Last night’s play test brought in a couple new players, and some more great feedback. Thanks to Scott Allen, Jenn Wimmer, and Greg (didn’t catch his last name) for going a couple rounds with me!

The first thing I learned is that the checkered starting line was confusing, both of the new players thought this was the Finish line and headed off in the wrong direction. I’ll have to change that to something else, or change the wording in the Rules. I’d like to have both a Starting Line AND a checkered line, so I’ll look into different configurations for that tile.

A suggestion was made that I’m entertaining, where a Racer arrives at a Planet with the EXACT AMOUNT of Speed needed to Break Orbit would receive an extra Slingshot effect and gain a small speed boost. This would add to the strategy of when to play speed cards, and which cards to play.

I need to illustrate in the Rules the speed depletion in regards to arriving at a Planet. The counting gets confusing if you have a habit of counting up to the number of spaces you can move, as opposed to counting down from your top speed.

Tested a couple of course configurations for the first time, including a multi-path track and the first ever use of the Black Hole tile, which surprisingly wasn’t as large an impediment as I originally intended.

Our multi-path course was a four-leg course with a shortcut through the middle that cut past the Black Hole. In theory this should have been a deterrent to taking the short cut, but the Statuses didn’t cripple us as much as they should have, and we all found it fairly easy to Break orbit. In fact, the one racer who consistently avoided the shortcut did come in last, but only barely, and was very close to the pack the entire time. The multi-path layout highlighted an issue with the Last Place rules that does need to be clarified – when there are multiple paths to the end of the race, the Racer who is FARTHEST from the finish line (in number of spaces) is in Last Place. On this particular course, this removed the possibility of anyone taking the shortcut being in Last Place for most of the race. I managed to get into Last Place on the shortcut, but only because two of the other racers were also on it, and the fourth *just* beat me to the next planet.

The fact that Status cards all affect the racers in the same way was brought up, with the concern being that several of us had at least one Status card for most of the race, and it didn’t seem to slow us down too much. It was suggested that there be various levels of Status cards, including one of each Class that would be ‘Crippling’, as in preventing the Racer from playing any Speed cards until it was resolved. I think this bears testing, but I worry that it will get us back to the problems we had in earlier versions, where players were stuck not being able to do anything, waiting for that one card that would resolve their status while the other racers continued to blow past them on the course.

Another option is to have the Status effects be exponential – One status card reduces your speed by 2, Two status cards reduce it by 5, Three status cards reduce it by 9. This would effectively cripple a racer, making an 11 Parsecs card only worth 2 Parsecs, and making anything less useless.

I also need to come up with a better way to label or explain the Speed Boost on the planet tiles. We didn’t play with Homeworlds in either of our two races, but when I showed the new players those tiles there was some confusion as to what the extra numbers meant. I’ll have to look into that and do some tester tiles.

In the second race, Greg managed to hoard ALL of the Equipment cards due to a lucky first deal and subsequently churning through the deck by selling half of his hand for several consecutive rounds (it didn’t help that he was in Last Place and was able to do this twice on each turn). His super-ship made him invulnerable to any attack, and our only choice was to try to keep up with him on Speed. He did win the race, but only by one turn – 2nd and 3rd came in on the next play.

Two fixes for this situation were proposed: Either limiting the number of Equipment cards to three, or enforcing a speed hit of -1 for each Equipment card over three (only really effective in a 5-8 player game where there’ll be eight potential pieces of Equipment). I’m inclined to just limit it to three pieces total, but that you can unequip one and discard it to equip a new piece if you choose. I feel like every Racer needs to have SOME vulnerability, an Achilles Heel.

Also, I really need to come up with a new name for this. Project:Orbits was just the working title, but people have started just calling it Orbits by default. It’s a great name, but doesn’t really play into the Racing aspect of the game at all. Plus, I just today discovered Orbit: Rocket Race 5000 which kind of ruins BOTH the ‘Orbits‘ name AND the ‘Galaxy 5000‘ name I’d been also considering. When I open it up for blind playtesting next week I’m going to start a poll to see what other names people like for the game.