I Don’t Know How To Quit You
After our eight-hour “pregame” of High Frontier yesterday, I’ve got the worst gaming hangover. Embedded flop-sweat, grainy eyes, aches, total lack of sleep from my brain grinding and grinding over the game. It’s not too far off from, you know, an actual addiction. I don’t think it’s costing me friendships or causing harm to anyone yet, though.
Every time I think ugh, eff this, I’ve had enough, it just takes a couple days and bam I’m right back into thinking about the game.
Yesterday was our first ever attempt at a four-player game. Smart players and the total noobs got tons of help — I’ve been pushing the whole “the challenge of just assembling missions and rescues is its own reward” thing — and I think we got maybe 2/3 of the way toward an actual endgame using All The Rules. The two most experienced players had a bead on how to actually execute our Futures, the elaborate scenarios that give you big point swings and bring the game to a close.
The Future I was gunning for was to build my terawatt thruster, put three colonists on board, load it with eight fuel tanks, and leave the solar system. Every one of those things is itself a little mini-quest!
* The terawatt thruster is a “promoted” gigawatt thruster, which means I needed both the factory to fabricate the original GW and a lab somewhere to promote it. I had scraped together the colonist and refinery that almost guarantee you’ll be able to build a lab on a synodic comet out near the asteroids.
* The three colonists meant I needed to park my space station somewhere with enough water to support three colonists in space. For me that meant the asteroid belt.
* I needed the time to pump eight tanks worth of isotope fuel for the thruster, which meant parking at precisely the right spectral class body with enough materials for me to fuel in situ.
* And then I needed to pilot the colony ship, loaded with colonists (all of whom are kinda massive!) to one of several exit pathways out of the solar system, all of which are a goodly distance depending on where on the map you’re set up. I was mostly parked in the asteroid belt so the Sol-Jupiter-Sol exit slingshot was my best bet.
What’s really hard to express in stupid incomplete words is that in a fully operational multiplayer game of High Frontier, allll the players are on similar races toward wildly divergent Future goals! The actual race element of a competitive game, with everyone hashing out Futures that take three to five miniquests … that’s a lot of brainpower. I think I’d need players with literally years of experience to get to that point.
I think that’s why I can’t shake this game out of my head. It’s not just the procedures of the game, it’s discovering new combinations of Futures and ship builds and then working out optimal steps to complete several events, each of which would feel like their own game ending in any other boardgame. It’d be like playing Risk where not only do you need to take over the world, but afterward or maybe simultaneously you also need to explore and colonize the Pacific Ocean, invent and spread computer technology across the world, and move all your armies to Australia to build three different kinds of governments.
I may need to start playing on Vassal because I don’t know that the game is complete-able in a day.