Notes For the Fleet [In the Lab]

A handful of spaceships survived a planetary disaster. Now, what remains of the fleet is on its way to Sanctuary, a fabled planet on the other side of the galaxy. Will they find enough resources along the way? Why do so many crewmen where red shirts? The brave captains will give it all FOR THE FLEET!

[UPDATE: This has been slightly rethemed, but rules are essentially the same.]

Each player draws one card from the Ship deck. Every player is a captain of that ship, with some crew at her disposal. On your card, you'll see details about your ship, how many crew you have, what it costs to jump to the next star system, and special abilities you can use.

Sample Ships
Name: Goliath
Description: Damaged battlecruiser, barely survived the catastrophe. Highly trained, but desperate crew.
Crew Aboard: 15
Jump Cost: 2 [Fuel] 1 [Food] 1 [Water]
Spend 2 [Tech]: Ignore 1 [Death].
Spend 1 crewmen: Create 2 [Food].
Spend 4 [Tech] 2 [Fuel]: Earn 1 Victory Point for the group.

Name: Bright Field
Description: Fragile science vessel with cracked hull. Crewed by AIs with valuable knowledge, but only one organic shell to share among them.
Jump Cost: 1 [Fuel]
Crew Aboard: 1
Spend 3 [Tech]: Target ship reduces jump cost by one for the rest of the game.
Spend 4 [Tech] 1 [Food]: Create 1 Crewman
Spend 6 [Tech]: Earn 1 Victory Point for the group.

Name: Quirk's Delight
Description: Pleasure yacht on a tour of distant space during the catastrophe. Not many useful skills, but plenty of manpower.
Jump Cost: 1 [Fuel] 1 [Food]
Crew Aboard: 20
Spend 6 [Food]: Earn 1 Victory Point for the group.

Using Abilities
Each ship has special abilities, mostly involving paying an amount of one resource to gain another. Unless otherwise noted, you can use these abilities at any time as long as you have the resources to spend.

How to Play
The game is divided into a series of Jumps – faster-than-light sprints across vast stretches of interstellar space. Each Jump lands the fleet in a different star system with new resources to harvest and dangers to overcome.

To start a jump, each captain spends a number of resources noted on their card under Jump Cost. Some ships are huge and require a lot of resources. Others are more spritely, requiring few or none! If this is the first jump of the game, you can ignore fuel cost. It's assumed you had enough fuel to make it at least this far.

After a successful jump, draw three new cards from the Jump deck and place them face up on the table. These are the noteworthy features of this region of space and, more importantly, what can be scavenged. Each card describes a region of space, how many crewmen are required for a harvesting mission, and lists possible resources to harvest.

If you do not have enough resources to jump, the group loses.

Sample Jump Cards
Name: Orion's Whip
Description: Unstable asteroid belt with explosive minerals.
Crew Required for Harvest: 4
1-4: [Fuel]
3-4: [Water]
5-6: [Death]

Name: Minerva
Description: Icy giant with a liquid sea full of algae.
Crew Required for Harvest: 7
1-4: [Water]
5: [Food]
6: [Death]

Name: Derelict Ship
Description: Drifting vessel. What's inside?
Crew Required for Harvest: 3
1: [Fuel]
2-3: [Tech]
4-6: [Death]

Each card requires enough crew to be harvested. So, each captain volunteers however many crewmen they would like to send to the mission. The total gathered crewmen must meet the minimum noted on the card. You can volunteer more than that minimum, of course, but once you've declared your crew, that's all you have for this particular harvest. For example, the players want to harvest from the Derelict Ship. This requires at least three crewmen, so you volunteer five crewmen for this mission. Sam volunteers three of his crewmen. Emma volunteers two. That brings you all to a total of ten crewmen for this mission.

For each crewman you volunteer, gather one die. For example, you volunteer five crewmen for this mission, so you gather five dice. Sam volunteers three crewmen, so he gathers three dice. Emma volunteers two, so she gathers two dice.

