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Early concept: sci-fi space combat card game

7 replies [Last post]
Joined: 11/10/2013

Hi everyone,

I have an early stage card game that I have been mulling over in my head a lot recently and I finally started to put down on paper. I am a writer, and have several times written entire plot outlines that match a book I have not read or ever had anything to do with! To that end, given that my game idea seems to be progressing rapidly, I wanted to get my early design thoughts into a public forum to make sure that I am creating an original IP. Thoughts are as follows.


Genre: Science-fiction, space combat

Based around ship-to-ship battles - currently I am thinking 3 ships per player maximum

The 'ship' card is a large-size card (think Magic 'Planechase' cards) - the ship card base stats - five types: battleship, carrier, cruiser, destroyer and frigate

Each ship can have five crew - captain, gunner, navigator, engineer and support - these provide stat bonuses (either
increases to stats themselves or buffs/penalties to die rolls)

Stats are on a system closely related to numbers on a die - high numbers are better and passing a stat check involves rolling under the base stat after modifiers

Stats are: Guns, fighter compliment, shields, engines, acceleration, hull strength - plus torpedoes (binary, yes/no, for ability to use)

Card types are: ship, crew, event (random happenstances - includes a limited number of catastrophic events as optional cards that have graver consequences), resource (buff the player), espionage (nerf the opponent) and torpedo (limited high-power ammunition gained through event or resource cards that have a few 'special' circumstances - picked blind)

Play areas: deck, void (discard), fleet (ship and crew), field of battle (for events, resources and espionage) and hand

Winning criteria: Combined total of damage done and reputation gained/lost - damage score is based on total number of ship areas (crew) or ships destroyed - reputation is based on responses to event cards

Turn (under development): Draw phase, resource/espionage phase, battle phase, event phase, damage resolution phase, end phase

Ships 'refresh' when destroyed and are replaced by another of the same, except battleships and carriers, which are downgraded to one of the other types

Event deck counts as 'fuel' - on exhaustion, the player must retreat, allowing the other player to take one final attack unless he has five cards or less remaining

'Point' value for building ship and crew - need to balance someone playing a battleship with someone playing a destroyer


Aggressiveness/loyalty system: crew members have a scale of aggressiveness - +5 to -5 - the further apart on the scale a crew member is from the captain, the less likely they are to obey an order that goes against their ethics
(EXAMPLE: A resource card is played that gives player B a screen consisting of a merchant fleet. Destroying the merchant fleet will allow a quick attack on player B, but will cause a negative reputation gain for player A. Negotiating will cause them to move on, prevent an attack that turn by player A, and cause a positive reputation gain for player A. Waiting has no effect, but the merchants will not move for 2 turns. Player A's gunner is aggressive. If player A's captain is aggressive and orders negotiation or waiting, the gunner will see reason and obey. If player A's captain is more passive or even pacifist, the gunner will be disloyal and the player must pass a check or have him attack.)

Loyalty can be earned, stopping these attacks, by fulfilling an objective specific to the crew member.

The captain has three 'executive overrides' that can be used to enforce loyalty in the game.

Why pick a disloyal crew member? They may give your ship an advantage it would not otherwise have. (E.g. An aggressive gunner might increase the 'guns' stat for the ship.)

Business model would be a single box containing at least ten ships, with multiples of the smaller three, and at least ten of each crew member type. Probably a hundred and fifty or so event cards, forty each of resources and espionage and twenty torpedoes. Aiming for about 250 random cards and the opportunity for fleet construction from a variety of ships.

