This past Saturday I had the pleasure (read ‘sheer terror’) to have my first board game design, “Specimen”, put through a blind playtest. What exactly is a blind playtest, you ask? A blind playtest is where the players play the game using just the rule book. There is no instruction from an experienced player. This type of playtest is actually a critical step on the path to releasing the game. Since I’m not planning on sending myself along with every copy of the game to teach people how to play, making sure that the rules are complete and make sense with minimal confusion is a really good idea. I should point out that I have never written an instruction manual before this, so while everything in it makes sense to me, to others, probably not so much.

Thanks to Eric Van Tassel (“Specimen’s” plucky Science Officer Franklin), we had two very experienced gamers arrive at Stately Cullom Manor at 11:30 AM. After brief introductions and a tour of my fanboy abode, I sat Alex Hunt and Jonathon Hagedorn down at the table with the board, several piles of counters, cards, dice and two copies of the rules and let them have at it. The three of us agreed that I wouldn’t tell them anything and they wouldn’t ask me any questions unless they were completely flummoxed.

Here is where the ‘pleasure’ began in earnest (mostly in my living room, but definitely earnest too). Alex and Jonathon began by reading the rule book cover to cover. Both were armed with post-it notes and pens and very quickly (Like page freaking one!) they began to make notes. It’s quite an experience to watch something you’ve spent basically the last three years of your life working on being picked apart and being powerless to intervene. It’s all for the greater good (the greater good), I kept telling myself. The game will only get better with this. So I sucked it up and went with it. I decided to try and distract myself from the vivisection going on at the table by watching the blu-ray of “The Thing” (the new version, not the Carpenter one.)

By the time the film came to its happy, upbeat conclusion, Jonathon and Alex were well into actually playing the game. Now I got the pleasure of hearing little snippets of their conversation as they confer on game play and rules. “I believe that attempting to damage the ship costs 2 action points, right?” and things like that. Of course, it seems to me that the only bits of the conversation that I can make out clearly are ones that indicate that my rule-writing skills hover somewhere between ‘awful’ and ‘second grader.’ I’m fairly certain that not once did I catch the phrase “This is brilliant. Whoever wrote it is clearly a genius and should be standing in some sort of sun-god robes on a pyramid with a thousand naked women screaming and throwing little pickles at him” (Why am I the only one who has that dream?).

As this torture rolled on, I became convinced that at any moment the guys were going to announce that the rules are a mess, the game is a failure and my sense of home decor is questionable at best.

Fortunately the whole affair ends quite well. They both enjoyed the game. The rules as I wrote them are serviceable.  Jonathon and Alex both put forth a lot of good suggestions for improvement and a few GREAT ones. Several sections can be combined. Several should be expanded. And several new ones should be added.

So, I think that we’ve passed that step. Or at least, didn’t trip and break our freaking necks on it. I’m now in the process of implementing their suggestions, and hope to have a new draft of the rules soon.

After that, I guess I’ll take a serious look at my home decor…

‘Course, what do I know?

You can check out all the past blogs and reviews at the Bloodwork blog on toxicbag.com.

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The Specimen project moving on. You guys have been asking a lot of questions about the game and how it works. So, I decided to give you guys more of a feel for what this game is about, Enjoy! – Steve

Toxic Bag: Tell us about the new look for Specimen.

Steve:  I have always conceived of the game as a film. I was actually imagining scenes from an imaginary sci-fi film as I was coming up with the game events.  So I decided early on that instead of having artwork done for the events and characters,  I wanted  live actors posed with costumes and props.  Once playtesting had progressed to a point that I was happy with the game design, Joe and I hired a costume director, a photographer, and six actors, and started building props. The end result was a nine-hour photo shoot that produced some amazing pictures.  Joe and I are now in the process of manipulating the photos and we hope to start releasing them in the next few weeks.  I’m very excited about how they’re coming out! Now if I can only find a place to store that flamethrower  prop…

The Crew of the TCS Brown searches for the Specimen

Toxic Bag: How long does it generally take to play Specimen?

Steve:  It was really important to me to make a game that can be played in one sitting. So far in play testing we’ve found that the game can be played as quickly as two hours, but three and a half hours seems to be the norm.

Toxic Bag: Is this a two-player game only? Can more than two people play?

