Updated: Apr 19, 2020
This blog took some time and was a bit strange to write given the circumstances. Like a lot of people, I have tried to look for the positive sides in being home all the time. One detail, is that I have transformed our flat hall into a training area and started to use my wooden dummy for kungfu practicing more often, whereas I used to practice more elsewhere while teaching wing chun. I am adjusting myself to start providing training via an action cam to my students. For work, a focus towards renewal in our IT-management suddenly gets accelerated. And for AstroNavigators, I got into the zone to further prepare the digital test environment. Staying home made me enjoy adapting to the extra amount of quality time with wife and kid.
But although I am staying home 'to save others' (especially loved ones ;-)), I keep on wondering about all the suffering and stress being ignited outside. It feels like the situation is worse than a zombie film. The danger is invisible and unforgiving, instilling fear into the hearts of people. Even I am a lot encouraged by fear, because my mother (lung cancer) and son (premature birth) are both sensitive for lung infections. Somehow, I hope this event will have shaken up society for the better. That we can start with a new slate. I can already think of at least three things: partial teleworking works and reduces traffic, unessential industries need to rethink their natural footprint, and healthcare shouldn't be treated like a luxury anywhere in the world!
I used to think I was a little germaphobe, but the current focus on how to clean your hands properly and regularly, made me feel less freakish about it now ;-).
A. Last basic character is ready
Sphen Easydive is the last in the series of basic characters. This will start off the official play test period. Afterwards there are two special characters in the making, but these are somewhat a surprise. Especially the last character illustration will require some extra care, since I want that one to be the apotheosis of character revelations.
In the meantime we can make acquaintance with Sir Sphen Easydive. This is one of the most whimsical of all characters regarding personality and hidden agenda cards. The astronaut suit is based on the Lost in Space spacesuit and a Mandalorian jetpack from the Star Wars franchise.
art and story:
Later this week, I think that our illustrator Diego Sanchez will have a drawing time laps demonstration video of Sphen to show to us. I will keep you all posted for that one!
B. Additional player aids and attributes
Making final first prototype play test materials
On the virtual test version an initial player aid has been made next to the short reference guide of the game rules. During testing the need for a more evolved player aid might rise. We will react with this necessity based on feedback from user experience.
C. Online platform
On the downside of the COVID-19 situation, we will be unable to take physical game demonstration bookings of board game clubs in Belgium and the Netherlands. Nevertheless, now more than ever, we are able to concentrate on global meetup and have international demonstrations. Booking times for a maximum of 3H sessions will be set on:
Fridays 20H (+1 GMT)
Saturday 20H (+1 GMT)
Sundays 14H (+1 GMT)
In the meantime, we are also looking for volunteers to help us play test to the fullest. One way to do this is to add an overview of continents and countries with people who want to spread game testing locally. Several forum areas will be provided to do just that. We will use demographic information and language use as a parameter for manual translations, once we are able to produce the actual board game, while respecting the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
So what we are doing at the moment is gathering Game Explainers to support a worldwide community. This way, more people can book demonstrations of the prototype in the world.
We are not expecting an explosion of interest during testing, but we do hope to obtain a testing community of 20 people. If however, for any reason, a lot of interest rises up, we will ramp up the scale to a maximum of 50.
The platform we are using is also a very popular one among famous small publishers to make their piece of art accessible online and for demonstration purposes during Kickstarter campaigns. Once you are a member of our testing community, a page will be available where a gaming room can be initiated to play with us to learn the game or to share with local or international friends online.
To communicate very efficiently, we are using a popular voice channel for gamers. This way you can join us on one of the tables to discuss the game while playing on Tabletopia. A fast link to forum items is available to leave some constructive feedback that could help us develop this board game into an experience you are proud of to support.
Want to contribute in our AstroNavigators community?
We are looking for a lot more play testers. Singing up doesn't force you to do anything, but giving us the chance to keep you updated with the play testing opportunities we offer to contribute to enhance the experience of this board game. Frequent play testers will be mentioned on the game box or/and in the rulebook.
People who love explaining games and want to dig into this game as a support can first sign up via login, and after some testing and explaining, they can consider joining forces to explain the game to local communities.
Tabletopia version enhancement
Although a Tabletopia version already existed since November 2019, I have decided to wait until the basic character artwork was completed to start printing prototype copies and finishing a digital version. At first, I was even hesitant to use Tabletopia again due to a lack of interest in the platform in the past. However, in the two years I have learned to work with the platform, I have noticed a fast and positive evolution by the developers in making this tool more developer friendly. The current pandemic situation has also motivated a lot of people of my gaming environment to use Tabletopia. In the beginning this digital board game system seemed to be very intimidating for gamers of physical board games. The situation has forced a lot of board gamers to also use Discord more often as a means to communicate through voice channels.
Enhancements and play tests have already started
In the meantime some game tweaks has been implemented:
adding first player token
adaptation world map for additional launch locations
deck of alternative launch site cards
extra player aids (special icons, abilities, hidden agendas, end game procedure)
lunar module (LM) flip token (landing module + ascend module)
Where to play?
Test versions are available on PC (internet browser/Steam) and MOBILE (Android/iOS).
The PC versions via 'Playtest area' in login menu:
Play session setups via Tabletopia rooms:
First and Fast module (no abilities nor Hidden Agendas) no return
Constellation module (quests are optional) with return
Solar System module (quests are optional) with return
The MOBILE version via download code (see forum once logged in)
Register online via login and sign up for play testing and for feedback after organizing play sessions
Upcoming video blogs:
How to use Tabletopia
Playing AstroNavigators (rules)
How to register and contribute online
D. Printing of physical version
Booking sessions in Belgium/Netherlands will follow as soon as the physical version can be made after our COVID-19 episode.
First draft to start play testing is already available for play testers in the play testing area of Tabletopia via our website.
F. What's still coming?
Solo play, generating a bonus character for multi-play
Hidden support card and additional astronomical instrument triggers
Seasonal event module
Background information on the sciences and instruments in the game
Background stories with supported art work
Alternative artwork for some prototype cards
As a final note I want to dedicate my gratitude to the people in the health care services, in the postal and package delivery services, in the supermarkets, as well as the people in the household waste sector and all other backbones of our society, in this difficult and dangerous period, for providing us all the care and needs, so we can stay home keeping everyone else save.
I wish everyone who had to shut down their business and dreams, everyone who lost their jobs and everyone who lost loved ones, all the courage they can muster to rise up and get stronger. Don't lose hope. Survive. Because that is what life is all about. This is best done by caring for each other.