Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Progress Report

Battle for Gallion's Reach

 Editing the manual is proceeding well. We began creating two videos on playing the game and some still -shots for examples of set-up and game-play for the manual.

Inherit the Stars

Development is going well, even though the thrust of our efforts is now on finishing the Gallion's Reach manual. Inherit the Stars is definitely a moderately complex game of sci-fi empire Building. The interrelationships between various racial/empire traits is turning out to be one of the more enjoyable aspects.

Actual game play is dictated by cards representing specific "Operations" which have economic costs associated with them. The more "Wisdom" a race has, the more cards they can draw and play in a turn. 
 There are Operations such as WAR, RAID, MILITARY (building ships & troops), SABOTAGE, INTELLIGENCE, DIPLOMACY, TRADE, INTERNAL, COLONIZE allow players to take specific action sin support of the goals of the type of Operation played. For example, Playing the TRADE Operation allows a player to establish a Trade Hub. Playing a RAID operation allows a player to raid nearby enemy sectors for $$$ (RPs). Playing a SABOTAGE Operation gives a player the opportunity to blow stuff up. Playing an INTERNAL Operation allows the player to make adjustments to the civilizations levels such as reducing Xenophobia, reducing or increasing Domination, quelling Unrest and Revolts, etc. Playing a DIPLOMACY Operation allows players deal with neighbor civilizations, make deals, demands, establish treaties, etc. And of course playing the WAR Operation means going to war. Each operation has cost in RPs (Resource Points - the game's 'money'). 

Traits like "Domination", "Influence", and "Xenophobia" as well as "Tech Level" of a race play a big part in dealing with other races and economics and even managing your own colonies. Players can select to tax colonies but, based upon your "Domination" level, these colonies can go into Unrest or even outright Revolt. While revolts on most colonies is a serious annoyance and can prevent a colony from contributing it's production or research to an empire, a revolt on your Home world is most serious and can even spread causing all Operations to stop until the revolt can be quelled with the use of StarLegions and BattleFleets. If revolts aren't quelled they can become Independent Rebel worlds. The only way to get these back is to invade with a BattleFleet or a StarLegion. Rebel planets are also good pickings for enemy empires who can make them a part of their empire instead - especially those with low Domination, high Influence and low Xenophobia levels. Nothing can irk you more than an enemy planet deep inside your territory!

Another interesting aspect of play is the way races win the game. Each race acquires Victory Points by doing certain things in the game. 

The Human player, for example, gains more victory points for establishing peaceful Trade by building Trade Hubs within his empire and with other empires. Trade hubs help both races by supplying regular $$$ deposits into the races coffers each turn. But only the Humans get Victory Points for them. Humans also have a nasty mean streak as well, so they also can get some moderate victory points from military conquest too.  

But some races, such as the Leshlact and Vargr gain large numbers of victory points from military conquest alone. 
The Leshlact are the true dangerous enemy of the galaxy. They can exist on green, ocean and desert planets alike without the technology needed to Terraform them and they can establish colonies quickly and fast because they breed quickly. These large and powerful insect-like carnivorous beings build specialized Swarm ships that can overwhelm anything less than the higher tech-level BattleFleets. But they are handicapped by having maximum Domination, maxed-out Xenophobia and low Wisdom and zero Influence (neither of which can be reduced or raised) and they actually lose victory points every turn they are at peace.
The Vargr are also warriors but far less Xenophobic against all races and irrational in their aggression than the Leshlact. They prefer humanoid-like races, like the Human, Drac, Androz and Ursa, and can even become allies with them. But they will almost always prefer war to anything else when it comes to dissimilar races like the Hurc, Kllor, etc, so whoever becomes allied with them will find themselves at war more often than not.

Others like the Androz gain more Victory Points for establishing spy networks and stealing technology and RPs ( the game's "money). They can be formidable warriors but prefer to win by sabotage, spying, and stealing. This makes them uneasy allies but they have very low Xenophobia and so they can work with any race - except perhaps the Leshlact.