Steve: I’ve been asked that question a lot during our open play tests. The current version of the game is for two players. I’ve explored optional rules that would make the game for 8 players (one person would control each crew member and the monster.) The biggest obstacles are distributing the cards and the fragile nature of the crew.  I haven’t worked out a system that would give every crewmember a card or two to play each turn that I like. Also, crewmembers die very easily, and I’m not sure how excited I would be if my character died 15 minutes into a 3 and half hour game…

Toxic Bag: Could you compare this game to some of the other Card-driven games on the market?

Steve: I would say that Specimen uses a hybrid version of the CDG game systems that are out there. The biggest difference is game scale. Most of the other CDG games that I have seen are historical/strategic games that cover an entire campaign or war involving millions of men and equipment. Specimen focuses on the events taking place on one spaceship. There are seven astronauts and one monster. That’s it.

Since there are no reinforcements, each side has to be very careful not to waste the crew’s lives or Specimen’s wounds. I think that this limitation makes the game more intense in the mid to late stages. The players have to decide whether to play OPS and move or have an event happen. And that decision gets tougher when either the Crew is split up and alone or the Specimen only has one or two wounds left.

Toxic Bag: Please explain the Specimen attributes for us as well as how a player ‘builds’ their monster.

Steve: The current version of the game has 24 attributes to choose from. The Attributes can be broken down into three categories: offensive, defensive and special. Offensive attributes can be anything from a spikey tail (which gives a bonus die in combat) to razor-sharp talons (a +1drm for combat rolls). Defensive attributes help the monster negate the Crew attacks. Things like an armored exoskeleton (a -1drm for Crew combat rolls) to toxic blood (if wounded, there is a chance that the creature’s blood will get on the Crew and potentially kill them! The Special attributes are just that; special.  Faster evolution (the monster gets bigger, quicker) and embryo implanter (the monster can reproduce!) are just a couple of examples.

Each attribute also has a point cost associated to it of zero to three points. The Specimen player has three points to spend on attributes and must take three attributes. So, whichever trio of cards they take, the total point cost can’t be more than three.

The rule of thumb is the higher the cost, the better the attribute. However, you can build a very nasty creature with three 0 or 1 point attributes.

Toxic Bag: I see that some of the crewmembers are officers. How does rank affect the game?

Steve:  I wanted to make the crew makeup realistic. So it was obvious that there’d be a Captain of the ship. After that, I decided to have a first and second officer. One of my goals was to make this game have a horror flavor to it, and so rank only really enters play later in the game when the monster attacks. As the crew dwindles, the chances increase that the survivors will panic when the monster attacks. Having an officer present helps the rest of the Crew with their panic checks. ‘Course, that means you have to keep the officers alive too. (Laughs)

Toxic Bag: This is a CDG, so how important is hand management?

Steve: Like any CDG, there are certain cards that really should be played as the event. Specimen is no different. Crew events like the flamethrowers and the trackers are really important events and skipping them can be adverse to the Crew’s health. As for the monster, not playing the Air vent movement event really puts the monster in a bad spot. But for the most part, I tried to design the card events as things that you want to have happen, but you could probably win without. That’s where hand management comes in. Holding a card or two, waiting hand after hand to draw that one specific card to work out a sequence is not a winning strategy. You have to play the hand you’re dealt, not the hand you wanted.

Toxic Bag: How do you see the strategy challenge for a player in Specimen?

Steve: Both sides face big challenges in the game. The Crew holds the advantage in the early turns, but they have several choices facing them. Do they hunt down the monster while it’s tiny and weak or do they fix the ship so they don’t explode? Maybe they split up (always a great idea in horror!) and try to do both?  The monster has to be careful in the beginning, this is when it is at its weakest. During the middle turns, things even out as the Monster evolves and gets stronger, and the Crew fatalities start to increase. The situation flips during the later turns when the monster has the advantage. But the Crew isn’t totally helpless, as they will be better armed (guns and flamethrowers) and can always abandon the ship.

Location: ICON
Date: 9/11/11

Result: Minor Crew Victory

Current Tally:
22 Games
15 Space Monster Victories
7 Crew Victories

Play Tester Game Playing Level: High

Note – Italics indicate that a card was played as an event.

