Rage-design: A Less Shitty Version of Impulse


#41

With Nuri’s health issues this year, this has largely been shelved.

Until this week.

A friend of mine has been crashing with us while he’s at a training for work. He played the original version of the game and hated it, so he was very interested to see what I had done with it.

I incorporated a couple of changes that I had postulated after my last playtest.


Alpha 0.3

Changelog

  1. Basic Command Tech changed to “Command one two-ship fleet for one move”
  2. If you forego both actions in your turn, you may draw one extra card
  3. Impulse trim length is equal to the number of players

Playtest Report

White v. Purple

Starting State: White: Command 3Y; Purple: Mine 3G; Purple goes first
Final Score: White 12 or 14 (I forget which), Purple 20+

Turns Taken: 7 White, 8 Purple

General Strategies:

White tried an initially aggressive posturing strategy using chained Command actions to jump in Purple’s shorts and apply pressure from the outset while blockading the Sector Core. Unfortunately, White wrote checks his ass couldn’t cash and got sent packing.

Purple was smart and solidified a power base with a total fleet of 8 ships before running its engine full blast; Mine/Refine generated more than half of his points, with the rest coming from combat and Sector Core dominance. Be like Purple.

Comments

My friend said that this is superior to the base game. It was actually enjoyable! The tighter Impulse and fewer actions definitely makes the game run smoother and helps you keep a better handle on what’s going on, as well as making most decisions actually meaningful.

I played White and wound up losing because I failed to back up my posturing. I made a mistake in my second or third turn by Commanding a fleet with my basic Tech when I should have exploited a Build action in the Impulse to develop my fleet. I let that go by, and my opponent took that action on his next turn and then it was gone from the Impulse, and that was the most effective Build action in the entire game.

The tighter Impulse means what I wanted it to mean: you have to decide whether or not to capitalize on an opportunity, or it’s gone forever. So, that works as intended. A longer Impulse would leave options kicking around longer, and you could be lazy about capitalizing. Pegging it to the number of players means it will change steadily over the course of the game, no matter how large a game you’re playing.

We concur that there needs to be some kind of basic Plan ability. This has come up consistently in ever session and remains the single part of the game that sees the least engagement. Why have a thing if you never do it? I had a two-card Plan once in the game, and that was really because I didn’t have something better to do. Probably would’ve been better off Building more ships to be honest.

Combat is very chance-dependent, more than I’d like. Reinforcements are basically a crapshoot, and because of the aforementioned Plan problem, one of the major sources of reinforcement is completely out of your control and almost never comes up. So, I need a couple of ways to add a little more control, while also making sure there’s enough chaos to keep it risky and to prevent lucky draws from turning one player into a steamroller - you should have to build that steamroller, not just get it handed to you.

I slightly screwed up a rule because I forgot to enforce it: I allowed Transports sitting on a card to count for boost alongside a sole transport that activated the card. It didn’t feel that broken, to be honest, so I might continue toying with that. It would also remove an annoying conditional, and would allow me to say something simple like “all Transports count as wild gems for the cards they are on,” and that in and of itself might fix the “holding territory” problem I mentioned earlier.

It still doesn’t feel very 4X-like, and I think that might have to do with the setup. The tightness and closeness of the game make it feel like you’re playing the last 20% of a 4X game - development has already happened and now everyone has marched to war. If I can figure out a way to slow it down just a touch, maybe with one or two turns in low-level development before we get to the main event, I might be able to evoke a fuller 4X feel.

Thoughts and Possible Changes

A basic Plan action

The Plan phase is now “Plan/Delay/Implement;” you may either discard a card from your hand to Plan a card of its size, make no changes, or Implement your Plan and take all of its actions. I will leave the Plan size at a max of 4 (it would make sense to me to make it Impulse-sized, but I don’t use it enough to know if that matters) until I have more data about how well it works.

This would mean your turn is:

  1. Take up to two actions (Tech/Impulse and/or Add to Do); if you take no action, draw a card
  2. Plan/Delay/Implement
  3. Cleanup: score Sector Core points, draw two cards, trim the Impulse

That seems much less confusing than the base game.

