A pulp-era poker-deck game of cooperation against alien attack, for 2-4 players.
The rules below use a standard poker deck.
For the illustrated print edition visit Lester Smith Games on DriveThruCards.com.
In space, everything’s in black and white.
It’s the year 2000, and mankind has spread from Earth, with thriving colonies on Mercury, Venus, and Mars. The Terran Service Rockets (TSR) carry passengers and cargo among these planets. Those same ships are commissioned as the space arm of the Guardian Defenders of Worlds (GDW) in case of external threat. So far, the only dangers have been from rogue asteroids. Today, however, long-range sensors detect a fleet of alien ships approaching, capturing or destroying everything in their path. Can you and your fellow captains defend the inner planets from the Invasion of the Saucer People!
Equipment Needed: One poker deck
What the Suits Mean
- Spades represent attacks on or defense of Earth.
- Hearts represent attacks on or defense of Venus.
- Clubs represent attacks on or defense of Mars.
- Diamonds represent attacks on or defense of Mercury.
Preparing to Play
- Separate the face cards from the rest of the deck.
- Deal one King to each player; this is the player’s rocket-ship captain.
- Deal one Queen to each player; this is the player’s navigator.
- Deal one Jack to each player; this is the player’s engineer.
- Shuffle the deck.
- Deal a hand to each player:
- 2-player game: Deal 8 cards to each player. Also discard 2 cards face down from the draw pile.
- 3-player game: Deal 7 cards to each player.
- 4-player game: Deal 6 cards to each player.
- Turn up three cards from the deck.
- System Attack: The battle against the saucer people begins at the asteroid belt, before they reach the inner planets.
- 2-player game: Discard the highest of these 3 cards and multiply the other 2. Example: 2, 3, 9; discard the 9 and multiply the 2 and 3 for a value of 6.
- 3-player game: Multiply the high card by the low card, then add the third card. Example: 2, 3, 9; multiply the 2 and 9 for 18, and add the 3 for 21.
- 4-player game: Multiply the high cards and add the third card to that value. Example: 2, 3, 9; multiply the 3 and 9 for 27, then add the 2 for 29.
- Human Defense: Note the suit of the high card. The player whose captain matches that suit plays first. In case of ties, or if no captain matches, use navigator suits, then engineer suits if necessary. Proceed clockwise from the player who leads. Each player plays one card, matching one of the suits in the threat, if possible. If the total of all player cards equals or exceeds the System Attack value, the attack is defeated; discard the attack cards and defense cards and start a new turn. Otherwise, proceed to “Planetary Attack.”
- Planetary Attack: If the System Attack was not defeated, the saucer people break through to attack individual worlds. The cards played during System Attack and Human Defense are now compared according to the following rules:
- Each saucer card attacks the world matching its suit.
- Each defense card protects the world matching its suit.
- If the total defense value at a world equals or exceeds the total attack value at that world, the defenders win. (Starting with the highest defense card, each defender collects one of the attack cards for “bragging rights” at game’s end.)
- If the total attack value at a world exceeds the defense value at that world, the world is captured by the saucer people. Set one of the attack cards aside to note this.
Face Card Abilities
- Jack: Once per game, an engineer can double the value of his player’s card in the Jack’s suit. Turn the Jack face down after use.
- Queen: Once per game, during Planetary Defense, a navigator can pilot her ship to her home world, regardless of the suit played by her player. Turn the Queen face down after use.
- King: Each world’s captain has a different ability:
- Spade—Home-World Defense: Once per game, the Earth captain can call any or all other ships to Earth at the beginning of the “Planetary Defense” step. In effect, he coverts all their played cards to spades. Turn the King face down after use.
- Heart—Seduction: Once per game, the Venusian captain can capture a heart threat card during System Attack, regardless of its value. Remaining cards in the System Attack are added together, not multiplied. Turn the King face down after use.
- Club—Jack of All Trades: Once per game, the Martian captain can act as either navigator or engineer, though in the clubs suit. Turn the King face down after use.
- Diamond—Adaptability: Each turn, after all other captains have played but before the System Attack has been resolved, the Mercurial captain can retrieve his card and play a different one. Do not turn this King face down after use.
Jokers represent a ship malfunction. They have a value of “zero.” In the System Attack, they count as the card to be added (or discarded, in the two-player game).
Play until the draw pile is depleted. Then note how many worlds were captured by the saucer people.
- No planets captured: Total human victory!
- 1 planet captured: Human victory.
- 2 planets captured: Stalemate.
- 3 planets captured: Saucer people victory.
- All planets captured: Human extinction!
Each player discards any collected cards matching captured worlds. Any remaining cards represent that player’s fame on the world of that suit. The crew of that player’s ship gets free drinks on that world forever, and perhaps even a holiday or statue in their honor.
Optional Rule: Major Invasion
For a more challenging battle, play through the deck twice. Leave any cards marking captured worlds and bragging rights out of the deck the second time through (this may mean that the invasion ends before the players have depleted their second hand). This optional rule is highly recommended for the four-player game.
- The Pirate Captain has no matching suit and never goes first during “System Attack.”
- Whenever a Joker is played as a defense card, the Pirate Captain may swap his card with that Joker and treat the Joker as an “Engine Hyperthrust,” allowing him to reach any world during “Planetary Defense” and automatically defeat one of the attack cards there.
- If all worlds fall to the invaders, the Pirate Captain may use a Joker to hyperthrust to reach Alpha Centauri and begin a new human civilization.
- Do not turn this King face down after use.
Logo: K8’s Graphics
Playtesters: Ralph Faraday, Jennifer Smith, Katheryn Smith
Copyright © 2009 Lester Smith. All Rights Reserved.