As Turn 1 began, the Space Monster moved to Cargo Hold One and successfully damaged it. The Captain moved to the Computer Room and Science Officer Cinder moved to the Infirmary. Cinder then discovered that the monster had a chameleon ability (One of the Monster Attributes). The Monster then emitted an EMP (another Monster attribute) which shut down all of the lights, monitors and the ship’s computer for the rest of the turn. Alarmed by this, the Crew decided to attempt to fix the ship and began moving to the damaged sections. The monster appeared in Corridor Two and attacked Second Officer Palance. Palance wounded the monster on the first combat roll, but was killed when the monster emitted a sonic screech (the third and final attribute of this monster). Both player decks would expand to 40 cards during the end phase.

(Crew Player Larry Haskell rolls the dice for the combat in Corridor Two.)

Turn 2 started with the Crew arming themselves with guns. Next, they discovered that the Monster was using the vents to move around the ship. They quickly decided to hunt down and kill the monster immediately. The Monster avoided detection and managed to heal its wound. The Crew finally located the monster and attacked. During the melee, Britt was wounded and the Monster managed to get away.

At the beginning of turn 3, Navigator Hamm and Executive Officer Abel moved to the Bridge and began plotting the ship’s exact position. This would take the entire turn. The rest of the Crew headed towards the damaged sections. The Monster now attempted to evolve, but was unsuccessful. Cinder and SISTER turned up something useful to use against the Monster, resulting in the Monster losing a card from next turn’s hand. The Engine room suddenly lost pressure, making it uninhabitable for the rest of the turn. The Crew finished out the turn by quickly constructing a couple of electrical prods to combat the monster.

Turn 4 began with a bang as the cargo in both holds exploded. The Crew headed to the damaged sections to attempt repairs. Just then, the Captain and Science Officer Cinder moved to the Infirmary to look at something interesting. They would be forced to spend the rest of the turn there. The rest of the crew reached the damaged areas and managed to repair the damage in Cargo Hold One. New damage was detected in the Crew Mess. The Crew responded by splitting up again. The Monster appeared in the Cargo Hold Two and wounded Chief Engineer Milton before he was able to escape. The Monster again emitted an EMP, shutting down the ship’s system’s for the turn. During the End Phase, the Monster evolved to Stage One.

(Monster Player Derek Rompot indicates which Section new damage has been detected in.)

Turn 5 started with the Monster quickly evolving to Stage Two. To negate the monster’s sonic screech attack, three of the surviving Crew members put on EVA suits. New damage was detected in Corridor One. The Crew decided that in order to better fight the monster they would split into two teams. But this idea was immediately negated when they started bickering and fighting and not trusting each other. New damage was detected in the Escape Pod. The Crew was able to repair the damage in Corridor One.

At the beginning of Turn 6, the Crew moved to the Bridge and held a burial in Space for Palance. This forced the Crew player to randomly discard a card from his hand. The monster became distracted by the lights on a control panel and had to randomly discard a card. The Captain came up with a plan to deal with the situation and the Crew went into action. The Captain then attempted to activate the SISTER computer to gain an extra card for next turn’s hand. But SISTER was unable to elaborate. The monster attacked and killed Science Officer Cinder in the Crew mess.

(A mid-game look at the game board.)

Turn 7 began with the five surviving Crew members suddenly developing suspended animation sickness, resulting in all of their Crew cards being flipped to the wounded side for this turn. First aid was applied to Milton and Britt, so they would be back to full strength once the animation sickness wore off at the end of turn. The monster attempted to damage the ship while the Crew succeeded in repairing the damage in Cargo Hold Two. Knowing that the monster was going to become more powerful as the game progressed, the Crew constructed two incinerators to help fight it.

In Turn 8, machines repaired the damage in the Escape Pod. But just as that was taken care of, new damage was detected on the Bridge. The Crew spent the rest of the turn attempting to repair the damage, and one of the incinerators ran out of fuel and was removed from play. The Monster evolved to Stage Three at the end of turn.

Turn 9 began with Milton and Britt refusing to work unless they got some more money. The Captain went into the vents to try to force the monster out of the ship. His attempt failed, and he was killed at the third junction. Hamm was told to go take care of something by herself in Corridor One. The Monster appeared out of the shadows there and killed the hapless navigator. Now only three crew members were left alive.

(Larry reacts to the Captain’s death at the Third Junction of the air vent system)

Turn 10 started with Milton and Britt again refusing to work. Machines repaired the damage to the Bridge. The Monster attacked again and killed Engineer Milton. The two survivors, Abel and Britt, quickly moved to the Bridge to plot their next move.

