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I've gathered my recommendations about running demonstration games for the Star Saga boardgame from Mantic Games.

Before you read further, I recommend you to read: Running game demos - Guidelines

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Basics

Star Saga allows for competitive mode against the heroes, or a full cooperative mode, where the players are running the opposition.

If there are a couple of gamers, you can be their gamemaster, and handle their enemies as the Nexus player. This is the easiest way to do a Star Saga demo, as the players only need to know their own possibilities, and how to resolve tests.

Playing cooperatively would be the best if it were easy to play the opposition, but it's not. Also, if you are playing among the other players in a coop game, they will look for your leadership and guideance, as you are running the show. So, to make it a true coop, you need to teach them to run the game without you, and that probably means dumbing down the rules.

If you have time and place for a proper game, it will take about an hour or two to run Mission B, and 10-20 minutes to explain the rules to the players. Mission B is a good tutorial mission, just treat Door X as a Complexity 2 door, so the mission objective can be achieved.

Otherwise, you'll have everything in the Star Saga: The Eiras Contract Core Set to do a proper demo.

However, there can be cases when you the audience will wander off if you need 10 minutes to explain the game, or if it takes more than 30 minutes to play it through. As I happen to do demos at conventions like this, I've collected my thoughts about playing Star Saga games with these conditions in mind.

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Tailoring the game for small kids - Star Saga

In order to better fit their age, there should be no killing in the games. Everyone gets asleep or runs off from the board if they get defeated.

The players are looking for poison/plague antidotes, or try to rescue scientist from hostage situations.

Alyse: Her ability makes her targets fall asleep.

Devil: The flamethrower (I explain it like a large hairdryer) heats up the armor of the opponents, who faint or strip their gears off, getting them out of the fight. He also have a high frequency grenade that makes them run away, or a sleep gas grenade that makes them fall asleep.

Dulinsky: She has a tranquiliser gun.

Curby: Shocks the enemies so they get knocked off.

Wrath: His sword dance scares his opponents with his weapon-prowess. This makes them give up the fighting, or sends them running with their pants down.

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Running game demos - Star Saga

Star Saga demoimage © Csontos Zsuzsa

Basic rules

It's easy to explain the basic rules of Star Saga for anyone who has played a similar boardgame or computer game before.

Playing the Nexus: Explaining the Nexus player rules is a little bit more complex, but if you help the player during the game, it's managable. If there is only one player, it's better if they play the Nexus player against you, it will give them more success. The problem with this is that the players would like to play the heros most of the time.

You could set the game up as if the Nexus player plays the good guys against evil intruders, who try to steal important data and want to hack the system.

Playing without Nexus cards: One of the gripes of the new players is that the Nexus cards make the game unpredictable. There were some who gave up playing, because they decided this game is unplayable.

While the Nexus cards are a great random mechanic that will make the game more interesting in the long run, the game can be enough of a challange for a beginner even without them. Just use the cards for extra activations and reinforcements. Or you could just say you have 2 activations and 2 reinforcements every turn, and get rid of the cards altogether.

Accessories

You'll have everything for the demo in the Star Saga: The Eiras Contract Core Set.

Playing area

Try to set up the map in the playing area before the game so you'll see how large area will be needed. If you choose to reveal the zones as they enter, you need to know whether those areas will fit your table. After setting up a zone, it's not easy to move it. Also, be aware that the non-beginner maps are pretty large, about twice the size of the ones that are on the accompanying photos.

Player forces

The mercenaries recommended at the scenarios are good, go with them.

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Running carnivale demos - Star Saga

Star Saga demo

A "carnivale" demo is a session when we don't have time to sit down properly, and go through the game in it's entirety. These are run for store demos, when the parents eagerly wait when can they leave with the children, or at conventions when the players are also in a hurry to play other games.

The problem with running a Star Saga in a short time is that you need to sacrifice some rules for a game that gives enough experience and fun, and still gives a feeling of accomplishment. The producing company recommends to run a short demo with only one room, but while this could be tactically interesting to a grizzled wargamer, the kids who come to me prefer to run through a couple of rooms, disable a number of enemies, and open some doors to get excited. By my experience it takes about that much ground to satisfy them as you can see on the photos in this article.

Basic rules

In my experience, players quickly understand the following rules easily:

  • What are the abilities on the character cards
  • Reading how many dice to roll, and rolling the dice
  • How to use the range templates

I'm not exactly sure they really get how to read the dice results, but they didn't have problems with that - I'm almost sure they probably had more successes than they should have, but I didn't checked them unless they asked me to.

When you run a game demo, the most important thing is that the players feel the have accomplished something. For this, you can either fudge your rolls, or try to do stupid steps, but as I'm afraid the kids would notice I let them win, I just try to do my best, while changing some rules that allows them to complete the missions succesfully. If you run a Star Saga game straight for beginners, as a Nexus player you can just plain murder every mercenary in a couple of turns, and this would just make them leave frustrated.

