

Giving players only one attack and one movement can work. Legends of Andor was a fun game with only one type of move action and one type of attack action for each character. However, I want to give my players a bit of variety in their actions. This has largely revolved around creating different "powers" for each character, with one power being on a separate card.

Each character has 5 combat related powers in addition to the basic attack and movement cards, giving each player a total of 7 cards that they can use as their action on their turn.

I wanted to add in some variance in the skill checks that players make over the course of the game, but 7 cards seems to be about the correct number for a player to hold in their hand and look through to determine their action.

The drawback to giving players a variation in powers that can be played each turn is that whatever the situation the player finds themselves in they have a card available to take advantage of.

Three different ways of solving this spring immediately to mind:

  1. Design the episodes (i.e. missions) in such a way that the players are trying to accomplish conflicting goals, so that it is impossible for there to be a "best" option at any given time.

  2. Limit the use of some powers in some way, so that not all powers are available at any given time.

  3. Each power is available all time, but the cost of playing a power is different, so better ones cost more to use. Players can only use powers that add up to a cost of X per round. (I have added this to the current set of powers. Each power takes a different amount of time to perform. The time track that keeps track of how much time the player has used this round has several checkpoints. If the player passes one of these checkpoints, all enemies in the scene get to act).

Number 2 seems like an easier solution to implement than number 1 and as I am lazy, that is what I am going with in addition to number 3.

Lots of games limit the actions/powers that are available to a player. For instance in Gloomhaven, once a player has used a card it is discarded (or if it is particularly good, it is burned). The player is required to take a rest to pick up all of their discarded cards. I don't like this as it seems too arbitrary and I can't fit an in-fiction reason as to why this happens. For example, I can swing my sword and hit two creatures in front of me now, but I can't do it for a few more turns. Why? If the creatures I just hit are wise to this then I shouldn't be able to do it against them any more at all.

Important Note: It is funny that this is my criticism of the Gloomhaven mechanism, as you will see from the options that I outline below, I quickly throw out in-fiction reasons for limiting usage of powers #YesIAmAHypocrite

Option 1 - Defined Frequency

The easiest way of limiting usage of the powers, was to define a set frequency that each power can be used. For Spaceship 47, I made three different frequencies:

  • At-Will: These can be used at any time

  • Scene Powers: These power can be used once per scene (there are three scenes in each episode)

  • Episode Powers : These powers can be played once per episode (an episode is a single mission and would normally be one game session).

An example of such powers are presented below.

I have tried to stick to in-fiction reasons for these limitations, for instance the nanobots that the engineer can use once per mission need to be called back to the drone and re-programmed before they can be used again. A rousing speech can only work every once in a while.

Option 2 - Story Driven

One of the goals of Spaceship 47 is to have the characters evolve over the campaign. They start out with a flaw which, if the player is good enough, they overcome by the end of the campaign.

One way to incorporate this into the game could be that for each mission, the player has a card that sets expectations for their character. The card (shown below on the right) would sit in the player board (shown below on the left).

The player has starting powers that they can use freely, but will also have other powers that they cannot play when the episode starts. These restricted powers have icons on them (see below).

Each Story Card would have three goals that a player could complete. If they complete a goal they put a marker on that section of the card to show that they have completed the goal. The player can now use their Hero's powers that have the corresponding icon on. These Story Cards would evolve over time to show how the character arc is progressing.

Option 3 - Team Tracker

A track like the one pictured below sits on the table with a marker on the track.





The powers that the players have are divided into two halves as in the picture below.

When the marker on the track is in the clover spike half of the track, the players ensure that all of the power cards in their hand have the clover spike half of the card at the top. When the marker is moved so that it is on one of the perpendicular rings spaces, the players rotate all of their cards so that the perpendicular rings half of the card is at the top.

Each player has powers that when played moves the marker along the track in one direction or the other. When the marker passes into the other half of the track, then all players would need to rotate their cards.

The powers of two of the characters would have all of their powers better in the perpendicular rings half of the card. While the other two characters have their powers better in the clover spike half of the cards. This would require team work and timing to maximise the usefulness of each player as the players would manoeuvre the tracker into the correct half to allow the players who would benefit form this to use their powers.

The biggest drawback to this idea is that if the game is being played by fewer than four players, then not all of the characters are being used and therefore it would be less of a limitation (especially if it was being played by only two players and both players chose a character who would prefer the marker to be on the same side of the track).

Option 4 - Power Points

Players start off with a small set of powers that they can use. Some of these powers give the players points when used.

The player also has a few powers that they cannot use at the start of the episode. To use these powers, the player has to spend a certain number of points that they have built up over the course of the episode.

Option 5 - Team Power Points

This is similar to Option 4, but instead of a player using powers that earn them points that they can spend on better powers, the points the players earn goes into a communal pool of points, which any player could then use to spend to use a better power. The maximum number of points it would be possible to earn in a mission would be capped at a number that meant only three players could spend points on better powers. The thinking is that players would have to co-operate about who gets to spend the points.


I currently have Option 1 implemented in the game and that is what I will use for the next play test, but let me know if any of these ideas jump out at you.

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1 Comment

Feb 06, 2023

I think Option 1 makes sense as well, and I like the reasoning for each frequency.

As an alternative suggestion just to throw more options in the mix, have you considered an increasing cost card mechanic. i.e. first time some cards always cost 1 point, but some cards increase in cost the more the you use (maybe the enemy wises up and you have to put more effort in to successfuly repeat the trick, maybe it's tiring and you're getting fatigued, etc.) That way you can potentially do the same trick multiple times, but you really have to adapt your game plan so it's the only thing you do other than basic stuff?

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