Turn 11 began with action as the Monster managed to get into the Bridge undetected and kill Britt in the ensuing battle. Abel, armed with both pistols, managed to inflict three wounds and drive off the monster. But the respite was only temporary as the Monster again attacked. Abel’s aim was true, and he killed the Monster. The game had ended in a Minor Crew Victory.

(Derrek congratulates Larry on an exciting victory for the Crew.)

Lessons Learned:
Another exciting game, this one ending with the Crew winning! We got to see the Sonic Screech and the EMP attributes used together. They could be a deadly combination. The EMP will have to be tweaked. One suggestion by the players was to have a recharge roll during the end phase to see if the EMP is available again after it has been fired. I like that idea, and will put it into play for the next batch of playtesting. I was glad to see the Crew win a game, but they still need help to give them more of a shot!

Location: ICON

Date: 9/10/11

Result: Major Space Monster Victory

Current Tally:
21 Games
15 Space Monster Victories
6 Crew Victories

Play Tester Game Playing Level: High

Note – Italics indicate that a card was played as an event.

Turn 1 saw the engineers, Milton and Britt, complaining about their contract and refusing to work, while the rest of the Crew moved to normal duty stations. The Monster unsuccessfully attempted to evolve and the Crew decided to build the motion trackers. The monster moved about the ship and unsuccessfully attempted to damage it. The end of the turn saw machines repair the damaged cargo hold.

Turn 2 had new damage detected in Corridor One. Both engineers moved to the damaged section, but were unable to repair it. The rest of the Crew built the high-strength nets.

(Paul Hassebrook plays a card as the Crew player)

At the beginning of turn 3, the Monster damaged the now-vacant Engine Room, and Cinder discovered that the Monster was going to be harder to kill (One of the Monster Attributes). The Crew then constructed the electrical prods; Britt was told to go to corridor one to take care of something. All by himself, Britt was attacked and killed by the monster. While the rest of the Crew attempted to find it, the Monster again tried to evolve, but failed. The end of this turn would see the player decks expand to 40 cards.

Turn 4 began with the Crew learning that the Monster was strong and smart and out to kill them. This resulted in the Monster drawing an extra card for its next hand. Realizing this, the Crew decided to construct 2 incinerators. Both Cargo Holds suddenly exploded, causing light damage in each. Machines quickly repaired one of the holds. The Monster appeared in the Crew Mess and although it received a wound, it killed Navigator Hamm. The Captain came up with a plan and the Crew attempted to find the monster. The Monster evolved to Stage One at the end of the turn.

(Paul reacts to Hamm’s death in the Crew Mess)

Turn 5 had the Crew arguing amongst themselves, costing them a card for next turn’s hand. Cinder and SISTER then turned up something useful to use against the Monster, resulting in the Monster losing a card from next turn’s hand. Smith, the ship’s cat, got loose, making it more difficult for the Crew to track the Monster. The rest of the turn saw the Crew trying to repair the damaged sections and the Monster healing its wound.

Turn 6 saw the Captain activate SISTER and ask for advice, gaining an extra die in combat. The lights on C deck suddenly went out, making it much harder for the Crew to search.

Turn 7 began with the Crew discovering that the Monster was using the vents to move around the ship more quickly. New Damage was detected in the Engine Room, but was quickly repaired by machine. Engineer Milton was attacked by the Space Monster in Corridor Two. When the rest of the Crew got there…he was gone. The rest of the Crew spent the rest of the turn trying to fix the damaged sections.

Turn 8 had the Monster appear out of the shadows and attack the Crew. Although wounded twice, it succeeded in killing the Captain and Executive Officer Abel, the latter by emitting a sonic screech (one of the Monster Attributes). To protect themselves from this new deadly attack, the rest of the Crew donned EVA suits. The Monster evolved to Stage Two at the end of turn.

Turn 9 began with the Monster quickly evolving to Stage Three. The surviving Crew members quickly assembled on the Bridge and decided that they were gonna kill the Monster, rather than attempt to abandon the ship. The Airlock depressurized, making it inaccessible for the turn. The highly evolved Monster attacked and killed Cinder on the bridge. This left Palance alone to fight the Monster.

(Shane Beddingfield surveys the game board and his cards as he contemplates the Monster’s next move. Designer Steve Baldwin watches in the background)

Turn 10 saw Palance decide to make a last stand in the Computer room. She activated SISTER and would receive an extra card for the next turn…assuming there would be one. The Monster didn’t attack and instead attempted to damage the ship.

