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Science in gameplay

Updated: Jan 20, 2020

Initial simplicity and generalization

We restricted the first game version to a 12H midnight visibility range, which simplified the gameplay and focused only on the basic principles of observing. Nevertheless, with our new aesthetically enhanced, content spiced and more strategically engaged version, under its present name, we want to push the bar further for even the scientific background simulation in the gameplay. Since we have exceptions to midnight observations, like solar eclipses and planet transits, it might be confusing why evening and morning observations might not be included. For this reason I sat on the drawing board and tried to figure out a more elegant way to represent the heaven mechanics while keeping the gameplay flow.

Midnight invisible range (red) and 'from dusk until dawn' invisible range (yellow) on the star map (Armillary Games)

My first reason to enhance the projections in the game, is because of the orrery. It restricted visibility to half the board to consequently follow the star map. This made matters a bit weird when comparing the visibilities of the Mercury and Venus cards, planets closer to the Sun than Earth, which would never be visible at midnight. Venus is specifically nicknamed 'Evening and Morning Star' for this reason. And since the initial hidden agendas and quests were hard enough, tweaking the visibility rang closer to reality could only be beneficial.

Although, we should remember that scaling of great areas always results in greater error margins for real simulations. A good example is the surface area on the world map to indicate borders of visibility. We all know that real regions on a boarder line in the game is not going to make the difference between seeing Crux or Ursa Major, but the limits of the entire area should be compared to the extreme border ends. The same goes for the entire month period.

It was possible though to squeeze the real unobservable area to a 6H range instead of the 12H. The day lengths were already dictated by position. I am still wondering whether it would be good to keep the previous simplified projection for easy gameplay (without hidden agendas and quests), or use the new advanced projection all together. Maybe I should make a poll on that for our potential backers.

Real observation areas

As you can see below, the invisibility range of objects, stretched out to twilight, is not 12H. It only is the case if you want to account for midnight visibility. To be able to only filter out 6H, we need to find a clear way in the game to indicate invisibility due to the Sun, indicated by the red area in the image beneath. The Blue line was the original way in the game to separate between visible planets and invisible planets from the Earth. I manage to focus the red area in the game, but needed an alternative starting point than the Earth to make the check, while omitting the area between the Earth and the Sun for the benefit of the occultation cards as well.

Visibility ranges on the star map and on the ecliptic plane of the Solar System (

Tweaks or optional additions to fit reality better

How is the change going to be visible on the boards? The boards aren't going to change. Rather, the measuring methods and tools are going to be enhanced.

First, the daylight cards are gong to be cut or foldable, to indicate hours of daylight as well as hours of visibility to 18H (6H of invisibility range) between sunset and sun rise.

Adjusting range on the star map and tweaking daylight cards (Armillary Games)

This will mimic a better representation of what is really hindered and present during the daylight through the entire year, no matter the current position of observation. Daylight horizon is the indicator of your Eastern and Western horizon. The armillary cards will help you find the Northern and Southern horizon.

More realistic total invisibility range throughout a year on the star map (Armillary Games)

To enhance the visibility range on the orrery while maintaining the gameplay and the occultation context, the Sun needs to remain the indicator of obstruction. But to keep the practical lines on the board, I have widened the obstruction field by 2H (1H on each side). Let's say that we take this error margin for the same difference between Nautical and Astronomical twilight. The width is only in its extremes for telescope observations anyway.

New invisibility range adjustment (Armillary Games)
New invisibility ranges during a year (Armillary Games)

A tripod stand for the Sun (D12) will be provided to indicate 8/24H (1/3 period). Please do feel free to comment on this here or on our Facebook page.

The coming week our illustrator Diego should have finalized the box art for our prototype, and then I only need to press the 'execute print' button to have the first physical test and demo version within several weeks. I hope you are as excited as I am. People in Belgium can start to book physical test plays to try out after that. Starting from next week I need to work on that rulebook asap, so the TableTopia version will be available for international fans as well.

That's it for this week. Wish you all a Happy Chinese New Year of the Rat for Saturday the 25th already!


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