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Nebula - The space 3X streamlined down to counting beans and backstabbing !

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I thought for sure that I had at least one more turn. I ended last millennium on turn 4, but previous ones ended on turn 5!

Annnnd end turn!

Let's see what mirable things await us after Ten Millennia of Stuff Happening.


Both Argyra and I start a ferocious campaign against Ahab. Billions fry, and nothing changes. Riveting.

Plagues keep ravaging my outer dominions. They'll probably migrate towards Ahab next, giving him a taste of unknown pleasures.

Not to be beaten by deadly Space Plagues, our peoples start trouble everywhere.

Do you hear that? It's the sound of my will to play, deflating.

That said, thank everyone for letting the game end this turn (if any Internet denizen finds this in the following decades, we discussed privately and agreed that for the majority of players this was fun as watching Icelanders discuss international politics, so we agreed to end this on turn 10).

The Victory Points at the moment:

Dayyalu: 22 CP

Ahab: 15 VP

Argy: 14 VP

Scribe: 14 VP

MK: 8 VP

I'll write a better postmortem when I have time, but lemme say, Gollop is starting to have to work to pay his debt to me for shitty design endurance.

The Wargaming Scribe and DDG Ahab have reacted to this post.
The Wargaming ScribeDDG Ahab

I do wonder how much better this type of game would be with everyone in the same room playing on one computer.

I have very little to add to what Dayyalu said, and even less to what it will say. The game has 90% of what it takes to be an outstanding game, and the 10% remaining - combat resolution - kills it for no good reason.

For the purpose of future readers who don't know the game :

  • Battles odds seem to be calculated in a weird way that favours the stronger force way more than proportionally,
  • A system has a maximum of 9 in strength
  • Attacking means travelling, travelling is costly in strength points. Even attacking a nearby system from a system where your strength is 9, you will attack with a maximum of 8 and more realistically 7 (because you want to leave someone on the location you attack from).Further system attack with a much lower maximum,
  • Given how progression in strength is done and the distribution of systems giving more than 1 points, you will be able to pull that off once every 8 turns...
  • Multiple attacks don't stack, so the defender uses his numerical advantage every time,
  • Of course, an all-out attack leaves you vulnerable with a counter-attack the following turn that WILL have a numerical advantage against you,

The end result is a very static frontline, where all players are better off fortifying like crazy and waiting for the other players to move first. It is extremely boring.

It MAY still have worked if each player had planned all his moves at the same time, because we could have done one "millenium" every 2 or 3 days. Instead, we have the second decisive design disaster of the game : turns are divided in round, with ONE action by round (but more than say 8 rounds by turns), so the game lasts forever as we pass around the same (or change seats if we had played in a physical location) again and again and again.

With one playtest round (purely standard odds of combat and all moves done at the same time, like so many other games do), it could have been an outstanding game. As it is,  avoid at all cost. On the other hand, keep in mind it is the SECOND game of Gollop, written when he was 18 or younger.


Also, see a new forum post that should appear within one hour.

Dayyalu, Argyraspide and DDG Ahab have reacted to this post.
DayyaluArgyraspideDDG Ahab

I respectfully disagree with the 90% "good game" with "10%" bad game evaluation.

Let me elaborate:

  • We already discussed the combat and transport system, a clear bad design that rewards defensive stances completely and makes offensive play against a prepared opponent a chore. The "round" system is bad but honestly it's not the worst thing here.
  • Let us consider Government, or GVT. Take for example me and Ahab, we have both the leading points (even if Ahab has only 15) BUT I have 12 rounds and Ahab has 4: because Command is calculated by the res levels and distance to your capital, meaning the only way to get a good rating is to pray the other players let you an optimized starting position (I got one) and pray your expansion goes well. This system isn't as badly designed as combat, but it's a very .... clunky system, in my opinion. Ahab tried smartly to cut my expansion and hinder me and all he got in exchange was to get crippled.
  • Research. What the hell is going on with Research? It's DREADFUL expensive, completely unclear on what it does and at best a band-aid on the utterly broken combat and movement system. If I at least knew without extensive testing what reaching Tech 20 or Tech 40 does, or if tech levels gave me combat bonuses or Unrest reducing bonuses or government bonuses or something.
  • The only worthwhile "expansion" modifier is the unfortunately named Racial Domination, but again it relies on being lucky with spawns and the other players letting you take it.
  • Random Events: they could be fun, but.... let's see, Unrest&Revolution are designed to be boring and make you wasting turns on pressing U and praying for RNG, Plagues are simply "you get bad things enjoy" (Maybe you can evacuate border planets to quarantine?) and Resource increases/decreases are MASSIVE RNG boons/maluses for players just because.
  • There isn't much left that can be considered "good". With no development, random events, bad research, patchy expansion, dreadful combat, I can't give Nebula a passing grade.

I can excuse Gollop for being a young designer, but the amount of holes and bad ideas are simply massive, making the game a chore. Much like Argyra said, I think the only way this could be fun is playing it like a blitz, with all the players in the same room and quickly doing turns and avoiding thinking too hard (even if stuff like research and seat location are at odds with this). Furthermore, the lack of save states and testing hides some of the most puzzling parts of the combat.

(Pardon my theatrical and complaining rant, I seriously tried to play this at best I could, with extensive testing and even note-taking and planning. It kinda angered me at times.)

Argyraspide and DDG Ahab have reacted to this post.
ArgyraspideDDG Ahab

I think some of the side systems are a little better than credit is given, but it's really hard to defend it too much because the central ones are just so tedious. Research, unless really high levels do something I'm entirely unfamiliar with, really only decreases the cost to travel, eventually removing it. For as good as that is, eventually all that happens is players can decide that instead of sending a suicide attack of 7 units they can send a suicide attack of 8 units...or if they don't want whatever planet they're on, they can send a suicide attack of 9, at which point the opposing player can just take the opposing planet with a different planet unopposed.

Unrest, though we never had it happen in the main game, was incredibly annoying when I tested it, because if a planet rebels, it maintains whatever amount of force it has, so now there's this immovable object situated there that's more tedious than if it was owned by a player, because it just sits there. (I forget if it still gets more force points) Plagues make things interesting, but only if they go on for so long half the galaxy dies off.

Nebula really feels like someone taking a Risk-like concept but removing all the concepts that made that somewhat interesting and really enhancing the aspects that turn the late-game into a barely moving slog.

The Wargaming Scribe, Dayyalu and DDG Ahab have reacted to this post.
The Wargaming ScribeDayyaluDDG Ahab

I haven't got much to add that hasn't already been said. But my takeaways:

  • It's an interesting design choice that "force points" serve as the only form of action currency. Force points are attack, defense, research, and movement.
  • PBEM did Nebula's round-by-round play no favors.
  • Strong defensive advantages make things lopsided toward players with good starting positions. If everyone leaves each other alone, then the richest player will build up lots of force points in peace before anyone else can and then steamroll the galaxy. And honestly, the alternative might have been even worse! Random events are meant to counterbalance this, but,
  • Unrest, the most common one, is a crap mechanic. Hitting 'U' on repeat to quell unrest is tedious, and on one hand this will eat up more rounds for whoever has the most planets (i.e. Dayyalu), but on the other hand, a player with 12 rounds can afford to waste a lot more than a player with 5.
  • Space Plagues seem like they might be equalizing reset-buttons on large swaths of territory, but we didn't get to see this in practice.
  • Ordering an attack immediately depletes your planetary reserves. It is impossible to send a weak decoy attack that tricks your opponent into counter-striking a world that they think will be less defended than in really is.
  • Racial dominance bonuses seem barely worth it. Get it if you can, no big deal if you can't.
The Wargaming Scribe and Dayyalu have reacted to this post.
The Wargaming ScribeDayyalu
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