After a bad Hack we are back!

This is just a test run to see if things are working again. We had to do a lot of housecleaning but I think all the cobwebs have chased out.

Gabe and Casey are headed to Stonemeier Games Design Day this Saturday to try out some of their new designs.

They are also getting ready to relaunch the Nearspace Kickstarter. If you would like to check out the preview here you go:

It should launch in the next week if you have any advice or input we would love to hear it.

Play Test Journal #2 Shadow of the Dread

Juggernaut, Death Star, Unicron, whatever you call it you’ll have to fight a Dreadnought, more likely sooner rather than later.  I learned this playing against the second person I taught the game to, Chris Dijak.  Failing to best the mighty green titans he sent before me taught me several things.  Don’t count on your opponent rolling low, know what you can sacrifice, and  know your Resources.

As the months have gone by I’ve built my decks and have prepared strategies for dealing with the ubiquitous dreadnought.  First and most importantly is knowing that its a d20, its slow if your foe doesn’t have at least 2-3 engines in play it ain’t moving and even if they have more engines having cards to debuff there E rolls and terraforming out there gas giants works to halt them.  Second don’t fight it, avoid the monster, aim to kill off small ships forcing them to have nothing but high maintenance vessels then cut off there CP production.  But if you must fight the dread, try to prepare for it by having some ambiguous ships to sacrifice to slow its pace, then have sectors and events to boost your attack and take the fight to him, a well timed All Guns Blazing, while you have four or five D-ships Gunships will make the Dreadnought guarding New Terra question just how scary he really is.



“The meek shall inherit the Earth. And the rest of us will go to the stars.” -Omni Magazine

Play Test Journal #1 The First Game

This last fall Casey asked me if I’d be interested learning to play Near Space.  He then handed me a couple decks and the rules and said have fun.  I was going to be the first person to learn to play without being taught from an already experienced player.  One more catch, I had to find another person that hasn’t ever played before and teach them to play as well.

Shortly thereafter I go into the local hobby store like most days and to my luck Cooper Livingston is behind the counter.  Cooper happens to be the Jack of all trades of the gaming community around these parts and seeing the opportunity to learn a new one agreed to a game.  I take a seat in the gaming area of the store and begin reading the rules.  An hour past as I flipped back and fourth checking the wordings in each section and when I found the Terminology section it all fell into place easily.  Then I put together a couple of legal sized decks and move over to Cooper.Time to play.

I get out my dice, Cooper uses the stores behind the counter dice, and we shuffle up and deal out our first game.  It begins how most games I’ve seen begins, we each built a couple of red or blue d4 to explore.  We quickly find the benefits of having green dice out holding sectors, this was before green was modified to count for more in the graveyard.  The most unbalanced thing i found in this game was Clear d4s.  Cooper having the vastness of a store counter full of dice was able to build about a dozen of these ships and load them into a carrier.  This one group of ships crushed everything I sent in fight it, his d4 rolls of 13, 11, 9, etc were far superior to my white d10s, 8s, and 6s.  Cooper defeated me in about an hour and a half by Conquest(putting 100 facets of ships into my graveyard).

I had a great time in the first match with minimum returning to the book for rules verification or wondering how this worked beyond checking the reference cards.  I later addresses my concern of the power of the D-Craft(clear) with Casey and suggested that they have a limit of one “explosion” added into their total, later play testing of this found it far more balanced and in the spirit of the game and eventually helped give pink its own unique ability.

The Hunt Begins…

Currently Spartacus Publishing is pursuing the development of a card game entitled Near Space. This game is set in a hard sci-fi universe focusing on exploration and combat. The vast majority of cards will focus on spacescapes, planetscapes, and other cosmic phenomenon.

We have been strongly influenced by the styles of John Berkey, Bob Eggleton, and Vincent DiFate. Thus we are looking for pieces that are evocative of these creators. Strong high contrast images with an inherent drama are preferred. Make sure that no matter where you draw your inspiration from that it is your work you are submitting. Using images from the NASA/JPL Galleries is fine but please make a note of accreditation if you do so.

We are looking for 60-80 individual pieces. Finished pieces should be full-color and formatted for a final print of 66 x 88 millimeters portrait layout. Final pieces should be delivered as a minimum 300dpi TIF.

Though the cards will likely be printed with a black border bright and eye-catching art is preferred. Our focus is on newly discovered colony worlds, gas giants, starbases, asteroid fields, and minefields. We will also need a variety of cards depicting various events and encounters that will be detailed as we progress with select artists.

Interested artists should submit rough drafts for approval. Be prepared to take a minimum of art direction before the piece is accepted. You will retain ownership and copyright of the physical piece. We are purchasing the rights for two printings; once in this initial release and again in a possible future compilation. We can offer $30 for each piece we use and will include a copy of the finished product. (You will be allowed to purchase additional copies of the game at wholesale price, 50% of SRP.)  Your payment will be made within 10 days of final draft approval with finished work delivered no more than 20 days after receipt. Payment can be made via Paypal or physical check. If your art is used on the packaging, or any subsequent merchandise, we will negotiate additional fees. Incidental use of the work in marketing or advertising will not be compensated.