The Kllor prefer peace and gain more victory points for establishing Alliances and having Peaceful relations but with such a high level of Xenophobia, this can be difficult to achieve. 

The Hurc like to spread their Religion, so they will establish Missions in neighboring empires and try to turn your planets into followers of their Faith. They get significant Victory Points for this. Because the Hurc are only one of the two water-enjoying species in the game, they can share sectors with species that prefer green or desert worlds. While this reduces chances for conflict it can also help them spread their religion easier and get those Victory Points to win the game.

The Drac prefer to spread their culture in any way they can. They gain big time victory points for establishing Cultural Centers in neighboring sectors. What starts out as a means to peaceful relations ends up becoming a way to turn your planets into their planets as your people gravitate to their dominant culture. They're cultural dominance can become a plague if not kept in check. Insidious.

The Ursa are a mixed bag. They are good at war and also enjoy trade, so they will gain points for both - sort of like Humans but they are just better at it.

Each race has it's unique strong and weak traits and players must learn to find the best means to take advantage of these traits to win the game while navigating the galaxy filled with dangerous enemies, random events that can cause havoc and the ever-menacing Machines!

The Machines are a largely autonomous race in the game left over from the "Old Ones" who once tried to destroy them (but obviously failed). Bad things (and some good) can be found by races who go exploring the stars looking for places to colonize and one of these things are the Machines. They are nano-sized robots that turn planets into grey goo and, if left unchecked, can wipe out an entire civilization quickly. So players need to be upgrading their technology as they explore since stumbling upon a Machine world can unleash this plague and can be difficult to stop without a decent technological knowledge. 


Another "discovery" that can create trouble is Plague which is "discovered' as fleets go snooping about the galaxy and when unleashed, can spread from fleet to fleet and from sector to sector very quickly thus rendering a civilization extinct. So it behooves a player to develop a technology capable of curing this alien disease quickly!

Also, from time to time there will be exploding stars like Nova and Supernova that can sterilize most planets instantly. Only the higher tech levels can protect your planets from this natural disaster.

Exploring the galaxy can bring you benefits as well, such as Treasure worlds that will give you $$$ and Ancient Knowledge that will increase your Tech Level. And there are Old Ones "Hyperstellar Ziplines" or Star Gates they left lying around, that your Fleets can use to zip around the galaxy from one end to the other in one turn. The downside is that so can your enemies!

Fleets come in three main flavors (with a few races having specialized Fleets like the Leshlact, Hurc and Kllor) and can be built depending on the Tech Level attained. These are StarFleets - the basic ship type you start the sandbox game with and send out to explore the stars; BattleFleets, which are the mainline combat ships of the game and OmegaStars which are moon-sized battleships. Other ships include Fighter squadrons, BattleStations, the Vargr have Fortress Planets which prevent enemies from taking control of a sector without a StarLegion available to do the dirty work. The Hurc have Disruptors which help them escape destruction quickly. The Leshlact have Swarmships which can overwhelm many opponents and the Kllor have Chameleon Fields which prevent an enemy from identifying what sort of ship they are facing down until it's too late. 
Finally all races can build StarLegions which represent automated space-faring robotic ground combat units capable of storming planets.

It's clear that some adjustments need to be made to the game map so that starting sectors are closer to other players. The reason being that in testing, it takes too many turns before players engage one another.

Inherit the Stars seems to have a great deal to offer players who enjoy strategy games that involve exploration, conflict and non-conflict, empire management, etc. Once Gallions' Reach is out the door, this game will come together quickly!

Here is some preliminary art:

Operations Cards

Race Charts

Game Map

Various Determination Charts used in the Game

Sample of Some Game Playing Pieces

Monday, April 21, 2014

Manual "Insanity Test" Results

According to the "Insanity Test" conducted on the Battle for Gallion's Reach game manual and the game shop site, the manual still needs some work. Rating  a 45 out of 100, it is clear that the manual is lacking in a few important areas such as illustrations demonstrating examples of actual play and game set-up.

