Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Battle Beyond Space

I've been mentioning & writing about Frank Branham's prototype, Battle Beyond Space, almost since this blog began (the first mention I can find of it was April 19, 2005 - just about 4 years ago.) I've pointed out pictures of the prototype, I've agitated for someone to publish the game, I've gone on & on about how much I like this 45 minute card-driven epic space battle...

...and FINALLY someone wised up and is going to put it out there where the rest of you can enjoy it! Zev from Z-Man is going to publish it. Now, it's not due to release until sometime in 2010, but I couldn't be happier that it is going to receive the exposure it so richly deserves.

What follows is a quickie rules explanation published by Frank over on BGG:
The rules are very, very simple...almost Carrier Strike simple.

Each player starts with 2 Capital Ships, and 18 fighters organized into 3 squadrons. The game is 9 turns, and you have a card for each turn. The board is filled with open space, asteroids and a few victory point markers in the center.

On your turn, you play the card you drew at the end of last turn. The cars has you do the following in this order:
  1. Move one squadron EXACTLY X hexes forward.
  2. Have all ships in the moving squadron fire straight ahead 5 hexes.
  3. Turn fighters in the moving squadron up to Y hexsides.
  4. Move and turn one capital ship up to Z action points. (one action point per forward hex or 60 degree move.)
  5. Fire at one target in any direction within 2 hexes.

All shots do one point of damage. Fighters die with one point of damage, capital ships take 2.

At the end of the game, killed fighters are 1 point each, cap ships are 4 points each.

Each player also has a secret weapon dealt out at random from a deck of 12. Some of these are one shot Death Blossom-like things, some are permanent powers.

A squadron is 6 small ships of the same type. They tend to fly in formation, but a squadron can split formation and go off in different directions

That is actually almost the game. No dice to determine damage--being in front of someone is simply your death. Notice also that fighters only turn AFTER moving and firing. You know the direction a player's next fighter attack can come from, but not the range. There are enough fighters on the map that almost nowhere is safe after the first turn.

You have 20 ships to start, and after 9 turns, you only have 0-8 left.

From the same thread, here's some design notes:

I started the design after watching the big giant mega-huge space battle at the climax of Babylon 5. I really wanted to play a big, giant space battle with dozens of ships per side. And so I went on a grand tour of space battle games...and the idea of big giant battle done quickly is 6-8 ships per side in "only 3-4 hours". (Silent Death might be the fastest. I bet you could get a 20 ship battle in 3 hours.)

Still, it took me years to rip things out and trim out choices to get the thing down to 30-60 minutes with 60-80 ships. So the folks looking for Star Fleet Battles in an hour are gonna keep looking. (There are far too many decisions and detail even in Federation Commander to play more than a tiny battle in an hour.) This is more of a simple, fairly fluffy beat-em-up...but with far less luck that is typical.

The odd thing about this game is that there aren't a lot of choices. You get to move a single squadron, and a single cap ship each turn. So there are only really four choices each turn:

  1. Which squadron to move.
  2. The new facing for each ship in the squadron for next turn.
  3. Which and where to move a cap ship
  4. What to have the cap ship shoot at.

That's not a lot of choices, and that's why the game plays quickly. The choices are sometimes easy but not always. And the end result is a pretty light little game.

The picture is by Sterling Babock and the guy in the picture is the designer, Frank Branham.

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

Hey Mark,
I've heard you mention it before, but I've never actually played it. I'll have to ask Frank to bring it to Oasis or GG. :-) Thanks for reminding me!