Category Archives: Star Traders

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Star Traders BGG Con 2016

BGG Con 2016 Recap & Happy Holidays

Category : News , Star Traders

Greetings, Fellow Traders!

We’ve been very busy since our return from BGG Con. This was our first time attending this convention, and it was fun. As advertised, playing games was much more emphasized than tournaments or dealers’ rooms. We did have a dealer’s booth for one day, and played a few games there, but ended up playing more once we got out into the open gaming area.

One of the things we were really looking forward to was showing off the pre-production prototype of Star Traders and being able to play with the actual d4 Contract dice that Panda brought to the show, newly delivered from the manufacturers. They were too big (more about that, later), but they worked really well.

Overall, the game was well received. We’d been told that the typical BGG Con attendee is an alpha gamer — someone who drives decision-making on game purchases for his or her gaming friends, and who deeply analyzes games. After four days there, we can vouch for that description. One gamer sat down with about 15 minutes to spare between games and asked for a description of Star Traders. We started with the backstory, as usual (“you are a star trader …”), but he wasn’t interested. He simply wanted the mechanics, and he needed no explanation of why we had included any of it — he knew right away why there were five actions per turn (rather than four or six), what the pros and cons were of the Prestige Meter, and the various effects of the Trader’s Luck cards. I have no idea whether he will eventually get the game, but he seemed satisfied that the game worked.

We also got a chance to connect with several backers whom we hadn’t met before — it was exciting to show them the game that they have been helping us make. All of them seemed pleased with the updated components and a few even had time to play a game or two or three 😉 with us. One of the cool things about taking the game to shows is getting to play with first time Star Traders. Some take to it really quickly, while others gradually discover the intricacies of the game as they play. Either way it’s always an enjoyable time.

And talking about playing with gamers; I got into a conversation with another player who wanted a diceless variant. (Actually, I think he would have been happier if there weren’t any dice in the box at all.) Having discussed it with him, I realize that we could design a game very much like Star Traders, without any dice — but it wouldn’t be Star Traders. Meanwhile, another player at the same table was vociferous in her desire to keep the dice in the game — she repeatedly told me that it would be much less fun without the dice. These kinds of interactions aren’t normal at the other shows we’ve been to, but it’s always good to get detailed feedback from knowledgeable gamers.

Dice pros and cons are something I haven’t discussed much. Star Traders obviously bucks the trend toward games with fewer random elements and more long-term strategizing. I can enjoy a game like Through the Ages or Race for the Galaxy (while they each have a deck of cards, they are definitely less random than a game like Star Traders). I enjoy them, but I have much more fun playing a game like Star Traders. And I definitely have less fun playing a game like Agricola, where there is little randomness and the resources are painfully limited — a game like that is too much like work for me. 🙂

Which isn’t a knock against any of those types of games; they are just less what I’m personally interested in playing.

In general, I prefer a game with equal parts luck and strategy, so that:

  • everyone (even the least skilled or newest) has an actual chance to win the game,
  • every game has “you’ve got to be kidding” moments,
  • more game time is spent talking and interacting with each other than with single-minded focus on each person’s next best move, and
  • everyone walks away from the table rehashing their favorite moments

That’s been my overall objective with Star Traders: fun. It certainly isn’t the game for everybody, but I am convinced that it will be fun for a wide range of players, from young to old … once we get it into your hands!

We also had the chance to play some other games while we where there, chat with fellow creators and even meetup with some of the Steve Jackson Games design team.

BGG Con is a great show and I can see us returning there again, but first we need to get this game out to you all and that’s what we’ve been focusing on since we got back.

Read more about that in our latest Kickstarter Update.

Meanwhile, back to the pixel mines! Along with trying to keep the manufacturing on track we’re also focusing on getting the other backer rewards ready for y’all. So if you’re a backer you can look forward to those coming together very soon.

Here’s wishing you all happy holidays and a merry new year.

~David


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Star Traders Origins 2016

Origins 2016 Recap & Game Components Update

Category : News , Star Traders

Greetings, Fellow Traders!

I’ve been to Columbus and back, spending four very full days at Origins, the national tabletop game convention. Will and Jesse (my two sons and two valuable members of the Emperor’s Privy Council) went with me.

Star Traders at Origins Star Traders at Origins Star Traders at Origins

Our principal objectives were to demonstrate Star Traders and to sit down with the people who will be manufacturing the game. That, and since we were there, take the opportunity to play a few other games … which were all valuable research opportunities.

Special Thanks to the Malted Meeple

Malted Meeple Origins 2016

The Malted Meeple Booth at Origins Game Fair 2016

We were “headquartered” at the Malted Meeple booth in the Exhibit Hall, where we ran demos Saturday and Sunday. I really appreciate the Malted Meeple making space available to us — thanks to Jim, Karrington and Savannah! And I got to play other games in development, including Kung Fu Zoo (a dice-flicking arena game … seriously!) and #Storytags (hash-tagging stories that each player relates). Congratulations to #Storytags — they just announced a deal with a publisher. And I’m looking forward to the edited version (on YouTube) of the podcast that Jeremiah and Scott recorded at the booth on Sunday. In the meantime, here’s the initial version:

Theology Of Games – Meet you at the Meeple live from Origins

 

We also got a chance to play Star Traders a few other times, out in the open gaming area. We had the new board and Trader’s Luck cards (I think the cards are nailed down now, and we’ve only got a couple more authors to sort out), and we had the new Personality cards with character art on them.