On the up-side, the game's shop site was rated as well-done and serves as a good advertisement for the game.

I am hoping to get this manual re-done and ready for publication very quickly, but obviously, this project will take more time to get right. A fair assessment of when the game will be ready for sale is that it is another month away.

Friday, April 18, 2014


Battle for Gallions' Reach

As of today, Battle for Gallion's Reach is undergoing what is called: "Insanity Testing". This is lingo used in testing computer software. What it means for our game is that the publisher is testing our game manual and the shop website for our game for any problems or issues. Once we hear back from the testers and make any required fixes, a proof copy will be printed. It will take about a week to receive this copy and then we will examine it in detail. If all looks well, Gallion's Reach will be placed on sale! We are hoping that we can get it up for sale withing two weeks at the most. It all really depends on the Insanity Test and the final proof.

Our Next Game: Inherit the Stars

After much work we have decided to develop the Inherit the Stars game next. In fact we are starting preliminary design and play testing. It seems this title is coming together quickly! In fact we would like to have this game fully play-tested and proofed and in the market by the middle of this summer!

Inherit the Stars actually harks back to the initial design for Gallion's Reach. But instead of focusing on star ship combat, we have decided to concentrate on economics, nation-building, nation relations with combat being only one means of winning a game.

So far we are really pleased with this one! We believe that it will fill a niche in science-fiction based strategy gaming. I do think we have a "winner" on our hands!

We will be putting regular updates here about both games.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

What Are We Playing?

While creating games takes up most of the time available, we enjoy playing games and doing so gives us the ideas and knowledge of what makes an enjoyable game. We have been gaming since the 1970's and gaming has changed a great deal since then. Most strategy games today are very card-driven where once they were very dice and chart driven. While I'm still a fan of having winners and losers, many newer games always provide a means of the loser to stay in the game so no one is expected to leave the game and end up watching his friends play. Also, there have been new mechanics in game design today to eliminated clutter and bookkeeping. I feel the literacy rate has dropped so low that rules and mechanics need to be simple and streamlined.

So what games are we playing these days and which games would we like to play?


This is a great game for the novice or the experienced gamer who just wants a casual semi-tactical World War 2 war game. The game moves fast and smooth. There are handy reference cards that help players find the modifiers for movement and range. The game takes real World War 2 battles and presents them in a very abstract manner - albeit with "cool" plastic army-men playing pieces! Play is heavily card-driven - so much so that the random factor is perhaps a bit too strong and takes away a good deal of the ability to plan your own strategy.  This is not a game for simulating World War 2 combat but a fun way to play some famous battles in a very light and casual way. And there are many, many scenarios and expansion sets from every theater in the war from Russian Front, Western Front, North Africa, Italy and the Pacific. Most games are short - from one to two hours at most. The larger board and scenarios for it can double that time, but makes for an even better gaming experience.


Using a HUGE board - almost 4' x 4' - and up to seven players, Conquest of Empire is a risk-like strategy game that covers the time of the Roman Empire in an abstract way. There are four types of units: Legions, Cavalry, Catapults and Galleys (ships) and they are led by Generals and Caesars. Players have a "home" territory and then start expanding out and gathering territories so they can make revenue to buy troops. Roman-looking plastic money is the means by which you makethose purchases, but you'd better buy early because, like the Roman Empire, inflation starts making those armies very expensive! It's a great game with very simple rules (for the basic game) and much more complex rules for the advanced game.  My only complaint is that the cavalry have a very un-historical influence in the battles and too much survivability. Legions are the standard units, while cavalry allow you to pursue your enemy if they choose to, or must, retreat from battle. Catapults help you capture walled cities. Players build roman roads from cities you build to collect revenue. The basic rules are VERY simple and the advanced game rules are VERY advanced. It would be nice to have some intermediate rules that gave a more historical feeling to the games without the complexity, but this is a fun one for up to seven casual players and, like memoir '44, it uses "cool" plastic miniatures - which always adds to the "gee-wiz" factor!