All players roll dice at the same time, but keep the individual dice groups separate from each other. Compare all the results to the card you're harvesting. Remove any [Death] from your dice supply. That represents one crewman you lost during the mission. From the dice that remain, collect one resource token as noted from the card. So, in the Derelict Ship, if you rolled 1 1 1 3 6, you would lose one crewman, but collect 3 [Fuel] tokens and 1 [Tech] token. Sam rolled 1 6 6, meaning he loses two crew and only collects 1 [Fuel]. Emma was even more unfortunate, rolling 6 6, meaning she has no more crewmen in this harvesting mission. Fortunately, she still has some aboard her ship, so the game is not entirely lost.

All players may re-roll remaining dice as many times as they like. Collect more resources with each re-roll. But beware, each re-roll risks the remaining crewmen in the process. You cannot add more crewmen to re-rolls. So, continuing the example from the previous paragraph, you now have five dice left. You roll again and get 2 2 3 3 6. You lose one more crewman, but collect 4 [Tech] tokens. Sam rolled 6, meaning has no more crewmen in this harvesting mission. Fortunately, he still has some aboard his ship. Emma cannot re-roll, because she lost her crew during the last roll.

If the number of living crew in this harvest falls below the minimum required, this is a BUST. The whole harvest is lost and no player can collect any tokens from this card. So consider whether it's worth the risk to push your luck. For example, you decide to re-roll against the Derelict Ship again. You only have four dice left. You roll 1 2 6 6. That means you lose two more crewmen, reducing the total number of living crew below the minimum required to harvest. That means you, Sam and Emma lose all the tokens you all harvested from the derelict ship.

Once a harvest is complete, flip over that card so it is face down. It cannot be harvested again.

The group can continue harvesting any of the other cards.

Sharing Resources
After harvesting, players may exchange resources with each other in any amount. There will likely be some negotiation here, as some players will want to keep resources for their own use while others would need them for bare necessities. Barter, deal and negotiate as best you can. Remember, you're all in this together.

End of the Turn
If the group would rather not harvest any more cards or if there are no more available cards to harvest, then continue to the next jump.

Goal of Play
The goal is for the whole group to reach 10 victory points before you reach ten jumps.

Otherwise, if you end the tenth turn without enough victory points, the whole group loses. The whole group may also lose if any player cannot pay her ship's jump cost to make it to the next turn. The whole group also loses if any player loses all her crew.

This game has drifted from a social deduction game to one of resource management and ethical dilemmas. I'm okay with that, actually. I like the tension of deciding whether to keep resources for your own benefit or for the benefit of the fleet.

Instead of hacking Don Eskridge's the Resistance, I'm mixing up a little Catan Dice Game with Zombie Dice and a teeny bit of Pandemic.

There is still plenty to tinker with, though. What types of ships ought to be included, what types of resources ought to be available, and what space stuff ought to be in the jump deck.

» Photo: CC BY-NC-ND roBurky


  1. Something is not clear for me : for one harvesting mission, do all the players volonteer crew at the same time, forming one big harvesting crew, and it's this big crew that must meet the requirements before and at the end of the harvest ? Or else does each player have to gather sufficient crew and keep enough for returning by himself ?
    Is it normal it reminds me of the Battlestar Gallactica boardgame ?

  2. The whole group's collected volunteers must meet the harvesting requirement.

    And I am concerned about the similarities to the BSG board game. I don't mind similarities to the show, but if it's too close to the board game, I'll either drift it in another direction or just put it aside with the other unfinished projects. :P

  3. I just revised the examples of play under "Harvest" to include other players and their rolls.

  4. If you put it aside (great disapointment !), I'll play it anyway. The resource management was prefered aspect in the BSG game, much more than the pseudo bluff.
    Do the ships begin with resources ? If not, how can they make a first jump if they need food water or other non-fuel resources to jump ?

  5. Note the section on Jumping. You ignore fuel cost for the first jump. It is assumed you have enough to make it at least to the first leg of the journey. However, that does bring up the concern of losing in the first turn. What happens if in that first jump, no cards offer resources that your ship requires for the next jump? That's something that requires some balancing to fix.

  6. I have the terrible, terrible urge to start trying to put this together as a Fiasco playset, which I'm sure has probably been done before and besides might cross BSG with the Coen brothers, which could destroy all life on Earth and cause such a disaster in the first place.

