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Primary Engines


My natural inclination with games is to see them in a very abstract fashion, which while working on Gaslands with Mike Hutchinson worked very well. Mike's natural inclination is towards something chaotic and fun on the assumption that people will iron out the house rules for details as they play. My inclination is towards something tactical and controlled on the assumption that when a group of friends get around a table the fun narrative happens naturally. That combination is why in a game of Gaslands you can very carefully plan to cross the finish line upside down and on fire. What it meant for this solo project was that we got some quite cold, intellectual elements in the Alpha version.

The basic structures of the game were there from the start. The ship consists of 9 internal locations and 4 external locations, each of which has a series of abilities relating to the crews ongoing survival and success. The two primary engines of threat were tied in to those initial locations, oxygen and morale. Crew need oxygen for obvious reasons and consume it continually, the ship locations allow its production, control its consumption and allow its loading up to leave the ship. Morale is required for crew to act alone; as missions fail and friends die or threats gather morale drains until terrified and depressed crew become unable to operate effectively. Ship locations provide and protect crew morale. Insufficient initial oxygen levels were an early decision, they give the basic impetus of the game, provide the crew with a challenge even if aliens and deranged A.I. were to leave them be. They were also part of an early decision for the game to be based on base 6 throughout. The game length is based on working through each game's challenge deck, 24 cards which tell a particular story of a specific threat. The challenge deck is flipped each turn, bringing all manner of threats and raising missions to deal with the problems it causes. Missions skip challenge cards, hastening the end of the game and the victory of any players still alive.

Another element present from the initial iteration of the game was the crew's rank tokens. Crew vote for missions, their timing can be vital for success or failure alike, and they vote with their rank tokens; the Captain can be over ruled but only by a collective response. But rank tokens also track a sense of guilt, when a voted for mission goes wrong and lives are lost morale is the cost. Further, various locations on the ship allow crew to be disposed of in various ways. Many games have a semi-co-op element based upon handing someone a card telling them to turn on their companions but in SSO betrayal is simply an option, always available but never forced.

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