Turn 11 had the Monster attack Palance in the Computer Room. In the first two rounds of Combat, Palance succeeded in wounding the Monster. With only one wound left, the Monster attacked again and succeeded. With her dying breath, Palance fired a harpoon gun. If it hit (by rolling a 1), the Monster would be killed, resulting in a draw. But the die came up with a 4. Palance was dead, and the Monster had won the game.

(The final roll for the Harpoon gun. A 1 will kill the monster. Sadly a 4 was the result.)

Lessons Learned:
Another exciting game; this one ending with both players having a chance to win the game. We got to see the Sonic Screech attribute used successfully. The Search mechanic is still not working right. I’m also thinking that the bowels of the ship area – a safe haven for the Monster – will have to be adjusted as well. The Crew player needs something to even the odds. But again, the overall experience was positive!

Location: I-CON

Date: 9/10/11

Result: Major Space Monster Victory

Current Tally:
19 Games
13 Space Monster Victories
6 Crew Victories

Play Tester Game Playing Level: High

The Space Monster Player (Derek Hurley) chooses the Space Monster Attributes while The Crew player (Matt Aper) looks on.

Turn 1 saw the crew move to normal duty stations and then decide to build motion tracking units to help in finding the monster. The monster moved about the ship and unsuccessfully attempted to damage it. Cargo hold Two was repaired by machine. The Monster revealed one of its attributes by emitting an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) which shut down the electronics of the ship for the turn.

Turn 2 began with Milton and Britt refusing to work unless they got more money. The Captain successfully activated SISTER, resulting in an extra card draw combat at the end of the turn. The Monster attacked Milton in the Engine Room, but only succeeded in wounding him before he was able to run away. This convinced the Crew that weapons would be needed to fight the monster, so high strength nets were hastily constructed. New damage was detected in the Crew Mess, and then both Cargo holds exploded with light damage in both being the result. The Crew began to move to the damaged section. The Monster appeared in Corridor Two and killed Cinder. Despite this loss, the crew, was able to repair the damage in Cargo hold one. New damage was detected in the Crew Mess. The Captain moved to the computer room and again activated SISTER.. The information he received would provide an extra die in any upcoming combat. The monster finished the turn by attempting to evolve, but was unsuccessful. The crew finished out the turn by repairing the damaged Crew Mess. The end of this turn would see the player decks expand to 40 cards.

The Monster began turn 3 by getting wounded in an unsuccessful attack on the Captain in the Crew Mess. Milton was healed with the timely application of first aid. The Monster attempted to damage to ship and failed. During the end phase the Monster evolved to Stage Two. (another Monster Attribute, although the Crew was unaware of this development)

Turn 4 had the Captain spend the entire turn in the Infirmary to study something interesting. The rest of the crew searched for the monster, found it in the Crew Mess, and in the ensuing melee was able to wound it. The Space Monster retreated into the bowels of the ship. The Crew spent the rest of the turn fruitlessly searching for the wounded beast.

The Monster started turn 5 healing one wound while the Crew attempted to locate it. The Monster surprised Engineer Milton in the Engine room and killed him. The Crew then decided to split into two teams to maximize their efforts. The Monster, despite this, was able to avoid detection. At the end of the turn, Palance and Britt located the monster and attacked, and although they succeeded in wounding the monster, both were killed in the battle. Now there were only 3 crew members left, so abandoning the ship became a viable solution.

Turn 6 began with the Engine room suddenly losing pressure. The monster became distracted by the lights on a control panel and had to randomly discard a card. The surviving crew members argued over who was in command, resulting in the random discard of a card from their hand, also. After calming down, the crew constructed 2 high strength nets. The Captain then decided to try to force the monster out of the ship by going into the vents. His attempt failed and he was killed at the third junction.

Turn 7 began with action as the monster attacked the two remaining crew members, seemingly from out of the shadows. Hamm was wounded in this attack, but Abel succeeded in driving the monster off in the second round of combat, inflicting another wound. Abel then went to the computer room and asked SISTER for advice, gaining an extra die in combat at the end of the turn. The Monster evolved to stage three in the end phase.

In turn 8, Hamm became suspicious of Abel’s motives and didn’t trust him. Despite this rift, both survivors decided to kill the monster, rather than abandon the ship. The Monster, with only two wounds left, did not attack the crew, instead attempting to damage the Infirmary…but was unsuccessful.