  7. Perhaps you turn up a new System card for every one you farm out (but *not* Bust) until there's a Fuel on the table. Then it remains possible to lose in the first turn with a really bad deal or really bad luck, but you at least have a chance.

  8. "Stop dying, you cowards!" – Zap Brannigan

  9. Interesting that someone mentioned BSG as my first reaction after reading was "this would be awesome with a traitor mechanic!" I still think it would be fantastic with a traitor variant.

    I do think it has some similarities with BSG, but not enough to be a concern. This is a very cool concept. Definitely in my wheelhouse.

  10. The original #ForTheFleet question about ship types resulted in a couple forward scout responses. Have you thought about including scouting in the game?

    It would be interested (though probably unbalancing) if some of the ships were allowed to preview the next system card and decide to skip it.

    It's been a while since I played the BSG board game, but I believe the admiral player could choose to risk a raptor (a limited resource) to choose the next jump destination from a limited selection (2 or 3, I think). In this game, maybe the players could choose to risk a few crew for a chance to see the next system card. The risk could be a roll of the die for the death condition.

  11. Intriguing, Daniel, but I'm not quite seeing where the tension between players is supposed to come from (if that's intended). All of the victory conditions are predicated on the entire group surviving. Why would there be any meaningful bargaining for a player's "own use" when victory depends on the team? In order for me to win, my teammates must also win.

    Of course, if there's not supposed to be any tension between the players, then carry on. If it's "us against the game" (e.g. Castle Ravenloft or Pandemic), then I think you're onto something. But it'd be interesting to have a game in which there's only one winner. It wouldn't have to be like the BSG boardgame; think "Diplomacy".

  12. I think this would couple awesomely (somehow...) with Bulldogs!

  13. I'll see what turns up, but it looks like this is drifting farther away from its origins as a Mafia hack.

  14. Yup! I imagine this as a small Millennium Falcon type of ship. They can spend fuel to preview the next cards in the jump deck.

  15. The tension between players might come from disagreement about the best use of resources. That's a very mild tension, which is about right. This is drifting more and more into a light comedy game.

  16. If the possibility of creating more tension in the game is still on the table: How about adding a motivation deck that gives each player their own secret victory condition or method to generate personal VPs? If the results of harvesting are secret as well (need honest players or a GM), this could send the diplomacy/tension potential through the roof.

    I'd be really interested to this with my group.

  17. That's certainly a possibility. Actually, I'd probably call those Captain cards, so you'd actually have a character with their own little backstory and intentions. Any thoughts on possible victory conditions that would come into conflict with the group's victory?

  18. My initial thoughts where points for things like: most food/tech/water hoarded at the end of the game, least resources (you need the cargo space for illegal contraband), etc.  There could be points awarded for conditions met by other ships as well. It shouldn't take too long to come up with a list of possibilities. 

    I would keep identities attached to ships and secret intentions independent.  If you play the game multiple times, character's intentions would be known right off the bat. 

    Someone else posted about a possible scouting mechanism. I got to thinking that maybe one ship could be the scout on any given turn. Players could vote on who would be the scout after determining that they had sufficient resources for the next jump. The scout should run some risk in viewing the next jump's locations, but gain the privilege of setting the agenda for the next harvest. 

    I got to this point and I thought I might be borrowing too much from Lifeboat. I'd still play the hell out of this game. :)

  19. Oh! A victory condition could be *intentionally* busting harvest rolls. A hot-headed, fearless captain rushing into hopelessly deadly situations.

  20. A question about the victory condition. In thematic terms, what's happening there? I mean, are the good guys still caught? Do the VPs represent the blaze of glory they go down in, or do the 10 VPs represent an item/technology that will help the rebel ships fend off or escape (for now...) the imperial army?

  21. Yeah, that's still the hang nail that keeps this from really feeling complete. Thematically, the ten-warp-limit creates a simple time limit, but the victory points still feel so abstract.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

5 Graphic Design and Typography Tips for your Card Game

Troubleshooting: How to fix "Remove Blank Lines for Empty Fields" in InDesign Data Merge

One Thing to Avoid in Game Design