Daily Illuminator

June 17, 2017: Interview With David Ladyman of Star Traders

Star Traders

We recently had the chance to sit down with David Ladyman, designer of Star Traders. A new edition of that classic game was recently funded on Kickstarter, so we wanted to get the skinny on this space-hopping adventure! 

1. Star Traders still has a strong niche popularity. When you decided to publish a new edition, did you keep it mostly the same, or did you have some new ideas you wanted to squeeze into your design?

The basic concept is still there. At the same time, nearly every rule has been at least nudged slightly. You could say it's had 30 years of playtest, and there were definitely things that slowed the original game or made it less fun. In fact, that's one overall change - where the original game sometimes chose "realistic" over "fun," this version chooses "fun."

For example, when you are about to make a jump from star to star in the original game, you had to declare where you were trying to go and then roll to see if you made it. With this version, you roll first, and then decide where you're going to jump or whether you're going to do something else entirely. The first is much more realistic (choose a destination and try to reach it), but the current version means you get to do a lot more in your turn, which is more fun.

2. There are a lot of references to sci-fi in the game. What were some of your biggest inspirations designing Star Traders?

From the beginning, the game has had a significant tongue-in-cheek science fiction flavor. For example, the world Shower exported Fungus and the world Helix exported Designer Genes, and a few of the worlds were named after sci authors.

I really liked the sci-fi author names in the original, so this time around, I decided to go full-bore with that. I got permission to include the names of recent and current authors in the game. Each world is named after an author, and it exports something relevant to that author's stories.

Meanwhile, you also have a hand of cards. In the original, they had generic sci-fi references, plus a few inside jokes and nods to playtesters. This time, I focused the cards on pop media - mainly TV and movies, but there are also some references to other games. It was a matter of matching the references to the effect of the card; for instance, one set of cards gives you more actions in a turn … those cards are titled "It's Bigger On The Inside." One card gives you Prestige - for winning the MST 3K race. And so forth.

The game has always had an overarching generic SF theme - a futuristic galactic realm, ruled by an arbitrary emperor. With this version, I've been able to include my favorite sci-fi authors and references to a lot of sci-fi TV shows and movies. I've read a lot of books and watched a lot of shows - I guess I'd have to say that is my biggest inspiration.

3. Steve is in the game! What role does he play?

Steve is the Hero, of course! Actually, he's one of two Heroes. There are 10 Personalities in the game; when you play a Personality, you get an advantage of one sort or another. (And there's a wonderful, 500-word backstory for each Personality.) We created art for 20 Personalities (there are a male and female version of each one), modeled on various people for a variety of reasons. I wanted to include the masters of game design with whom I've most closely worked, and I was delighted that Steve, Richard Garriott de Cayeux, and Chris Roberts all agreed to be Tuckerized as Personalities in the game. Because of your great popularity throughout the galaxy, you gain extra Prestige when you play the Hero.

That answers your question, but there's another answer, as well. Without Steve, there would be no Star Traders. Thirty years ago, when Steve Jackson Games acquired the "Isaac Asimov Presents" license, he could have simply decided to design the first Asimov-licensed game himself. Instead, he graciously declared a company-wide competition, and I tossed the design that became Star Traders into the ring. After a whole lot of development of all the games, Steve and the rest of the design committee chose Star Traders. That original game has my name on the cover, but Steve is credited as the developer, and rightly so - he had a great deal of influence on the original game.

4. Now that the game has been successfully Kickstarted, will players have a chance to buy it in stores?

I certainly hope so! I can design games; I'm not nearly so good at marketing them. We plan to have the game available in stores across the nation, and you can always order it online.

Speaking of which:

5. Where can gamers find you online? 

You can get the game on our site at www.TradersLuck.com. And for a limited time (that being, until we run out), you can get the Emperor's Codex as well, with larger art of all the Personalities, a short description of the stories of all the authors in the game, and a brief history of the development of Star Traders.

Thanks to David for taking the time to talk with us. Look for Star Traders at your local game store in the near future! 

-- Hunter Shelburne

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