Continued from Constellations Part 2: Drawing Board.
After a disheartening playtest where drawing constellations failed on a grand scale, I was reeling. I wasn’t sure how to get constellation shapes involved. One good thing to come out of that playtest was that I really liked the method of using stars to build the constellations. It was incredibly thematic, and simple to understand.
To elaborate, Constellations uses a mechanic similar to Ticket to Ride (TtR), where you have to collect cards to build the constellation. Constellations requires you to get a combination of different star classes, however, instead of TtR’s similar colors of trains.
The idea behind this is that stars in the night sky are not all one color. They vary in light intensity, color, and temperature. Astronomers have classified the stars with a letter code, as seen below.
Dante saw a unique opportunities to inject even more theme by crafting the star deck to reflect the actual frequencies of the stars in the cosmos. Our deck of cards have rarer M class stars, and more common B class stars. You can somewhat see this frequency in a Hertzsprung-Russel Diagram, which maps stars on a graph where the X axis is the temperature of the star, while the Y axis is the luminosity (or brightness).
O class stars are rare and unique in that they often go supernova, birthing new stars in the process. I suggested that it would be thematic to be able to use O stars as themselves OR as a wild card, as their supernova nature suggests.
But still. I was stuck. We had this great, thematic mechanic of building constellations with stars, but how to actually place the constellations was eluding me.
Then Ben Shulman introduced us to Ashley Kenawell. Dante gave her a rough idea of what we wanted to do; place constellations onto a board by playing stars. With that information alone, she came back to us with this concept art.
This put my brain into a frenzy. Everything just started clicking. Within a day, I had come up with this:
There were a couple of important mechanics that I added.
- Adjacency. Now every constellation wants to be next to specific other constellations. In the example above, Andromeda wanted to be next to Perseus and Casseopeia.
- Types. I separated all constellations into three groups: N for Northern, S for Southern, Z for Zodiac, and Milky Way for those constellations that cross the galaxy’s footprint in the sky.
On the example above, you’ll see little boxes with numbers in them. These were what I called “Quests”. This version of the game had players playing constellations for their point value (on the left of the hexagon), then completing the Quests once constellations were attached to each other.
To complete an adjacency quest, you would put a colored cube on the box, then collecting that many points. (In the example above, if Andromeda was next to Perseus or Cassiopeia, any player could claim that 2-point quest by putting a cube on the 2.)
To complete the type quest (of which there are two on each constellation), the adjacent constellations’ types must match the diagram on the quest you are completing. (In the example, the right type quest could be claimed if a Milky Way constellation is in the upper right, and a Northern constellation is in the lower right.)
Put all together, these mechanics actually had some semblance of a functional game. Playtesters absolutely loved the adjacency quests, but there was a lot of confusion surrounding the type quest. It just wasn’t simple to see what needed to go where. No matter how I moved things around on the card, I couldn’t soothe the concerns of the playtesters surrounding that mechanic.
Good news, however! The adjacency was fun! Progress was made! There was a clear path forward.