We changed the following rules in my demos:

  • No Feats: It's hard to explain them, and it's a one-use thing anyway. I inform the players about their feat option when I've seen it would be useful for them.
  • No Experience: It doesn't really matter in a short demo game. If you don't track experience, there won't be advancements, but it didn't detract from the game.
  • One damage kills minions: It's hard to track individual damages while coordinating the players, and they tend to get out of the game easily anyway.
  • Every door opens together: After a couple of demos, I got rid of all those Computer Terminals on the maps. The players will spend time to operate them only if there is no immediate opposition in the area, so they could have spent enough time to succeed in opening them anyway. This just made their use a couple of mandatory dice rolls, that gave nothing to the experience. I recommend you to treat the first successful open doors terminal hack to open all doors in the game, so you only need to spend an open action when you reach the door. You can also consider every door already open if you'd like to get rid of the hacking.
  • No Nexus cards: As with the proper game demos, I tend to forego using Nexus cards.
  • Fewer or no reinforcements: Depending on the players abilities, I often don't bring reinforcements to the game. It will allow the players to advance more quickly, thus being able to reach their destination in a shorter time, thus giving more feeling of accomplishment.
  • No special dice: If the players don't get the use of special dice, we use standard six-sided dice instead, and the numeric value on the character sheet gives the target number to be rolled. For this, I recommend to use dice with dots, as most of those players are young enough that they can't read numbers.
  • No search spots: I often don't include search spots, so there are no extra equipment cards that would make the game slow down while I explain their use. If you add a couple of crates, just say it contains a Medi-pack that will give a bonus Health point for the user, or something that is useful but not difficult to explain.

Accessories

You have everything in the Star Saga: The Eiras Contract Core Set to set up your demos. Additional range templates might be useful, so every player has their own, and also to replace the ones damaged in the demos.

Range templates: They are going to be damaged soon. Get a set of the acrylic templates, or use brush-on liquid cyanoacrylate glue to plasticize them for immortality.

Damage Tokens: You might use a dice to indicate damage instead of the damage tokens. They get messed up during games, and they tend to get lost.

Star Saga demo

Playing area

Maps: Do not use very large areas, as it can get messy. Use small, managable maps. If the players make it through, and want to continue playing, they can start again, using another character, or you can create a new map quickly. Something similar to Map B (or even Map A) from the Star Saga: The Eiras Contract Core Set could work well enough.

Set up the whole map: Don't bother with setting up zones only when they enter them - have everything on the table. Even if the players can see the areas, it won't give them that much tactical advantage that it would make the game less challanging.

If you can create premade zone maps (printed pages, glued tiles), it would make it easier, but as the game stands now, it would take at least a minute away from the game to use them as written.

If you have enough miniatures, you could set them up with the whole map in the beginning. It will make the game run more smooth.

Mission ideas: I try to come up with 3 separate mission goals. If there's no time, you can announce at the first mission goal that they got lucky and reached their objective. If the players have more time, they can cotinue to press on.

1) Find out where they hide the antidote/bomb disarm code/hostage 2) Reach the hiding place, and get the antidote/retrieve the code/rescue hostage 3) Leave the area with it

Optional end-points: Include some points in the game that you can use to annouce to end the game, if you see the parents are getting angry. I often use an elevator shaft after 2-3 rooms - reaching that gets the players reach their destination if you wish, so they can win the game. If you still have time, the elevator just gets them on another floor, so you can continue to reach another elevator shaft. This way you can use the same map for an infinite amount of action if you have elevator shafts on both ends.

Optional boss-fights: These optional end-points can also induce optional boss-fights. If the players reach an end-point that you've announced will end the game, but they still have a couple of minutes left, you can enter one of the bosses, so the mercenaries have to defeat that to reach their destination. I recommend to use the Abomination for this, as it has pretty easy to understand rules. If you feel adventurous, you could use the Chovarr mini with the rules of the Abomination. The Chovarr figure looks more interesting, and more "sci-fi".

Scenery: Although they make the game look more interesting, try to minimalise important scenery on the playing area. It's likely they will get toppled or pushed away from their original position.

Reinforcement areas: I recommend you to minimalise the reinforcement areas of the game. For little kids I use none, so they could plan their own moves easier.

Enemy figures: I recommend you to use only 1-2 enemy minions (or half as much as there are mercenaries in game) at each location. This way it will be easy to beat them in 1 round, so they don't get a counterattack. It's also easier to set all up them up at the beginning of the game.

Full coop play

If you let the players play full cooperative without you, I recommend that you only use one type of minion through the scenario. Using a Security Guard is a good choice, as it gives some tactical options to use against the heroes as they have long range guns, but still not overly dangerous. Also, the fact that they use 2 dice for attack and defense makes it easier to remember.

Player forces

If you use the Terminal operating rules, you will need Curby for the game, and some warriors. Otherwise I recommend the following heroes: Dulinsky, Devil, Wrath. Their rules are easy to understand, so the players will have an easier time.

When the players asked to let them play with the bosses, I let them, because they are not that overpowered. You can let them use as written. For the Chovarr's psychic powers, we use Alyse's psychic power.

Some players like to bring their own minis to play with, and if you allow this, just give them a character card that's not in use. You can even use the same character card for many players, you just need to use a separate Health tracker for them.

There were many times where the players had 6-8 miniatures in the game. If it seems they are advancing way too easy, and it looks like this bothers them, adjust the number of enemies.

Star Saga demo

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Resources - Running Star Saga game demos

Mantic Forum - Star Saga - Generic Demo Mission: Forum about demo ideas.

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Buying the product - Star Saga

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What do you think of my guidelines about running demos of Star Saga? What are your experiences? Do you have further ideas? Tell us in the comments!

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