When one designs and published board games for a living, one tends to rant a lot about it. This is where we do that, the folks involved with NSKN Games and our special friends and supporters. We'll post here our ideas about gaming, about life, about gaming more often than not, about the specific challenges of making a business out of a hobby and... did we mention games?
Totally new developments on Kickstarter seem in short supply these days. Apart from an odd project that ends up with a pile of money nobody had expected it to raise, few things make everybody discuss a single game. One of them is still the idea of a Kickstarter exclusive game.
You probably know how we feel about Kickstarter exclusive content for a game that otherwise normally hits your FLGS shelves: we don't like it, and we don't really do it. There’s little that seems to have the power to turn people away from a game so effectively as the knowledge of paying for something that’s been essentially flayed: deprived of some key gameplay features, which you will never be able to get your hands on.
However, a game that is Kickstarter exclusive is a whole different story, and following the discussion that blew up with the launch of Monolith’s Batman, I felt deeply puzzled on more than one occasion. I don’t want to make anyone’s opinion seem irrelevant, but I do want to contest at least some of things I’ve read.
The Kickstarter exclusive game probably (but kind of unofficially) started from Gloomhaven. While you could get the game in some stores, during the second Kickstarter it was rather obvious that most of the copies will be sold and bought as part of the project. Stores were given the opportunity to pledge, but everybody knows that when those wells run dry, new copies won’t be available, unless via another Kickstarter campaign.
Still, the discussion really erupted not with Gloomhaven but with CMON’s Hate: a game that was advertised as something you’ll be able to get your hands on only with Kickstarter, only to intensify when Monolith announced the KS only Batman: Gotham City Chronicles, and then was kept alive as the game went live all through to the time when it closed on a formidable 3.5 million dollars, with much more to come in the pledge manager. Now that the dust has settled, the whole thing warrants another look.
It’s obvious that a Kickstarter exclusive game is paradise for all who like to make a few extra bucks and selling off their pledges after the game is fulfilled, but it’s not what was levelled most heavily against Hate and Batman. It was something much more perplexing: that a game which cannot hold its own on store shelves, should not be Kickstarted at all. Especially a game as lavish and expensive as Batman.
Here’s where I’m a bit lost. Kickstarter has always been a place to go with a great idea, a bit of money, and a lot of hard work to make one’s dream a reality. Creators could transform an idea that was otherwise either impossible or extremely difficult to realize into actual product. That is how the legendary Alien Frontiers came into being all those years ago. That is how many games are still being made.
A product deemed unworthy of attention, too risky or too niche always had a chance to go from an idea to reality thanks to crowdfunding in general, and with a game like Batman – one which aims to provide a lot of content wrapped around a very expensive property – the whole endeavour does not seem very far away from the idea of bringing to life something that could not exist otherwise. The only difference is that it does not start small, does not come from an underdog, and does not suprise everybody with its success.
Finally, there is yet another matter which reared its head while discussing the huge Kickstarter exclusive games, and that is the one of making crowdfunding less accessible to smaller creators with less resources. And that, well, that is a topic for a whole new post.
Welcome to NSKN Games Small Talk - a videocast we will be publishing every second Monday to let you know what's up both in our company and in the whole boardgaming world! Subscribe now to be sure you'll not miss any episode or giveaway we'll prepare for you!
Here you can find episodes 1-6 and in the following entries we will give you all the next episodes - one by one. Enjoy!
One of the most exciting things about adventure games is exploration. One of the most annoying things is the randomness. You can’t really have one without the other, but you can still have a damn good game running right through the middle.
From the first time I played the prototype I knew that Chronicles of Frost would be a game that plays fast. I also knew that its nature would require me to condense some of the fun adventure genre staples in a way that would not destabilize the whole construct.
Exploration in games is always a difficult thing to do right. Give randomness complete rule over discovering new regions, pieces of the star map or encounters, and you wrest the reins away from the players. Reduce randomness too much, and you’re running a risk of annihilating the magic of discovery from the game.
Right from the start I knew I wanted the world to grow as the game unfolds. The first solution was simple: exit your current location into the unknown, draw a new location from the deck, and place it on the table. As you can imagine, with different location abilities this was a very swingy mechanism – and one that I eventually left in the game, but only as one of two rather different options.
The new option was literally born mid-game: how about I let the players choose one out of a few locations whenever they explore? After all, the Mists have made their world unstable, and reaching a specific destination (on time or at all) is never a certainty. You can still just wander off into the unknown, and see where fate takes you, but you can also put a little bit of effort into trying to look before you leap into what lies ahead.