Star Traders Personality Card Prototypes

Star Traders Personality Card Prototypes

Star Traders Contract Arrow Prototypes

Star Traders Contract Arrow Clay Prototypes

We also had clay prototypes of new d4 contract markers. We’ve played several games with them now, and while they make finding pick-up and delivery worlds easier, a normal d4 is wider at the base than we’d like it to be, sometimes making it difficult to place among the station rings. We’re going to try narrowing one side down, and opening up the space around the closer worlds on the gameboard a bit more.

And we’ve decided to run the Personality cards larger, to allow more room for the character art and text. Combining that with fewer player mats (since we now won’t need a player mat for each Personality) means a tidier and better looking game for you guys. We’ve also been able to make additional improvements to the components that we think you all will enjoy.

Speaking of components, we’ve begun pre-press verification on files, the first step toward actual printing and publication. More slowly than we had wanted, but it’s happening! And while I was galavanting around Origins, our artists were busy crunching on Personality and Cargo art — it’s all getting done.

Chatting with Long-Time Designer Friends

It’s been about thirty years since I was last at Origins. With the renaissance of board games, there are plenty of game designers still going strong that I hadn’t seen in that long, and it was great to be able to introduce them to Will and Jesse — the new generation of gamers. Just among the members of the Academy of Adventure Gaming’s Hall of Fame, we were able to chat with:

  • Lou Zocchi (creator of the 100-sided Zocchihedron); the boys grabbed one of his new 24-sided roll-anything dice
  • Darwin Bromley, who wasn’t all that interesting to the boys until he mentioned designing the train game Empire Builder, at which point Will suddenly realized he was talking to one of his gaming heroes (Darwin was also key in getting Settlers of Catan into the U.S.)
  • Mike Stackpole (Flying Buffalo designer and author of some of the most popular Battletech and Star Wars novels; my favorite Stackpole series is the Age of Discovery trilogy)
  • Rick Loomis (who started Flying Buffalo, which ran play-by-mail games long before there was an internet, and which published Tunnels & Trolls, Nuclear War and other classics)

Origins and Gencon are both great to attend, because you get a chance to talk to the people who actually create the games — there are far fewer marketing guys and far more designers than at the electronic game conventions I’ve attended over the past few years. Having said that, I don’t know if I’ll have time to attend Gencon or Dragon Con (over Labor Day), but we’ll let you know if we’re able to get to either of those shows.

Meanwhile, back to the pixel mines! I have another twenty authors to write up for the lore book, and those last component tweaks, and we’ll have a game!


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Star Traders: Commencement

Category : Personalities

As the time grew closer for the Emperor’s declaration of the contest, the colliseum grew more and more packed. From the highest private balcony to the standing room at the base of the seats, the huge building was filled to capacity and beyond. Millions more watched on trideo feeds, sending a live broadcast out, even to the fringes of the empire. At the precise scheduled moment, a massive holographic projection filled the amphitheater. The voice of the ruler of the galaxy boomed through the massive stadium; it was calm and serene, but its underlying power and authority could not be denied.

“Citizens of the Empire, as you know, the office of the Master of Trade, the head of the Trade Commissariat, stands empty. We have determined this to be unacceptable. Ours is a galaxy founded on peace and commerce. Trade is essential to maintaining our peace. We have therefore determined to name a replacement for the office of Star Tsar. Our councilors and the Imperial Senate have each made their recommendations. It is our pleasure, however, to choose a more unorthodox approach. We wish that the Master of Trade be the one known as the best trader in the galaxy. To that end, we do hereby announce a trade competition. From our Office of Legal Matters, you may acquire the specific regulations for this contest, but it is sufficient to say this: all captains will have a short time to reach the registered home world of their ships and complete final preparations. Then go forth into the galaxy; show by word and deed that you are worthy of becoming a master trader. Petition the throne with the evidence of your exploits, and if they please us,” a faint smile came across the Emperor’s face, “we shall give a special challenge. A mission direct from our Imperial Majesty, suitable for a worthy captain.” Murmurs raced through the crowd; none of the rumors had mentioned any special missions. “The first to be found worthy and then complete our final task shall be named as Star Tsar, head of the Trade Commissariat and Master of All Traders.”

The holographic projection looked out across the crowded stands of the amphitheater, its gaze seeming to meet the eyes of everyone there.

“This is our imperial will and pleasure. We seek only the greatest to assume this office; this competition shall determine who that may be.”

The arms of the holographic Emperor reached to the domed ceiling, towering above the throngs of people. His voice rang out, loud and clear:

“LET IT BEGIN.”

