UPDATE 2019-09-22: I've changed the rules a bit. You can find them here.

I thought that before I talk about the design process of Stardust, I should really talk about the concepts of the game, as well as the rules. Then readers will know what the hell I am on about.

This should probably have been my first post, I suppose... (but the blog is in it's infancy so it's not like anybody's reading this).

In this post I'll mention the general rules of how the game works.
Later I will post about each faction.

What is Stardust?

(Stardust is the working title... until I come up with a better name.)

Stardust is a competitive, asymmetrical, medium-weight, strategy board game set in space for 5 players, where the board is dynamically grown during gameplay by the players.

Thematically, each game is set in a different, uncharted, star-system: the board will be different every time you play and you always need to explore it.

The goal of the game is to get 50 Power points (earned through combat, exploration, colonisation and trade). As the leader of a faction you'll want control over the whole sector, and you do this star-system by star-system (i.e. game session by game session).

Keep reading if you want a deeper understanding of how the game works.

Background

Stardust, the most precious resource in the galaxy can only be found in a mostly unexplored sector.

This sector is inhabited by the Hivemind. For ages, it fed on stardust and whole planets in peace... until the others came.

The Republic were the first to arrive. The discovery of stardust fueled a new Renaissance: technology, healthcare, even entertainment were revolutionised by this almost magical material.

Where civilization goes, so do the Pirates. Stardust business is very profitable and they will get their cut.

Probes from the cold Machine Consensus reached the sector not long ago and reported a great energy source. This stardust could feed entire Worldforges!

The wandering Travellers are just passing by, hoping to acquire some stardust in order to barter for other materials. The other factions, however, did not take kindly to their presence, so they must take up arms to defend themselves.

How do you play it?

Keeping in mind this game is still heavily in development, the rules are as follows:

The game starts with a small board which gets expanded as the game progresses to give you the feel of exploring the system.

Note: When there's a conflict between faction attributes, temporary effects (such as those gained from leaders) and/or the rules, the temporary effects override everything and the faction attributes override the rules.

Goal: Power

Factions are fighting for control of this System: The first player to obtain 50x power at the end of a round will win.

Power is generated by:

Action Power
Win battle 1
Colonise/Destroy Hive/Worldforge/Colony 4
Colonise/Destroy Cove 2
Destroy the Mothership 6
Explore 1
Trade 1 (for both participants)
Discard 3x Stardust 1

There may be effects that award power to actions that otherwise wouldn't.

The Pirate faction mat highlighting the Power track section
Each faction mat (or board) has a section to track points

On each faction board (see above), there's a section to help you track how much power you have currently. There are 5 Power tokens, when all 5 of them are on the 10th square, you'll have 50 points: you won!

Setup

As I mentioned earlier, each game is played on a new system.

Start by placing the centrepiece in the middle of your play area.
Choose a faction to play with and choose who starts first by any means you agree on.
Each player takes the matching starting hex for their faction.
Shuffle the rest of the hexes and put them into a pile facing down in reach of all players.

Starting with the first player, follow the Setup section in your faction board, then continue with the player on your left.

Battle

You can only participate in combat with units in the same hex (unless you're using Cannons).
Each player involved in a battle, throws 1 battle die:

  • Deduct ships from the attacker (according to the defender die)
  • Deduct ships from the defender (according to the attacker die)

The number of ships deducted cannot exceed the number of the opposing ships.
For example, if the defender rolls a 3, but they only have 2 ships, then only 2 ships are deducted from the attacker.

You win a battle when you destroyed more ships from the opponent than you lost. This could mean that the defender could win a battle and gain 1x Power.

Trade

As an action, players can trade with each-other as long as they both share at least one hex.

You can trade however many resources you like with that one player (or with the Black Market for Pirates): that still counts as 1 action.

Generally, players can build up to 2x ships as long as they have the required resources.
Some factions change the amount of ships that can be built.

Exploration

This is how the map grows.

Comparison of the dynamic map of initial turns vs later turns in an initial prototype
The left shows the map after about 30 minutes, on the right it's close to the game end. This was during the proof of concept phase.

To explore, do the following:

  1. Declare which ships are exploring;
  2. Draw 1x hex from the pile of hexes that are facing down;
  3. Attach the new hex to the hex where your explorer ships are;
  4. Moving the exploring ships to the new hex;
  5. Gain 1 Power.

Components

Hex board

The board is dynamic and built throughout the game via exploring. It is made up of a centrepiece and a number of hexes.
The centrepiece contains one central hex with the system star and 6 empty hexes around it (for 2-3 players) and 18 hexes around it (for 4-5 players).

A hex can have multiple or none of the following elements:

  • Star - Only part of the centrepiece. It cannot be traversed. Any ship venturing inside will be destroyed.
  • Planets - Can be settled by most factions by putting a planet-unit (Worldforge, a Colony or a Hive) on top of it.
  • Moons & Asteroids - Can be mined if a mine is in that hex (one mine per asteroid/moon). Can also be settled by Pirates.
  • Nebulae - Ships generate 1x Stardust if they are in a nebula hex at the beginning of your turn. At the end of your turn, flip any ship token inside a nebula. If the ship is already flipped, then destroy it instead.
  • Blackholes - destroys anything in that hex.

Multiple units of different factions can be in the same hex, but cannot be in the same "slot" (e.g. you cannot have two mines in the same asteroid).

Resources

  • Metal - Used for building.
  • Stardust - Used for building or trading for power.
  • Power - Gather 50 to win.
  • Pops - Serve as health of planet-units and the mothership. Some factions can use them to trade or to build.

Units

I'll go into more detail about these in a later post as each faction has slight variations or may not even have access to them at all.

Prototype of the units that each faction has access to
These are all just prototypes, of course. The plan is to make them all 3D units
  • Fighters - These ships can attack and defend.
  • Colonization Ships - These ships can colonize new planets.
  • Cannons - These cannons work like pops on the planet and enable the planet to defend itself.
  • Mines - Produce 1x metal when on top of an Asteroid or a Moon. Mines cannot defend themselves.
  • Planet-units - Can hold pops (which serve as health) and can produce other units.
  • Mothership - Produces pops and it's where ships are built. The Mothership can defend and attack and always has +2 Defense Roll and +2 Attack Roll.