In a blink of an eye an already aptly named “scout” symbol became one that would allow you to not only draw from your own deck, but also from the deck of locations, in order to choose what specific place will land right next to your hero. And to spice things up, to make exploration even more exciting, I decided to add one more thing to each location: a discovery effect.
Simply put, the discovery effect is a one-time bonus which you receive when you place a new location. You get to draw a card, you get some extra Resolve (that allows you to buy more cards), you get to heal a little – you get a small but useful effect designed to reward you for being an explorer. None of these effects will turn your game completely around, but resolving the right one at the right time can be most useful.
What about people who want a faster and more risky approach? Well, you can still just ignore the more ponderous exploration in favour of just going blindly into the wilds. You still get the benefit of discovering a new location but you have little control over what it actually is, as you simply topdeck a location into the play area.
Since one of the driving mechanisms of Chronicles of Frost is a quest system that requires players to find either specific types of locations, or their inhabitants, scouting is important, but you can still come up on top if you choose mobility and resilience over preceding research.
And the best thing? The way exploration works in Chronicles now makes it possible to approach expanding the map either truly strategically, or more deliberately, and it’s only up to you how you will learn the current shape of the lands of Valskyrr each time you sit down to play.
Last time I told you about Chronicles of Frost, I mentioned two important features of a hero: the heroic skill we look up to, and the determination we relate to. There is however one more important element without which a mythical hero would simply not be: the myth itself.
Great games are rarely invented overnight. Chronicles of Frost came to life in a matter of hours, but it would only be its earliest life. The next few weeks from December 2016 to late January 2017 were a time of making and remaking prototypes, playing different versions and thinking if the game will end up actually presented to somebody, or in the bin. Okay, the last part was never true. I knew from the moment I heard Chronicles’ heartbeat that it was something worth working on until it was ready to be published. And it would be ready.
When the concept of Chronicles of Frost materialized in my mind, it came with some more or less basic ideas: cards you’d build your deck with would mostly be discarded after use, apart from a few rarer ones that would linger in your player area. The board would be built as you play, the players pushed to expand it by the quests each hero starts the game with (you’ll get to know more about this later). There was still one thing missing from the deck-building aspect.
Third or fourth prototype of the game was already working really fine, when suddenly I got hit by the idea that would make it all complete: the junkyard where removed cards, completed quests and destroyed enemies would end up in. The junkyard which would not be a junkyard at all, but an integral element to the game mechanisms – and to its theme as well.
And so the Chronicle was born – inspired by both the pursuit to create a more complete gaming experience, and by the title of the game itself. Believe it or not, that is the order those elements materialized in the design process: first there was a title, then there was the mechanism that would become a part of the game itself.
Part of what the Chronicle is in fact a formality: finished quests and felled foes would work equally well without a named area to keep them in. Part would be something more, as removed cards which usually go to a bland afterlife of “removed from the game”, “returned to the box”, or simply “trashed”, would now become a source of points – and an account of the journey itself.
So, what is the Chronicle? It’s a pile of cards and tokens, with some of the cards (the ones you start the game with, and the ones you acquire as you play) becoming worth more victory points as they are purged from the deck.
I know full well that this is not a never-before-seen mechanism. It appeared in other deckbuilding games, and it makes its appearance in Chronicles of Frost, creating a layer of extra gains from simply removing cards from one’s deck – and a small thematic push, as players get to build not only their game, but also its later accounts.
With the Chronicle, the true basis was there, and the game revealed itself to me in its fullness, making me – the designer – finally find out what it was about in its purest essence. And that is what I will discuss the next time, together with one more thing: how Chronicles of Frost compare to Shadowscape – especially for those of you who love (or hate!) my previous venture into Aestemyr – the world of Mistfall.
Chronicles of Frost came to be within weeks. It’s been almost half a year since – that’s six months used to polish the game, to show it to different groups, to send out rough prototypes for blind testing that is happening as I write these words. Yet, it all begun with one idea.
If you know my games, you probably know a bit of what to expect from my designs. “If it’s your game, it’s going to have combos” is something I’ve heard on more than one occasion, after I gave a new person an overview of what Chronicles of Frost features in terms of mechanisms and gameplay. Sure enough, my newest game does feature them. It also has deckbuilding, and movement on a map that is being crafted during the game by players.
Deckbuilding is the basis of the game. You play a hero with a custom deck of cards. You purchase new ones, you remove some of the ones you start the game with. You build a relatively thin deck, because you are racing against others to reach your goals. You solve the world puzzle, once again jumbled by the Mists, trying to make it adhere to your needs more than to the needs of others. And as with any “boardified” fantasy epic, you are questing and facing monsters.
