The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Posts Tagged ‘Space Empires 4x

A bit more Space Empire, and a game day

I played a few more games of Space Empires solitaire, and I enjoy it. I’ve tweaked the system to feel slightly more intelligent and smooth out the bumps, the APs get less resources, but also tend to waste less (by fighting hopeless battles) and their growth is ‘on board’ which means it can be trimmed down. While TaoLing was at camp I left the board setup and managed to get in a half-dozen games … most of which were full evening affairs.

Now that TaoLing is back I took a day off to run back-to-school errands in the morning and we had a game day in the afternoon. A fair number of Puzzle Strike games (getting close to 50!), a few games of Dominion, some Mottainai, some Splendor, and even a bit of Pandante. (I think I’m going to take Pandante to my poker night this weekend and play a few hands — not for money — to see if there’s any interest).

In other news, I’ve realized that I’m not playing most of my collection, even though I’ve trimmed it down fairly aggressively this decade. So, more games are marked ‘for trade’. I may hold a geeklist auction later this year, but I’m open to trades/sales whenever. I did just break down and  buy the Brittania expansion of Sansa at Channukah.  So I knocked that off my “want in trade list.”

I suspect game days with the Taoling are going to slowly drift into memory — they may never end entirely, but the teenage years wait for no parent. I’ve been watching the Solitaire Games on Your Table threads for ideas as to which games I may try next…at least, until the Mage Knight urge rises.

Written by taogaming

August 18, 2016 at 9:14 pm

Space Empire

Just one, because I played S.E.4x solitaire. It was a Doomsday Machine game, so it didn’t really capture the great feel of the game, but I hadn’t played in a year and wanted to re-learn the rules. I posted a mini session report on BGG.

I also (finally) read the expansion rules. Well, the first expansion. It seems like … a lot of chrome. And a lot of paperwork. My quick thoughts (all of which are based on not playing it) is that most of it adds too much paperwork for the goal, but if you really loved the system and wanted to make SE4x a lifestyle game, you’d ease into it fairly well. Still — each thing added slows the game down. Although some of them seem like good ideas (assuming they are balanced).
In particular, giving each player a special power (which can be revealed at the appropriate moment) is highly thematic. Oh … player X is a warrior race and can attack twice in the first round of combat, but can’t retreat for a while (and suffers penalties in the second round). Player Y can ignore maintenance costs (and doesn’t have to reveal the card, ever, except at the end game). Player Z reveals at the start, but gets a bunch of free colony ships and colonies and explorations before the game. That, and conquering alien planets for unique technologies … yeah, I’d throw those in. (Also pre-game rolls to randomly adjust some universe conditions). But ground combat (and troops), individual ship ratings, design your own ships (prior to start of game, not during!), flagships, etc? I’m not so sure. I should probably try to get a group to play this again, but it’s a nice change of pace from Mage Knight for solitaire….

Update — I tested out some variant rules for the AP scenario.

Written by taogaming

August 5, 2016 at 11:17 pm

Posted in Session Reports, Variants

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House rules for SE4X — Alien Power Variant

OK, I’ve played a few AP solo games, and my thoughts so far.

  1. If an AP rolls ECON its much harder. (The game where one AP got 3 ECON rolls was impossible). Give up X CP once to gain X CP/turn starting 3 turns later is great.
  2. Easy isn’t too difficult. Normal difficulty is much harder. So much so that I wonder if difficult can be beaten at all….
  3. The AP sends off too many small fleets.
  4. The AP has poor tech choices.
  5. It’s a bit to easy to see the movement.
  6. The AP launch a fleet that serves no purpose.

Here’s what I”m thinking of doing to modify it to make it a bit more uncertain and harder to predict. To keep it from being uniformly harder, I’m going to make ECON rolls weaker. You may also have to lower the CP a notch. Most of these are sever-able ideas, mix and match to taste. (I suspect at Normal difficulty you wouldn’t need all these rules).

