Have you ever finished a book, and immediately wanted to play a game in that universe? That was my experience last night as I finished Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary. My first thought was “I’m going to make a Project Hail Mary Game.”
It turns out making a full game takes much more time than I have (well, I do make games…but making another game takes more time than I have), so I decided to hack a game I already own – Century: Spiced Road.
I need to give two warnings at this point. Warning #1 – If you haven’t read Project Hail Mary, but intend to, you probably should stop reading this post, and go read the book. Spoilers ahead! And warning #2 – this post will be relatively worthless for you if you don’t have a copy of Century: Spiced Road (or don’t plan on purchasing one).
If you’re past my warnings, it means you are looking to play Century: Save the Earth. You’re in luck! You can download the pdf using the button below.
Century: Save the Earth
In Project Hail Mary, a lone scientist is sent to a far off solar system to do science and save the future of the Earth. In Century: Save the Earth, you take the place of the lone scientist in a strange solar system!
When you play, you’ll fly around the solar system, observe what resources can be gathered from the planets, gather the resources, and then do SCIENCE in an attempt to discover solutions to humanities biggest problems (astrophage?).
Century: Save the Earth is a solo game, which felt like it fit the theme of the book best (though I considered two player).
The game hack uses all the cards and resource cubes from Century: Spiced Road, but split up, moved around, and adjusted on the table, for a different gameplay experience. The game also has 4 difficulty levels, so you can challenge yourself as you go along.
My Design Notes
I wanted to create a game that would make me feel the same way I did when I read the book. That was, in short, my design goal.
Given the time I was able to spend on it (only a few hours), I think I did pretty well! The game feels like you’re racing against the clock to find the knowledge needed to save humanity (or, turn in a points card…but still). I’m relatively proud of what I ended up with.
Having said that, I would like to have spent a lot more time on playtesting. Writing up 4 different ability levels was a thematic way to cheat the fact that I was able to do almost no playtesting for this hack. Most of the games I played were too easy, and I only ended up losing 1 game – on the hardest difficulty setting. I still can’t tell if I got lucky when I was playing on “hard” difficulty, unlucky when I was on “very hard” difficulty, or if the game will be too easy for everyone.
It almost felt like hitting the right difficulty was too small a target for the game design I ended up settling on. If I had more time, or were to restart my process, I would consider rethinking how the science (or trade cards) worked. As it is, you’ll only ever see a few of those in a single game. If I were to do it over, I might consider trying to match the original rules of Century: Spice Road, and see if I could mimic the way that game does trading, with only being able to do each trade once, before taking a turn to “reload” your hand.
All in all though, I had fun playing, even on the easy difficulty. There’s moments in the early game when you’re staring at a dwindling food supply, an objective you have no way of reaching, and planet resources and science discoveries that don’t quite intersect. Then, you pull the perfect card, and things begin to fall into place – only until disaster strikes and your engines are damaged, and now you have to fix those before you can save the world – and only if you don’t run out of food! That’s what the game is, at its best.
At its worst, I win on turn 4.
Ah well. It’s a game hack! Let me know what you think!
email: paperdicegames (at) gmail.com