You do all this, but most importantly, you bleed.
As I drew the first few iterations of a single Chronicles card, each of them had one thing in common: it was in fact divided into two cards. The initial idea was to make players choose just one of the two every time they play a card. Then, within a few hours, the idea evolved.
Stories of heroes share two things that seem the most fascinating: one of them is their incredible skills, the other is determination. When we read The Odyssey, we are fascinated by Ulysses’ ingenuity, but we are also gripped by his determination to come back to his wife and son. The skill is something we can look up to, but the determination in the face of trials is something we can relate to.
The card that didn’t end up crumpled in the bin was the one that came divided horizontally through the middle. The one that gave the hero two effects to resolve: the top one activated simply for playing the card, and the bottom one unlocked with a skill token (which are in an ever short supply) – or by one or more wounds.
Wounds placed voluntarily, just to achieve more, to fell a mighty foe, to go further into the unknown. Wounds spawned by heroic exertion and determination.
The moment I drew an ugly wound symbol (I could not draw my way out of a paper bag), right next to the even uglier skill symbol, I could feel the first, slow, deliberate thump somewhere in the back of my mind. And as I started pondering the decisions, the options, and – most importantly – the feel of Chronicles of Frost, I could feel my own excitement, at one incredible realization:
If you’ve been following NSKN Games on Facebook, you might have noticed a certain announcement we’ve made recently: we are once again going back into the world of Aestemyr. Specifically, we’re working on a new game that takes place in Valskyrr.
Let’s start with December last year. We were just done with the last Kickstarter of the year: the first non-Mistfall (game system wise) game set in the Mistfall world Aestemyr, first prepared as a bonus for backers of Heart of the Mists, but then Kickstarted separately because of its rising popularity – and our knowledge that we would have to reprint the game immediately after concluding the fulfilment. The little game that could (surprise us so much) was Shadowscape.
Working on Shadowscape I had had a few non-design things in mind. Looking at my own gaming shelves I wanted to test the waters with a game that would easily fit even a crowded game storage space, one that would not cost a fortune, but also one that would explode on the table, proving that a big game can come in a small box. “It’s small, but it packs a lot of punch!” I wanted people to say, and… well, they did.
Fast forward to this year’s UK Games Expo, and my first chance to actually present and sell Shadowscape at a convention. The reactions to the game were almost identical every time: people would sit down, I’d explain the game, there’d be some nodding, and a few questions. Sometimes (especially after I got a hold of a bigger table), a couple of turns would be played. People were having a great time, which usually ended up with a pleasant surprise.
Let’s go back to December 2016. The little game known as Shadowscape which had sold once already as part of a bigger Kickstarter, went to beat our expectations when crowd-funded on its own. The campaign is over, a few days have gone since NSKN Games went on a Christmas and New Year break, and I’m looking at the handsome little box that contains Shadowscape. I do not yet know, that six months later, I will end almost each demo of Shadowscape with having to answer one question: “So, this handy box has all that game inside?” Having to answer “yes” each and every time.
Yet, I am still the December version of myself, an I don’t know all of that yet, but I decide that making another game equally small, but also at least as meaty is something I want to do. As it starts snowing outside, I conclude that Aestemyr in general, and Valskyrr specifically is the place I want to return to – as do many of those, who fell in love with the lands of sand and snow.
So, after kissing my wife goodnight, I lean back on my chair, take a notepad and draw a shape of a card. An hour later, having already crumpled a few sheets, I come upon the heart of this new game.
Right above the card I’m preliminarily satisfied with, I write: “Aestemyr needs Heroes once again.” And then, at the top of the sheet, in much bigger letters: “Chronicles of Frost”.
In the lore of Exodus: Proxima Centauri, humanity was on the brink of self-destruction. It tells the story of a nuclear war that devastated Earth, making it necessary for the human race to leave their dying world behind, seeking for a new home in the Alpha Centauri system.
On their exodus, humanity came into contact with a superior alien civilization, simply referred to by humans as the Centaurians. After learning of the exiles' predicament, the Centaurians guided the severely damaged human fleet towards a planetary system able to support human life. There the ships were repaired and outfitted for their final journey towards what was believed to be a perfect new home for the troubled humanity.
