Designer Diary: Interstellar & High Frontier M4:Exodus
By Justin Grey (Sacramento, February 2022)
I've been working on space games in the board game industry for a few years now, beginning with the High Frontier series, then designing the Module 0:Politics, and later designing Module 3:Conflict. With these expansions, adding the idea of politics and conflict seemed far-fetched, but it's actually quite relevant to the overall space environment. I wanted to capture more than just the hard science and adventure you would expect from a sandbox space game. It was important to me to add situations and events that could actually occur. This is something that makes many of the games we publish at Ion so unique.
Firstly, I want to say that game publishers are never in short supply of internal or external game ideas in the company “queue.” Sometimes games are projected many years in advance, which helps with long range planning for all the intricate variables that go into a design. When a campaign of games exists within the line up, it can create some further unique opportunities.
There is a growing fanbase for the “Grand Campaign,” which takes you on a journey from the formation of life to the space age. Specifically: BIOS:Genesis (formation of life), BIOS:Mesofauna/Megafauna (small/large animals), BIOS:Origins (progression of humans), and finally High Frontier (space age).
Interstellar was the next obvious step in this campaign, so I started talking more and more about it right after we finished up with the HF core box. This went against the queue I mentioned earlier, but made logical sense since HF was still so fresh in our minds. Also, we were already working on Module 4 for HF anyway.
When we started designing Module 4:Exodus, it was never really meant to be a segway into the next game in the campaign, but that's what it morphed into as time went on. Being able to have full control of the transition from one game to the next is not something we had before. High Frontier, being a living and alive game with many more expansions coming, and Interstellar, the next game in the campaign, being simultaneously designed in parallel.
There are already a number of space games out there that give you epic battles and glory. To bring a different flavor to the table and to keep the simulation of HF alive, we designed Interstellar to be more about the chaos of what happens on a ship traveling through space and the challenges any human crew would certainly encounter. Having modular and upgradable ship components with a huge design concept (i.e., the Exodus brintprints) but how do you create new components when you are lightyears away from the infrastructure of Sol? The game answers this in an elegant manner with things like beaming discovery data back to Earth and gaining new ideas in response, human/machine augmentations, and the repurposing of mass. Space is hard and Interstellar gives no apologies to its players.
gives you all of the events leading up to that epic story, but with a ton more added for folks looking to make even just the core game more interesting. The addition of contracts will entertain even the most experienced players, giving some short term goals and really opening up the destinations people choose to travel to on the map.
Thank you for supporting these games and we look forward to when we can see photos of everyone playing and enjoying them as much as we do!