Aaron Dona
United States
Kirkland
Washington
flag msg tools
Who are we and what the heck is Space Frontier?
Hi, my name is Aaron Dona and my friend John Mathison and I have been designing a board game for the past 7 months. Our game is called Space Frontier and we started working on it after realizing that no existing space board games seemed to offer the type of gaming experience we wanted. We drew from our mutual love of classic space computer games like Escape Velocity and Homeworld for inspiration, and we've come up with a game of exploration, trade, and conquest. Space Frontier has gone through many iterations of rules by now, but as it nears completion we thought it would be a good idea to post them as well as the game components here on Boardgamegeek. We are interested to see what feedback, both positive and constructive, we can glean from fellow gamers on our rules writing and game-mechanics. So you are aware, as of this writing, everything is still in the prototype stage.

Components laid out from our most recent printed prototype:

How Does it Play?
In Space Frontier, players are the commanders of expeditions to explore and exploit an inhabited but uncharted sector of space. These expeditions are funded by a shady and corrupt empire, and as such the players are competing for the esteem of their sponsors by any means necessary. Each player is hoping to become the most successful at exploiting the resources of this new sector and pleasing their overlords.
The players each control a command ship that acts as home base; constructing ships, storing resources, and conducting research. In addition to the command ship, players command up to 4 fleets composed of 3 different ship types, each of varying in capabilities, constructed and launched from their command ship. Players begin on a starting tile composed of seven hexes, and can fly off in any direction. When reaching the edge of explored space, they draw another tile and place it to expand the map. For those who have played it, the exploration works somewhat similarly to the Mage Knight board game. As space is explored, players find planets with whom they can trade resources, accept missions, or conquer. There are also resources to harvest, landmarks to visit, and the occasional brush with the local pirates.

A closer view of the fleet markers, dice, and ships:


Our Design Goals:
Our goal when designing Space Frontier was to create a 4x space game that had a reasonable playtime and easy to understand rules, yet still had the depth and flavor found in longer, more complex games. Our ultimate goal is to prepare our prototype for a Kickstarter Campaign that will hopefully yield enough funding for a mass production run. With the help of the users of BoardGameGeek, as well as hopefully future Kickstarter Backers, John and I wish to create a game that is of higher quality and fun content than we would be able to create alone.

The fleet command card with ships in fleets and a mission card.


What you can do:
We’re currently in the early play-testing stage of our game - there’s still a lot of work to be done and rules are liable to change, but we think we've got a reasonably finished set of core rules and we’re working on testing it extensively with as many people as we can to make it as much fun as possible. However, our ability to produce prototypes and find play-testers is limited by our near depleted budget for the game. Any insight that readers of this thread can give is greatly appreciated.

Tips for Printing and Playing:
We've included almost everything you would need to play our game in the PDF files linked below. The only things that are missing are various colored cubes to keep track of resources and 6 sided dice to roll for combat. We've been borrowing the cubes from John's copy of Archipelago and various other cube-heavy games, but anything you'd like to use as tokens will do. There's 5 different things we track with cubes currently - money, ore, nebula, crystal, and damage.
We've been printing the prototypes and gluing cutouts to cardboard backs, but as that can be somewhat labor-intensive, all the components should work fine on printer paper. If you were to pick one component to actually bother gluing to cardboard it would definitely be the board tiles, as it gives them a bit of heft and makes them less likely to slide around during gameplay.

Links to where you can find game components and resources:
http://goo.gl/EXqwKT - Rules in Progress
http://goo.gl/kqYl6K - Print and play PDFs.
http://spacefrontierbg.blogspot.com - Blog

John and I will be monitoring this thread closely and I’d love to hear what people think of the game so far. Thanks for reading!