Even though the journey became a time of peace and respite, during which humanity forgot about inner strife and instead focused on enjoying advanced Centaurian technologies, peace would not last forever. Even before reaching their new home, the human factions again took up arms against one another, causing the Centaurians to interfere. As a result, each human faction was established on a different home planet in the Proxima Centauri planetary system.
The humans began the long process of rebuilding, ever guided by the Centaurian hosts. Eventually, however, the Centaurians announced their own departure. Only a small remnant of Centaurians decided to stay behind.
As humanity prospered, conflicts between the factions grew fierce. Other battles would take place, involving Centaurians who resisted the expansion and growth of the new human empires.
Then, one day, about 200 years later, everything suddenly changed. A massive alien ship, a Centaurian stronghold, arrives in the midst of the Proxima Centauri system. The Centaurians have returned, and they are preparing for war!
A late design turn of events
Originally, the return of the Centaurians was never part of the story behind Exodus: Event Horizon. Once the list of ten modules (all of which have been covered in previous articles) had been finalized — at least on paper, though in various stages of development — I was considering if there was anything else the Event Horizon expansion could benefit from. There was already going to be so much new content, so many new aspects to enrich and enhance the game experience. What more could I possibly add? What would be the craziest, boldest, most outrageous thing that could be added to Exodus?
Exodus: Proxima Centauri is a highly competitive and grandiose 4X experience (especially considering the new Exploration module which Event Horizon adds). It is an epic space opera, an empire building game. There is conflict, politics, and intrigue. And now, there is the Centaurian Stronghold scenario.
Scenario: The Centaurian Stronghold
In terms of components, this scenario has a very humble component list. You get one new hex (depicting the alien megastructure itself), 18 Warship Squadron tokens, and 6 Stronghold Level tokens.
Beneath the surface, however, the Centaurian Stronghold scenario marks an unprecedented and audacious step in game design:
Exodus: Proxima Centauri becomes a fully cooperative full 4X game!
This scenario, with its humble component list, will enable anyone to play the full Exodus: Proxima Centauri game, in all its glory, any way they like — competitively, cooperatively, semi-cooperatively, or solo.
Before I continue, let me clarify a few important things.
This is not a required game mode. Your enjoyment of Event Horizon is not diminished if you never play the Centaurian Stronhold scenario.
This is not just another module that Event Horizon includes.
We have previously looked at how the Exploration module brings all four X's on equal footing in Exodus.
If you have followed the journey of Event Horizon since the expansion was announced and the Centaurian Stronghold was first hinted at, it has always been mentioned as an "oh, by the way" part of a modular expansion. This was on purpose.
There may be some who are drawn into the Exodus universe because of this scenario — and that is perfectly fine (Welcome!) — but it is also important for long-time fans of Exodus to understand that this scenario does not have to change anything. You can keep playing the game that you love, getting full enjoyment out of Event Horizon, without ever playing the Centaurian Stronghold scenario.
Basic Exodus, with or without expansions, is a competitive game. Exodus: Event Horizon was designed to enhance competitive play, to introduce new challenges and options for everyone.
Solo scenarios were introduced in Edge of Extinction. Event Horizon does not alter or invalidate those scenarios. They will remain another way to enjoy Exodus solo. (The Centaurian Stronghold does, however, allow you to play the full game solo, mixing and matching modules from this expansion as you would for a multi-player game, with the game itself as your opponent.)
And then there were those two other words — cooperatively and semi-cooperatively ...
This is not simply a variant. It is not just a tacked on resemblance of cooperative play. True cooperative or semi-cooperative play — the players against the game, or the players against each other and the game.
From a design point of view, this was a tremendous challenge! Designing a cooperative mode of play in a way that stays as true to the competitive game as possible, that has minimal impact on existing rules, and that, for all intents and purposes, is “the same game” as before … just cooperative instead of competitive.
Of course, completely avoiding changing any rules is impossible. We are, essentially, talking about different games with completely different objectives and challenges. However, every effort was made to make any such changes sensible and easy to remember.
The New Adversaries
The Centaurian Stronghold scenario features two new adversaries — the Stronghold itself and Warship Squadrons.
The Stronghold is represented by a new central hex. In fact, the Stronghold is the central hex, making travel through the central hex no longer possible.
This massive alien ship megastructure has a nearly impenetrable defense system. Its shields are strong and unyielding and its turrets will bombard the players if they engage it in combat.
On top of this, the Stronghold will send out waves of Warships Squadrons. These ships have movement of their own and will pursue the players’ ships on the board. While they are not individually as deadly as the Stronghold, they are a most formidable foe sure to lay waste to an unprepared player fleet.
