Doomed Colony: A Random Game of Selective Survival
Between writing Ghost Punchers, prepping for cons, and performing the various blood rituals involved in being a husband and father, I haven’t had a chance to post a random game here for a while. Now that things have slowed a bit, I decided to crank out another one, just so I don’t get rusty.
Theme: A horror game where you save space people until you feel regret.
Mechanics: Roleplaying, Memory
Oh…kay. “A horror game where you save space people until you feel regret” sounds like you’re rescuing space colonists, but some of them are bad or dangerous, and you regret rescuing them. Of course, because of the “memory” element, you don’t necessarily know which colonists are trouble until it’s too late–which is where the regret comes in.
In the board game Doomed Colony, players are trying to rescue colonists from a collapsing space colony by moving them onto their respective rescue rockets. At the end of the game, the players score points based on the colonists they have rescued. The player with the most points wins. However, there are two twists:
First, some of the colonists are secretly terrorists, agitators, or ferocious aliens that endanger the rescued colonists and reduce the players’ points.
Second, each player has a secret role. This role tells you which rocket you score for, and what types of colonists give you bonus points. (For example, the player with the CrimsonCorp role controls the red rocket and scores a bonus point for each red colonist she has on board.)
- Colonist Counters: Each colonist counter is double-sided. On the front is the colonist’s color (I’m thinking red/blue/green/yellow, with an icon representing each color for our color-blind friends). On the back is an icon representing what the colonist really is:
- Worker: worth 1 point
- Executive: worth 3 points
- Terrorist: worth 0 points; destroys the rocket if there are three Terrorists on board
- Agitator: worth -2 points for each Agitator on board
- Security: worth 0 points, destroys an Alien on board at the end of the game
- Alien: worth 0 points, devours 6 colonists on board at the end of the game
- Game Board: The board represents the colony’s spaceport. It’s divided into four zones, and each zone can hold only so many colonists. After passing through the fourth zone, colonists can enter the rockets.
- Action Cards: There is a deck of action cards. Each player has her own hand of action cards. During your turn, you play a card, do what it says, then discard it. At the end of your turn, draw a card.
- Role Cards: Each player gets a random role card at the start of the game. There might be more role cards than there are players.
- Countdown Counters: These double-sided counters are placed face-down and shuffled at the start of the game, then later revealed one at a time over the course of the game. The back sides of some of the counters are labeled “Launch!” When the last “Launch!” counter is revealed, the rescue rockets take off and the game ends.
At the start of the game, turn all colonist counters face-down, shuffle them up, and remove from the game three of each color without looking at them.
Place the remaining face-down colonist counter on the board thusly: put one of each color in Zone 4, two of each color in Zone 3, five of each color in Zone 2, and the rest in Zone 1.
Playing the Game
The game is played in a series of rounds.
Starting with the first player and going clockwise, each player takes a turn. When all players have taken a turn, the role of first player rotates clockwise, a Countdown Counter is revealed, and a new round begins.
On your turn, do the following in order:
- Scan Colonist: Look at the face of one colonist counter without revealing it to anyone else, then put it back face-down.
- Play a Card: Play a card from your hand and do what it says. This could be things like…
- Wide Scan: Look at the face of three colonists counters in three different zones without revealing them, then put them back face-down.
- Move Colonist: Move a colonist counter from any one zone to another (including a rocket), without violating any zone’s capacity limits.
- Eliminate Colonist: Remove a colonist from play without revealing it.
- Reveal Colonists: Reveal to all players the faces of three colonist counter in the same zone, then put them back face-down.
- Advance All Colonists: Starting with Zone 4, move all the colonists there into a rescue rocket. Then move as many colonists as you can from Zone 3 to Zone 4, then from Zone 2 to Zone 3, then Zone 1 to Zone 2.
- Advance Colonist: Move one colonist forward one zone.
Game End and Winning
At the end of the round, players reveal a Countdown Counter, which may or may not have “Launch!” on it face. When a player reveals the last “Launch!” counter, the game ends.
To determine the winner, first reveal all players roles (including which rockets they control), then reveal all colonist counters on the rockets, then process the counters in this order:
- Check for Terrorists. If there are three Terrorists on one rocket, that rocket blow up and its colonists are worth no points.
- For each Security colonist, remove one Alien from that rocket.
- For each Alien on a rocket, the rocket’s controller remove six non-Alien colonists from that rocket.
- Add up points for Workers and Executives, then subtract point for Agitators.
- Add or subtract any bonuses or penalties for the players’ roles.
The player with the most points wins!
Analysis: Game Design Challenges
As always, this is a quick pitch. I haven’t done the math or seriously theory-tested any of this, much less actually built and played a prototype. But this is where I expect it to break down when I get around to it:
- Length Problems: Because the end game is tied to playing certain cards, the game might actually drag on too long… or it might wrap up too soon, leaving a bunch of colonists stranded on the colony. (I should math this out, but don’t have time to do it right now.)
- Number of Players: My numbers are based on a four-player game. If you have fewer players, I think it’ll be okay to simply remove a rocket and a color’s worth of of colonist counters for each missing player… but I might be wrong.
- Deductions vs. Guesswork: The intent is that players can deduce what their opponents are trying to do and thus work to thwart them. But without playing it, I can’t tell if there’s enough information for this to actually be the case.
Hmm. I promised myself I’d do a simpler game this time around, but that’ a promise I apparently just can’t keep. Maybe next time!