1. Overview Solo Story Module
This module is one that is as important as the multiplayer modules for me. First of all, the demand for solo play is increasing. It is fun for those isolated due to environment or pandemic. For those who are burdened or blessed to prepare the explanation of the game, it gives a fun way to get a good feel of the game before explaining it on the game table among friends. My experience of good solo games are those that are not a simplification of the multiplayer version, but rather an interesting puzzle packed full of theme.
The story is mimicking the space race tensions during the first lunar voyages, starting with the Zond 5 mission, a flyby of two Russian tortoises. We all know Apollo 11, but concerning technological rivalry this was just a walk in the park. It was during the preparations for the Apollo 8 mission that the USA was still leaping behind the USSR. Until that moment, the USA has done nothing but hurtling behind USSR's accomplishments: the first satellite, the first man in space, the first man in orbit, the first woman in space,... the first Earthlings in a lunar flyby mission really made the USA scared of losing their bold promises of going to the Moon (first!). The events of Zond 5 were terrifying for a reason. Not only did the Apollo mission fall dramatically behind after the Apollo 1 accident, but the entire mission was far from ready (scrapping and redesigning until Apollo 7 testing) for any manned mission beyond Earth's orbit, and the ongoing Russian victories and the realisation that the USSR were preparing manned missions using the Soyuz 7K-L1 (Zond) spacecraft, launched with the Proton-K rocket, caused a tremor that led the Apollo 8 crew to change their mission objectives. Together with Frank Borman and William Anders, first ever astronavigator in space, Jim Lovell, was ordered to change the flyby mission into a lunar orbit mission. The success of Apollo 8 has caused the USSR to fall behind, and together with the quarrels among their own rocket scientists, the Russians made peace with their final defeat when the USA claimed the lunar victory with the Apollo 11 landing. Although Apollo 11 was the greatest achievement for the public, the space race ended with the bold decision to upgrade the Apollo 8 mission. A little sidenote: Apollo 11's main astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were also part of Apollo 8's backup crew!
The story in the game has two Russian tortoises making their flyby mission, but your character has discovered Proctor's star map in an old observatory where Arman Piñata used to work. An old astronomical super invention is linked with this map and key to reach for the Moon, and you need to discover which one before the tortoises return from their mission. The tortoises have skilfully crafted a maze to delay anyone who might have stumbled on their secret while they are gone.
The first few test screamed for little tweaks, but the last one was really good! Very exciting game as Leo Maseko. I just in time uncovered the super invention related to Armand's star map, before he has landed from his Zond mission. Then I lost with only 14 Navigation Knowledge (NK) points short. If only I used that onboard sextant a turn later...
As you can see in the prototype image on Tabletopia, the Solo Story AI Board has 4 card slots for hidden super inventions, 1 is the matching one with Proctor's Star Map, kept secret by Arman Piñata as long as he can during the game. The other slots are the distractions setup by the Tortoises to confuse your search during their Zond 5 mission. You need to uncover and unlock the right super invention by revealing the fake ones, before Arman and Teplovoy return back from their lunar flyby mission.
A deck of smaller cards are reactions to your actions. The puzzle is to play out the manipulations of Arman Piñata in order to buy time uncovering the secret.
Once that happened successfully, you are not out of the woods yet. You still need to survive your Apollo 8 mission with your knowledge, abilities and wit in order to win.
The Solo Story Mode trains you into getting more quests done in a short amount of time without losing sight of your launch position, hidden agenda and Navigation Knowledge points.
During the game a miniature (not yet sculpted, nor completely drawn), here a brown disc, will block one of the weeks. At the and of a resolution phase, you need to give Arman a new blocking position that differs from Arman's and your own character's current position.
To increase the difficulty, Teplovoy will be added to the blocking strategy. Nevertheless, only one tortoise may be displaced freely each round. The other tortoise will be placed on your character's current spot. This way only two weeks will be available to choose from, and you have to manipulate your strategy carefully not to deprive yourself from crucial observations this way. Always make sure not to block your own spot for the next month, since one of both tortoises will be monitoring your footsteps!
If that's not crazy enough, you can always make things worse by using the Midnight Expert mode, where 12H daylight cards are used instead of 6H ones. This expert mode will be explained later.
The super inventions also have powers, but for the sake of testing the Zond mission "timer", this feature was irrelevant. In future blogs these powers will be disclosed as well.
Since the Zond mission has no landing mission, a separate version of the main board on the back with an alternate Apollo mission track might be lurking in the future as well. Another alternative altogether might emerge while restyling the final graphic design.
2. 3D-print of masters by Tiny Factory Studio
Ana has been preparing the digital sculpts to be printed, cleaned and sanded. After all the master sculpts are ready, we will be able to prepare the silicon mould with these master models, in order to create multiple prototype resin casted models for previews and demonstrations. We are all excited to see the results. You can see some cool images provided by Ana of this process at the end.
There are still a few miniatures to come of the tortoises, the sphinx, the super inventions, a separate Earth miniature with tilted axis and the Navigation Knowledge dials. Most of these things will be object to debate for KS stretch goals and therefore the deluxe version and extra modules are scheduled for later.
As a small note, I have uploaded the first half of the Constellation Module film on the characters ability in the Game Tester Guide section. Remember, I am not a YouTube hero ;-). I am looking for 4 players to play in a Tabletopia livestream session (on Discord or YouTube) where I can comment on the rules. If you are interested, feel free to contact me.
To conclude this blog: some might have seen these pictures already on social media, but if it is your first look at it I hope you will enjoy it as much as we do.
Meet you on the next one!