There are two ways to lose the game: • If all Warship Squadron tokens are on the board at the same time. • If the Centaurian Stronghold remains undefeated at the end of the final turn of the game.
In order to win the game you must defeat the Centaurian Stronghold, while keeping the Warship Squadrons at bay.
While Centaurian Warship Squadrons function much like Centaurian Resistance fleets, they are not considered Centaurian Resistance. You will use a number of Warship Squadron tokens equal to three times the number of players.
During a special Centaurian Stronghold Activation Stage, the Stronghold will deploy waves of Warship Squadrons. All Warship Squadrons currently on the board will then move towards the closest player’s ships. If any Warship Squadrons share a hex with one or more player ships, a battle is immediately resolved.
Cloaking is ineffective against the Centaurian Warship Squadrons.
In a previous blog article, I talked about how the Centaurian Resistance has increased in difficulty. Not only are the Warship Squadrons one step tougher than any Strong Fleet, they have even more powerful cannons and shields! In addition to the Resistance Cards you will reveal to determine the overall strength of a Warship Squadron, they receive a fixed damage and shield bonus. The shield bonus is equal to the current Warship Squadron level and will therefore scale as the game progresses.
Since the Warship Squadrons are engaging the players in waves, only one Warship Squadron can be defeated each combat round, even if more Warship Squadron tokens remain in the hex! Extra damage beyond what is necessary to defeat the Warship Squadron does not carry over or apply to any remaining Warship Squadron.
Attacking the Centaurian Stronghold
The defense mechanisms of the Stronghold are directly linked to the Warship Squadrons. The Stronghold can only be attacked if there are no Centaurian Warship Squadron tokens anywhere on the board.
The Stronghold can be attacked from any hex adjacent to the Stronghold hex. Combat against the Stronghold is very similar to Warship Squadron combat, except even more challenging.
You never reveal any Resistance Cards to determine the strength of the Centaurian Stronghold. Instead, it has a fixed cannon strength of 8 and a shield power of 8 ... plus the shield power bonus based on the current Game Turn! Not only will the players have a reduced chance of hitting the Stronghold — each combat round, in addition to any damage inflicted by the Stronghold damage roll, its turrets will deal 1 damage to each player ship participating in the combat!
The Centaurian Stronghold uses Level tokens instead of Warship Squadron tokens to indicate its remaining strength. Only one Level can be defeated each combat round.
Things just got very real and very dangerous! It is clear that they aim to purge humans from the Centauri system. Humanity's survival is at stake! Will you be able to save humanity from ultimate destruction? Are you ready to take on this unmatched threat?
There are several ways you can combat the Centaurians:
In the fully cooperative mode, you enlist the help of your fellow players as you work together to eliminate the alien threat. You win or lose together. You must make wise decisions in order to survive.
In the semi-cooperative mode, you still have the threat of the Centaurian Stronghold and its waves of Warship Squadrons. However, their overall strength has been dialed back to allow each player to also pursue individual victory. In this game mode, the Stronghold must still be defeated; however, once the threat has been eliminated, only the most successful player will stand victorious. How much will you contribute to humanity's survival? There are valuable rewards available to those who bravely take on and eliminate the Centaurian adversaries.
Finally, in Solo play, you will have to stand up against the Centaurians alone. This is the ultimate test the Exodus universe has to offer.
At one point or another during the design process, I was trying to figure out a way to add asteroids, comets, or nebula to the expansion. Ultimately, however, they all proved to be a poor fit.
Either, the rules would be too complicated for something too boring and uneventful, or their impact would be too great and swingy, without really adding any positive experience to the game. So, while cool in theory, neither of them were going to work.
In the end, Energy Barriers made it in.
Energy Barriers originated as a purely thematic addition to the Exodus experience — pockets of dangerous electromagnetic energy that dot the space between sectors.
I always envisioned the various board hexes as planetary neighborhoods, separated by unspecified vastness of space.
Look at our own solar system. We talk about Earth being the third planet, then comes Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, etc. We talk about the planets as if they are somewhat next to each other ...
During play testing, this module was met with a fairly consistent "that's cool, but ... what exactly does it do?"
while the Energy Barriers definitely "do something", they do not impact the game enough to overshadow their thematic value.
In fact, there are two alternate setup options — a draft (of sort) where the players choose where the Energy Barriers are placed or a completely random setup.
No matter which method you choose, each Energy Barrier will be placed on the border between two hexes somewhere on the board. There are a few simply rules governing initial placement:
• Home Planet hexes cannot be bordered by Energy Barriers. • No hex can be bordered by more than a single Energy Barrier. • An Energy Barrier cannot be placed along the outer edge of the board.
