Friday, March 28, 2008

Captain Tempest and the Astro-Patrol: Final Episode

It's been a while since I've entered a GDS. In fact, I had no intention of joining up on this months edition, which is to create a compact game around an outer space theme. But then again, I really can't take ALL the credit for the design I submitted either...

Ultimately, the concept for the game started with my 4.5 year old daughter (of which you can see some of her fine artwork here). We finished a game of Gulo Gulo, and as she usually does after playing a game with the rules, her innate game design genes kick in. And the next game we are playing is of her design, pretty much making things up as we go, using the parts of the game we just finished.

In this case, her variant of Gulo Gulo involved random draws of the colored eggs from the mixing bag that is provided with the game. And after a few draws, it started feeling like something like this could turn into a GDS entry.

The planet card aspect of Captain Tempest wound up coming from the October 2003 copy of Games magazine, that I had recently found. Inside was a 1-page game called "Perfect Union," designed by Dave Shapiro. It's a simple area control game with the theme of an early 12-colony election, where each state was valued at different "electoral college" points. While not much of the actual Perfect Union game was used, the image of the various states and their point totals stuck with me, and became the other main focal point of the game mechanics. The "board" is shown off to the left here, in all of it's scanned in goodness.

At this point, the game was fairly themeless; simply drawing colored wood cubes to stake an ownership on a planet. But, this is a GDS entry, and I've found that theme often plays a much more important role in these contests. With not much else to go on than 800 sparsely written words, abstract games never fair well; the theme is often the hook that the people voting can most easily grasp, and will often overlook better games with lesser themes, if only because the theme lets them visualize things with a bit more clarity.

So, it wasn't much of a stretch turn the cubes into asteroids, and from there, creating a reason to be hurling asteroids at planets.

The last piece of the puzzle is probably the name. I decided that coming up with a name that evoked some recollection of old science fiction serials would be the best, as opposed to just a simple declaration of who the players represent. When viewed through the sepia colored memories of old black and white Buck Rogers movies, this creates an even stronger imprint of a look and a goofy breezy fun, and slightly goofy, feel of that style. The name of Captain Tempest really came from searching for a name that could somewhat match those of Flash Gordon or Buck Rodgers, and Nick Fury popped up, as another pulpy hero name; 1 syllable first name, 2 syllable last name and all.

From there, it was another small leap trying to find a word that had the same imprint as Fury; hence Tempest. Astro-Patrol simply completes the retro feel. And yes, much like Flash Gordon, the name is kind of jokey.

Of course, this desire to go towards 1930's serials probably wasn't hurt by the fact that I had seen Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow recently.

(A quick aside here: In my previous work life, I worked with a fellow named George Gomez who was as big of a an as I am of old Bond movies. His most favorite Bond quote was from Thunderball, I believe: "Turn on the underwater landing lights." Sky Captain has such a delightful phrase, Angeline Jolie is the leader of the an airborne patrol who's base is a giant flying contraption that hovers around over the ocean. During an attack, she commands: "Alert the Amphibious Squadron." Just typing that makes me all giggly inside. I'm not sure if it's because of the brilliance of the line, or just the memories being brought back of George commanding that the underwater landing lights be turned on in his best Bond villain accent.)

But why is it the last episode? Well, since Captain Tempest and his band of do-gooders never arrive "during the game" to save the solar system, he has clearly lost. And the fact that he's isn't even a part of the game is part of the joke.

Captain Tempest and the Astro-Patrol: Final Episode

Due to the constant interference of Art Deco space-hero Captain Roger Tempest and his Astro-Patrol, the Council of Galactic Evil has decided that it's just better off to destroy the entire Earthen solar system than take it over. They do this by launching numerous asteroid attacks to destroy each planet. Good-bye Captain Tempest!!!

Of course, as always with the Council, every villainous deed becomes just another excuse to argue over who is the most villainous.

What you need:
  • Cloth Bag of many small same-sized plastic molded Asteroids, in 9 colors (1 color for each Planet). The Asteroids are roughly the size of small wooden cubes.
  • Nine Planet cards (color-matched to the Asteroids).
Each Planet card has the name of the planet, plus a value, as shown below:
  • Mercury - 1
  • Venus - 1
  • Earth - 4
  • Mars - 2
  • Jupiter - 4
  • Saturn - 3
  • Uranus - 2
  • Neptune - 2
  • Pluto - 1

How to play:
Players are members of the Council of Galatic Eeeevil.

The bag of Asteroids is mixed, and the 9 Planet cards are laid out available close to all players “to be targeted for an Asteroid attack.”

Player start the game by drawing 6 random Asteroids from the bag into one hand. This hand is where they will keep their stock of Asteroids, which must be kept secret from others.

After selecting at random who goes first, players take turns doing one of the following:
  • Draw 2 Asteroids at random from the bag.
  • Return X Asteroids from their hand into the bag(showing the discards to their opponents), and drawing X replacement Asteroids into their hand.
  • Draw 1 Asteroid and declare a Planet Attack.

When a player declares a Planet Attack, he announces a Planet name from the un-collected Planets that remain "to be attacked."

Each player now selects Asteroids from his stock, and places the selected Asteroids in his other hand.

All players reveal their selected Asteroids.

Whoever reveals the most Asteroids that match the color of the announced Planet is the player who gets to carry out the nefarious attack with a large, chew-the-scenery evil laugh, and is considered to be the winner (of this attack).

If there is a tie among any amount of players for the winner, then the player who declared the attack is considered the winner, regardless o how many matching Asteroids he had selected.

The winner returns all matching color Asteroids in his selection hand to the bag. He must also return an amount of Asteroids to the bag that is equal to the value shown on the Planet card that was attacked. These Asteroids come from his stock, and can be any color. If the player does not have enough Asteroids to cover this cost, he discards as many as he can; regardless, he still wins the card.

Players who did not win keep their "bid" and return their Asteroids to their stock.

Play continues as normal.

Once there is one Planet card left, the last Planet Attack is to be declared immediately by the next player (in other words, the last two Attacks will occur right after each other).

The game is over... When all Planet cards have been collected, the solar system has been destroyed!!! The game is over. Players reveal their remaining stock. All Asteroids in a player's stock of each color that are singles are kept; matching color sets of Asteroids are discarded.

A player's score total by adding all of the Planet values shown on their collected cards, and then subtracting the amount of Asteroids they still have in their hand (after colored sets are discarded, as noted above).

The highest score wins, and is deemed to be the most evil member of the Council.

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Blogger Dwight Sullivan said...

um Pluto is not a planet any more.

5:57 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Ah, but Pluto WAS a planet during the time that "Captain Tempest" would've been created (1940 or so).

4:53 AM  

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