Possible expansions: Solitaire expansion, also including a campaign for single- or multi-player - Introduction of alien races (all human at this point)


This is just the start of the game, and I still do not have a card list etc, with the exception of ten ships - two of each type, one regular and one 'variation'. However, I wanted to gather thoughts before I get too involved in development of these mechanics. The way I see it is as follows:

- Organic game that evolves differently each time
- 'Realistic' - loyalty issues and random events, together with limited fuel, are 'realistic' compared to some games
- Depth - the game has a lot of mechanics written out but, simplified with iconography, they could create a very meaningful game
- Variable - the game can be played with optional extras to add depth (loyalty) and tension (catastrophic events), and also allow for variable length with number of ships per player and size of event deck changing

- Complicated, at least on paper
- Loyalty system - this is the ideal for the game, and I do not what it to be an optional rule in a perfect world - it is also what drove me to begin creating it, but it is a fiddly system - ideally graphics and streamlined text once rules have been developed would help, but at this stage I don't have the experience to tell - that said, I believe I have seen systems of similar complexity realised with graphics and icons

I would welcome opinions, thoughts and recommendations. As an actor, I have been told many times not to start an audition with an apology. To that end, I will say now that I am a video gamer primarily, and have only recently begun my research into types of board and card game. It was the speed with which this has taken off in my mind that prompted me to put this up. I also have history of both the game and featured factions written, rules for certain cards and a couple of systems not mentioned, but these are all in even earlier development than the above. Obviously, I am aware that exact scoring (e.g. damage) is missing above - this is also still in development.

One question. What does this qualify as (TCG, LCG etc.)? There are so many acronyms now, I am not sure any more!

I look forward to hearing any thoughts - constructive feedback is my friend!

Many thanks.


Joined: 01/17/2011

The concept of checking loyalty for NPCs to carry out orders sounds interesting, if you could implement it in a way that is simple enough. If it were a computer game you could have all sorts of complex mechanics and dice rolls behind the scenes to determine if the NPC complied or not, but in a board game you've got to keep it much simpler.

Imagine a system where NPCs can have one or more traits. Rather than a rating in each, they either have it or they don't. Each order has a trait attached to it, which is the trait that it appeals to. The names don't matter, but they might be things like aggressive/pacifist, logical/creative, impulsive/disciplined, rebel/government, etc.

For an NPC to accept an order they must have a trait matching the order itself _or_ a trait matching the person giving them the order, but will not accept an opposite-traited order. So the aggressive gunner will accept any aggressive order, or any order from an aggressive captain, except for a pacifist order.

Or maybe instead of a binary accept/reject, the number of matching traits is a bonus on the action while opposite traits give a penalty. So the aggressive gunner receiving an aggressive order gets +1, and if both he and the captain are also Government then he gets another +1. If the captain was Government while the gunner was Rebel then he gets -1 to all orders.

If the idea of the game is to force players to specialize / personalize their crews, then a system like that could be fun.

Aside from the loyalty mechanic, my main question about the game concept that you have presented would be: What is the objective? This is the key question that defines the game.


Joined: 11/10/2013
kos, you just made me a very

kos, you just made me a very happy man. What you have suggested here is actually in line with a couple of the rulesets I did not post because the ideas were still too underdeveloped in my mind. However, you have actually helped clear up some of that.

To combine your suggestion with my ideas so far, the merchant ships example above could have on the card something like:

Merchant fleet
Blocks line of fire - if the ship screened by the fleet is attacked, the merchant fleet will be hit and destroyed instead
Destroy - Aggressive: -1 reputation, discard this card
Negotiate - Pacifist: +1 reputation, pass a negotiation check to discard this card
No decision: Discard this card in 2 turns

To destroy this card, an aggressive gunner would not hesitate, where a pacifist gunner would. The player would have to a) pass a loyalty check, b) have made the pacifist gunner 'loyal' by completing their stated objective or c) use one of their limited executive overrides.

To further explore your comment about forcing personalisation, this is exactly what I'm hoping to encourage, yes. For example, destroyers as a ship type have better aggression and evasion, but they have no fighter bays and weaker shields, so their fighter defence is also sub-par. However, there might be a cautious engineer crew card that actually has a good buff for shields, but a the player might want an aggressive, reckless captain whose gun buff means the destroyer has a great ability to charge in, do damage, and still avoid incoming fire. However, in its current state, its negotiation would be all but non-existent without a pacifist support officer with a negotiation buff. Etcetera, etc, etc...