Once placed, the Energy Barriers remain stationary for the rest of the game.
Personally, I prefer the random setup. I like how the thematic value is enhanced, without detrimental impact on the game.
So, what do these Energy Barriers do?
Well, they are minor obstacles in space. If a ship passes through an Energy Barrier, it suffers 1 damage. (Exception: Dark Raiders can pass through the Barrier without taking any damage.) Additionally, when counting the distance for Rockets (WMDs), each Energy Barrier the Rocket must pass through increases the total distance by 1.
That's it. There is some impact on game play, but nothing so great that you cannot choose to include them simply for their thematic value.
Naturally, random pockets of energy are far more common in sci-fi films than they are in reality. However, since Exodus: Proxima Centauri is not claiming to be an exercise in scientific simulation, such pockets of energy make for a good fit in the game as well.
Module 10 — Leaders
The Leader module came about as a very natural addition to the Exodus game experience. I love asymmetry and player powers, things that make me different from other players, while still maintaining game balance.
The rules are simple: Each Leader provides a unique benefit during the game. During setup, each player is dealt two random Leader cards from which they choose one to keep.
But once you take a closer look at the various Leader roles, you quickly realize the subtle but powerful impact each Leader can have on the game and your overall strategy.
Governor, Admiral, and Commander
Each of these Leaders is simple and straight-forward. You receive a 2 CP discount whenever researching a Technology of a given type (Civilian, Military, or Transport). This is a significant boost which will allow a player to obtain higher tier techs faster than their opponents. A focused strategy centered around a specific Technology type can start working for you much sooner and more effectively. Alternatively, these Leaders can simply boost the efficiency of any type of balanced strategy. Overall, flexible and useful abilities.
Scientist, Engineer, and Visionary
These Leaders each provide a start-of-game benefit — free minor Technology plus a choice of a few additional starting resources; two additional ships; one Standard Action to be taken before the game begins. How will you utilize these benefits? While it can be difficult to envision the impact of an early-game advantage, when properly utilized, you can stay one or two actions ahead of your opponents which can make a crucial difference later in the game.
Celebrity and Politician
Two Leaders that could not be any more different!
The Celebrity represents a sure-fire no-frills 5 VP at the end of the game. That's it! Yet, at the same time, this is an incredibly attractive choice. With the Celebrity, you do not need to alter your overall strategy or worry about whether you are making the most out of your chosen Leader.
The Politician, on the other hand, represents opportunity and taking charge of the unknown. If you select this Leader, you are committing yourself to taking charge of the political aspects of the game. The Council Stage is your domain! The Politician's ability reads:
"During each Council Stage, up to 5 CP of your bid counts double. Additionally, any tied bid (of 1 CP or higher), in which you are involved, is broken in your favor."
Simply put — whether voting during the Political Decision step of the Council Stage, or bidding for Turn Order during the Elections step, your bid is more influential than everyone else's. If you bid 1 CP, it counts as 2 CP (but you only pay 1 CP), a bid of 5 CP counts as 10 CP (though you only pay 5 CP), and a bid of 6 CP counts as 11 CP (since only up to 5 CP of your bid counts as double; you still only pay 6 CP). What impact can this have on the game? To be honest — "it depends." First of all, it is impossible to know which options will be presented during each Political Decision step. Second, you can still be outbid.
"Why not just give the Politician a 5 CP discount when voting/bidding?"
Because the current ability is more thematic and adds to the intrigue of politics! If you don't bid at all, then the Politician ability has no effect. The more you bid, the more you utilize the Politician's power. On the other hand, why bid 5 CP if 1 CP will suffice? Then again, 5 CP counts as 10 CP, whereas 1 CP only counts as 2 CP. However, because the other players know that your lower bids are more efficient, will they simply abstain, knowing you would likely vote for the same option as them, or simply let you "waste" your bid on an option you are likely to win anyway?
The Politician can really shape the game by nudging the politics in your favor. But this Leader also comes with no guarantees!
The rest of the crew! — Industrialist, Negotiator, Diplomat, Strategist, Tactician, Merchant, Commissioner, Magistrate, Visionary, Scrapper, and Peacemaker
Most of the Leaders allow you to "break" one of the rules of the game — collect 6 CP instead of 5 from your CP planets; use an already-taken Reaction at the cost of precious Population; gain 1 VP whenever other players use the Reaction on your Action Card; gain additional VP when you win a battle against another player; roll an extra die when you control two Ships of the same type participating in the same battle; always Trade at the left-most Market slot rates; your War Cruisers cost less; use Civilian Ships before the Mount Population step of each Conquest Stage, take a standard Action before the game begins, buy cannon and rocket Upgrades for 1 CP less, or buy drive and shield Upgrades for 1 CP less.
