Neptune’s Pride

I’m not a big fan of appointment gaming, nor of competitive play of video games. I play card and board games, but those are over pretty quickly, and tend to feel like they’re at a certain skill level that we all have.  So I don’t play online FPS because there’s a lot of player knowledge and skills I don’t have, and I don’t play serious PvP Online games (like Eve) because they lack that iterative quality that boardgames have. I win this time, but you win next time.

Appointment games run forever, but I’m not willing to pimp out my friends just so I can do well in them. I play them for a week or two, and the interest wanes pretty quickly,or I reach the end of what I can reasonably do by myself or with the handful of people I know who also play these games.  It would, frankly, be a good time for the game to end, and start over — only few of these games have the random component to support free play.  They aren’t designed for that.

Well, I’ve found a game that is both competitive and appointment gaming, and it’s fun.  The game we just finished took sixteen days, and I admit I won our first game. I think a good portion of that winning was luck, but that’s okay.  The game? Neptune’s Pride.

It’s a 4X game, where the ship travel times and scientific research, and economy times are measured in real days.  The goal is to control a certain percentage of the stars (in our newbie 8-person game the goal was 89 stars, which I think was slightly more than half the stars.)  You build fleets send them off to explore, and the other X’s.  Players can interact in limited ways, but the basic information about players is globally visible (with some limits based on technology).

It’s very simple: 4 different kinds of technology, three planetary stats, and only one kind of ship.  The combat is based on the player skill, not the number of ships, per se.  Most battles are of attrition, unless there is a serious imbalance between the player’s technology skills.

It takes anywhere from 30minutes to an hour to play every day, and most of that — for me — was checking a website two or three times, and adjusting orders. It starts off fairly simple, ad things get complicated and faster as the game matures.

NP is monetized by the selling of premium games, and the ability to create games limited to friends, or free for friends.  They sell “galactic credits” for real money, and you win 10 as a prize for winning a game (Free or not).  That’s enough to join a premium game, but not enough to create one, which costs twice to five times that (depending on options).

We had about half the people drop out of our game, and become AI controlled, which changes the strategy (and technically gives you a few days to get ahead of them).  The AI in our game seemed to give up at one point, but realistically, the game was over except for cleanup.

There are some UI things that bother me with selecting things (I kept having the wrong fleet selected when sending them out, because of the way they’re selected).  That’s pretty minor, and the game is still being modified and upgraded.  That’s an advantage of these web-based appointment games.  The fact that it can be over, quickly or slowly (there’s a premium game which lasts for monthis) make sit feel more like a board game I play a little bit as I go along.

Kind of nice, and we’re enjoying it.  Plus, it’s generally free to play.

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