In short, the formation of a fleet could actually empower a card that is weak in some areas, but will then leave gaps in others.

The objective as I have it defined so far is in three interconnected parts, which could be abbreviated to "damage or destroy the enemy, increase your reputation, do not take damage". I don't think this discourages negative reputation choices. To continue with the merchant fleet, the positive reputation choice actually leaves you open to incoming fire from the enemy (who are close enough to aim between the fleet - maybe a +1 die roll penalty), so if you don't move them on, you are leaving yourself at risk. However, the positive reputation choices might be a little 'harder'. Note that the ship itself has no negotiation stat, so that must be crew-based. (Battleships may have a negotiation nerf for being huge and imposing!)

Does that address your questions?

I also appreciate the need for simplicity. That's actually one reason I wanted to get this idea vetted asap. It's complicated in my head, but I know that's partly because I don't have icons and shorthand yet because rules are not clearly defined. Your response is very encouraging on that front.

Joined: 11/10/2013

It occurred to me that I did not address the faction issue. This is also an idea I have been playing with, but did not mention as I was not 100% sure how to implement it. I was planning to work on the idea of having a faction matching the faction of a ship generating a buff to the crew member in some way, with no penalty for not matching, but having matching factions being less 'useful' (because they are not improving on technology with additional options - its just their own expertise making their lives easier).

However, working them into the loyalty system might actually be a better idea.

In my world all of the ships originated with one dominant faction anyway - the only one that could afford a space program as large as a human exodus from Earth - which is why I was struggling with that concept. Thank you for the idea.

Joined: 11/10/2013
Mechanic update

So I have a new mechanic that I think will lend more meaning to the hitherto somewhat obscured 'survival' mechanic in this game.

As discussed in my initial post, the event deck is going to act as fuel as well. Once the fuel is depleted, a fleet must retreat, as it would be dangerous for them to continue fighting.

To that end, I think fuel might play two other parts in the game. Firstly, for attacking. I have two types of attack planned:
1) Hit-and-run, where the ship charges in and fires as it dashes past. This would allow a ship to combine their engine rating with half of their gun rating to form their attack rating. The enemy defence rating would be half their acceleration (evasion - the half representing it being harder to escape). In this case, the attacker would consume a fuel/event card - discard it without using its effect.
2) Hold and fire, where the ship stays back and fires from a distance - better for battleships with large gun arrays. In this case, the attack rating is the attacking ship's full gun rating, and the enemy defence rating is their full acceleration rating. In this case, the defender would consume a fuel/event card.

Also, rather than 'refreshing' the ships when they are destroyed, I am considering implementing a repair system whereby fuel is consumed based on a) the sections of a ship that are repaired and b) the amount of damage points to be repaired.

I think that this might enhance the limited-resource aspect, thus raising the importance of survival.

davogotland's picture
Joined: 11/19/2013
I think

this sounds awesome! Can you have it ready by Christmas? I'd like to play it ASAP.

Just kidding :p but seriously, it sounds very interesting!

Joined: 11/10/2013
Thank you! (and more developments)

It's so good to hear people enthusing about the project!

One additional development I am now toying with, advancing the fuel concept:

I had thought that something like 150 event cards would come in the box and that players would draw 40 each to form their event decks. However, with the fuel concept, I have been considering other options. I am now thinking of changing it from being an event/fuel deck to being an event/resource deck. As well as using 'event' cards to repair ships and attack, what if the 'event' cards are also representative of damage. There could be damage tokens on the large ship cards to track when one is destroyed, but also, for every point of damage dealt to a ship, an event card is discarded.

I think that getting the event deck as involved as possible in this would be a good thing. Space is a very random place, after all. What do people think?

(Obviously, the 'resource' deck would need to be renamed.)

Joined: 05/21/2013
Did this game ever get any

Did this game ever get any further in development? This sounds really cool.

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