The Turku-Helsinki Grand Prix
When I describe Traveller to family, friends, gaming associates, coworkers, or whomever, I typically start my explanation by saying “It’s a race game.”
What do I mean by that?
Magic: The Gathering can be viewed as a race to reducing your opponent’s life total to zero or racing to mill out the opponent’s deck. Vampire: The Eternal Struggle can be viewed as racing multiple prey’s pool to zero.
Yes, Traveller has bankruptcy. And, as evidenced by showing a couple of friends just recently how to play, it’s far more important than you think when you first start playing. But, the usual driver in play is crossing a finish line of 20+ before the opponent. This leads to some important considerations when developing for the game.
My first “professional” playtesting was with the Babylon 5 CCG. How much the experience became multiplayer solitaire for any given game led to such amusing concepts as the TH Rating (Turku-Helsinki), where I came up with a list of questions for one’s play group to determine how interactive the metagame was. “Race” games, in my mind, are games where you don’t need to interact with your opponent in order to win.
The questions were my flippant way of speaking to something that I saw as a problem when people analyzed Babylon 5. Two different metagames were playing … um … two different games. The Turku style was speed and reduced interaction, whereas Helsinki was more inclined to messing with opponents, what could be termed a “negative play.” Now, Babylon 5 was intended to be a four player game (and played in tournaments as a 3-5 player game), so messing with one opponent just meant you and your target were losing resources while the other opponent(s) weren’t. Two-player games are very different when it comes to negative plays.
Most of the questions are meaningless outside of B5. But, they are all variations on the same theme: are you choosing to include cards in your decks that slow down your opponent at the cost of slowing yourself down and/or are you making in game decisions that do the same thing?
We didn’t want Traveller to be a low interaction game. As much as building the fastest deck to 20 is also an activity that can be interesting, there’s a limit to how interesting that is, as there will always be a fastest deck or a few fastest decks and games between these decks would just come down to whoever got the best draws. What opens up variety in deck construction and what often engages players is interaction with the opponent.
are sometimes easy and sometimes impossible. While it’s often the case that someone will look at the side of an adventure card to determine whether to include it, caring more about the side is an option.
Suppressing skills, blanking text, or less subtle ways to deal with are all tools we decided players should have access to. Collectively, we call these plays “crew control.”
In playtesting, the cards that got the most complaints were . Even Tear Gas Canister got complaints, yet exerting tends to be more of a defensive play than offensive play. The bias may be on offense at the moment due to the desire to have a reasonable number of options in the game to allow for removing opposing from play as a way to interact with an opponent and prevent the game from just going to the faster deck (or faster draw).
Why have Armor Penetration as a keyword? So that crew with Armor can’t just ignore wounding effects. Aggravated Assault may be a thematic effect for but suppressing skills with was as much to give players options for impeding opponents as it was thematic ways to make use of skills. Concealed is a way to counteract an opponent messing with your cards that has the feature that it doesn’t completely stop someone from messing with your cards if it’s critically important to do so.
The danger with the number and potency of crew control effects is that it becomes too unreliable to keep in play and reduces someone’s fun, not because they can’t play without their , but because players often want to get use out of the cards they play.
That Alien Persecution exists affects my interest in putting on non-humans. While Alien Persecution addresses that some of the non-humans may be harder to remove than normal due to additional or Armor, we don’t intend on making more than a few cards quite as extreme as Alien Persecution. When we do think of effects that can just jettison or disperse a card or return a card to hand, we don’t just consider giving them high costs and low but also consider restrictions on the effect.
Crew control tends to be my first concern in terms of fun interactions, but upgrade control can be just as crippling. In particular, the Type S Scout is often looking for extra capability tokens even for , and it may really need a Modular Hold or LSP Multi-Phased Array in play to not get continuously stymied or be pushed to low reward . A TH Rating question for Traveller could be something like: “Do you put Engineering Kit in decks even when you don’t need the skill?”
I just played a game where I used Sabotage to remove Efficiency Diagnostic. It didn’t matter to the end result, however we published a decent number of cards that can disrupt your opponent’s strategic plan without speeding up your acquisition of . TH Rating wasn’t about whether the game pushed players to more contentious or less contentious, it was about whether your local metagame chose to play more for quick, less interactive victories or for slower, more interactive ones.
We are playtesting for new cards. Jeff and I have definitely kept in mind the idea that there may not be enough defenses or good enough defenses in the game against dedicated crew control or against fierce piracy decks sweeping up all of a player’s . A good race may involve some jostling, but we don’t want it to come down to whoever kneecaps the opponent first.