The rules for the Leader module are simple and straight-forward. But you are in complete charge of your own destiny and how you shape your empire based on your chosen Leader!
The End of the Line
That's it! All ten modules included in Exodus: Event Horizon! Together they represent a massive amount of variety, options, and replaybility. Each individual module has been designed to enhance the gaming experience, to give you, the player, all the tools you need to play Exodus exactly how you like it.
There are plenty of new dangers and new challenges. Whether you play with just one or some modules at a time, or include all of them for the ultimate Exodus experience, you will find that everything comes together very nicely, forming a natural fit with existing mechanisms and staying true to the spirit of Exodus.
Which module is your favorite? Which leader do you like the most?
Event Horizon introduces the concept of a new type of component — structures. Event though structures are created with a Build Ships Action, they do not count as ships.
Module 7 — Jump Gates
Jump Gates are utility structures which can be created with a Build Ships Action. However, you may not build more than 1 Jump Gate per Build Ships Action.
Jump Gates never move and cannot be destroyed. When built, a Jump Gate can be placed on the player's Home Planet hex or in any other hex where the player has one or more ships.
A player can never place a second Jump Gate in a hex where they already have a Jump Gate. However, Jump Gates belonging to separate players can be present in each hex.
At the end of any Conquest Stage, each player may activate one of their Jump Gates to move one or more of their ships from a single hex anywhere on the board to the hex occupied by the Jump Gate.
While they do not serve as a replacement for faster drives, the obvious movement benefits they provide cannot be denied. You may be tempted to place one Jump Gate on your Home Planet and the second Jump Gate in the hex farthest away from your Home Planet. Even though this is a certainly a useful strategy, there are several other placement possibilities which give you a greater tactical advantage.
Jump Gates may appear simple and straightforward, but require forethought and planning. You must consider your overall strategy, as well as the strengths/weaknesses of the other players, where they are seated around the board, proximity to desirable planets, your own drive speed, etc., etc. ...
The more players (i.e. the larger the board), the more useful Jump Gates become. However, since you only have access to two, their placement becomes even more important to consider the larger the board is. They are not a must for every game or every player.
By the time you wish you had a Jump Gate, it will be too late.
Module 8 — Communication Satellites
Like Jump Gates, Communication Satellites are utility structures which can be created with a Build Ships Action. The same building restrictions apply here: you may not build more than 1 Communication Satellite per Build Ships Action.
The first Satellite you build must be placed on your Home Planet hex. Each subsequent Satellite must be placed adjacent to a hex where you already have a Satellite. Once placed, Communication Satellites never move and cannot be destroyed.
The owner of the Satellite deals +1 damage when involved in combat which takes place in the hex. Additionally, the owner of the Satellite receives a +1 bonus to range when launching any WMD from that specific hex.
Communication Satellites serve an obvious defensive purpose, since they must first be built on your home planet. On the other hand, since the first Communication Satellite must be built on your home planet, you will most likely only benefit from its bonus to WMDs, if at all. This may discourage some players from building that first Satellite.
Remember, however — if you never build that first Satellite, you cannot build a second, or third ...
The more Satellites you have, the more useful they are.
How will you use them? Will you set up a defensive Satellite network around your home planet? Will you string them along as you move towards the center of the board? Will you use them more aggressively, as a boost to help attack (or defend against) your neighbors? Will you mainly use the Communication Satellites for their combat bonus, or will you also use them along with WMDs for a more aggressive approach, perhaps even as a deterrent against your opponents?
Jump Gates become more useful at higher player counts. Communication Satellites will become less useful at higher player counts (since they can only be placed in somewhat close proximity to your Home Planet). On the other hand, Communication Satellites provide a very reliable and constant benefit.
Together, Jump Gates and Communication Satellites cater to a variety of play styles, especially for seasoned players.
Proxima Centauri, humanity's new home star, makes an appearance!
This module was part of the very first draft in November, 2015, along with the Centaurian Outposts and Exploration modules. The desire was to introduce an alternate central hex that would offer players more variety and options.
During setup, Proxima Centauri replaces the High Council hex. Travel through the central hex is no longer possible. Any card or rule which applies to the High Council hex have no effect.
