Dawn Sector: Player Boards


I think I'm going to use Dawn Sector as the new name instead of Empire. If that rubs you the wrong way, please tell me!

The focus of 3 of my 4 tests this week were accessibility. I deliberately sought out 4 people who don't really play board games and in some cases, just don't like them. The purpose of this was NOT to find out how to make my game for them. Frankly, it isn't and I don't think I need to compromise the design of this gamer's game for people who won't buy it anyways.

However, by testing with absolute board game novices I was able to play the game through the lens of their confusion. I was able to see what made the game difficult to learn, where the strategy wasn't clear, and how I can present the game better so that the people who WILL buy my game enjoy it more.

The tests were amazingly fruitful.

I've spent my weekend and will probably spend the majority of this week integrating all of the feedback. The time has come to discard my old Game Crafter prototype. The interface and layout is far out of date, a handful of things have been tweaked too far, and I need to integrate the new theme (sci fi). One of the biggest changes, which is the focus of this post, are the new player boards. You can see the new one at the top.

For reference, as I walk through the changes, here is the old one (for the same faction):


My best feedback came from a friend who, like me, has worked in the digital game industry as a designer for 8 years. He's an expert on usability and presenting information to the player. He also finds games as big as Dawn Sector just too big for his tastes. Perfect.

Based on the old board above, he had this feedback:

Input 1: I mix the player's unique abilities all over. However, there is a lot of info that everyone needs (round order, possible actions). Why not move that stuff to a central location and make it so my board only shows the unique stuff for me?

Solution: Round Order will now be put on the main game board. All Tactics and Staff Orders (and the special ability) are synced to the left side. The Battle Order information will now be contained on its own battle board (future post). I also put a minor call out on the special ability to say just that so nobody assumes it's flavor text.

Input 2: There is a lot of text. I'd love a way to easily reference things.

Solution: Every tactic and staff order (now Spec Ops) will have a euro-game style diagram that explains at a high level what will happen. I think this is a good hybrid of pure Euro that has only symbols (that require print aids or memorization) and Ameritrash style which is just years of text. My hope is that you can now scan the image, get an idea for what will happen, then check the text for the fine print.

Input 3: The color coding is helpful, but it needs to be even more obvious.

Solution: Actions will now have a category symbol. You'll notice that Offensive, Defensive, and Spec Ops tactics now have symbols for them. These will be integrated throughout the other player aids (especially the battle board). You also see sharper, more useful icons for the basic player actions. I want to help players connect the dots as easily as possible.

I now need to propagate these changes forward for the other 3 factions. Plus, probably the biggest change, the new fifth faction. But, this faction isn't a unique, special one. No, they are going to be a generic Tutorial Faction. They will use a combination of abilities from the other four factions. Like Eclipse, every player board will have this generic faction on the opposite side. My friend noted that it was very difficult to both learn the game AND the faction gameplay. If people can use the tutorial faction for the first few games, they can then easily step into the advanced faction driven game.

What a great idea! I'm very excited about these changes.

Thoughts? Input? Back to Photoshop I go.


I like the name Dawn Sector a lot. It does seem to reference more than just the planet itself, but you can work that into the story.

The new player board looks even better. Even if you fail to interpret the icons, they still please the eye. It seems like you use a red outline for attack abilities and so forth, why not make the attack icon red?

Maybe the tutorial faction should have few-to-no special abilities.

Ugh, I'm stupid. I should have done the color-coded icons to start with. Unfortunately my Sunday is running low on time and I set up this file in a way that it'll be a pain to fix it. I'll update that on my next graphics pass.

Regarding the tutorial faction, I talked about it quite a bit with my friend. We ultimately decided that they should have all of the same *rules* as the unique factions. This means that all of them have offensive, defensive, spec ops, and the special ability. Otherwise, there will be experience inconsistencies. Ultimately, this isn't a family game for 6 year olds. There is going to be a bit of a learning curve. BUT. If everyone has the same one, they can just focus on the game and know that everyone can do what they can do.

Ultimately, that's just my hypothesis. I may strip things out as you suggest upon further tests.