Sunday, April 8, 2012

Barbarian Suns 2.77

Overview
Barbarian Suns is very dear to me as it was my first collaborative effort with dozens of play-testers.  It grew from a simple game in the basement of a friend to something that redefined my thinking about myth-making and game-design.  I would say it was my first attempt at object-oriented design; this was back in 1987.  The game has been designed and tested very deeply.  At one point I was seriously considering publishing the game, but I wasn't ready for the cost.  It is an old design and the art I had was minimalistic because my layout skills weren't quite what they are today.

Barbarian Suns is a 4X game [ explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate ] and leans heavily into consim territory.  The backdrop of the game tells the story of humanity conquest of the our time-locked galaxy and the eventual conquest and break-through to reality.  I borrowed some ideas from Joseph W. Campbell, Richard Dawkins, Isaac Asimov, A.E. Van Vogt, James Blish, and H.P. Lovecraft to create the back story of the game.  Well, anyways; the principal idea was to take the concept of Manifest Destiny to its conclusion. What if the Universe was indeed alive and that it was anthropocentric?  What if memes could affect on the mega-scale?

For all of that fluffy-stuff, I created the Ovoidium Cosmogos.  I detail it at kitrok.blogspot.com.  It drove the story-telling engine of the FYBS game-system; a role-playing system that covered parallel universes a la Hugh Everett's Many Worlds interpretation.  I'll bring that to the public sometime in the future; there are many game ideas in potential there.

The Avausim
"Avausim" is the emotional name of the Milky Way galaxy as identified by the inter-galactic cult the "Galactic Believers".  In ornivoxas [ "lingo-latin" ] they call themselves the Undilimicus.  So, the image shown here is the 12x12 playing-field grid for the Barbarian Suns game.  I used a square-grid because it was easy to draw and it also embodied the four primary meta-cultures that are part of the mythology.

The Barbarian Suns game-board is atop the galaxy.

The Historical Galaxy
Here's the historical layout of the Milky Way galaxy around 2152 AD.  Earth is a mere province within the benevolent but dysfunctional Galactic Empire known as the "Galadatium Imperialis". 

Historical Layout

Sample Cards
These cards are from the new art direction I intend for the game.

The first set of images are the fronts and backs of the system cards.  When a player discovers, or acquires control of a star-cluster he receives the matching system card.  Upon the face of the cards are the various benefits afforded by the ownership of that system which kick in according to the kinds of system improvements placed upon the card.

The next two images are the technology cards which have the cost and their effects.  The way the game works is to provide each player a deck of potential technologies; players control which cards to invest into and play.  So, it would be possible to purchase Economy I, then Economy II, and Economy III.  Same for Masser I, Masser II, etc. 
 






Game-play
The game is designed for 2 or 4 players, but 3 and 5 players is possible.  The game is EPIC!  Each game-turn represents about 30 years of time.  Each sector of the 12x12 grid is 10,000 light-years across which takes about 1 week of hyper-space time to deliver information.  System markers [ there are 60 systems ] represents huge cultures of several million species.  Fleet markers represent battle-fleets involving billions of resources as well as starships and soldiers. 

Each turn players plan taxation, deal with rebellions, invest into research, explore, move around battle-fleets, and conduct warfare against other players.  Systems can be conquered, technology can be raided, and empires rise and fall. 

Due to the scale of the game, each of the main scenarios deal with a 12-turn phase of a larger 36-turn historical game arc representing the growth of star empires from nascent beginnings [ owing to the Lawnmower Effect ].  The three principal scenarios among the many available are Barbarian Stars, Border Kingdoms, and Last Empire.  In Barbarian Stars, players each begin with a single "Major" system and rush to explore an unknown galaxy.  In Border Kingdoms, players receive 6 systems all within reach of each others.  There are still a few undiscovered but remote systems available which can be fought over.  In Last Empire, all of the players have established solid empires.  This scenario allows 3 to 5 players.  One player is the Al-emperor; the remaining players are each Lords striving to over-throw the empire.  Their forces are weaker but together - if they act quickly - they can overcome the tyrant!

Technology when received are usually game-changers.  This causes a constant struggle between military efforts, infrastructure efforts, exploration, and research efforts.  Players must play aggressively in each of the facets identified.  Some technologies are purchased directly; others require research rolls.  Investing into Economy technologies is always good but not necessarily the best way to win the game.  There's always the sense of "Keeping up with the Neighbors" dread whenever a player successfully acquires a new tech.  It could be Void Mine Frigates, Psi-jump Drives, Death Moons, or anything.  Keep agile. Be lucky, too!

Closing
I'm busy working on MEST and trying to update the files for Giant Robots of World War II, but I'll eventually get the revised artwork for Barbarian Suns up.  The rules book for this 4X game were my first attempt at writing something so complex and I need to pare it down a bit.  I'm also unhappy with the combat system I designed for it; it was functional but created too much down-time when there were more than two players.

I've got ideas for revising the entire game to be a bit more modern, but I think that for now if I can get up these new artworks upon the older design I'll be quite happy.  And so may you.