Sometime in the next few weeks or months, Lost Battalion Games are hoping to have Traveller Ascension* up on Kickstarter. Based on my exposure to just the basic game, today at Consimworld, I’ll be pledging. Here’s what I can tell you, courtesy of an extended play, chat, play, discuss, play, and repeat session with the designer, Terry Coleman.
The basic package will be for 2 players, and priced at around $80. Stretch goals and all the usual Kickstarter stuff will provide the material for up to a 6 player game.
The setting, broadly speaking, is that each player represents a faction – a combination of a megacorps, political entity, interest group, and whatever – sent by the Emperor to reclaim some territory in space for the Imperium. So, each other player is not – necessarily – your enemy. However, if you want to be the King of the Hill, you might need to take certain measures.
You start off with a homeworld (with randomly generated stats), a scout ship, a destroyer, a diplomat, and a shadow agent. There are different scenarios, so setup may vary. In the very basic scenario, you and your opponents are trying to explore, settle, and develop the map area.
The map is a jigsaw cut rigid board with double sided square tiles. On one side, space. On the other side, after exploration, you might find a planet, an asteroid field, a gas giant, or nothing.
The spaceship, personnel, building, and planet counters and chits are high quality. You may get a flavor from the pictures, but be aware this is a playtest set and not final production. One really nice touch I liked was the nod to 2001: A Space Odyssey. When you draw your chit to establish a world’s stats, this comes in a miniature obelisk. Cool!
Red v Blue, playing it friendly. So far.
The game is card driven. The cards come in one of the following categories:
- Any (You can use as any other category)
Each card also has an event. So you can use your card for one of the actions of its type – for example, Military – or use it for the event. (If some bastard doesn’t steal it from you, first…)
You have an eight card hand. Each turn is normally six card driven actions, so there may be two cards you do not use. You can retain cards from turn to turn, if you wish.
Each turn of six cards is split into three: you put your three cards down in the first three action slots and resolve them. Then, having seen how the turn has gone, you get to put down your last three cards.
Where to, Mr Shadow Agent, Sir?
I may not be able to do justice to the mechanics, because the designer has packed in a ton of great stuff. Let’s see how I do. For example:
- Every card is rated for initiative, so who goes first is determined for each card play, not each turn.
- Every player has the same set of basic actions for each category of card. But each player has a different – and variable – set of tweaks for each category.
- There are limits on how many cards of a particular category you may play each turn. This is tracked with little action cubes.
- Some actions require diplomats or shadow agents to be on the board, and some require their presence on the actual planet where the action is happening.
- Scout ships are easier to move, because there are actions in several categories for them. Destroyers are not so nimble. I guess Cruisers are even less nimble.
- Spacecraft ratings are tracked with a neat display that allows for half and quarter point progression. For example, to go from a Jump capability of 1 to a capability of 2, takes two improvements. To go from 3 to 4 takes four improvements.
- Planets are not static resources, but living entities. They have a population which, if it gets unhappy, can overthrow you. By the same token, if you work at improving the lot of the people, and the planet’s status, you will earn points towards the win you crave.
- Planets come in four types: A, B, C, and D (from best to worst) with the type discovered determined by a random card draw. Each card has a planet type on it.
- You can build things other than ships – bases, factories, and embassies. Each has their own impact. But only a certain number of structures can go on each planet type in total. So, if you want to deny the opposing factions, you can do so by peaceful construction. Until…
- We did not have time for an actual combat – hey, we’re pacifists, Terry and I – but again it had some simple but interesting mechanics. Scouts roll 1d6, destroyers roll 1d8, and cruisers roll 1d10 with hits generated on a 6+. But combat may be close or long… And there might be disabled results… And don’t forget those cards with tricky special events. Suffice it to say, I got the impression that if you want to wage war, you will have fun doing it.
The actions display. Note the bespoke abilities at the bottom of each column, under the line. Also note the limits on the use of each action/category shown by the blank spaces for block to go on.
I gave Terry some feedback. Probably the only slightly negative part was that I didn’t necessarily see a great Traveller connection. It’s a cool – very cool – science fiction game, but where is the Traveller universe aspect? Terry explained that there are bits to the game that we did not get to, especially in the advanced game, that give a distinct Traveller feeling. I am happy to take him on trust at that. It’s not that important to me in the sense that, having played the game, I will want it anyway because it is a great game.
“The shields cannae take it, captain!”
So, a great game is on the way by the looks of things. I expect this to give a great multi player experience. It was fun to play just going through the basics. Now, if you can stab people in the back, sow dissension, and spread rumors…
Incidentally, Terry claims this is all covered by a 16 page rulebook, so the level of complexity is not high. I should mention that he has taken care in the design so that there is a sort of internal consistency with the systems. That does make it easier to learn how to play. And, there is a big benefit in even just the basics because of the high level of replayability of the game.
Thanks to Terry for time taken. I hope it’s a success for him and LBG.
[*I think that’s the name, but forgot to check. I cannot find anything about it on the LBG site, or anywhere else.]