-Aaron
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Patrick Brennan
Australia
St Ives, Sydney
NSW
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Re: Space Frontier, Looking for Print & Play testing as well as rules feedback
I think you'll need to have a lot more confidence in the rules and show that they're much closer to finished before you'll attract a bevy of playtesters. IME, playtesters don't mind tweaking a game, improving bits and pieces, closing rules holes, etc, but most would prefer to help on a game that the designers believe is close to final form. The rules aren't showing that atm.

I'd get that sense of completion and happiness when the rules are in the form that they'll be passed to the graphic designer, with all the sections in place and in their right order. For example, this doesn't have a components section, a terminology section or a variants section yet. The turn order and actions section needs tightening and formatting for clarity. It needs a thematic overview explaining what the game is about and what the player is trying to do.

(Btw, any rules that say everyone rolls a die to indicate who goes first provides a perception of old-school designers who aren't up to date with modern boardgaming. The modern approach is to just say decide randomly, letting the players use whichever process works for them, which for us means roll 1 die - if it's a 1, the dieroller goes first, a 2 the person on his left, and so on. A little thing, but perception is important.)

From reading through, I don't have a lot of confidence that fleet and ship are always used correctly (i.e. the two terms may have been mixed up sometimes). For example, a fleet has an action point to attack, but then it explains that a ship attacks. If I went back and worked thru it, it might be all alright, but I want to understand it on first read rather than have to work at understanding.

Re the game itself, that's a lot of die-rolling. I'd re-consider any mechanic that requires a 6 on a d6 to be successful (research track advancement, from memory?). Having the players spend time trying to do that in a game is much more likely to generate frustration rather than fun.

If the aim is to generate a huge random dice-fest of a game, I'd suggest keep simplifying. Most of these types of games are now straddling into Euro territory and provide more pre-luck-result reward/risk decision tradeoffs rather than post-luck-result management. Eclipse may be something to look at if you haven't already.

Anyway, hope that helps. Once you're happy with the rules, if you'd like outside help with editing, please PM me and we can have a chat.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Derek H
South Africa
Pretoria
Gauteng
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Re: Space Frontier, Looking for Print & Play testing as well as rules feedback
I'd disagree somewhat with Patrick. I think you can ask for feedback at any stage of your game development. Having said that, I think you should change the title to asking for feedback on your Alpha rules only (i.e. not playtesting as yet); and to also remove the section that starts:

Quote:
Ideas that need to be flushed out/want in our game.
(which I assume you mean to be "fleshed out"...)

After you are sure your rules are solid (clear, understandable, well laid-out), then put the components online and ask for playtesting ... and maybe even offer to send some pre-made sets out in return for a promise of feedback.

I also think a brief description of a playthrough of a turn or round (with pictures!) will help potential users get interested and orientated quicker.

My 2c!
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Aaron Dona
United States
Kirkland
Washington
flag msg tools
Re: Space Frontier, Looking for Print & Play testing as well as rules feedback
PBrennan wrote:
I think you'll need to have a lot more confidence in the rules and show that they're much closer to finished before you'll attract a bevy of playtesters. The rules aren't showing that atm.

Anyway, hope that helps. Once you're happy with the rules, if you'd like outside help with editing, please PM me and we can have a chat.


I appreciate all that feedback Patrick, and much of it is spot on. I've actually wanted to start a post about Space Frontier on here for quite some time but we always hesitated because our rules "weren't ready yet" and we kept testing and tweaking and changing and time kept going by. I finally decided that now was the time, not because we were done or the game was perfect, but because I think it's better to have an imperfect game get criticism with a bit of time to go in development than a near finished game. We are at a point where changing things wouldn't be drastically difficult and if we continued to wait and only test in the small samples available to us I think a lot of time would be wasted gathering data and opinions slowly instead of getting it from a potential infinite sources on the internet.

Now with all that said, let me try to address your points. Yes, the game is not completely finished, but this post expedites that process. I feel an urgency to get everything working/done/improved now and hopefully that will result in quick progress.
A components section is certainly something we need. Formatting does need tightening, and there's a lot of bold text that should be part of a terminology section... that just doesn't exist yet. Truthfully it existed long ago and we just deleted it because after 5 builds of the game, it was so outdated we needed to just start over, which we plan to soon.

