That Starship Game

Yeah, a game. A board game, actually, or rather my ideal board game. In short:

I want a game that plays like a season of Star Trek.

So what would that entail? The setting is familiar: a starship, on which all the players are department heads. (Tactical, Engineering, Science, Medicine, that kind of thing.) The starship goes from sector to sector in known space, expanding its bounds into unknown areas. The ship needs leadership, it needs upgrades, it needs new challenges. Alliances are made, planets are saved, crises are averted. Eventually it runs across the Terrible Enemy, with whom our fearless crew either does battle or makes nice. And then victory and end credits. (Or loss and the need for a sequel.)

A few twists:

  • The captain starts out as a random factor whose decisions are made by rolls of the dice until there’s a mutiny and a player (department head) becomes captain. The job provides benefits and responsibilities, and other players mutiny to take the job away.
  • The game can’t be won by one player alone. Players have to cooperate to keep the ship running, and one player doing poorly could cause everyone to lose the game. That’s right, it’s possible for the game to be lost by everyone. I’m still not sure whether the ship (i.e. everyone) or a player wins the game, though. My initial thought is that there are some kind of cumulative Awesome Points that result in one player getting a medal of honor when the game is won. However, I do want winning the game to be separate from just collecting up Awesome Points.
  • I really really want to include some kind of real-world learning. I love trivia games, so my initial thought is to make a trivia question the basic means of production. For example, the head of engineering would have to answer a trivia question about technology. However, strategy could be used to overcome another player’s strong knowledge.

The mechanics are where I fall down. Is it a card game? A board game? A tile game? Are there little pieces for “red shirt” crewmembers? Are there event cards among the trivia cards? How does it stay understandable, yet complex enough to replay well?

A few ideas on game mechanics:

It should be playable (and fun) with 2-6 players.

Situation (event) cards are drawn and held in a player’s hand. A player may choose to play one per turn. One of the more interesting cards is the crisis card, which allows the player to challenge the existing captain and potentially become the new captain. Situation cards are grouped into levels of difficulty: home planet, near space, neutral zone, and unknown space.

Knowledge cards have 3 levels of difficulty, with corresponding point values. There are 6 question categories: science, technology, engineering, medicine, tactics, and diplomacy. Mixed in with the knowledge cards are morale booster cards, humorous activities and questions that provide the same point values. One of the situation cards is “I’m an X, not a Y,” which allows a player to substitute one category of knowledge for another in a given situation.

There are four ways the ship needs to be upgraded: navigation, communications, propulsion, and weapons. Each is necessary for unlocking new sets of situation cards.

Six player pieces are available, one for each category/department: scientist, engineer, doctor, diplomat, technologist, and warrior.  When a player is promoted, they add a riser underneath their piece. The captain gets a fancy riser underneath those.

Staff pieces (or “redshirts”) are color coded by category/department.

Medals (or “victory points”) are added to a player’s total point value, which includes promotions, captaincy, and staff.

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