It's a Sunday afternoon and I'm impatiently waiting for a game to start, I've been waiting for the last two days and potentially I could be waiting for a few more – the game is a multiplayer on-line real time strategy game for eight players and it won't start until all eight places are filled. Unfortunately this game allows players from all around the globe to join and pit wits against one another – here's the problem, if one of our American friends were to be the last person to join this game it's likely our game start time and equally our 24 hour production cycle / fund provisioning would be in the middle of the night. For a game that can last over a month, that could be a serious dis-advantage – oh, did I not mention that, each game is played in real-time and goes on for days – lots and lots of days.
Welcome to Neptunes Pride, actually Neptunes Pride 2: Triton (in Beta at this very moment) – a 4X game that has you controlling your very own empire amongst the stars - allowing you to eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate! NP2 is a browser based game that uses HTML5 (as opposed to Flash for NP), it can be run from any mobile device that is able to access the internet. I personally have been playing NP2 on three different devices and platforms – using Mr Gates' Windows 7 on a laptop, Linux Ubuntu on a netbook and whilst at work Android on a smartphone.
NP2's premise is simple – you start your empire ruling six star systems... but that's not enough, hardly enough, no your empire needs to get bigger. You must therefore send out your fleets to colonise worlds, both empty and occupied, into your dynasty – the winner of this game being the first person to occupy over 50% of the known galaxy. Sound easy – easy it definitely is not because everyone else is attempting to do the same thing as you by means fair and foul. To win this game you'll need to have a plan... you do have a plan?
Each star system that you rule has three attributes (Economy, Industry & Science) that can be improved if you have the credits, however once you improve any one of these three attributes its cost to upgrade again goes up. The more economy you have, the more credits you earn at the twenty-four hour production cycle. Industry provides you with more ships to bolster your carrier fleets (with new ships being built throughout the twenty four hour period) – your carrier fleets allow you to jump between star systems, colonising worlds and laying waste to enemy fleets. Science goes towards your ability to research new technologies – in the original NP there were only four research technologies: Speed, Range, Weapon Skill and Scanning. In earlier iterations of NP2 there were up to twelve different techs – after rigorous play testing (make that ongoing rigorous play testing) there are now seven – Scanning, Range, Terraforming, General Research, WS, Banking & Manufacturing. Each tech improves your empire in quite subtle ways – from being able to see further into other player empires, the obvious weapons upgrades, to reducing the cost of upgrading E, I & S through terraforming.
At the start of the game you manage to colonise a number of uninhabited star systems but soon realise due to prohibitive costs to upgrade you need to expand further; you're going to have to either sweet talk your neighbour or use deadly force. Talking with your neighbours is an important aspect of NP2, you can trade tech and credits, create borders, talk Non-Aggression Pacts or go for a full on Alliance. Going it alone can work but if you're part of a working alliance, things can go a lot smoother – but you're just as likely to be playing against strangers as you are friends – how much do you trust them to not infringe on your borders? So... you don't trust your neighbours, you want a pre-emptive strike you say, looks like you're going to have to get your hands dirty – looks like you're going to have to start a fight – you need to go into combat.
Combat involves you sending one or more of your fleets to a neighbouring occupied star system – no small feat since it can take days for your fleets to traverse the vast interstellar distances between stars (all made possible with amazing new hyperspace technology) - this is where the RTS is pertinent - this is where you also go about your business (or go to bed) whilst you wait for your fleets to arrive at target.
Now you might think that you can simply send a bigger fleet than that occupying the target star system. You sir(s) would be mistaken – with NP2 the number of ships in your fleet is effectively how many hits you can take – Your WS level actually denotes you're hitting power and equally your opponents WS denotes how many ships they will take from your fleet. When Combat ensues the defender has first strike, with the defenders WS being deducted from the attacking players fleet number, and then vice versa – this process repeats until either the attacker or the defender has no fleet left.
If there is a significant difference between the two combating players WS then it is more than possible that the player with a higher WS could destroy a larger opposing fleet size – the combat calculations simply means every time the higher WS player hits - they're destroying more ships.
If the attacker is destroyed, then no harm no foul – if the defenders usurped - the attacker gains new real estate as well as credits for destroying the defenders economy. The defenders industry and science remain on the star and therefore also go to the victorious – not bad for being a tad aggressive.
Be warned though aggressor, sorry, player. Being aggressive could be to your detriment – you could send that defending player running with open arms into an alliance – their tech increases and suddenly you're no longer 1v1 but 1v3 and you've got multiple battlefronts – how you feeling now? Confident? Equally, the number of times I've sent a fleet on the attack only to find that I've left myself seriously undefended on my launch star system and suddenly I have **ALERT ** MULTIPLE INCOMING ** ALERT ** - I really didn't think that through enough – bugger!
I really enjoy playing this game. Now I realise that this is the second blog that we have had recently that involves virtual reality, as opposed to the physicality of a board game, but this is a game that I play in the background to my normal weekly boardgames sessions with friends.
I'm not the only boardgamer that has played this game – Quintin Smith of “Shut Up & Sit Down” Fame actually documented his play through here. I'm not the first boardgamer to play this and I feel confident when I say that I won't be the last!
So you're thinking that you'd like to have a game of Neptunes Pride, here let me help with that – if you want to go old school then you can find the original Neptunes Pride here.
But you don't want to go old school when you can go cutting edge – you want to participate on the Beta (currently Beta 5) – you want to see how Jay Kyburz (loving what you're doing Jay) is improving on what was already a winning formula. Let's say you do, let's say you want to play NP2 - then you need to go to here.
To play either game you're going to need a gmail / googlemail account but they're free!
If you choose to play either game also have a look at the NP2 Google+ Community page and say hi. We're not unfriendly we're just wanting to take over the majority of the galaxy.