Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

One Turn of Metagaming’s Trailblazer

I muddled through one turn of this with my son. I like this one way more than him– he say’s it’s complicated. He keeps telling people that a single turn takes thirty minutes.

The main problem with this game is that there’s too much data involved with the tracking of each trade good at each world, where your fleets are and what you have in your cargo holds. Every transaction has you rolling dice to check to see if there is an impact in either demand or production. It’s hard to visualize what is happening so that you can make informed decisions.

BUT… for all of this bookkeeping and clunkiness… you get a toy universe to play with. And for that, I really dig this game.

We started with our ships at Sol. We each had 20 units of money. I chose three transports and my son took two transports and a scout.

My son bid five for the two ships that are produced at Sol… I bid six… then he went to seven and I quit. He took them as transports instead of scouts. That left him with 6 units of cash. He spent the rest of his money on 2 holds of weapons and 2 holds of industrial tech.

Sneaky mean old me then got to pick up all the cargo I could carry at a cost of 1 unit of case each! (I’m a stinker.) I took 3 holds of germ plasm, 1 hold of industrial tech, and 2 holds of medical tech.

We checked so see if there was a change in production for each of these items and there was no fluctuation.

There is a chance that fleets will get randomized on a move– and less of a chance if a fleet has one or more scouts. We selected our destinations. And everybody made their movement rolls just fine:

  • My transport that went to Alpha Centauri sold one germ plasm for 2 and one industrial tech for 18. (The demand number for germ plasm increased by +1.)
  • My transport that went to Kimberly sold one germ plasm for 5 and one medical tech for 2. (The demand number for medical tech increased by +1.)
  • My transport that went to  Libertas sold one germ plasm for 18 and one medical tech for 7. (The demand number for medical tech increased by +1.)
  • My son’s fleet of two transports sold two units of industrial tech at Jahsworld for 24. (The demand number for industrial tech increased by +1.)
  • My son’s fleet of two transports and a scout sold one of his two units of weapons at Kimberly for 28. (The demand number for weapons dropped by -1.)
  • My cash total after this was 66 and my son’s was 52.

The chart for determining the price of goods sold is very slick. You cross reference the demand number with total number of units sold to get the price. Higher demand numbers and fewer goods sold means more money per unit!

There are a few rules we ignored just to get through the gist of a turn– stuff with factors and exploration. But this is the gist of the game. (There is a system for adding new planets to the game and randomly determining what they produce and consume as well, for instance. I’d try a turn of this every now and then, but the bookkeeping and the difficulty in “seeing” what is going on is a real barrier to my son’s attention span.

The real “gotcha” in the rules that I saw in this is that the player that rolls high in the movement phase goes first… so the people at go last can come into the same places as you and flood the market. And the randomized fleets could be really irritating if someone rolls poorly for that. (What star trader is unwilling to manage a little risk, though?) But the system of determining the sales price on trade goods is pure genius. Of course, the amount of bookkeeping will varies directly to the number of ships in play… which is too danged bad. Nevertheless, I still think this game is the bee’s knees.

Somebody suggested I make a spreadsheet for this thing, but I don’t think that would solve the game’s problems. (I’m biased, though– I don’t want to look at computer screens during a game session.) I think slightly better play aids would do the trick, especially if it was easy to tear down and set up.

One rule that I flubbed in this session was I forgot the penalties for the rolls that adjust the production levels. If I get what’s supposed to happen, the production is liable to seriously drop for the stuff that people aren’t buying… and when/if demand kicks in… players will be trying to stimulate the production of items that have zeroed out. Really… some kind of world tracker play aid with the sequence of play and the key calculations laid out so that you don’t have to think about them would be super neat. If they could be laid out in such a way that they become the star map… oh golly!

Yeah, I’d totally play that. All day, even.


4 responses to “One Turn of Metagaming’s Trailblazer

  1. jlv61560 October 5, 2015 at 11:33 am

    A couple of comments:

    This one was a great game back in the day — though very paper and pencil intensive. Which, I guess, is one of the major reasons why no one seems to play this, or games like Stellar Conquest any more. And that’s kind of sad, since there are a lot of excellent learning opportunities in those old games.

    Back when this first came out, we added in WarpWar so you could design and build your own ships (cargo holds cost 1BP each) and figured out the number of BPs available at each planet as based on the number of goods produced (and BPs became another production item you needed to bid on and accumulate in order to build new ships). Needless to say, we wound up with some cool space combat. The merged version became known as “Space Robber Barons” and was a frequent choice at our group gaming sessions! We also took some of the goods from Ares Magazine’s “Star Trader” and added them into the available goods (“Magnetic Monopoles” anyone?) to fluff up the number of trade goods available out there….

    I’ve also used the supply and demand tables to create a “mercantilist” economic system to run in the background on my The Fantasy Trip campaigns over the years — it provides logical trade routes with fluctuating supply and demand routes which helps me define what trade routes are active and what major goods they carry. Obviously things like Germ Plasm, Industrial Tech, and the like are out, and things like horses, armor and weapons are in…. ;-)

  2. Pingback: MADICON REPORT: Merchant of Venus –

  3. Cobby October 25, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    Just scored an unused copy of this in a little game shop in Temescal. Really looking forward to playing it!

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