I think the first question any aspiring designer has to ask themselves is why do I want to design x? Without a reason, designing something is essentially meaningless. So one must ask themselves some questions. What do I want my design to do? Who is my target audience? What is different about my design?
Ok, that's all the abstract thought going on. Let me swing it back to Star Runner. Why Star Runner? Why have I chosen to spend chunks of my free time since the summer of 2010 on one game? Well, the short answer is, because it's been fun. The longer answer follows, just stick with me. Star Runner started as a board game version of the TV show Firefly. It was a fun theme to work with, and there was maybe one game about it that wasn't very good, so I thought it might be fun to try and make it work. One of my friends had a book with charts and stuff about the verse, names of people, and a lot of the goings on behind the show. It was great and all, but the design fizzled for two reasons. First, it was the middle of school and I was terribly busy. Second, I knew that getting the license to use anything officially in Firefly would be a huge pain, especially for a first time designer.
New plan. I should also mention that I never had a name for things, it was just this nebulous game. Let's keep things in space, keep each player as their own entity running a ship, but let's have some more options. I still wanted patrols to keep players on their toes, as well as a Black Market, it's just more fun that way. The thing that really changed was eliminating the jobs. I still wanted to move cargo, but having jobs on planets seemed like an unnecessary complication to the design, and also a way to make things longer. (More on length later.) I also thought that by eliminating the "petty" jobs or the "iffy" jobs, it would open up more lines of work for the players. I find that having options in a game makes them more interesting. So that's what I did. No jobs on planets, simply moving goods and people between planets. Why, because that made it streamlined, and gave you less to worry about. Could I see on planet jobs becoming part of things, sure, but it's not in testing, and I don't think it needs one more thing.
Ultimately, I wanted to design a game that I wanted to play. I love space games, I think it gives the designer a lot of freedom in terms of location and what you can actually do. Aliens or just humans? How do ships travel? Militarized ships or transports? Lots of options. Star Runner has a blend. Right now, all characters are humans, but there is a lot of space out there. Ships travel quickly, but the specifics aren't really defined, so pick your favorite method. All ships have weapons and defenses of some kind, but some are better than others. Any patrol ship would still crush a player's ship if it came to a fight, thus the only combat in game is between players.
You can't set out to make an epic game. Those games are written by players. I'm not sure that Star Runner has the ability to tell great stories, but maybe that's because I'm not a great storyteller. I think a game represents the person or people creating it. I like things being calculable, but I also like chance. I like having a lot of things to do and trying to keep them all straight.
So that answers some of the whys of Star Runner. It's also a bit twisty and turny, but that's some more info on Star Runner.
Hopefully more tests coming soon. I've been working on the rulebook a lot. If you'd consider reading it and giving me some feedback, I'd love to hear it.