Replicator (and Talon) Tuesday Issue #30: Tile Artwork

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Replicator Tuesdays is an article series appearing on InsideGMT. It features insights into the development of the 2nd expansion for the board wargame Space Empires:4x by Jim Krohn.  Here the designer, developer and play testers will share their thoughts and experiences on this upcoming expansion. Since there is much crossover between the Space Empires and Talon development teams, both Space Empires and Talon articles will be featured in this series.

Issue #30 Tile Artwork

There are four major parts to the Space Empires: Replicator Expansion:

  1. Large, hex sized, terrain tiles
  2. Resource cards that players can use for an event or for extra CP throughout the game
  3. New ships, technologies, and terrain
  4. The Replicators as a 5th player, a solo opponent, and a completely different opponent and play experience

Today, I want to give the development team’s thoughts on the terrain tiles.  This is only 25% of the expansion, but I really like them.  What were we trying to accomplish with these terrain tiles?

First, and most obviously, we wanted to increase the production value of the game.  Some grognards care very little about production value.  Counters are a way of life – 5/8” counters?  In my day all counters were ½ inch! – they own their own plexi, and game play trumps everything.  That actually describes me very well. I own an Oregon counter rounder.  However, a strange thing happened as I got older — I began to appreciate high quality components more.  Actually, that is why I own the counter rounder!  I like the way the counters look with rounded corners. As long as the tail doesn’t wag the dog, I want the tail.  As long as game play does not suffer, give me the nicer components every time.

This is more important in a game like Space Empires that can be very immersive, and I love the large tiles for that reason.  It is also important because there are many more cross-over players for a game like Space Empires than there is for the average wargame.  Hopefully, even more people will give the game a shot.

The large tiles gave us a nice canvas to paint on.  Ever notice how planets are always depicted as if you were flying straight at them with the sun at your back?  We wanted the planets to be different, some would have more shadow than others, there would be lights in the shadow, and capitals would have far more lights than newer colonies.  All the while, we made sure that we kept the planets themed to the different players so that it would be clear what was a home system planet.  Again, we didn’t want the tail to wag the dog.  I think that the tiles will look great on your Space Empires board.

Secondly, we wanted to improve functionality.  With fleets and MS pipelines, terrain counters could sometimes get buried or just partially hidden.  The large terrain tiles solve that problem completely.  Just glancing at the board you will be able to see all the terrain, choke points, and key systems very clearly.

Lastly, we wanted to reduce counter clutter.  In our playtests, that led to us putting the colony marker right on the tile on the home system planets.  Except in extreme cases, players always colonize all of their home system planets.  With those, you continue to use the planet counter for the first couple of turns until you colonize them.  This actually makes it very easy for you to see what planets you have left to colonize.  Once colonized, you cover the colony artwork on the tile with a colony growth marker.  When the colony reaches maximum growth, that marker is removed.

The effect of that is that two counters are removed from the most crowded hexes in the game.  In a planet hex, there was the planet marker, the colony marker, there often was an MS Pipeline, Space Yards, and possibly a fleet.  My personal way of doing things has always been to put the planet counter in the lower right of the hex, the colony marker right above it and an MS Pipeline to the left of the planet.  That organization helps me see my defense better.  Now, that system is not needed.  The terrain and the colony just becomes part of the board.

The tile updates are just 25% of the expansion, but they both improve game play and make the game look better.  A big thanks to Michael Evans (PrimalAce on BGG) who did the artwork for the expansion!

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