Thursday, December 20, 2012

Deluxe Liftoff! Game

(Note: Liftoff! is still available from its creator, Fritz Bronner. So please do not ask for my version of it. I own a copy of the original game and just made a deluxe version for my own personal use. No challenge to his copyright was intended.)

As I have said in some of my previous postings one of my favorite part of gaming is making a fancier version of an old game I have. Recently I was able to track down a new copy of the game Liftoff! from its creator, Fritz Bronner. (He still has unopened copies in his possession.) Originally published by Task Force Games  in 1989, it was crying out for an updated look. With its simple paper board, colored card stock playing cards, pad of record sheets, and lack of playing pieces I knew it would be an easy job to bring it into the 21st century of game playing.

Event Cards

I began with the playing cards. The original game use small ones printed on colored card stock with simple line drawings. In this day of home publishing and print-on-demand game design services I decided to go with full-color poker-sized playing cards printed on linen paper. It was fun finding images to illustrate each Event Card. The game is based on many actual historical events so I did my best to track down pictures from those events. In addition to the original cards I also included many of the optional ones I have found throughout the gaming community and a few I designed myself. Several of mine actually make slight changes in the rules by working as interrupt cards that you can hold on for later use: such as "Lighting" which is based on Apollo 12, "The Hatch Just Blew" based on Liberty Bell 7, and "Research Animal" which lets you fly a mission to improve the level of your various rockets, but not risk the penalty of a failed mission - or the glory of a successful one.

Astronaut Cards

Equipment Cards
 The Equipment and Astronaut Cards were easier; there are plenty of images of the actual astronauts and cosmonauts from that time period as well as the various pieces of actual equipment. At this point I have only made a two-player version of the game so I only used American and Soviet pieces. It will be a lot more difficult when I begin making the four-person version.  The cards are color coded by player, and the equipment by category: blue for spacecraft, red for rockets, white for satellites, and black for launch facilities.

Lego Playing pieces
Top row: Docking module, Orbital satellite, Interplanetary satellite, Lunar probe.
Middle: 1-stage, 2-stage, 3-stage, Megarocket, Kicker, Strap-on Boosters
Bottom: 1-person, 2-person, 3-person, 4-person, mini-shuttle, 2-man lander, 1-man lander.
 I wanted to use playing pieces. The original game does not use them, rather you make up your mission using your equipment cards and them moving the stack around the board. At first I thought about just using rocket shaped pawns, then I considered some of the small plastic spacecraft that you can find in tubes at various toys stores. What I really wanted though was to actually configure the piece to show what the mission was - single-stage, lunar module, docking , whatever. I briefly toyed with the idea of designing pieces on Shapeways, but time and money out weighted that thought. Then I remembered Legos. So I designed some basic pieces that could be interchanged and now I have playing pieces.

The board took the most work. When I make my versions of a game I usually like to make it larger - much larger. My standard size is 48"X28" - it is the size of the Plexiglas panel I use to cover it when playing. I also like big for the ease of reading the board. The center of the board is filled with the playing area for moving the pieces to the different mission steps in the Earth/Moon system. The paths are color-coded for Earth orbital, lunar, and interplanetary missions. The circles for each step is large enough to hold the Lego piece base. Several of the steps from the original game have been expanded  from a single space to multiple spaces to make it easier to play, and I added the lunar module test steps from some of the house optional rules. At the top of the board I placed a current safety level track. The original game use record sheets for this. I find using paper and pencil records awkward so I wanted a track that everyone could see at a glance. I used 1" wooden discs for the pieces, with pictures of the actual piece of equipment. The track itself is color-coded with the various starting and stopping numbers for each piece of equipment. To the left of the track is table with all the data that effects each piece - initial cost, bonuses, limits, and the images used on the track pieces. To the right of the track is year record track; I made tiles for each player to use for placing mission declarations. The bottom right corner has the mission steps for each type of mission as well as whether a pilot can make a save at a certain step, and the correct mission orders. The table for budget bonuses, sequence of play, and space for the event cards is also included.

The money that comes with the game is also very basic. I redesigned each denomination to have a portrait of five famous rocket scientist. I also gave them a more modern look than the original bills have.

Mission Manual containing
Advanced Failure charts

Inside of Manual
Finally I had a spiral bound book printed at Lulu modeled after the mission checklists carried aboard the Apollo spacecraft. The first few pages show how to make each Lego piece with the parts available. The majority of the book contains the Advanced Failure Charts. I reset these charts, added color to diferentiate the various sub-rolls for each failure, and added some historical pictures. The charts are much easier to read than the original ones.

So that is it. The entire project was a lot of work, but I think it was well worth it. Hopefully it Mr. Bronner ever decides to reprint Liftoff! it will look something like this.

2-Man Capsule, with a two-
stage rocket and boosters on pad,

3-Man Capsule and 2-Man
Lander on moon.

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