  1. The AP gets instant tech upgrades. (Just to be clear).
  2. The human does his full econ phase before the alien’s roll.
  3. No nuking fleets by flipping unrevealed counters underneath alien fleets. (Too gamey).
  4. If the AP roll’s ECON, you get the die (in 3 turns, as normal) but the AP gets one die of NEGATIVE CP (to Fleet or Tech only, can go negative). So you give up 2 dice of production right now to get a die (forever) in 3 turns. (This maybe should even be 4 turns later).
  5. Decoys — When you first encounter an alien fleet in combat, before you roll for tech/fleet composition, figure out the fleet strength. If the die roll is a 1 (or less), the fleet is a decoy. It disappears and the AP gets the fleet points back on it’s sheet. A fleet that reaches a valuable undefended target (colony, pipeline) is never a decoy. Raider fleets may be decoys.
    • Modifier 1 — Divide your fleet cost (in CP) by the AP fleet cost. If that’s 2 or higher, the modifier is that number -1. Example — the Alien Fleet is 18 CP. If your fleet is 6-35, it’s a decoy on a 1. If it’s 36-53, it’s a decoy on 1-2, etc.
    • Modifier 2 — Subtract 1 from the roll unless the AP can afford to upgraded Size, Attack, Defense or Tactics.  The AP is maxed out or would gain no benefit from upgrading those. This is -1 for all three, not -1 for each.
  6. Move Technology
    • Alien Powers increase their move on 1-4, but if increasing their move technology would not shorten the time (in econ rounds) to reaching any legitimate target (at time of launch) there is a +1 to the roll. (Rationale — Why increase move if it’s not going to help? and this just sucks points from combat techs).
    • Timing — The roll is made the first movement phase the alien would get a bump in movement. (This makes the alien reveal when a human would, not several phases earlier).
  7. Purchasing — When rolling to increase technologies, APs do not roll until they are out of points. If there are 3 rolls in a row that cannot be bought, aliens stop buying and save their money. (Rationale — Often APs are forced to buy Minesweepers at lower levels, which puts them at a disadvantage).
  8. HW Defense — When you attack a HW seriously, all unrevealed fleets roll a d10. If the roll is greater or equal to their distance from the HW, the fleet is a decoy (put all fleet points back at the HW). Do the same for each ship that was revealed since the last econ phase. (A serious threat is one that could take the HW, not just to figure out if it’s bases or mines. There’s no good definition, use your judgement). Rationale — To prevent the player from just allowing a fleet to launch and then attack a weakened homeworld. Recalling revealed ships prevents gamey tactics, although it’s still useful.
  9. Turn order — Select the turn order you’d prefer (first or last). Roll a d10.
    • 1-3: You get the order you prefer if you spent that many points on turn order bid. Otherwise you get the other one.
    • 4-10: You get the order you wanted.

Written by taogaming

March 10, 2015 at 7:11 pm

Posted in Variants

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Played a couple of solo SE4X Games

OK the first solo game (Doomsday Machine) lets you learn the rules, but lacks the oomph that makes the game great. It’s like one of the Star Fleet Battle Monster solos (the Planet Eater, maybe?) where you can plot out what to do because the monster is totally predictable. You know when he’ll arrive, full stats, etc. Given that SE4X is about the fog of war, no big deal.

So I stayed up and tried the Alien solo game. This feels like multiplayer. Each Alien Power [2-3 depending on difficulty] only has one planet and roll dices to allocate points in fleet/tech/homeworld defense and when they launch invasions. The Alien fleet’s composition (and most tech advances) are bought when you reveal the fleet, which maintains fog of war. It’s got some paperwork and two pages of special cases (The Aliens have many “Don’t be stupid” exceptions to randomly buying technologies, like If the Human player has revealed that he has X technology, the Alien purchases Counter-technology first. If the Alien has already bought X technology and the Human has not revealed Y counter technology then the Alien’s fleet will exploit that advantage.)

In my first game (easy level) I played cautiously but repelled incursions with little loss, and I called it a victory (although I was starting to suffer some maintenance costs, I had a heft fleet size and tech leads). But I think it’s a nice challenge, and a good break in solo games

Written by taogaming

March 8, 2015 at 12:09 am

Posted in Session Reports

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I’m surprised I haven’t seen this before

The new X-Com apparently requires a downloaded app.

