Last night’s game test at Beulahland has left me a little stymied. One of my favorite features of the game – giving each player a Homeworld with benefits – was shown to be a very weak feature. So, I need to look at either removing or improving it. Not sure how it’s going to change the shape of the game, but I need to do something.

I really like the idea of homeworlds from a story and theme perspective. In my head they should work kind of like pit-stops for your racer, where you get a massive benefit from stopping there that the other racers don’t get. In the current rules, the benefits for Homeworlds are that it’s easier to break orbit and repairs are less expensive to purchase. Rival worlds have the added penalties of higher escape velocity, and not being able to purchase repairs at all.

The problems with these benefits are that, the lower escape velocity only really benefits a racer who’s doing a fly-by, so if you stop for the cheap repairs you can’t take full advantage of the lower escape velocity (a fly-by allows you to continue along for the remainder of your speed, whereas breaking orbit only puts you in the next space).

One solution might be to give each planet a Specialization, and use that to give free repairs to its Native racer. Let’s say that Green’s home world specializes in engine repair – when Green passes their home world with an Engine Trouble status, it is automatically remedied during their turn, giving them a ‘speed boost’ as the speed which that status had diminished are recovered.

The other issue with homeworlds is the process in which they are chosen or assigned. In order to keep the game somewhat fair for all the players, I felt it was easiest to simply let everyone choose which homeworld was theirs. This led to much doubling-up as some worlds had more benefit than others, and having the final planet on the course as your homeworld has obvious benefits. Also, this makes it possible that each player will choose the same Home and Rival worlds, at which point the advantages of Homeworlds becomes one of those ‘if everyone is special, then no one is’ kind of problem.

Another thing that’s become clear is that when playing only a single-lap game, home world benefits and penalties are almost unnoticeable, and having the benefits of a homeworld at the end of the course becomes preferred. On a multi-lap race it might be better to have a home world at the beginning of the course to try and maintain an early lead, or to catch up to the pack at the beginning of your lap.

The suggestion was made to randomize homeworld assignment in some way, so that players didn’t get a choice of their homeworld. Either having them pre-assigned or randomly pulling the homeworld markers out of a cup and placing them on specific worlds.

In any case, I think I need to re-evaluate the benefits of having homeworlds. How can they best serve the player? What kind of strategic options can I create by having them? Should there be a cost associated with choosing a homeworld?

I think if I do decide to keep Homeworlds intact, I will need to institute a neutrality rule for the last planet on the course. The benefits of having this as your homeworld are just too great, no matter what the selection mechanism is.

One change I might make (not specific to the Homeworld problem, though it does still apply to Homeworlds) is to remove the limitation on only moving to the next space when Breaking Orbit. I suppose there’s no reason why the racer should be penalized twice – first for not having enough speed to fly-by, second for having had to stop in the first place. Why not just let them continue, playing 11 to break orbit on a 7, and then moving the remaining 4 spaces? This would limit the strategic options for holding onto high-speed cards, though – you wouldn’t waste an 11 for an escape velocity of 2 if you couldn’t then move the remaining 9 spaces.

I might also increase the escape velocities across the board – right now they’re skewed toward the low/middle half of the speed range. If I increase most of these by about 5, that would highlight the benefits and penalties of the Home/Rival escape modifiers, and also keep movement in check from the benefit of the Breaking Orbit change described above.

I think my best bet at this point is to release the components and invite folks to blind play test the game for me, to get more feedback on some different variations on the Homeworld rules and mechanisms.