I have personally created a few historical scenarios using the basic rules such as the Caesar vs. Pompey Civil Wars as well the later civil wars. I've also introduced barbarians into the mix (albeit using the Roman pieces) to introduce another power historical factor into the game.


Axis & Allies has so many titles covering the Second World War (and a new one covering the First World War) that it may be hard to choose which game to actually start with. There are excellent reviews of the various games on You Tube that I highly recommend before buying any of them. However, the 1942 incarnation is a newer product that uses updated rules. It's a fun, basic-to-moderate level game. Once you understand the movement and combat system the game is fast playing (although setting up can take some time!). It can be played by two to four players, and again, the "cool" factor returns with those plastic miniatures!


While an expensive product ($75), the reviews for this game are superlative! It is a very fun and enjoyable game! It really puts you in the Captains chair and lets you conduct typical Star Trek missions. This one I'd really like to have!


Using a unique command/orders card driven mechanic and wooden blocks for fog-of-war, Strike of the Eagle looks like a game I would really love to play. All reviews are highly positive. It simulates the battles of 1920-21 when the Soviet Red Army invaded Poland in it's attempt to convert, by force, all of Europe to Communism. The Poles single-handedly beat off the invaders and saved Europe from the Communist horde.


Using a re-worked version of the Axis & Allies rules, this very simple and direct game that "simulates" the Normandy invasions in 1944. This is a good game for casual play and is heavily card-driven. A nice game to have handy for play with those who aren't "war gamers".


 This is supposed to be the bast "Command & Colors' game out there. Even better than the "Ancients' versions. From the same designer of Memoir '44, this game is less abstract and has excellent rules to play many Napoleonic battles. There are expansion packs for the Austrian and Russian armies. This is one I very much want to have.


I love the Pacific theater so this one looks like a blast to play. Uses and enormous board and modified Axis & Axis rules.  Definitely on my "must have" list.


 If you ever wanted to command a starship in combat this is the game for you.  Using a unique non-board movement system, players take on the roles of starship captains from Star Trek lore. Characters from the TV show appear and you get three decent plastic miniatures of the well-known Federation, Klingon and Romulan ships. There are expansions for the large variety of aliens and ships in the television show and movies along with a single mission for each. The price is right and the reviews are highly favorable! This is certainly one for every Trek-head's collection!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Inherit the Stars artwork

Working on the idea for this title led to some preliminary artwork. I thought I'd share these ideas now that I've been bold enough to announce this game on the blog.

Preliminary box cover concept art
Some of the Race-Related Game Pieces 
Representing from L-R: Homeworlds, Colonies, Starfleets, Battlefleets, StarLegions (armies), Starbases (stations). At the very bottom are pieces representing the Homeworld, Colonies and ships belonging to the dangerous Nanomachines which will be autonomous forces without a human player and which will operate according to a set of strict rules.

 Game Map Board
This is the entire game map made up of twelve 10"x16" sections (for ease of packaging, setting up and for use with smaller scenarios) making a 4' x 3'-6" total map size. The entire galaxy is represented as seen from the galactic north and looking "down". The galaxy is broken into regions, sub-regions, with galactic geography, and jump routes. The image is a high resolution Hubble Space telescope image of a very distant galaxy similar to what scientists think ours looks like (although we can't know for sure since we are embedded within it).

On the map corners are the Costs Charts for buying a building things such as Starfleets, etc. The circles represent sub-regions as part of larger regions (represented as colored lines around groups of sub-regions). the Sub-regions are where the game pieces move to and from. They use the lines that connect them (Jump Routes) to move from one to another. Each sub-region is controlled/shared by different players and there are three types of sub-regions that determine how many and what type of habitable worlds are potentially available for colonization. The larger Regions are used for random events and for "historical"scenarios delineating where various political entities exist or once existed.