This was on my mind because it seems to me that Space Empires could really use an app for book-keeping to avoid would avoid honest mistakes, such as accounting or remembering which ship counters have which technologies. (And cheating, of course).

Anyway, an app is by itself neither good or bad, but I can see it being a boon for some games (and a tedious draw for others). I’m old enough [1] that it’s not a draw, as I prefer to know the underlying systems of the game, but I do think that more apps that streamline said systems would be nice. I personally use the Mage Knight Dummy player app, as it saves me a few minutes of time each game.  But I happen to like my games without technology, mostly. Still, I expect that there will be at least one brilliant game in the next few years that integrates board and app.

[1] Four and half decades today.

[2] And I do remember hearing about that Knizia Excalibur board game that had electronics integrated into the board, but I never recall seeing it. I wonder if it was actually published or just vaporware. This must have been a decade ago.

Written by taogaming

January 24, 2015 at 11:56 am

Posted in Ramblings

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Space Empires 4x

Look, this is a gloriously retro game, with accounting, spreadsheets and charts.

It’s fun.

It’s not everyone’s fun. Jim Krohn took the old school ideas and kept the great core while eliminating cruft. (Although I suppose the advanced rules and expansions let the cruft back in, if you like them). SE4x is the old Star Trek episode, Balance of Terror. Your fleet advances towards the neutral zone. Enemy ships are moving towards your colony. One blip, but is it a scout? Or a fleet? It’s joined by another blip. Or is it a decoy? The combined fleet is moving towards your outpost. And those other blips?

Your scientists have put great effort into your shields and phasers, so perhaps … suddenly the blips move two hexes. The enemy has better warp engines! They’ll get past your main fleet and ravage your outpost before you can get there.

And that’s SE4x. In my learning (2p) game, I built a fleet of scouts and cruisers with good technology, destroyed the enemy forward base and then a string of 4 more colonies. It was a great fleet. So great, in fact, that it had cost my me entire early production advantage and left the homeworld with a string of decoys and starbases. The enemies main fleet advanced on my rampaging marauders, but they had 5 more turns of new technology. Should I attack them or head home and upgrade? I’d gotten a forward post. I furiously through all my economy into homeworld defence, but those blips…. they were real and they arrived at Earth before I could defend it, and so I lost.

Total time — 3hours, with rules. The rules are only a few pages, but there’s lots of cases (6 classes of warship, about 8 technologies with various levels), but basically — you explore. You move. You fight. You research and buy. The advanced rules add lots of other stuff (mines and sweepers, fighters and carriers, cloaking and scanning, aliens and trade routes. The expansion adds … more, I guess. I intuited most of the rules correctly based on the components (although the details I had to refer to some player aids).

The rules are actually much simpler than Eclipse, because there are fewer subsystems. But you are dealing with fog of war. Massive fog of war. And logistics. (The infamous rule that buying a new technology does not confer it to older ships makes for an accounting headache, but gives you the feeling of a train rush in 18xx. Use your ships while you can!) Like all great games (if not necessarily true of all wars), attack has enough of an edge that things move forward.

My game, all told, took 3 hours, and I was shocked to discover that.

Would this be a great game with 4 players? Only after they’d all played, because you have to trust your opponents math and grasp of the rules. (I accidentally built a battle cruiser fleet before I had right shipbuilding tech. Not that it helped). And you’d have to set aside the time. I think this would make a stupendous PBEM game, particularly with a moderator that enforced the rules. I can see this game dragging with the wrong group, with most groups even, and I do worry that people will want to throw in all the chrome too early which makes decisions slower, adds randomness, but also gives you more things to be deliciously worried about.

A great war game is, to me, a fog of war game. And this has it. I don’t see it replacing Eclipse (which I haven’t played in a year and need to throw into the bag), but In My Opinion they share only theme. They don’t scratch the same itch.

Written by taogaming

January 21, 2015 at 6:40 pm

Posted in Reviews

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