Farther down the line, if Plan winds up being useful, I could even seen making a choice between Acting or Planning - you either take up to two actions, OR you take no action, draw a card, and get your Plan phase. Not now, though - need to see how Plan actually plays out.

Minerals in Combat

To add an extra layer of control, minerals could count as reinforcements during combat. Expend them? Probably, because it’s a way to turn them into points. This will be tried after Plan changes.

Smaller Initial Hand Size

You have a lot of options to start with. I think dealing each player 3 cards (instead of 5) to start and then going through the usual setup would get you going faster and more smoothly by reducing AP and also possibly slightly slow rampant power growth.

Bigger Galaxy

To up the 4X feel, I could add the extra ring of cards by default. That would give everyone an extra buffer and a chance to actually build before getting to the action.

Progression of Power

One thing I noticed is that all power levels are available from the outset, which promotes the “end state” feel of the game. One possible variation is to intentionally grade the “rings” of cards a la Eclipse: the ring around the Sector Core is comprised of Size 3 cards, the next ring out is Size 2, and then the third ring is all Size 1. Start everyone in Size 1, and deal the initial hand from Size 1. Then shuffle everything together and play as normal. This means that you will all start with weak tech, but you will be able to draw and see more powerful options towards which you can build.


No matter what, the Plan changes are getting implemented because it keeps coming up, and it’s a whole chunk of the game that just doesn’t happen. That’s dumb.

As always, feel free to play along at home and tell me what you think!


#42

I wouldn’t have guessed /s :wink:


#43

So my friend took off before I could get one more game in, but I didn’t let that stop me.

I finally started writing up a basic A.I. script for self-playtests - it’s mostly just a list of action priority, placement priority, and tiebreaking rules, but it works as a guideline. A.I. generated about 2.5 points per turn. I’ll tweak it a bit based on my notes from this game and then post it for others to use if they so desire.

Alpha 0.4

Changelog

  1. “Use or delay Plan” is now “Develop, Delay, or Discharge” - you may discard a card to Plan a card of its size, hold off, or use all of the actions in your Plan in the order in which they were played there (you must Discharge a plan when it has 4 or more cards).

  2. Initial hand size is 4 cards.

  3. When activating a card with a Transport fleet, all Transports on the card (whether they just moved or were already there) count as minerals for boosting purposes.

Playtest Report

White vs. Green A.I.*

Starting State: White: Mine R3; Green: Build B2
Final Score: White: 21, Green: 12

Turns Taken: White 7, Green 6

A.I. plays pretty aggressively to the center. Actually almost won by wiping me out (it took out my patrolling Cruiser and was one turn away from destroying my Transport fleet). White won with a size 3 Mine and size 3 Refine combo, which is of course powerful. Mined from the deck and turned them into points as much as possible.

Having 4 cards was occasionally irritatingly restrictive, which is probably a good thing. About half of the turns I took involved me using the two cards I drew the round before - very Innovation-esque in that regard.

I used the basic “discard a card to Plan” action once (as did the A.I.), and it came in very handy - I won the game by pulling off a 9-point Refine using that Planned action right as Green was about to destroy me. This indicates to me that the default number of actions per turn (2) is probably correct, since adding one more was a power move. The A.I. also used its Planned action to gain something like 6 points in a single turn by consolidating its Cruisers and destroying me.

I would like to see Plans with more cards, but this was enough to tell me that I’m probably on the right track.

May drop down to 3 cards to start with to force very hard choices - but my concern there is that you’ll just wind up playing with the two cards you drew last time. On the other hand, that might lead to people opting to not act in order to draw an extra card at an opportune moment - I know I considered doing that twice, but both times wound up taking actions instead.

At this stage, I could almost call this a Beta game - all the necessary moving parts have been implemented and tested to make sure they work passably, and now from here I need more data and refining of those parts. Time to put down the machete and pick up the draw knife.

Definitely need 4-player games. I may try that by making two variants of the A.I. script and seeing how it all plays out together.

Starting to wonder if going 1st is a significant advantage now - it’s two games in a row that the first player won on their turn. Only more playtests will tell.


#44

[EDIT]

After revision, this AI no longer works.