Fleets and ships are some interchangeable words that do not have interchangeable rules that I have trouble with keeping straight. I've already gone and changed all "ship" to "fleet" on 2 occasions. It appears I have to do that again, thanks for pointing that out. I think you're spot on on the dice rolling bit and we're going to change that to a 5-6 instead of a 6 for research. The research used to do other things that we deleted for simplicity's sake, but then haven't updated the only remaining ability it offers, so again thanks for pointing that out and it will be changed.

I really appreciate the offer to help edit the rules once they are more ironclad. I will definitely take you up on that offer.

The biggest thing our rules/game/this post needs right now are more pictures. Without the actual fleet card or ship tokens etc it's going to be nigh impossible for anyone to decipher these rules. The fact that Patrick and Derek bothered to do so is a great kindness. I will be working hard today to make sure everything is up and online by Monday.

gamesbook wrote:

Quote:
Ideas that need to be flushed out/want in our game.
(which I assume you mean to be "fleshed out"...)


HA! Typos... great stuff. Fix incoming!
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mark J
United States
Monroe
Michigan
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
Re: Space Frontier, Looking for Print & Play testing as well as rules feedback
Quote:
Btw, any rules that say everyone rolls a die to indicate who goes first provides a perception of old-school designers who aren't up to date with modern boardgaming. The modern approach is to just say decide randomly, letting the players use whichever process works for them, which for us means roll 1 die - if it's a 1, the dieroller goes first, a 2 the person on his left, and so on. A little thing, but perception is important.


Wow, what an odd criticism. I have plenty of games that say "high roller goes first". It never occurred to me that this was some sort of anachronism.

Frankly, I think that to just state "choose randomly" is an inferior alternative. It requires the players to make assumptions.

In the case of deciding who goes first, I guess we'd assume that all players should have an equal chance, so whether we each roll and high roller goes first, or we assign each player a number on a die, or we all draw chits out of a hat one of which is labeled "first", or we pick the player whose birthday will come next, etc etc, doesn't matter.

But for almost any other outcome in a game, I'd be asking, "Should all probabilities have equal outcome? What are the possible outcomes? Are there any factors that influence that outcome?" maybe dozens of other questions.

Even for the question of who goes first, there are games where I might ask something like, "Can any player be chosen to go first or does it have to be one of the 'Invader' players and not a 'Defending' player?"

I'd much rather play a game where the rules spell out the mechanics. Then I know exactly what the designer intended. Sure, I may say, "Hey, that's too much trouble, we'll get the same result if we just roll one die." Or for that matter the players may say, "Forget that, let's just have Bob go first because he's played the game before and he can explain things as he takes his turn." But at least I have a starting point.

Well, as you say, a minor point, and this was an awfully long rant over a minor point. But I'm on my lunch hour and the alternative was going back to work.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mark J
United States
Monroe
Michigan
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
Re: Space Frontier, Looking for Print & Play testing as well as rules feedback
I just gave your rules a quick read. My first thoughts are about clarity of the rules and not about game balance, how much fun the game might or might not be, etc.

1. You have several references to an "adjacent fleet". What is the definition of "adjacent"? In the same hex? In an adjacent hex? In an adjacent tile? Other?

2. Maybe if I saw the components this would be more clear, but I'm a little vague on your combat rules. Apparently each ship has one or more weapons -- guns, missiles, whatever -- and you roll one die per weapon? Then does each hit do a point of hull damage to an opposing ship? There's a mention of repairing one hull point per turn in the cargo bay of the command ship. I take it this means that damage is recorded and the ship remains damaged until repaired. (Unlike, for example, games where all damage is automatically repaired at the end of the turn.) Is the 1 point per turn on the command ship the only way to repair damage? That seems awfully slow. (But as I haven't played the game I don't know how much damage is typically inflicted.)

