Malcolm and I played Spaceaton the other night, and I have to say this was the first time I’ve had serious doubts about the viability of the rules changes. On the one hand, this is good because it means we’re getting useful information for refining the rules. On the other hand, it’s kind of discouraging and makes for some difficult play.
Malcolm is fond of the heavy Battleships, and he built a couple of very nice ones that he was very keen to see in play. I had a slightly lighter force, but still with a couple of cruisers. This meant that with the “one pip per white die” movement rule, we both had very slow ships, with little ability to turn to stay in the fight.
The result was inevitable: “Spaceship jousting”. Our fleets approached, engaged, and then rolled on past each other, with no possibility to stay and fight. We captured each others’ stations, resulting in a win for the defender, but it was a very unsatisfying game.
The problem was the inability of the bigger ships to change facing or speed at all, meaning the direction you commit them to at the start of the game is how they’re going to stay for the whole battle. I like the idea of that, and I was really pleased with the concept of choosing your battleships’ speed and direction as a major strategic decision. In practice though, it makes for boring play. Malcolm and I spent a long time deliberating over the best fix for the problem, creating all kinds of complicated rules, before coming to the conclusion that simple is best. There’s no reason for battleships to be less mobile than a smaller ship. All ships should be able to move their vector marker the number shown on their movement die.
With that modification in place, we’re keen to play again. There are a few specific rules we’re interested in reviewing.
Stations don’t quite feel right in a space game, but they’re essential to the strategic play of the game. You need some element that forces you to divide your fleet, to spread out over the battlefield. Without that, it’s just a straight-up brawl with the win going to the biggest fleet or the luckiest player. I’ll be thinking about the problem a lot.