#45

@no_fun_girl and @pkerr2 visited this weekend, and as is my prerogative as an exemplary host, I forced them to dance for my amusement.

Playtest Report

Changelog

  1. I decided to try out a streamlined expression of the two actions you could take:
    “You may take up to two actions on your turn. For each action, you may do one of the following:
    -Use one Tech or one action in the Impulse
    -Place a card in the Impulse and then use an Impulse action
    -Draw one card
    You may not use a given Tech or Impulse action more than once per turn.”

  2. I don’t think this is a new change per se, but one I think I forgot to document: max hand size is 10, but instead of stopping drawing at 10 (like in the base rules), you discard down to 10 at the end of your turn after you draw.

Playtest Report

Purple vs. Green vs. Blue

Starting State: Blue: Refine G3; Purple: Mine R3?; Green: Mine R1?
Final Score: Blue 20, Purple 15, Green 9?

Turns Taken: I thiiiiiiiiiink 7 or 8 turns each?

Comments:

This was another fun experience with the redesign, so I’m gaining more confidence that this is a worthwhile project, and that I’m on the right track here. There were meaningful strategic choices, some hard choices, escalation of game state, and Chudyk madness.

Tons of Mining came out this game. Minerals like woah. It definitely created a nice pace of escalation.

I messed up explaining Sabotage, so @no_fun_girl didn’t wind up using their T3 Sabotage. That definitely would’ve made the game more interesting, so I’m gonna make sure to get that one right in the future.

A full action reference would probably be useful.

The T2 Build action is too powerful, or at least it’s out of balance compared to the rest of the action tree.

The change to Plan definitely lead to more Plan usage, in all the ways I intend it to be used - Purple and Green used it to enhance their military effectiveness, Blue used it as a burst of actions, and everyone used it a few times. One suggestion was to allow the discarding of either a card from your hand OR one of your Minerals. This seems fine, because that’s a bigger cost than a hand card, but also allows you to use your Plan in a desperate rush (which I support).

The change from forgoing two actions to draw one card to forgoing one action to draw one card seems necessary - I was afraid of hand bloat, but it never happened. Lots of cards fly around in this game, so keeping up the flow is important.

My change to the action phase also revealed a consequence: the Impulse stagnates after a handful of turns, once everyone has built a power base. My as-written action choice dichotomy (one Tech/Impulse, one Add/Impulse) means that taking two actions (which you want to do) forces you to engage the Impulse. Freeing those choices means the Impulse stops mattering, and everyone plays parallel games of Solitaire. The shared action economy (a cornerstone of the Chudyk flavors I enjoy) disappears.

Revision Ideas

T2 Build: A pretty simple fix is to change it so that you generate one quantity of ships spread out among several places (instead of duplicated in several places).

Action Phase: I see two primary options to maintain Impulse engagement:

Two different choices: This is my ruleset as-written. In addition, instead of taking either action, you may instead draw one card. The thing I don’t like is that it’s not really that elegant to explain, and I’m a fan of elegant rules that can be expressed simply.

A List of Options, with a Twist: I can still express it as “take two actions; each action has these 3 options” (or we turn Draw into a basic Tech) as long as there’s something to incentivize Impulse engagement. This led to a neat idea that I like, and I’m calling it the Doomsday Clock:

-At the end of a round in which no card was added to the Impulse, add one card from the top of the deck face down to the end of the Impulse, and trim as needed. If there are no face-up cards in the Impulse at the end of a round, the game ends and the player with the high score wins.

This incentivizes Impulse engagement while also adding an element of group politics that absolutely fits a 4X game.

T1 Refine

It was suggested that the T1 Refine ability be altered to refine multiple cards for 1 point per gem, rather than one card for a boostable number of points. That seems alright.

Faction Abilities

The unique Basic Tech that every faction currently has is pretty much useless in this new version, so I’m thinking about replacing it with some faction-specific ability that relates to one of the actions not already covered by Basic Techs or other innate abilities.

Marketplace

One suggestion for an addition was a marketplace - a place where you could ditch Minerals to purchase Super Techs or something like that. It would add another layer of development and differentiation to the factions, which helps the 4X feel.