You talk about ships taking damage in order from point position. So does the owner arrange his ships in the order that he wants them to take damage? And then all hits apply to that one ship until its destroyed, at which point you start applying hits to the next ship?

You say that only the point ship can use special defenses. When it is destroyed, does the next ship in line get to use its special defenses? Or do you only get one chance at special defenses per battle, from one ship?

3. The exploration chart mentions finding ore, nebula, platinum, or crystal. Then you say that ore is represented by blue tokens, nebula by purple, and crystal by green. What about platinum? Is this different somehow or did you just forget to mention? Hmm, I see elsewhere you talk about ore, nebula, and crystal being in the "cargo bay" while platinum is in the "vault", but if this is spelled out somewhere, I missed it.

4. When you talk about conquering a planet, what does "gun hits upon failure" mean? Do planets inflict damage on the attacker? Am I correct in thinking that there are no units for "marines" to attack a planet, that the players' units are all ships, and these ships attack the surface?

5. Okay, one comment not about clarity: There are only two things that a player can research? That seems way too few.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Aaron Dona
United States
Kirkland
Washington
flag msg tools
Re: Space Frontier, Looking for Print & Play testing as well as rules feedback
Greetings Saneperson; thank you for taking the time to read our rules and supply us with feedback. Let me address what points of yours that I can.

1. A fleet in an adjacent hexagonal space. This could certainly be clarified though. I'm thinking of adding a "THE BOARD" section that explains this sort of thing a bit more clearly.

2. Combat has been the most vexing struggle of this game's creation. John and I have gone through half a dozen combat systems at this point, and while we are reasonably happy with our current system, it is quite new and hasn't been tested or rewritten/refined as much as the rest of the game. Damage is recorded on ships with red cubes, but again this could be made more clear. The Point ship is the only ship that rules for defenses. It gets to roll once and no other ship gets to roll even if that ship is destroyed. Your complaints have merit though and I need to go back over the combat section with a fine tooth comb and make a lot of it easier to understand.

3. Platinum (the game's currency) was a new addition to the chart as we felt there weren't enough ways to generate money. As a late addition, the change to the chart wasn't reflected in the rest of the rules as completely as the rest. I plan to fix this based on your input. So it's clear, Platinum is, and has been for quite some time, represented by yellow cubes. The "vault" is just a section of the cargo bay that doesn't even exist yet. We're talking to our graphic designer and the fleet card (also sometimes called the command card) is making changes to it very soon. So, I'd like the vault to exist so it's in the rules, but in actually it's just "going to exist at some point" soon.

4. Planet conquering was always planned and we had a system, but it became obsolete after we once again revamped the combat system some time ago. A new system for planet conquering wasn't devised until recently, and has not been adequately tested yet. This is another portion of the rules that could use some tightening, so thank you for pointing that out.

5. You are quite correct about 2 research tiers being far too few things. Originally, every faction had 4 unique tier to research as well as their own racial trait. John and I marveled at our own genius as each faction played different and had different paths to victory that they excelled at. Unfortunately, upon game-testing, several of the researched abilities were the cause game-breaking imbalance. After several failed attempts to equalize each faction while retaining their uniqueness, John and I made the right decision. We gave up and scaled it back.

In the build previous to this there was only 1 research tier. After a few successful play-tests and just before the posting of this thread, we increased the number to 2. The end-goal is to once again have 4 tiers of research with each faction having unique paths to pursue, but John and I have decided that trying to build the system from the foundation and build up is a lot wiser than trying to build all 4 layers of a cake before baking it. That way our system won't fall all over itself before being properly tested.

I'm also hoping that many (completely legitimate) questions will be answered upon seeing the print-and-play elements of the game. I really wanted to have them readily available by this point, but I feel necessary changes to the map are taking place before we put it up for the world to see.

The print-and-play components will however be available soon! I'm hoping tonight, but more realistically they will be available on the evening of October 1, 2013. Keep the input coming guys. I appreciate all the great feedback given so far.