Turn 9 saw Hamm discovering a secret corporate directive in the ship’s records indicating that one of the Crew was secretly put on board to protect the monster. Abel and Hamm then built incinerators and searched for the monster but were unsuccessful. The monster again tried to damage the ship but was unsuccessful.

Turn 10 opened with Hamm discovering that not only was Abel placed on board to protect the monster, but that he’s also a robot! Hamm decided to make a last stand in the hibernation room. The Robot then attacked Hamm and killed her with an incinerator, ending the game in a major Space Monster Victory.

The game ends with the entire crew wiped out by the Space Monster

Lessons Learned:
We finally got to see the robot show up! The mechanic seemed to work, but it’s hard to know for sure with only one appearance. The Monster is still too hard to locate – searching will have to adjusted. Another Airduct attack almost wins the game for the Crew. The EMP attribute will have to be better defined. As it stands now, it effectively removes the SISTER bonus card draw. Another fun and exciting game, with both players getting a chance to win the game. And we got to see the robot – armed with a flamethrower, no less.

Location: ICON Game Convention
Date: 9/10/11

Result: Major Space Monster Victory

Current Tally:
18 Games
12 Space Monster Victories
6 Crew Victories

Play Tester Game Playing Level: High

We spent a very enjoyable weekend at ICON in Springfield, IL. Got to meet a lot of cool folks, make a few new friends, and get in 5 playtest games of SPACE MONSTER.

(The Prototype Game Board at the beginning of the game. All Seven Astronauts are located in the Hibernation room, while the Monster starts in the bowels of the ship.)

New Damage was detected in Corridor One and the Crew Mess, some of which was quickly repaired by machine. The Crew decided they had to repair the rest of the damage and moved to Cargo Hold Two and succeeded in their efforts. The Monster then began secreting goo (one of the Monster Attributes) while the Crew constructed the high strength nets to finish out the turn.

Turn two began with the Monster unsuccessfully attempting to damage the ship and the Crew constructing the electrical prods. The Corridor One Section doors suddenly became jammed trapping Milton and Britt inside. Palance moved to the Computer room and successfully activated SISTER to gain a bonus card for next turn. Milton and Britt, trapped in Corridor One, announced that they weren’t gonna work anymore until they got more money. The rest of the Crew spent the rest of turn fruitlessly searching for the Monster.

The Cargo in Cargo Hold 1 and 2 exploded, nearly killing Cinder to start Turn three with a bang.  Automated repair quickly repaired one of the holds. The Crew then decided that the damage was too severe to repair in Space. The turn ended with the Crew still unable to locate the elusive Monster. During the end phase the Monster evolved to Stage One due to a Monster Attribute.

Turn Four began with the Space Monster quickly evolving to Stage Two, an ominous sign for the Crew. The Crew again continued their efforts to find the monster and Palance again activated SISTER to earn the extra card. The mascot got loose and the Captain and Cinder went to the Infirmary to discuss an interesting discovery. This discovery led to the Crew learning about the Space Monster’s ability to evolve more quickly.

Cinder and Hamm spent the entire fifth turn on the bridge to plot the ship’s current position. New damage was detected in multiple sections. The turn ended with Milton being killed by a surprisingly large and powerful creature. With the first crew player killed, the player decks would expand to 40 cards at the the end of this turn.

The Monster appeared out of the shadows and killed Palance and Britt in quick succession. The Crew, finally becoming aware of the seriousness of the situation, opened the weapons locker and armed themselves. The Monster attacked the Captain but was fought off when the Captain overloaded his electrical prod and wounded the monster.

The four remaining crew members located the monster and attacked it. The Captain was killed in the attack. The Space Monster healed its wound, making the Crew’s chances even worse. The end of the turn saw the Monster evolving to stage three.

The Monster evolved to stage four but was quickly distracted by the flashing lights of a control panel and was unable to attack anyone this turn.

Abel was killed in a savage attack from the now fully mature monster. Cinder and Hamm, realizing that their chances of surviving were slim, decided to attempt to force the monster out the airlock. Cinder almost succeeded, falling short on the final roll and dying in the air ducts.

(Mikel Frost attempts the final roll in the Airlock attack. Success will eject the monster into space and win the game. Failure will result in Science Officer Cinder’s death.)

(Mikel’s reaction to coming up short on the final roll.)

Turn ten began with Hamm, all alone, deciding to make a last stand in Corridor One. The Monster attacked and killed the panicked and defenseless Hamm, ending the game.

