The RWinder has made a new Make as You Play game, called Star Charter. It starts with a hex map of the galaxy, 18 blank cards, and some cubes to track your journey. This combined with some tables to generate worlds, and the objective to “discover” 3 new worlds each game, and you have a very simple game, with limitless scope. They asked for play testers, and I eagerly put my hand up. I will be tracking my progress, and explaining how the game works. I do this, in an effort to come to a deep understanding of the mechanics, and how I might utilise them in my own games. Specifically, I want to create the simplest form of “Shipwrecked on an Island” game.
Multi Use Cards
The cards in Star Charter have 3 main uses.
- RNG – They all have a number from 1 to 6 on them in the bottom right corner. When ever you need a random number, you discard the top card of the deck and use that number.
- FUEL – The all have a Fuel value in the top left corner. If you need to spend fuel to travel somewhere, you need to discard cards from your hand equal to that cost, if possible, or going over by the smallest amount.
- WORLDS – They have the important information of a world that has been chartered, and can be played into the Travel line when you chart a journey. From top to bottom; the sector it is in, its name, the – biome, the – society and (an) interesting trait(s) of the world.
There are 36 blank hexes, numbered from 11 to 66, surrounding the 37th space, a super black hole at the center of the galaxy. The idea of the game is to chart as long a journey as possible, and visit/chart 3 new worlds. If you successfully chart a 3rd world, you win.
There is a prologue before you play your first game, where you generate 6 hub worlds, 1 in each of the sectors of the inner ring. This means a third of the deck is seeded with places you can visit, thereby extending your journey. I generate the world names by visiting 3 random Wiki pages, and choosing names that I find appealing. The rest of the info I looked up in tables found in the game rules. I discard cards and using the random numbers that came up, I look up rows and columns to find the keywords. I’m not going to go into specifics there, because it’s not mine to share, but I think you get the gist. My deck now contains these worlds.
These seed worlds have 0 fuel, but they are all hub worlds, the first world found in a sector. They have a Star under the fuel space, and their map sector is named after them. There is also a space lane connecting each world, to the world on either side of them. These space lanes and hub worlds, make travel cheaper, which will be more important as the game develops. Travel around the inner ring of the galaxy costs 0 fuel, but it costs more as you venture further out.
I only generate one trait of interest on each world, because I am more interested in the mechanics of exploration. But if you want to play as a creative writing exercise, you can note a journal page on each card, generate more traits, and write descriptive paragraphs, based on the information at hand.
Game 1 – Turn 1
I shuffle the full 18 cards of the deck, and then discard a card until I reveal a prologue world; in this case, Carax at sector 66. This is the starting world of my Journey, and I place it in the left position of the travel line, underneath the map. And I place a purple cube on that hex, to show I am visiting a previously discovered world. Then I deal myself a hand of 5 cards.
I’m hoping to get a world that is adjacent to the rightmost card in the travel line. I want a 55. or a 11., but I don’t get either. I do have 44. Sophronica though, so I’m going to head in that direction. I visit sector 55., to create a new world. I draw an asterisk in the 55. Hex, to indicate a secondary world. I place an orange cube on the hex to indicate a new world, place one of my blank cards to the right most spot on the travel line, and I discard a blank card to pay for the fuel cost, which is 0 whilst traveling in the inner ring.
I then create the world on the card. There is one card to the left of it, so it gets a Fuel value of 1. I visit three random wiki pages, and I choose Medama as the world name, from a species of moth. I discard two lots of 4 cards to assign the world as an “Ice” biome, and a “Collective” society. Then I discard two lots of 3 cards to give it the trait of “Sustainable Banks”.
You will notice that after the starting Travel card, my hand of 5 cards, and discarding 14 cards to create the first world, I have already worked my way through the deck of 18 cards one full time. This is the value of a multi-use deck. After playing a blank card to the travel line, and discarding 1 for fuel, I have 3 cards in hand. I draw back up to 5, and it’s time for turn 2.
Game 1 – Turn 2
I’m going to sector 44. next, with the Sophronica card I have in hand. I play the card to the right of the travel line, and place a purple cube on that sector. The journey costs 0 fuel, but I still have to discard a card to pay for it. This is a great way of getting rid of cards you don’t want, but you can’t pay more fuel than you need, just to get rid of your cards. However, because 0 cost fuel cards don’t increase the amount of fuel you pay, they can always be discarded.
The only card I have with a world on it, is card 55. Phyrneta. It’s a rule of the game that you can’t visit a sector twice, so that world card is no good to me right now. As I don’t have any cards I want to keep, I discard my total hand (for a fuel value of 0), in the hopes I will get a 33 or a 22 card. Then I draw 5 new cards.
You will notice that 55. Medama does not have a star under the fuel value. Because it is the second world discovered in a sector, it is not a hub world. More on the differences later.
Game 1 – Turns 3 & 4
I pick up some blank cards, and 22. Linder which I’ll use on the next turn. So I write an asterisk in sector 33, place an orange cube on the map, and place a blank card to the right of the travel line. I discard a card to pay for fuel, then go through the steps of creating a new world. And 33. Oli is added to the deck, which has a fuel value of 3, because there are 3 cards to the left of it. It is an “Ice Collective” world, with “Strong Insects”, which is quite evocative.
I draw cards, though I don’t need them, to get my hand size to 5. And then play 22. Linder to the travel line on turn 4, and place a purple cube in that sector.
Game 1 Final Turn
I’m just going to take a second, to point out some of the strategy in Star Charter, and show how it builds over time. The longest journey you can make in the first game of Star Charter is 6 worlds. This is because it costs fuel to travel from an inner ring sector to a middle ring sector, and all the cards in your deck have 0 fuel. You are creating the first non-zero fuel cards in your first game, but they are all on your travel line, so you can not access that fuel yet. You can use that fuel during subsequent games to travel further out from the center of the galaxy. This is the elegance of the design, and one of the ways future games truly build on previous ones. The longer your journeys, which will be easier to achieve with more worlds in your deck, the larger the fuel cards you create. There will be examples in future posts.
So, the perfect first game of Star Charter, visits 3 previously existing worlds, and then creates 3 new worlds, with fuel of 3, 4 & 5. The worst game would be having to create 3 new worlds immediately, with fuel of 1, 2 & 3. I’m not even sure this is possible, because you are going through the deck quite a few times in your first game, so you are almost guaranteed to pick up some prologue worlds you can revisit. But the important thing I want to bring up is that I had 11. Parajong in my final hand of the game. I could have played that in the travel line on my last turn. But I would not have created 3 new worlds, and I would have lost the game. So I obviously didn’t do that. I created a new world, which has a fuel value of 5. My total journey for game 1 looks like this.
I now have 9 worlds in my 18 card deck, and 3 cards with fuel. I’m hoping to have some fuel cards for my last turn of the next game, so I can reach the middle ring. It generally costs 6 fuel to travel from the inner ring to the middle ring. However, if you travel along a space lane, either to or from a hub world, the fuel cost is halved. And the first time I travel to a new middle ring sector, I would be creating the hub world AND a space lane, so it would only cost me 3 fuel to make that first jump. However, traveling from a middle ring sector to a middle ring sector costs 12 fuel (with the cost halved when using space lanes to hub worlds). So I’m going to need a more regular supply of fuel before I can start doing trips around the middle ring.
Game 2 in another post.
This is a post about the design and development of a currently unnamed Shipwreck Game. You can see the other Blog posts at the Index for the Game.