A key part of Lord of Rigel is the “space terrain” on the map consisting of anomalies like nebulas, black holes, and neutron stars. These create areas of “rough terrain” that change gameplay and impact both strategic and tactical choices. We felt this was a better move than the “star lanes” used by many recent space strategy games. Today we’re focusing on one type of space terrain, nebulas.
Basically, nebulas in Lord of Rigel act like the Mutara Nebula seen in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Nebulas slow down warp travel, make long range sensors all but useless, and also stop shields from functioning. They’re dense and “soupy” which makes it also harder to use beam weapons as they dissipate quicker.
Now in real life, a nebula might involve a few hundred more atoms per cubic light year and wouldn’t do most of the things mentioned. But we’re going for space opera and not hard scifi for Lord of Rigel. The fact that nebulas slow down ships and and make ship detection difficult is a double edged sword. It means that nebulas can help protect planets by slowing down fleets, even relatively advanced ones, but sneak attacks are much easier. Of course all of these things mean that a player with some strategic disadvantages (lower tech) might be able to use a nebula to get a jump on a superior foe and take them out.
Some technologies can offset a few of the penalties that you face inside a nebula. Hardened shields can let ships keep shields while inside a nebula. Better sensors can help negate the sensor penalties. Finally, having a navigator hero in a fleet can offset the movement penalties.
Next week we’ll discuss some other types of space terrain and some technologies that let players manipulate travel on the map, specifically wormholes and FTL amplifiers.