Blockade Crazy Idea

I've just had a flurry of what I think are good ideas for Blockade. If you've played the game, please read this because I want your input. The first idea is simple, but it led to a bigger idea. The idea is to allow for synced, focused fire. Here's the rule:

If your activated squadron attacks an enemy that is within range of a second squadron you control, you may roll dice for BOTH units up to the cap of dice.

The reason for this is to reward good maneuvering and thinking ahead. You only activate one unit at a time, so you'll need to think a few turns ahead to corner a unit. It also rewards you for not getting stuck in between two enemy ships.

Secondly, it lets you fire more dice, which makes the game more explosive, decisive, and faster, but it caps out (3 critical dice, 4 greens, 5 yellows). It'll be a clear advantage, but not ridiculous.

Finally, it puts even more pressure on the player to properly arrange his formation. If you open up, and I mean really open up, you better be ready to suffer hot, laser death from all sides.

If you're with me at this point, you see my mind is abuzz with intergalactic, metallic warfare. Things should explode and quickly. Let's continue.

I was browsing Shapeways after this, mostly because I love miniatures and starships and losing money. Irrational Designs is one of my favorite sculptors with such a great collection of models. I kept wondering how I could get ships like these into Blockade (mostly for a prototype, they are cost prohibitive for a published version), but kept running into a few issues:

  • The number of ships needed
  • The ships don't convey any information
  • The shapes don't work with my formation mechanic

I started pondering this. One of the issues with the current game is that the board gets crowded. Plus, moving around all three pieces in formation can sometimes be a tinge fiddly. I'm also balancing these thoughts with the fact that I've been pushed to add more customization to the ships/fleets, potentially more functionality, and I need to rework the components. Pegs and wooden blocks aren't going to work necessarily.

I had a few thought cycles.

  • What if squadrons were instead one ship? Instead of moving ships around, you moved shields around to more or less change weapon output/defense. (I didn't like this. Fictionally odd and confusing).
  • What if squadrons were represented by a single ship on the board, but individual ships were represented by cards? Oh...go on...

Here's the idea.

  • Squadrons are represented by an individual token/model/block on the board. 
  • Players have 1-3 cards arranged in formation order in front of them for each squadron. This will be identical to how the ships work currently.
  • Instead of the block manipulation, you simply re-arrange your cards. No knocking over ships or making a mess.
  • To track damage, just put damage counters on top of the cards, like Summoner Wars. Simply flip the cards for destroyed ships over.
  • Instead of conveying all info through symbols, cards give you a little more flexibility to explain movement and weapons. You get more space to convey this info instead of tiny dots.
  • Cards also give you the ability to introduce more complex concepts to allow for advanced play and more intricate fleet arranging...this is something I've pondered, but never been able to do with just the blocks to convey everything.

So, to refresh, this is what this means: There is still the same spatial arrangement mechanic, but you represent your ship's location and facing with a single piece and do the specific manipulation on the cards in front of you. Other players don't really need to know what you can fire, but they DO need to know where your weakspots are. I'll either need to make this clearly visible on the cards or perhaps there will be a token you place on the board to say "I'm weak here."

Because I'm using cards, I can add more precise and clear information on the cards themselves (ex: Move: 3 or Damage: X, X, Y, Y) AND add advanced complexity for fleet building and advanced play.


Does this all make sense? Poke and ask questions if you're unclear. I think this is "the next big step" I've needed for the game. It's purely a presentation issue, but it opens up so many possibilities.


The orientation on the board still tells you what you need to know.
"I'm attacking from the right," and I look down to tally the right side of my cards.

My hope is that this is actually better as you don't need to lean in to tally all the stuff on the tiny counters. Did I explain this right or am I missing something?

You should really adopt nautical terminology. My right vs your right will get confusing. Port and starboard are unambiguous. The confusing part may be players figuring out which side is attaching which side. But that should just be a learning curve issue. Once it clicks, it shouldn't be a problem.

Ah! So, the reason that really isn't a problem is that it's relative to the front of the ship and only the attacker needs to know it. I know which way my ship faces and I see its right side is the one I'm attacking from. I'll just reference the right side of my cards. That's not really different than it is now.

You attack/defend as a group, and the groups aren't symmetrical. So my starboard attack is different from my port attack. And your starboard defense is different from your port defense (if I understand correctly). So when you enter combat you have to know "My port side attacks your starboard side".

I'm just saying your cards might be laid so port is left, but on the board, your ship may be oriented towards you, so port is right. That's where I forsee confusion.

Yep, totally got it. This will definitely be a problem, but I don't know precisely how or by how much yet. It'll be relatively easy to mock up these cards to test. I'll try to do that over the weekend...

