It occurred to me the other day that I have no way of scaling Spaceship 47 to take into account the number characters being played. So this post is my idea for scaling the game’s difficulty.
The first thing to think about is what is the player’s goals in any given mission? If it is simply kill all the enemies on each map, then given the same number of enemies with the same stats, it will be easier for 5 characters to do this than 1 character. However, if the goal is to get every Hero from A to B, then this may be harder with 5 characters than 1 due to there being more chance a character won’t survive.
None of the missions I have thought of so far require all of the Heroes to survive. The enemies are explicitly there to hamper the Heroes from doing what they need to do, whether that be find the scientists and guide them back to Spaceship 47 or blow up the Draydun space station. Therefore the enemies have to be more durable and more deadly with a greater number of Heroes in play.
Before I get into my idea for scaling the difficulty of the mission with the number of Heroes in play, I need to give some background.
Each episode (mission) is made up of rounds. Each round is made up of 20 turns. Each player acts three times and the enemies each get two turns. The turn order is shown below. The players take the first 6 turns in the following order: Scout, Engineer, Deadeye, Security Officer, Lawyer and Smuggler. Then the enemies all act on the same turn. Then the players take the next 6 turns, followed by the enemies taking all of their second actions on the same turn. Finally, the last 6 turns are taken by the players.
Enemy Action Resolution
The players use a combination of dice and point spend to resolve their actions. For the enemies, I wanted a quick way of deciding what the enemy is doing and a quick way of resolving whether the action was successful. Below is a section of the stat block for one of the Snipers that try and thwart the Heroes in the first map of the first mission.
Breakdown of the Section
Attack Mode: The section title.
The Square: The square is for a tracking cube to go in to, to show that the enemy is in Attack Mode.
Switch Mode: This is the trigger to move the tracking cube to the Sniper’s other mode.
Target Order: The target order has the six icons of the Heroes below it. This is used to determine who the Sniper will attack. The furthest left icon that the sniper can target is the target of the Sniper’s attack.
The next line contains three icons. The furthest left icon is a revolver, denoting that the attack is a ranged attack. Next is the yellow shield which shows the ranged attack is against the Hero’s Dodge defence. The final icon is the electricity icon which is a keyword for the attack which is only used if the Hero has resistance or vulnerability to electricity.
Success: This line denotes what happens to the target if the Sniper hits with its attack.
To know whether the Sniper has hit the Hero with its attack, a card is drawn from an “enemy deck”. Two examples of cards from this deck are shown below:
Let’s go through what the icons and numbers mean.
Top left number in a circle: The top left number in the circle is used in determining which card is used for the enemy’s attack. This is because some enemies should be more likely to hit and therefore would draw two cards for their attack and use the card with the highest attack value. Multiple cards have the same attack value and as there are other things going on in the card (explained below), I thought it would be easiest if the game itself told the player which card to use if the cards have the same attack value.
The star in a circle: On card 1 there is a star in a circle in the top-right,. This is not present on card 2. Only a certain number of enemy cards have this on them. If the card used for the enemy attack has a star in a circle on it, it means that the player targeted by the attack can use their reaction power noted on their player board.
Purple Gun and Purple Number: The gun icon shows you what number to use for the enemy’s attack, which – surprisingly – is the purple number next to it.
Text at the bottom: Some cards have text at the bottom of the cards which increase the potency of the attack. E.g as adding one damage to the attack, doubling the damage or allowing the enemy to attack again.
To increase the potency of the enemies, for higher Hero counts, there is a tracker (shown below):
Each time a Hero take an action, the tracker is increased by one. This determines how many cards each enemy draws when they act on their turn. After the enemies have acted, the tracker is reset to 0.
This opens up some design space for allowing powers and equipment to effect the tracker. For example:
- Each character gets a stealth option where they move fewer spaces, but don’t increase the tracker
- Chimpanzees can move their maximum speed without increasing the tracker.
- A silencer on a ranged weapon means attacks made with that weapon do not increase the tracker.
- A reckless attack that deals more damage but moves the tracker up by 2.
Making Enemies Harder to Kill
With 5 players potentially attacking enemies rather than one, the toughness of the enemies themselves will have to increase.
To enable this, I have added an extra element to the cards:
The cards now have had a red force-field icon and red number. This number is used for damage reduction. The card stays on the enemy and the next time it is attacked it reduces the damage it takes by whatever the red number is and then it is discarded.
The card with the highest value in the top left circle will be used for the enemy’s attack value, while the card with the lowest value in the top left circle will be used for the enemy’s damage reduction. If only one card is drawn for the enemy, then the same card is used for both or maybe there is no damage reduction – I need to do the maths for that.
I now have the complicated task of constructing the “Enemy Deck” with various attack values, defence values and extra effects (such as extra damage), to try and ensure that the enemies are roughly 5 times as durable and potent for 5 Heroes than for one. Luckily I am a Mathematical Modeler for my day job and I love this sort of stuff!
Once I have created that deck I believe I will have finished everything I need for a solo play test. Nervous.