Sid Meier's Civilization
The 1990's saw the rise of such well known games as Sid Meier's Civilization which allowed players to run an historical civilization from stone age to the near future. These games were also known as empire-building and sweep-of-history games. It wasn't long before outer space became the battlefield with such games as Master of Orion, Space Empires and Galactic Civilizations. These were turn-based games that took many hours to complete and as empires grew, the management of the empire eventually became cumbersome and tedious. Eventually games came along that tried to solve this problem by streamlining the economic, diplomacy and ship designing aspects. Some examples of this are Master of Orion 3 and Ascendancy which many say went too far in removing the player from important decisions. Eventually real-time based games came out such as Imperium Galactica and Starships Unlimited tried to solve the long-game syndrome and some of the micromanagement issues with mixed success.
Master of Orion
While many 4X games were "sand-box" games - that is, games that had no story narrative and allowed players to do whatever they wanted for as long as they wanted - some became story-guided games such as Imperium Galactica and Sins of a Solar Empire emerged that game players the feeling they were a part of a larger reality and guided the player along toward a story end.
Space Empires 4
While 4X gaming has never been as successful among mainstream computer and video gamers as shooters and real-time strategy games, it has had a strong a loyal cult-like following that as they became older and became more sophisticated and wiser in their choices of games. The lessons of the past such as the heavy hand of micro-management, massive ship counts, numerous planets and long playing times have led to the development of games that try to provide the player with the feeling of managing a star-sprawling empire without the mind-numbing spreadsheet screens and administrative dullness that can result. Some games like Starships Unlimited have chosen to focus strictly on ship combat.
While there have been a few board versions that tried to provide the same entertainment value as these computer games, most are hideously expensive (near $100!), very long-playing and with very complex rules - trying to be everything to everyone.
Sins of a Solar Empire (above) & Galactic Civilizations 2 (below)
Power Play Game's Battle for Gallion's Reach is a serious attempt to bring this genre to the game table in a format that is simple to grasp and yet has all the elements of a good 4X game without the ponderous amount of information needed to run a galactic empire. It was realized in the design process that no board game can adequately provide the depth and variety of options a computer game can, so it had to be decided which aspect of empire-building 4X games the player would enjoy the most. While some do enjoy the exploration, diplomacy, research and the more peaceful routes to victory, many prefer the visceral and tactical pleasures of star ship combat. so this is where Battle for Gallion's Reach placed it's focus.
Gallion's Reach space cards
The economic, diplomacy, random event and research models had to be simple and streamlined enough to keep the game from bogging down and allow the player to concentrate on star ship combat without tossing them aside altogether. Eventually, after much test play and good advice from the players, the research "tree" was slimmed down to a simple track of five critical technologies. The diplomatic game was reduced to having the right cards and the economic model was hard-wired right into the planets themselves with no need for planting colonies and growing them. every 4X empire needs resources for building those massive star fleets but resource management can easily turn a fun game in to a chore, so Battle for Gallions' Reach circumvents this by also hard-wiring the acquisition of resources directly in the planets themselves and tied them elegantly and simply to the colonies. Using classic card-gaming, "build-points" are actually when a player has a colony and a resource which make a "Couple" One couple makes one build point and so many build points allow the player to build things. This creates an economic model that is logical and yet simple and streamlined enough that even the least sophisticated or youngest player can grasp the concept.
Sample Space/Planet Cards
Like all good 4X games, the combat is the entire point of the game and so Battle for Gallion's Reach puts the lion's share of it's eggs into this basket. To avoid huge ship counts and the Risk-like building of super-massive fleets that are designed to blast any opponent to dust while causing havoc across the board, the design uses squadrons of ships rather than individual ships, and there is a limit to these squadrons that can be built, be supported by the empire and can fight in a tactical battle. This helps to keep the games shorter and more dynamic. Added to this is a unique star ship Tactical Battle system where players place their squadrons on mats which represent the wings of a battle formation and duke it out with their opponents.
Sample Star Ship Squadron Card
Finally, no space empire can be without massive armies invading planets, so Battle for Gallion's Reach incorporates a simple and yet effective model for these events.
It was the designer's intention to bring the joy and thrill of the 4X space opera game to the table top for ages 10 to adult to enjoy. We hope that this is the thing we achieved!
If you would like to buy a copy of Battle for Gallion's Reach it will soon be available through The Game Crafter (thegamecrafter.com)and through our website at http://gallionsreach.com. Stay posted to this blog when it is released which should be by no later than mid-February of this year!