Those are some good pros, the main con that jumps to mind is trying to match the orientation of the ship on the board to all the cards in front of people. I forsee lots of craning necks and twisting heads and discussions about which side is which. But definitely worth a try. It might not be as bad as I'm imagining it.


I really like the idea of using cards. I think it provides you with a great avenue for adding content to the game. It also makes the moving of ships much simpler.

The other bonuses are that you can add details and art to the cards, you can have awesome minis in the grid, and the production costs would go way down. Nicely done!

- Ed

The increase in cards might increase the cost quite a bit, actually. Punchboard is dirty cheap. Granted, I could have 60 ship cards, 25 or so Actions, and 15 Events, and that's still only 100 cards.

This would reduce the amount of punchboard needed and the board could be much smaller. Plus, if you do plain wouldn't be too bad. I love that you could sell it with punchboard markers and players could use Shapeways, etc. to upgrade with minis.

On one hand, it's elegant as hell and allows for any number of ship types as upgrade/expansions. It opens up a LOT of possibilities for crazy formations in a limited amount of board space.

On the other hand, it forces another level of abstraction into the game. It's almost anti-immersive. It's not necessarily bad, but it forces another magic bubble for the player to dissolve into. Also, if you're using chits or blocks on cards to note damage, I can see issues with keeping damaged ships in order when changing formation. Finally, if this level of abstraction is the new standard... changing the shape of the board to a radar scope at that point makes thematic sense and will make the circle smaller.

(I believe it will not be difficult to keep track of the squad 's direction if BOTH chits show direction. Pop an arrow on A facing Up, put a similar arrow next to the fleet cards, and you can pull off maneuverability on the board for major direction shifts.)

Yeah, I definitely don't think it's a straight, pure positive. I need to test and see. I have to recognize the blocks aren't really the best component (for a few reasons) and I want to get ahead of it instead of just kicking and screaming :)

I like having everything on the board. But, I have noticed issues with pieces getting knocked around, the board being way crowded, or even just constantly leaning in to count your lasers and such.

The board could definitely be smaller. Almost like the Time 'n Space board. This would also allow for more room for squadrons in front of players.

I'm currently stealing the Plaid Hat standard for putting chits on cards (Summoner Wars, Mice and Mystics). It's true they don't move cards around as much a I'm proposing...I'll need to see how it goes.

Can you clarify what you mean by ze directional comment?

If I'm entering a quadrant, port and starboard matters re: the direction that I'm facing. Ships generally have their thrust in the rear, so forward movement through a quadrant would be dictated by arrow direction and ship position as well.

If my chit on the table sez:


it shows all ships in relation to a given direction.

If my chit on the quadrant board sez:


my ships face that direction, in the formation dictated by my table layout.

It's sad in many ways, because the "toy factor" of actual blocks and cribbage-esque pegs is cooler than words. But the potential for a card-system makes the cards themselves a massive toy, so... yeah.

Yeah, I'm losing the toy factor somewhat, but all of the mechanics are still there. And I have to recognize that it's VERY unlikely a publisher will take this game with the wooden blocks and pegs. I need to "get in front of this" and figure out how to make it work in a publishable form.

The cards would definitely open it up to sandbox mode.

I'll be testing this new layout w/ chits ASAP. I imagine I'll be able to address many of the issues quite quickly. There might be some bigger ones though that'll just stick with it. Not sure.

A few thoughts:

On the whole, I like the card idea. Mainly I think it's good because it allows more information than the blocks could. It opens a lot of possibility for special missions by including special ship cards. For example, you could have a disabled ship that you need to escort to a location. Or you could have a diplomatic shuttle with different weapon/shield configuration than the standard ships. Etc...

I think you lose some of the tactile fun of manipulating the blocks. But that might be ok if it makes the actual game more fun. You could potentially represent the ships with chits instead of cards. So you have the token on the board, and then you have chits in front of you to indicate the arrangement. Chits would have the advantage of not being able to overlap. So sliding them up against each other is more tactile. But I suspect you might lose some definition on the printing if you're using chit. Maybe not.

I think the port/starboard issue could easily be solved if you have some kind of indicator in front of the player. So picture that each player has their squadron arrangement(s) lined up along one side of the board. You could do it a couple of ways:
-Have indicators printed along the board, and the ships are placed within the area below that indicator. Then you could have red and green colored bars along that area that show which side is port and which is starboard.
-You could also do this with a player mat or some other kind of movable mat or even just a narrow ruler that you could place your cards next to.

With both of these options, you can then color the token on the board in such a way to make it obvious. Color the port and starboard edges of the squadron token different colors, so players can just say that they are attacking the green side or the red side, and it will be obvious which direction the firing will come from in front of the player.

Might not be necessary, but it might make it more visually obvious.

Just remember starboard is green, port is red!