Location: Game Kastle 2

5 January 2008

Attendance:  Chris K., Kris M., Lisa, Glenn, Joe R.

Day Game: Belter

Now claim jumping and space battles are fun, for sure, but Belter: Mining the Asteroids, 2076 is all about the "bottom line." So, before the game started I ran across the street to the office supply store and picked up two pads of 3-column accountants ledger sheets. This turned out to be a great purchase.

The players chose their starting business level:

Initial Prospecting

Each player's prospecting attempts are kept secret. You can sell the data, if you like, and if another player prospects an asteroid.

My strategy here was to choose asteroids near to the Contraterrene Development Area. That was in case I discovered a contraterrene (CT) asteroid. It would be a short trip to sell the CT at 10,000 Credits a piece.

With one exception my initial six asteroids were nothing special, but one was a Rich gas asteroid that would support 4 mines. Even though I wanted to give priority to metal and rock asteroids, in order to maximize the chances of finding CT, the gas asteroid was a one turn trip out from Marketplace (a planetoid named for its obvious function), making a handy 4 turn round trip with turnaround, loading and unloading.

I didn't hear anything about Chris's initial asteroids. At the end of the game Joe revealed he only found one Rich asteroid but it was several turns away from Marketplace.

The Game Turns

A turn by turn description of the game would only read like a stock market report:

TURN 1: GAS +3 103.... ORE +3 103... (actual market results from turn 1)

Each turn gas and ore fluctuate by 1d6 - (the number tons of a resource sold on the market that turn divided by 100). At the end of every turn you look at how many tons of resources were presented for sale at Marketplace and adjust the price before the sales are concluded.

The prospectors want to sell the gas and ore for a high price, but they need to sell them often to stay in business. The PKF wants to see the prices of ore and gas stay low (keeping both prices below 200 Cr/ton is the PKF victory condition).

At the start of each turn immigrants from Earth, seeking their fortune in the asteroid belt, come to Marketplace hoping to be hired for work. The number of immigrants who show up is dependent on how much the price of resources rose last turn.

The Business Ventures

TURN 7: GAS +2 128.... ORE +1 127...

Lisa's prospector had only one business plan: to find at least one decent asteroid, get out with a shovel and slowly fill her seeker with ore.

Chris had enough money to hire some workers which he put to work with shovels on a decent asteroid. Unfortunately he decided to skip paying his hired workers on a few turns in an attempt to avoid bankruptcy. Well, the workers went on strike and demanded back pay plus one week before they'd get off his ship. This really hurt him.

Joe set up his mine on a metal asteroid and started getting moderate income. The problem for him was, his best asteroid was a few turns travel from Marketplace. His leader took the seeker and started prospecting for better asteroids.

I lucked out with the rich gas asteroid being only one turn travel from Marketplace. Like Joe, I had my leader take the seeker out to prospect better asteroids. I lucked out. In a few turns my leader found a Pure metal asteroid that would support 3 mines! It was a bit farther from Marketplace so I had plan a 3-point route for my carrier that took about 10 turns to travel. Fortunately, this was optimal as the carrier would travel out with a new mine and hired workers for the metal asteroid; load up on metal; stop at the gas asteroid and load up; then, return to Marketplace with a full hold ready to carry another mine out to my metal asteroid.

It Takes Money To Make Money

TURN 14: GAS +4 150.... ORE -1 152...

One thing the design notes in Belter: Mining the Asteroids, 2076 talk about is how the game starts slowly but then, when players get to a certain threshold production really takes off. This was certainly true in this game.

Chris never really recovered from the verge of bankruptcy after his workers went on strike.

Lisa spend most of the game on one asteroid with a shovel but was slowly building up some money to buy a real mine and hire some workers.

I made enough money from the first asteroid to buy a second mine for the pure metal asteroid on turn 8. I purchased my third mine on turn 14 and placed it on the pure metal asteroid also.

Joe never found a great asteroid but was making money from his one good mine. Eventually he would have found a pure asteroid and things would have taken off.

Glenn used the PKF to occasionally shake down corporations for small amounts of cargo to bring the market price down.

The Bottom Line

TURN 18: GAS +0 156.... ORE +5 166...

At the end of the game (called at 6 PM for dinner), the score is based on how much cash you have on hand. Employees, resources in storage and equipment count for nothing. Prospectors score their credits in the bank. Partnerships score money divided by 2 (to compensate for their initial advantage), and corporations divide their money by 3. The scores were:

Joe Corp.: 23,676 Credits /3 = 7,892 points
Lisa Prospector LLC: 8,490.4 Cr / 1 = 8490 pts
Chris & Partner: 5,584 Cr / 2 = 2792 pts
Kris Corp: 52,523 Cr / 3 = 17,507 pts
Glenn playing the PKF: victory for keeping both resources below 200 Cr per ton.

Lessons Learned

TURN 20: GAS UNCH 167.... ORE +3 164...

This was the club's second playing. We were much faster at the game this time and got in 20 turns before breaking for dinner.

Strikes can hurt you. Try to avoid them.

Luck during prospecting is the biggest factor in the game. You need to play a long game for everyone's luck to even out and strategies to pay off.

Buy some business ledgers for the game. Paper money slows it down too much and it's nice to have a neat record in this game of business.

The PKF really hasn't much to do. If you must have five players give this to the player who will do the most teaching and rules checking. The PKF player can become a tyrant though and shake down other players for money ("fines", bail for "arrested" crews, etc.).


Everyone had dinner at Ye Olde Royal Oak Pub. 

Evening Game: Space Junkyard

For our evening game of the Tactics-0 meet, we played Space Junkyard. The players were Chris K., Joe R., Glenn G., and Lisa M. Since the game only handles 4 players, I agreed to teach instead of play.

We did the usual set up and the game proceeded in a straightforward way. We had a few questions, which I'll append later. We played with no optional rules.

Joe decided to build a spaceship in a linear zig-zag pattern. He tried to get pieces to follow that pattern. Chris wanted to wrap his ship around the front of his bridge and join back on the other side. Not that these "designs" had any effect on the game, it was entertaining to see them try for the pieces to build that pattern.

Since the third step of a player's turn is to add a new tile to the edge of the board and push that row of tiles down (including spaces), discarding the tile at the other edge of the board. This means that players can chose to discard useful tiles that the other players might want. In this 4-player game, the players soon realized that the tile they added to the board probably wouldn't be on the board when it came back to their turn. So they would often place that tile to eliminate another tile useful to the next player to have a turn. This seemed to be the overriding strategy in the game. Here is a view of the board after some rounds of this "scorched space" strategy (and the board got even sparser in future turns):

Near the end of the game the board was even emptier.

In the end, no one managed to get a complete spaceship, but Lisa and Joe got close. Glenn and Chris has holes everywhere. Final score: Lisa and Joe tied with 7 points; Glenn, 4 points; Chris, 3 points.

The club's reactions to the game included: "good game," "cute" and "fun." A few of us expressed a desire to see a published copy. (The game is currently web published and print-and-play.