Player Race Records Mat
Each player selects a race to play (based upon personal appeal) and then uses one of these charts to keep track of the game as it plays. Each race is different and plays the game a bit differently. Some races have higher levels of Wisdom (which determines how many cards they can draw and play from the deck each turn), Xenophobia (ability to get along with alien species), Domination (how well captured enemy populations behave under enemy occupation), Influence or "Power"(the ability to project influence to neighboring sub-regions). the Influence (power) category includes such things as overall military ability, propaganda effectiveness and cultural appeal and is used to lure nieghboring alien colonies into becoming joined to your civilization (as well as helping to calm occupied colonies and prevent Revots). The Tech Level determines the things the player can do. It helps determine how many spaces a Fleet or StarLegion can move in a turn, how powerful they are in combat, the overall Influence (Power)  level, Victory Points (for some players), effects on Race Relations and how effective exploration of a sub-region is in looking for colonizable worlds.  There are places for showing what the relations are with each other race in the game are: None, Peace, Neutral or War. What sort of worlds are favored for habitability, Courage level (used in combat determination) and Ingenuity which is used in determining advancing to higher Tech Levels and shown as well. Higher ingenuity helps a player gain higher technology levels. Also, listed under the Homeworld name and the biology of the race, is the means for that race to win the game. For example, advancing Trade with other players is the fastest and most direct means for a Human victory.

 Sample Game in Progress
In this example of early game-play there are four players. The human player is in the upper center in Olive Green. The humans have successfully colonized three regions and one of their Starfleets has discovered some Ancient Knowledge which will boost the Human Tech Level points. However, the Humans are finding themselves surrounded in at least two sides by alien races also looking for colonizable worlds in their direction.
To the Human's left, they have made contact with a race called the Vargr (in Red). As a race, the Vargr are a naturally aggressive species, so this first contact might not end well for the Humans. In fact a Vargr Battlefleet is on it's way to that region to enforce it's claim to to any worlds there. A "Contested Space" marker has been placed there, and will remain there as long as both races share the same space and no war has been averted. If war is averted, the marker is removed and unless one of the races prefers different World types to settle on, one of the players will have to evacuate the region entirely. The Humans are natural traders, so they may be able to prevent a war and at least establish a "Neutral" relationship with the Vargr. Perhaps one where trade between the races will lower tensions between the two. However, Humans have a moderately high Xenophobic Rating with can easily lead them into conflict with races that are physiologically different from them (truly "alien"). It is fortunate that the Vargr resemble earthy apes, so the Xenophobia rating will likely be reduced and peace will result.
 To the Humans right, the Ursa race (in Green)  is expanding their direction quickly. The Ursa are moderately aggressive and very territorial and win the game by having more colonies, so the chance of war between these two is high - unless the Humans can also establish trade with them.
Toward the galactic core another race called the Hurc (in Blue) is expanding and they have no immediate neighbors except, perhaps the Humans. The Hurc are intelligent "octopus-like" lifeforms and therefore truly alien to the Humans, Vargr and the Ursa, so depending on the Xenophobia ratings of each, things can get hairy.
Fortunately, races can attempt to adjust their various ratings (except for Ingenuity, Favored Worlds and Courage  - which always remain the same). These races can attempt to modify their innate tendencies toward aggression and cultural dominance.

A Closer Look at the Section of  the Game in Progress
 If the humans play their cards right they could eventually set up trade hubs with their neighbors which will allow Cultural Centers to then be established which would lower the chances of war and give victory to the Human player. But random events can occur to spoil the best of plans and the Humans have no control over the natural desire of their neighbors to play nice.
Near the Galactic Core and to the immediate right of the Hurc, a Supernova has exploded which contaminates all the immediately surrounding and connected sub-regions until the radiation effects die down. If the explosion had happened closer to the Hurc one of their colonies would have been extinguished. Supernova are extremely rare events but very deadly. Only a Tech Level 5 civilization can reduce the effects of a Supernova.