The Personalities:

By Charles Duncan


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Star Traders: The Tycoon

Category : Personalities

Your great-grandmother was born into poverty. You were born into wealth. She had worked and built up a massive company, and passed control on to her children. You went to the best schools, where you excelled academically. Science, mathematics, chemistry — anything you studied you excelled at. Mother and Father were quick to point out that it was the result of your great-grandmother’s hard work that gave you such opportunities. Your academic success, they implied, was clearly derived from your ancestor’s hard work.

Meanwhile, Father proved just as effective at running the company into the ground as his father had before him. He was less effective at piloting a starship, as both your parents were killed in a tragic accident when their ship jumped too near the sun. That’s how you found yourself, 21 years old, at the helm of a large, mostly bankrupt, corporation. You utilized your business skills and began to diversify into many different areas. Within two years you had the company out of the red.

Within five years, you had reversed all the damage caused by Father. Two years after that and it was as wealthy as it had been when your great-grandmother died. Just over ten years after you had taken control, it was five times more valuable. The business journals talked about the amazing turn-around of your great-grandmother’s company. They spoke of the restoration of a once tarnished family name to glory. They mentioned your great-grandmother’s name more than yours.

You kept expanding your company, but no matter what you did, you could never seem to escape the shadow of the company’s founder. And then the Emperor announced his trade competition to name a new Star Tsar. You went over the rules with the scrutiny only a business magnate could muster. You put all the assets of your company into play.

The rules said that there could only be one pilot and one ship for entry into the contest. Well, you weren’t going to let the rules hold you back; you’d just work around them. You commandeered the design department of your shipyard holdings. A few days later you walked out and handed plans to the ship builders. It’s registered as a single space super-yacht. It’s not a rules violation if it happens to split into two independent, fully functioning ships.

To tackle the issue of piloting, you preempted your robotics R&D division. Working with the engineers, you designed a special virtual reality chamber allowing you complete control of two robot pilots. You didn’t even bother consulting with the prototypers — you just handed them designs for the robots and told them to get to building. Since you can only control one at a time, it still meets the rules. Your telecommunications subsidiary was prioritized with custom algorithms you wrote. They allow you to reroute transmissions to give you instantaneous commands and real-time control of each part of your “ship.”

The Emperor may control the galaxy, but he’s not the genius that you are. You know how to manipulate a contract, and you always read the fine print.

You are the Tycoon. Now is the time for the galaxy to learn your name.

Other Personalities:


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Star Traders: The Strategist

Category : Personalities

Generations of your family served with honor and distinction. You were raised on the stories of the glorious past — officers, enlisted, men and women, all of your ancestors who donned the uniform and served the Empire. You knew, even as a child, that was your destiny.

You parents provided encouragement; you began reading at early age, swiftly digesting every bit of military history you could find. Sun Tzu, Alexander, Patton, Schwarzkopf, Berezniki; all those and more became your inspiration. You read them all and studied their histories and analyses. At fourteen, you very solemnly informed your parents of your intention to apply to the elite military training institute on Card. They didn’t even try to dissuade you.

At school, your studies on the past continued, but they were augmented with more current military tactics. As all the plebes did, you started in the ranks of a small unit. You showed drive, intelligence, and the ability to adapt. You became a squad leader, then a platoon leader, then a company commander.  By the time of your graduation, you were the highest ranked cadet at the school, and their undefeated chess champion.

You petitioned the Imperial Senate for an appointment to the Naval Academy. You were accepted without hesitation. You were enrolled in the normal engineering and chemistry courses, physics and math. You were also put into some of the more advanced courses on Games and Theory. You went from the small unit tactics of the military school to the large-scale formations of space combat. Three dimensional mapping, stellar routes, fighter tactics, dreadnaught battles — you studied it all, and you studied it well. You observed tricks and strategies that instructors had all missed. They said you were a natural. You felt like this was something you were born to do.

Your work at the Academy earned you a commission and a position at the Naval War College. You continued to excel at your assignments. You found yourself on strategic planning committees, then promoted to the General Staff. You fought thousands of battles and countless scenarios in the simulator. Every time contingency plans were required, your name was the first to be mentioned.

You looked back on your accomplishments and you slowly came to a realization, and it was terrible: the galaxy was at peace and was going to remain that way. You continued to train, you continued with your contingency planning, but the zeal you once had was gone. You thought of all the glorious stories of your ancestors. Everything you had done with your life had been a preparation for events that would never come to pass. Part of you wanted to believe it was all for the best, that peace was better. Mostly you felt an empty hole where the sense of purpose had been. You finally had enough; you resigned your commission and tried to find a new sense of purpose.

You were drifting from system to system, still searching for that sense of purpose, when you heard of the trade competition. Rogue traders, entrepreneurs, everyone was going to join in. It would be chaos. The trade routes would be clogged and shifting, ships moving seemingly at random. No one would be able to make sense of all that. No one but you. You reached out to some old contacts from the military; they knew your skill and were eager to help.

You are the Strategist. Marshal your strengths and forge your way to victory.

Other Personalities:


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