Thursday, December 17, 2009

Planet Busters - New Rules 2.0

Since I didn't have any real problems with the modest rules changes in version 1.0, I felt that my conservative changes were successful and I wanted to go farther and make more improvements, particularly to the balance of individual pieces.

With my 1.0 rules, I had essentially specified that 96 game pieces would be used to play the game. But there are 118 game pieces in the box. I realized that I might as well specify which 96 tiles were used rather than picking them randomly. This meant removing 20% of the units. Since most units are present in quantities where 20% is either 0 or 1, this gives me the opportunity to fine tune some adjustments by picking which pieces to leave out and which to leave in.

I removed a carrier and a tug, as 3 seemed like an awful lot and these units are hard to balance. I removed one deathon so that it would be unique - the ultimate warship - while leaving the other 6 capital ships (Baycruz and Dranaught). I removed a whirler, a salvage vessel, and a screen satellite because these seem somewhat extreme, one of each should be enough. In the fuel vessel category, I removed the tanker but kept the armed merchantmen and the fuel satellite; this makes the immobile fuel satellite more unique. I kept all of the satellites so that there would be as many things for tugs to pull as possible, and I kept the mines too because it seemed useful to have more defense in the game. I kept all of the sailing ships mainly because the numbers worked out that way, and they are handy.

Deciding which special events to leave out was tricky. Peace Treaty was obvious. Revolt was the other obvious one; the piece isn't very interactive or interesting, you just suddenly steal a planet. I was tempted to leave out both, but chose not to. So the other piece I left out was meteor swarm, mainly because I had to choose something to keep the balance of categories even and I liked the other events more.

That leaves the planets. I need to get rid of 2 to maintain the balance. But I like the symmetry of having the traditional 9 planets of the solar system. So I decided to leave out the colonies. The colony combat rules were awkward and didn't seem to add much to the game.

The remaining changes were to adjust individual pieces.

The carrier seemed like a devastating unit, too powerful in playtesting. I would rather have this be more of a support unit and give more glory to the Deathon and the Dranaughts. I considered a number of changes to the rather extreme way the drone rules work, such as reducing the effectiveness of screening. But ultimately I went with the simple rule of reducing the number of drones. I allowed for the possibility of zero drones, so that there is at least some mathematical chance that the screening ability won't work.

To make the game move faster, I like to play that the defender's ships are arranged randomly. The only factor discouraging this is that you know that the scout is likely not to pick an edge unit, so this affects your choice of unit arrangement. So I removed the restriction about scouting the edge, allowing wraparound. This also makes the very wimpy scout units a little bit better.
Since the Deathon is so mighty, I considered having it cost you an extra piece to draw it. But this would make you extra bummed when it was sabotaged or mutinied. Instead, I slightly weakened the unit by making it cost two fuel. I like that this emphasizes the impressiveness of the ship. It's big!

Finally, the tug and the satellites are still too wimpy. It is pretty pathetic that the satellites not only can't move, they don't fight well either. But I didn't want to change the numbers on the tiles. So I decided to have satellites not cost any fuel to defend you. This fits the idea that they are dependable defensive units, always there to protect you. And it makes the compare in an interesting way to the sailing ships; an armored satellite can't move, but it doesn't have the "fire last" penalty.

A tug pulling a satellite is still not equal to two units, so it needs more help. First, I removed the penalty of getting your satellite captured when used on the offense; that just added insult to injury. But how else to make the combo more effective? I remembered that the scout ability is a nifty offense-only power, and it seemed logical that satellites would have good sensors, so I gave that power to the combo.

Rewritten rules:

These rules are for the 2-player game.

To create a standard 96-tile deck, remove the following pieces from the 118 tiles that come with the game:

1 carrier
1 conicle
1 deathon
1 tanker
1 salvage vessel
1 screen satellite
2 scout
1 tug
1 whirler
2 zerstor

2 colonies
1 planet buster (3)
4 fuel (2x6, 2x7)
1 meteor swarm
1 peace treaty
1 revolt

Setup: Each player receives a starting hand of 8 tiles. Put 20 tiles in the personal stack of each player. Put 40 tiles into a common stack.

Drawing: Each player must draw tiles from their personal stack until it is depleted, at which point the player draws tiles from the common stack. If the common stack is depleted, no more tiles may be drawn.

Victory Conditions: If at the beginning of a player's turn, that player has no tiles in play ("melded") and no tiles in his personal stack, that player loses the game. Otherwise, the game ends at the end of the turn when the common stack is depleted, and the player with the most points worth of planets wins the game.

Fuel: When a point of fuel is spent to allow a ship to fire weapons, that fuel allows it to perform any number of special functions for the remainder of the turn. You do not need to pay separately to activate special powers or attack a planet.

Planets: When you play a planet, draw one tile immediately.

Carrier: The number of drones created is 1d10/2, rounded down, with no minimum number.

Deathon: Counts as two ships for all fuel costs.

Satellites: Satellites do not require fuel to fire weapons.

Scouts: The revealing effect of a scout wraps around - if a scout engages the leftmost enemy unit, it reveals the rightmost enemy unit (as well as the unit it engaged and the unit to the right of that unit).

Tugs: If a tug is pulling a satellite on the attack, the value of the tug is added to the value of the satellite to determine the total combat value, without dividing by two. If combo is damaged, the satellite is automatically destroyed and the tug is safe. A tug pulling a satellite has the same detection powers as a scout.

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