Alternative Game Length

With actions being so effective, games are fast - not just time-wise, but also in terms of your development arc. This isn’t necessarily bad, but toying around with the point goal, or saying something like “highest score after x rounds” would definitely change strategies and perhaps give the game a longer arc.


Right now, I’m going to focus on getting the basic interactions in the game nailed down before I go adding things. So, that means fixing T2 Build, Impulse engagement, and the small change to allow you to ditch Minerals in order to Plan.

I’m pretty excited for the potential this project has!


#46

ahem, as the originator of the idea, I demand your so-called Doomsday Clock be referred to as its correct name, Dead Impulse.

But also, I really wish there had been a way to retcon the game, because my boosted sabotage would have completely changed the flow.


#47

I GUESS YOU’LL JUST HAVE TO PLAY AGAIN.

But seriously, bombing us from across the map would’ve made that the full-on political Chudyk masterpiece I dream of.


#48

the funny thing was, it was red. and I had (and could continue to) mine red minerals.

YALL WOULDA BEEN DOOMED
COME AT ME BRO

(nah, I’d probably just be eliminated viciously by whomever survived the battle at the galactic core)


#49

I need to buy Tabletop Simulator and work on getting this thing recreated in there.

Should probably make an official rules doc to compile all this nonsense.

EDIT: The discussion about Sabotage reminds me that I nerfed it when I made the new actions, so I probably need to revisit that.


#50

Quick thought while it’s in my head:

6 factions
6 player mats
6 combinations of 2 each of 4 colors (R/B, R/G, R/Y, B/G, B/Y, Y/G)

In addition to giving each faction a basic power (probably +1 to one of the four actions you can’t already do), I could also make the common Basic Tech equivalent to a T1 of two colors, for the purposes of reinforcements in combat. That gives everyone a little bit of a basic military boost along with two color paths to pursue.


#51

I have tabletop simulator. The UI is so bad that I haven’t figured out how to use it for anything, even with tutorials. If you want to simulate some tabletop, and you can help me get it to work, I am down.


#52

A lot of folks in /r/boardgames swear by it, so it has to be doable. Lemme do some poking.


#53

They are very tolerant of bad user interfaces. Remember, these are the kind of people who are happy to use software like Mega Mek or VASSAL.


#54

Welp, for anyone who wants to play along at home, I put together a compiled doc that I’m calling the current Beta. Made a couple of untested changes that’ll probably shake out fine and make the game more interesting.

I’ll be modifying the print-and-play docs I bashed up and putting those out too. If you are unlucky enough to own a copy of the game, you can make the changes readily enough with reference cards, Post-Its, and other such things.

[Link removed - see below]

So, if you’re inclined to play this sucker at home, go nuts. Just lemme know how it goes and toss suggestions to the email address in the doc. I’ll probably ignore like 90% of suggestions, but it can’t hurt!

I put a summary of changes and current thoughts up front. The rest of the doc is me rewriting the rulebook to hopefully suck less ass, and the last few pages are a full list of the actions with their size and color distribution and clarifying rules.


#55

So to be clear this is still a mod and not a stand-alone at this time? I’d be willing to try it out but I aints gots Impulse. So once a print and play standalone is up maybe I’ll get in on it


#56

Technically, you could grab index cards and a Sharpie to make it work. You’d have to figure out ships, though.


#57

K, here are the cards as a print-and-play.

[Link removed - see below]

These include the 108 deck cards, the Galactic Center, and instead of making 6 player mats, I made 6 faction cards that you can attach to a generic player mat.

Working on a player mat, so expect that soonish.

Soon as I can find some appropriate open-source clipart, I’m gonna try doing ships as print-and-play chits or something like that.


#58

Ignore the previous two links.

I stuck everything in one folder:

https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=1hbQRzrl3GRx4blB6SWzHHLgGOF05qGTm

That’s the rulebook, action cards, Galactic Center, Faction Cards, a new Prestige Track, player mats, and even print-and-play ship tokens. This is everything you need to print and play this at home.


#59

I’ll give it a shot. I have victims.


#60

Someone on BGG is like “I think you’re a retheme away from having a completely different game.”

Probably not wrong.

Space Rome? I like Space Rome.