Solar Senate Progress Report

I playtested the heck out of Solar Senate (formerly Alien Embassy, formerly Spheres of Influence) formerly at last night's Game Designers of Carolina meeting at Gamer's Armory. Still not sure if that theme is working for me, but at least we got some hard mechanics 97% operational. For some background, check out this tag. Here were the changes that I think I'll keep in the final form of the game.

• Each player has their own identical deck of cards, comprised of cards numbered 1-5 in a reverse triangle distribution. (1x5, 2x4, 3x3, 4x2, 5x1)
• Each player has one color-coded token.
• The first player draws two random cards from her deck as her starting hand.
• The second player keeps his 5 and draws one random card from his deck.

That's the setup. Now here are the gameplay notes. Most of this will be familiar to anyone following this game's development. New stuff is in red.

• On your turn, you play one card to the table with the arrow facing you to indicate your ownership of those cards.
• There are two ways to turn an opponent's card towards you:
• Greater Sum: If you bracket a line of an opponent's cards with two of your own and your bracketing cards are a greater sum than the cards being bracketed, you turn all of the opponent's cards towards you.
• Identical Cards: If you bracket a line of an opponent's cards with two of your own cards that are identical to each other, then all the opponent's bracketed cards turn towards you. (Even if their sum is greater.) The cost is that you must then discard the card you played this turn.
• Place your token onto the card you just played. If it is discarded, then place your token to the side of the play area.
• A card with a token on it cannot be turned. This keeps the back-and-forth steamrolling of the first-player advantage to a minimum.
• Draw a card from the top of your deck into your hand. This ends your turn.
• Continue in this manner until each player has one card left in their hands and end the game.
• Whoever has the most cards facing themselves wins the game. If tied, count the ranks of your cards and whoever has the highest total wins.

Much of the playtesting was focused on identifying and mitigating the first-player advantage. Anyone who has played Othello/Reversi knows how frustrating it is to be so hampered at every turn by your opponent's immediate aggressive response. I need to test this out a bit more and see if I can squeeze in the thematic Bills I'd proposed a while back. That might be the little thematic nudge that actually makes the game more than just a Reversi variant.