We're back with another post talking about the development of Siren's Call, the first major expansion for Shadows Over Sol, which covers interstellar colonization and the ARC Project. It is a combined campaign and sourcebook, and if you haven't yet read its announcement, go do that now!
In this post we're going to talk a bit about the Colony Building mini-game, which is the one major new subsystem added by the supplement. It's a way for the players to direct the development of their colony as it progresses from a makeshift settlement right after the colony ship arrives, to a thriving and expansive society. Along the way players get to make decisions, prioritizing what to build and ultimately addressing the question: What sort of society are they creating?
One of the biggest inspirations for the Colony Building subsystem comes from playing Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri back in the day. That was a great strategy video game with a lot of overlapping themes. And in many ways, the colony subsystem in Siren's Call addresses some of the same questions. The way it does this, however, is different. It's more narrative and more situated for play in the background of an RPG, where the player characters remain in the foreground, but their decisions color the background. As the state of the colony changes, it can also be a great source of plot hooks for the player characters.
In play, the colony subsystem can be thought of kind of like a worker placement game. The colony has a certain number of units representing its labor force. Every colony turn - which represents one year in the game world - these units can be put to work on a different task. Tasks include building new facilities in the colony, advancing the colony's infrastructure, going on missions of exploration or gathering supplies.
As the colony's infrastructure advances, new facilities and actions will become available. In this way the colony goes from early settlement to a community with its own transportation and industrial base. Similarly, these changes are reflected in the available gear options the characters have. Early on they'll be using equipment brought from Sol, which simply can not be replaced until the colony can manufacture its own.
As the colony develops, it can stockpile resources. These are required to build many facilities. They also give the colony something to trade with others and something interesting to find during exploration missions.
Finally, the colony subsystem includes the ability to wage war. This is a simple mass combat system used to represent physical conflict between different colonies. The war effort is aided by constructing military facilities. The winner of a battle has options such as stealing resources from the defeated colony, destroying facilities or even killing units of population.
And that's enough about the colony building subsystem for now. In future posts we will talk a bit more about colonist characters, the ARC Project and the exoplanet targeted by the mission - Siren.