At first glance, the impassable central hex may not seem like much of a change. However, drive speed will greatly affect your ability to cross the board or chase after an opponent's ships.
Finally, all planet hexes immediately adjacent to the Proxima Centauri hex are affected by Solar Wind. A player who has researched relevant Technologies can take advantage of the Solar Wind to increase the combat prowess of their ships.
Here is an excerpt from the initial draft, explaining the concept behind this module: The idea is to allow research of certain technologies which provide a significant boost in any hex affected by Solar Wind, but otherwise have no effect. For example, Solar Shield Booster could be a simple tech which, when researched, allows a player to cancel the first X hits against their ships (if combat takes place inside an area affected by Solar Wind), where X is equal to the number of shield slots occupied by a shield (regardless of its strength) on that ship's blueprint. Solar Cannon Booster could provide a +1 to X individual dice, where X is equal to the number of cannon slots occupied by a cannon (regardless of its strength) on that ship's blueprint.
Most of those initial ideas have carried over to the final version, at least in spirit.
This module adds two new Technologies the players can research: Solar Shield Booster and Solar Cannon Booster.
Solar Shield Booster (23 CP, Military) While in a hex affected by Solar Wind and engaged in Player Combat or Centaurian Resistance Combat, the strength of each of your Shields is increased by 1.
Solar Cannon Booster (17 CP, Military) While in a hex affected by Solar Wind and engaged in Player Combat or Centaurian Resistance Combat, your attack results of 4 or better are successful hits.
Simple and straightforward!
When combined with second-tier cannons and shields, the Solar Booster Technologies will keep your ships on par with ships equipped with top-tier cannons and shields, but only in the vicinity of the star. Cost wise, you end up paying more CP than Phasium for the same relative power. On the other hand, top-tier Upgrades will function anywhere on the board.
Of course, top-tier cannons and shields, when combined with Solar Booster Technologies, are unmatched in strength among ships, and deservedly so, considering the premium cost paid for such power.
Does not this sound like the perfect setup for a brand new multi-player scenario?
New Scenario: Event Horizon
In science, an event horizon is the "surface" of a black hole, the boundary beyond which nothing can escape from within it. Occasionally, though far less commonly, the term event horizon is used to describe an especially impactful event, a "point of no return" beyond which nothing will ever be the same again.
Being the name for this expansion, the name has certainly gained several different meanings over time. But, somehow, it would feel wrong not to build a scenario around the scientific meaning of an event horizon.
Oh, wait! The actual Proxima Centauri star is not massive enough to transition from a star to a black hole. It will never go supernova. Instead, in its post‐main‐sequence phases, a small red dwarf like Proxima Centauri will grow hotter while remaining physically small as it transitions to a blue dwarf. Eventually, as the fuel runs out, the star will slowly fade away as a white dwarf. Oops!
The Event Horizon scenario specifically makes use of the Proxima Centauri module. Additionally, this scenario represents a new challenge mode for competitive play in Exodus: Proxima Centauri.
In general terms — all rules for Exodus: Proxima Centauri remain unchanged. If you are playing with Edge of Extinction or Event Horizon, all those rules also remain unchanged.
There is just one significant difference when playing the Event Horizon scenario — while the maximum number of Turns remains unchanged, the game may, somewhat unexpectedly, end sooner.
At the end of each Turn, you will add 1 Star Evolution token to the central Proxima Centauri hex. If there are two or more tokens on the hex (meaning, at any point after Turn 2), you will then roll a die. If the result is equal to or less than the number of Star Evolution tokens in play, the star evolves. In other words — the further the game progresses, the more likely it is that Proxima Centauri will evolve.
The first time Proxima Centauri evolves, Increased Heat tokens will be placed on each of the 6 planet hexes immediately adjacent to the Proxima Centauri hex. From now on, Solar Wind also affects all hexes immediately adjacent to any hex with an Increased Heat token (thereby greatly expanding the area where Solar Booster Technologies will function).
The second time Proxima Centauri evolves, the game immediately ends!
In a standard game, there is a small chance (11%) that the game will end immediately at the end of Turn 3. However, most games will last 6 or 7 Turns. Even if the game plays for the full 7 Turns, Proxima Centauri is guaranteed to evolve at least once.
Until Proxima Centauri evolves the first time, remember that at least 2 more Turns will remain. This means that the end of the game will never come as a complete surprise.
If the somewhat random game length is not for you, no worries. You can play with the Proxima Centauri module, enjoying the full effects of Solar Wind, without having to play the Event Horizon scenario. (In 5-6 player games, you can even use the Increased Heat tokens.)