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Greeting, Commanders!

As we draw closer to the campaign (we’ll soon announce a date), we’d like to show you something we’ve been working on these last few months. As you know, Fractal was built as a compact 4X that could be played with lower player count (and without making a day out of it), working equally well at 2, 3 or 4 players. But we decided we could push things even further and make it work… solo.

Introducing the Automata, Fractal solo system for the core game.

The Automata


Automatas are AI entities that simulates the behavior of conventional players. They have a set of special rules and components that diverge from the core rules, but that allow them to be unpredictable and diverse opponents, always avoiding abstractions.

With the Automata expansion (it will be an add-on during the campaign as not everyone is keen on solo), you can replace up to 2 players with AI simulated opponents with their own “personality”.

This solo mode is robust at any player and Automata count, and if played with two automatas, they each have their own decks, making them distinct opponents.

The factions


The Automata is able to automate the behavior of each of the 7 core factions of the game. Most components are common to the Automatas, with the exception of the AI faction mats, which include some faction-specific abilities which aim to reproduce the asymmetry of the player-controlled factions:

The passive ability works in a very similar fashion to the current innate abilities of the factions. 

The triggered ability makes use of action cards, which are not activated per se by the Automata and instead proc a specific skill.

The evolutive ability is triggered by AI protocols (see below) and grows more powerful as the Automata researches civil technologies (which are also not used per se).

Together, they allow the personality of each faction to transpire in the game.

The empire board


On top of its faction mat, the Automata also uses a custom empire board, reduced to its simplest expression and featuring only its own bonuses or assets, allowing it to generate its own engine building during the game without any risk of confusion that could arise from using player-specific empire boards.

On top of that, the Automata uses 4 sets of components, used to automate the entire gameplay from phase to phase: AI protocols, AI units, AI behavior and AI tactics.

AI protocol & Ai unit


AI protocol cards are used to determine the actions performed by the Automata each turn. The discarded and active cards act as two parts of a whole unit.

First, the arrows on the discarded AI protocol indicate which actions are triggered on the active card (2 among 4).

Then, the completed box determines the current AI behavior among 4, which will affect the decision process of the Automata for the turn, with the help of the units and colonies at the bottom which act as priority orders.

The top arrow syncs with the AI unit token on the board to determine which units are recruited by the Automata when it performs the action.

Speaking of, the Automata can perform the same actions as a player, in one way or another: recruit units (via the AI unit and AI behavior), advance on the board (following the AI behavior), colonize systems, research technologies, trigger faction-specific effects and action cards.

On that note, technologies and action cards are not used as is, and only their number serve as an additional factor to empower some effects, such as AI tactics (for military tech) and faction abilities (for civil tech and action cards).

AI behavior


Whenever the Automata needs to recruit or advance, players can check the currently active AI behavior card, where a simple decision tree will dictate where to recruit, which units to move and where. Player agency is almost non-existent and the cards take care of 95% of the process, with the remaining 5% being special cases which are usually solved by simply choosing one sector over another.

Because these behaviors are randomly determined by the AI protocols, and change from turn to turn, they make the Automata highly unpredictable and very life-like. It can expand on the map, attack players, colonize, use powerful abilities and research technologies, shifting seamlessly between options as the game goes. And since all the AI behaviors have a fall back option on the “expansive” card, it will always do something useful and relevant (usually seeking control of the central Utopian sector if all else fails), ensuring the game won’t boil down to luck of the draw. 

The Automata does ignore a few aspects of the game, such as the board events (anomalies, obstacles and living galaxy), but very much seeks victory points in various ways, as well as controlling the Utopian sector, making it a truly formidable opponent.

AI tactics


During conflict, the Automata uses a variation of tactic cards called AI tactics, which gives 3 options, each with their own initiative, units composition and damages. The Automata simply reads from top to bottom, triggering whatever effects is eligible first.

Any military tech developed during the action phase (with specific AI protocols) are gathered face down near the empire board, and are used to activate the tech upgrades, granting even more damages or defenses to the Automata for the battle.

The cards are distributed in a way that makes encounters deadly, and while it’s impossible to replicate the meta gaming happening between players (bluff, deception and deduction), the Automata is still a powerhouse in combat capable of overwhelming an unprepared player.

Automata and Aftermath


While the Automata can emulate efficiently a core game player, it won’t be able to account for the myriad ways in which the Aftermath changes the game with all its scenarios, custom rules, setup and special modules. 

As a result, it’s not compatible with it.

But while the Aftermath factions can’t be automated, once unlocked they can absolutely be used by players against the Automata without any issue, introducing some measure of expansion capabilities even for the purely solo players. 

For this reason, and to provide the most modularity to backers, we’ve decided to launch the Aftermath also as an add-on, allowing each player to create the Fractal experience they’re most comfortable with. 

The good news is that the price tag for the core experience just went way down, since it’s the essential version without all the added weight (and goodness) of the other 2 modules.

Very soon now we’ll announce the official launch date, we’re working as we speak with a lot of reviewers to provide reviews and how to plays for the launch, for all three parts of the game.

The rulebook(s) will of course also be available when the campaign launches, as they’re nearly complete and currently undergoing a review process with various testers.

That’s it for today, we’ll talk more soon, and as always just shoot your questions below, we’re happy to tell you more!

Thanks for reading, next up we’ll go even further in depth in the action mechanics and rhythm of the game, show you some of the euro-lite elements that make up the empire’s management, and then we’ll tell you more after the Aftermath and aforementioned modules. 

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