If you are looking around for additional inspiration I would recommend the works of Frank Kelly Freas, Marcin Jakubowski, or Stephen Hickman.  Including ships and other technological elements is encouraged and we will be providing a description of the two main races, Terrans and Alpha Centaurians, and other races upon request.

Contact information:
Casey Clark
3906 Grace Ellen Drive
Columbia, MO 65202-1739

Lil’ dice, Big dice, and a New Color…

Lil’ Dice
As I noted earlier Near Space is a game that was designed to use every dice you may have in a game of strategic and tactical conflict. However, we have encountered an issue with d1, d2, and d3s. The bonuses and penalties based on color are +/- 1-2. Events and Sector Advantages may bump this an additional +/- 2-3. This means that the risk-reward ratio of these small dice are incredibly skewed. You are nearly guaranteed a certain result in a fight and even if you lose a a ship a couple of points in the Graveyard is minimal.

As I go back into another revision d1s are being removed from the game. They are not dice; there is no random chance attached to them. Right now d3s are safe as I consider them a fairly traditional die. The d2 is on the chopping block with the axe being swung. We will continue to playtest this and may bring the Kickstarter backers on board during the campaign for a quick poll.

Big Dice
We were also discussing the fate of the Dreadnought. We have allowed d20s since players love the idea of fielding the Death Star but the modifiers (except for green ships) were mooted by the ship size. During a demo/play-test session at the International Table-Top Game Day a new participant tried the game for the first time. A devoted Magic player, he was just expermenting with different games. As soon as he wrapped his head around Near Space as a wargame he had a handle on playing. He quickly questioned why anyone would ever build anything larger than a Gunship. The powers of the Battleship and Destroyer and the ships interaction with the gamestate made him realize their utility. He just as quickly pointed that this logic does not hold for a Dreadnought and it should never be built. Its inability to move in response to an opponent, maintenance, and risk of a bad roll vs a smaller ship makes it a bad investment. I agreed with him and pointed out that people love fielding the Death Star even if it is not smart…

A New Color
Though I had some issues with Protospiel Milwaukee we did get one piece of great feedback about Pink dice. Up to now Pink has not been a recognized color in Near Space. It is hard to judge between Red and Pink, it is  ahue not a color, etc. The trouble is some dice are Pink. They are not Red/Mauve/Purple/etc; they are Pink. Like obscenity, I can’t define it but I know it when I see it.
To that end I introduce a new color for Near Space…
Survivor: Pink: Veterans of war and untold tribulations often band together where their indomitable will sees them to victory against impossible odds. Whenever the ship attacks or defends and rolls a one, it may roll again and add the resulting numbers together. Should this subsequent roll also be a one it is not rolled again.

UnPub Preview…

In preparation for Protospiel I filled out UnPub’s Game Preview questionaire. It does offer some insight to where I am headed with Near Space.

What was your inspiration for Near Space?
The question “Can a gamer have too many dice?”. Thus we pulled together a game that uses every dice you may have in a game of startegic and tactical conflict.

What is your favorite part of Near Space?
The rush of engaging the enemy with the balance of the game on the line. Also, the give and take of responding to your opponent’s build and tactics.

To your knowledge, What do other people find most interesting about Near Space?
The simplicity and ease of play while providing a high level of depth and replay.

What has been the most challenging part of designing Near Space? 
Finding the balance between cards, dice both with passive and dynamic variables.

What advice would you give to players attempting Near Space for the first time?
Progress slowly establishing a good base of resources and then build into an offensive force. Never devote yourself to one tactic. Respond to the board and your opponent.

What has surprised you most in play-tests of Near Space?
Most play-testers after getting their feet wet want to immediately return to the game with an idea on how to break the game, or string together an unbeatable position.

People who like___________ will like Near Space. Why? 
Risk, Similarity of play but with a shifting play surface and far more variables in offense and defense.

What do you hope to accomplish at Protospiel-Milwaukee (and Mid-West Unpub)? 
Earnest feedback from other creators and devoted hobbyists outside of the local level.

Headed to Protospiel-Milwaukee with Near Space

Though I have toyed and tinkered with Near Space for a great number of years I have rarely let it loose without supervision. This coming weekend that changes a little bit. We are taking the game to Protospiel-Milwaukee ( and see how well it handles the stress test. I have no real expectations mainly because I have never been involved in something like this. Hopefully the take away from this will be a better game.

Speaking of improving the game. Recently, I have started working with Alex Clayton as our Head Playtester. Someone that is willing to argue with me and smart enough to find my mistakes. I have invited him to start posting here and I look forward to his observations. I have established a Playtest Group on Facebook with Alex as the Admin. This will be our primary means of communication with Kickstarter backers who want to be involved in the playtest. (Unless someone else has better idea…?)


FIrst post

Just a quick note to myself really. I think I have this up and running? I will be detailing the ongoing process here at Spartacus Publishing in our game design, play-testing, writing, art direction, etc. I am inviting our various collaborators and allies to post here as well. It is my hope that with time I can get this to grow into something of interest for you and me.


To kick things off, here is the draft of the card back for our new game Near Space. There will be lots more of this in the coming months as we prepare to attend Proto Spiel in Milwaukee.