-Kayosiv





1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John Mathison
United States
Washington
flag msg tools
designer
Hey, this is John, the other developer on Space Frontier. Thanks to the folks who read our rules and gave feedback. It's always good to have new pairs of eyes on it to help groom the rule book into something as airtight and intelligible as possible.
The lack of prototype pictures definitely might make visualizing the game in action a bit more difficult - to that end I've updated the main post with some images Aaron took from the prototype we've been testing with. In the past couple days we've also been reworking our various components so that they're both up to date with the rules and available to anyone who'd like to print and play them.
I also just updated our post with a section including tips on how one might go about printing and playing our game, so anyone who would like to give Space Frontier a go is welcome to try it out!
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Aaron Dona
United States
Kirkland
Washington
flag msg tools
Last night I had another successful blind play-test of the game, and the results were very encouraging. I got 3 players this time who had never played the game before and they had a decent time.

Their biggest criticisms were a lack of meaningful mid-game player interaction and the unpolished nature of the mission system. These problems are known and having them re-enforced through multiple play sessions has prompted John and I to discuss this problem and we will likely make changes to the rule-book this Friday on October 4. Any feedback on those issues were also be greatly appreciated.

The combat system is shaping up nicely. Each play-test I have to change it less and less and I am happy where it is ending up.

The print-and-play section is now up to date!
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mark J
United States
Monroe
Michigan
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
Quote:
5. You are quite correct about 2 research tiers being far too few things. Originally, every faction had 4 unique tier to research as well as their own racial trait. John and I marveled at our own genius as each faction played different and had different paths to victory that they excelled at. Unfortunately, upon game-testing, several of the researched abilities were the cause game-breaking imbalance. After several failed attempts to equalize each faction while retaining their uniqueness, John and I made the right decision. We gave up and scaled it back.


I suspect the trick there is to either, (a) make the research results not all that dramatic, or (b) make research a large long-term investment to justify big results.

Like, sure, if you say that one good die roll and now your ships have a 90% chance to hit on every shot while everyone else has a 10% chance, then yeah, that one good roll is going to dramatically destabilize the game.

But if one good research roll means that your chance of getting a hit goes from 20% to 25%, or that your movement goes from 3 hexes a turn to 4, or something like that that's just good enough to make it worth your while but not so good that getting that one good rule is practically an instant win, then I think it would hang together.

Also, you can make it so that players have to invest in research over a period of time. Don't say that you pay for a research roll and on a 6 you get the next invention and anything else you don't. Then it all hinges on getting that one lucky roll. Instead you could say that you pay for a research roll and then on, say, 4-6 you advance a marker on the research track, and when you get 3 or 4 successes then you get the next invention. That way you have to make a long-term commitment to research, and other players can see that you're getting close so maybe they need to start making a similar investment, etc. And of course in any game like this there are different things a player can invest in, so you have the classic resource allocation, short term versus long term, etc considerations.

Depending on how big a part of the game you want research to be, you might consider giving the player choices about what they research. Like, a player who finds he has plenty of crystal but not enough ore might want to research something that enhances his ability to produce ore or that lets him build units using fewer ore, while a player whose cargo holds are overflowing with ore would find such an invention almost useless.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Aaron Dona
United States
Kirkland
Washington
flag msg tools
The dice results for research were for "free" research that you could dedicate ship actions (not resources) to get. That bit is still being tweaking but a 4 or 5+ instead of a 6 is most certainly going to happen if we keep it random.

Research has been the focus these last 2 weeks or so and trying to make it more engaging. having a "track" where you invest in it over time is definitely a feature that we want. We're toying with the idea of replacing "money" because it's boring, with more research token style tokens that can be earned throughout the game.

Overall the focus of the game's theme and methods of player victory are what has been receiving the most attention from a design standpoint. The game as it stands doesn't allow the players to interact enough or in meaningful ways until the end game, and we'd like to change that.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.