More artwork coming soon!
Comments and suggestions are welcome!!!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


While deciding which of the five game titles we were looking at to produce next after Battle for Gallion's Reach, seems that one new idea has come out a winner...possibly. I say possibly because things change and this concept may turn out to be less of a "winner" once we really start to examine it as a game...not just a "good idea".

After looking at the board game market these days, there are lots of world war two games on the shelves which can mean two things: 1) It's a popular subject and therefore a good candidate for a title or 2) the market is glutted  OR 3) While there may be many titles, perhaps a unique "take: on the subject could help another one stand out from the pack. This is the realm of the market researcher. Not particularly the most exciting of activities but it has the virtue of being critically important to help ensure your product has a decent chance of succeeding.
We are fortunate that we are actually IN the target market for these games we produce so we know exactly what is liked, but I have always had a hunch that people should try and make things they would like to have themselves.
And I have learned to agree with my hunches!

So, after looking at the current market, there is still a wide open and burgeoning market for science fiction oriented titles.

After studying the most popular titles out there and looking at the various ideas that I have come up with I believe I have a "winner"....or at least a runner up for the prize.

The concept is called "Inherit the Stars". It's a BIG game but can be played in smaller bytes based on the scenarios played and the number of players one can corral up on any given "game night".

We've even dome some preliminary artwork, (posted soon!)

 From 2-10 players. 
On a map board of the entire galaxy which is broken into separate regions, players start with an early starflight-capable civilization with specific traits and colonize the stars. Along the way, they meet other civilizations that are similar or very different from them. Rather than concentrating on space combat (like Battle for Gallion's Reach) Inherit the Stars will feature other ways to win such as a having a dominant culture, creating a Galactic Council and voting which player is to be the Galactic President (6-10 player games only), defeating the Machines (a malevolent autonomous race of intelligent nano-machines), having peaceful relations the longest, and of course, controlling the most regions.

The idea is that, unlike Gallion's Reach, players are actually going to be running their own unique civilizations and trying to deal with the challenges of colonizing, exploring and forming relationships with alien species who are also doing the same things. Gallions' Reach concentrated on combat and conflict and very specific technologies and ship to ship combat, while Inherit the Stars generalizes technological and starship combat at a macro-level. the idea being that players are not destined to fight one another and in fact, peaceful cooperation can benefit some. While this might sound boring, there are enough challenges, such as natural disasters, plagues, revolts, hostile autonomous alien races and surprises due to exploration to keep everyone riveted and busy. Achieving a high victory point total wins the game and each species will gain points differently than others. For example, Humans will gain more points for creating Trade Hubs and Alliances. Some races will gain more points for conquering other races by war. Some will do better by concentrating on colonizing as many regions as they can - which means a utilizing a combination of diplomacy and war. Each race will have it's own unique and specific ways of achieving victory.

Each race will have a Xenophobic rating which determines how friendly it is with aliens, a Species Rating that will determine which alien species it can co-exist and cooperate with the best, character strengths such as propensity for research, war, peace or trade and which sorts of planets they prefer to colonize. In fact, this last propensity can allow different species to co-exist in the same region of space without conflict.

There are going to be scenarios taken from a game that I developed many years ago (but never published) in which 2-6 players can play over the course of a couple of hours or less. these scenarios cover the history of the galaxy as the various races spread out and came into contact with one another. Some can be played in a hour and others might take a couple of evenings of play.

But I want to keep the essential game rules simple and direct and not cluttered with too much to do.

I think this game idea has serious potential among the sci-fi gaming crowd after researching the titles now available.

We'll see.