The premise of our game was rock-solid. East India Trading Company but in space worked really well.
The cluster creation might have been more fun than the rest of the game combined. In some ways, I am seeing Spirit of the Century parallels here, when I feel more horsepower in setting the game up than in playing the game through. I believe our first three games skated right through on the strength of the amazing setting that we created.
There are 3 sub-games in the game, a squad based combat, social combat and spaceship combat. We got through several social combats and one stilted spaceship combat but never did any squad based, which is a shame.
If I could go back, I’d have started every game (well, every game in a new system) with one of those sub-games with the players taking up the parts of NPC’s in the system the game was to be set in. The results of that combat, debate, battle, etc. would have informed the situation that the players were flying into and it would have allowed us all to gain system mastery in a way that isn’t risky to our beloved player characters.
Aspects =/= Beliefs
I treat aspects in FATE games like Beliefs from Burning Wheel. I do. I rarely compel actively, instead arranging situations where the players are confronted with their aspects but not actively compelling them to make matters worse. I think this led to the players having too many FATE points.
Statted up NPC’s
I would not have fully statted up every NPC but I believe that through creating NPC’s for the intro’s, I would have had a scaffolding from which to build other NPC’s the players might come into conflict with. I felt like that, the game as we ran it, didn’t challenge the players. I didn’t invoke many consequences or really chip at their damage tracks and this led to some limp sessions where it felt like danger didn’t touch them as much as it should have.