LESSONS LEARNED:
The Monster still appears to be too powerful. How can we tone it down enough to give the Crew a fighting chance, yet still retain the horror flavor? The search mechanism also needs to be tweaked. It’s still just blind luck for the Crew, and that is not enough. Still, this was a fun and exciting game, with the overmatched crew almost winning with the airduct attack on Turn 9. We will see how the rest of the weekend’s games go…

Date: 8/7/11

Play Tester Game Playing Level: High

The Crew player began the game cautiously, only sending out the engineers Milton and Britt to attempt to fix the damage in Cargo Hold Two while the Captain went to the Computer Room to consult the ship’s Computer. The Monster, only at Stage Zero of it’s life cycle, spent the turn hiding from the crew and attempting several unsuccessful attempts at damaging several of the sections located on C and D deck.

The majority of the Crew continued to remain in the Hibernation room constructing electrical prods to fight the monster. This strategy backfired when a door malfunction occurred (thanks to a SM Event play) and the affected room was randomly determined to be the Hibernation room – trapping 4 crew members for the rest of the turn.

The Crew spent this time deciding to form into teams (Crew Event) and constructing high strength nets. Again the Space Monster spent the turn down on the lower decks, this time damaging the Engine room.

Turns three and four saw the Crew start making a concerted effort to hunt down the Space Monster. They also managed to repair the Engine room. But the monster proved to be elusive and avoided detection, while continuing its attempts to damage the ship. Finally, the Monster attacked two crew members in the Engine room and killed Navigator Hamm. The end of turn four saw the player decks expand to 40 cards (which happens after the first death of the Crew) and the Monster evolve to stage one.

The Crew spent most of turn five performing damage control – managing to keep the number of damaged compartments down to three. The monster, playing an Event card, evolved to stage 2, An ominous sign.

Turn six saw the game come to a violent and bloody conclusion. The Captain, went into the air ducts in an attempt to flush out the monster (again a Crew Event), and almost succeeded, dying at the final moment. The Monster, then began attacking the Crew and in two separate attacks, wiped out the remaining five Crew members, several dying after getting hit by the monster’s toxic blood (one of the attributes the Monster player chose for this game).

Game Result: Major Space Monster Victory

While a good time was had by all, both players agreed that since this was the first game, they were trying things just to learn the rules and game mechanics rather than for optimal strategy. The next time around, both vowed to focus on winning the game. We shall see…

Click here for more information on SPACE MONSTER.

The Space Monster

August 10, 2011

Hey, this is Steve from Toxic Bag Productions. Starting with “Dungeons & Dragons”, Axis & Allies and Risk in High School to “Call of Cthulhu” and GMT games today, I’ve been a gamer my whole life. (And you shouldn’t be surprised to hear that my dating life in that time has been….sparse)

About two years ago I decided to make my own board game. I had built up in my head what I was looking and hoping to find in a board game, and nothing on the market was meeting my ideas. So, I got to work, taking the general ideas and concepts in my head and somehow translating them into an actual game.

The end result of this endeavor is now here: Space Monster. Like the best sci-fi and horror stories of the last 50 years, this game pits the human crew of the space ship TCS Brown against an unknown hostile life form that has gotten aboard via a meteor collision. As the game progresses, the monster evolves, becoming stronger and more dangerous. The human crew can construct weapons to defend themselves, search the vessel for the monster and attempt to repair the ship to keep it from being destroyed.

The player controlling the Monster gets to choose (secretly) several attributes that will give the creature offensive, defensive and special abilities. With over 20 attributes to choose from, each game should have a different and unique monster.

Space Monster is a two-player board game that uses a strategic card engine to drive the game. Both players have their respective decks of cards that can be played either as the events listed on them or as points to move the crew and monster around the game board. But a card may only be used one way at a time. So as a player, you have to decide how best to use your cards. For example, as the crew, do you play the event to get the special tracking devices to help you in hunting down the monster, or do you use that card for the points to move your crew members? The randomness of the cards coupled with the monster attributes should provide lots of replay ability.

Designing the game has been quite a challenge. Every solution seemed to bring with it several new problems. But finally, we have (I think) a stable game that not only works, but is fun and exciting to play! For the past six months we have been play testing the game. I have been recording notes from each play test and thought I would post after action reports of each one as a record of the games development.

Hopefully you will find them interesting. All comments, questions and criticisms are welcome.

 

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