Because I pushed for and laid out most of the Resource Cards for Space Empires: Replicators, Jim Krohn asked me to do a write up on how they came about.
When we were well into the design process for SE: Close Encounters, we got an email forwarded by GMT from David Ward with some ideas for cards that could be added to the game. The ideas found fertile ground with the playtest group and a lot of possibilities were quickly thrown around regarding which of his cards would work and what other cards could be added. Some of what he proposed was already going into the game with the Racial Ability Cards and the Alien Tech Cards, but some of the other ideas had merit as potential Resource Cards, too. Unfortunately we had already filled up most of the 55 cards that the expansion was budgeted, so we could not work in those ideas at that time.
Knowing that there were some other things that did not make the cut for Close Encounters, I went over all of the suggestions that had been thrown out and made up a deck of 55 Resource Cards for a future expansion. Through use of the Resource Cards, we would have an extra ability to give to the players that would not be a technology that they would have to research. The core game is very finely balanced in the early game and I did not want to upset that balance by introducing Technology/Ships that would become must-haves in the early game. I also knew at the time that neither Jim nor I wanted to start an arms race by introducing a Super-Titan. So whatever new Tech/Ships that would be added in a future expansion would have to become available later in the game and be useful, but not game changers. This led to the new units that are available after you research Advanced Construction: DDXs, BVs, Fighter 4s and Raider Xs. That left the Resource Cards as something that would be new and available to the players right at the start of the game.
When selecting what effect the Resource Cards would have on the game, I tried to choose ones that would grant the player an interesting ability that was not normally available. With the customizable nature of the game I knew that sometimes the cards would not be useable for the ability that was on them. If the players are not using the Ground Combat rules, a card that modifies Ground Combat is not going to be of much use. To cover this I assigned a value of 1 – 5 CPs to each card. This would allow the players to use the cards either for the effect written on the card or for a little extra money.
Because these cards represent a players luck, it was always my plan that the main deck be divided up so that each player had their own mini-deck to draw from during the game. Once their “luck” deck was exhausted they would be out of cards and would have to win the game based on their economy/ships/tech just like normal. There were two main reasons for going with this mechanic. One was that I did not want the players to use the cards at first as “free” CPs that they would draw again later and use for the cards effect. The other was that several of the cards required counters to support their use and if the cards could be re-used more counters would be required. This would mean cutting something else from the game.
Another effect caused by thinking of the Resource Deck as a source of the players luck is that you are allowed to play as many cards as you like between Econ Turns, but you only get to draw one card from your deck in each Econ Turn. This way you cannot follow up a run of good luck where you played all five of the cards in your hand with another 5 cards after the next Econ Turn. You will only have one card in your hand at that point. If it is one of the more powerful cards that requires you to discard an extra card from your hand when you play it you will have to then wait till the next Econ Turn to be able to have any “luck”.
Once I was satisfied with the deck I ran it by Jim and Bob Seifert. They made a lot of counter proposals and reduced the amount of duplication that I had in the deck. Then we started talking about what else was going into the expansion and it was decided to reduce the Resource Deck to 45 cards. This would allow us to add 2 Alien Technology Cards, 2 Empire Advantage Cards and 6 cards to give the Replicators an unknown ability. Of course this meant going over the deck another time and figuring out what to cut out to make a smaller deck.
At this point, in the effort to reduce the deck I suggested combining some of the effect cards with the cancel cards. This would allow us to keep the effect cards in the game and double the number of cancel cards at the same time. Most of the cards can be played in one of three ways: turned in for CPs, discarded to allow the play of another card or played for their effect. The Cancel Cards can be played for CPs, their special effect, to cancel another card that was just played or they can be discarded. There are four of these cards in the deck. Their effects modify Fighters, Mines, Raiders and Boarding Ships. I merged these effects with the Cancel Cards because all of the rules for these units are optional and the players might not be using them in their game. If they had not been put on the Cancel Cards and those rules were not being used then the cards would just be turned in for money or discarded to allow the play of another card.
Here is a preview of the effects that are on the Cancel Cards.
- One FTR group currently in battle gets an additional +1 to attack for the remainder of the battle.
- A single Raider that has been detected by scanners during combat may hide in the sensor blind spot of a ship with hull size x3 or greater. The raider immediately makes a retreat from battle. This can be a “forward” retreat.
- Play after one of your ships is captured. Immediately destroy it. The enemy gains no knowledge of your abilities from capturing this ship. The ship still counts as captured for the purpose of Ship Experience Promotion Rolls.
- Before Enemy Minesweepers Sweep your Mines one of your Mines may detonate as normal, even against a Minesweeper.
The first card is pretty straight forward. The second one I like because of its interaction with the Battle Carriers that we are adding in this expansion. Normally if you are running Fighters with DD equipped Scanners the Raider would be dead. If you have fielded BVs the Raider can use its 3 Hull Space Size to survive if you have this card. Bigger is not always better. The third card is an example of trying to salvage an idea that did not make the cut for Close Encounters. During the playtesting for that module we had a spirited debate on the effectiveness of Boarding Ships and whether the Security Technology should allow the player a chance to destroy their own ship if it was boarded. In the end it was decided that would make the Boarding Ships too much of a Crap Shoot and the idea was dropped. However I felt that a onetime use card would not be too overpowering and suggested to Jim that we add this ability on a card. The fourth card is just a way to allow a player to get some use out of their Mines before they are all negated by enemy Sweepers. Of course if the enemy is down to just one Sweeper and you kill it first then the rest of your Mines will go ahead and detonate!
I hope you guys enjoyed this look “behind the scenes” at the Resource Cards and look forward to all of you getting to play and enjoy the published version of Space Empires: Replicators later this year.