The Triplanetary Campaign

This is posted for playtest. Comments should go to the Triplanetary thread on BoardGameGeek, at All material is copyright © 2017 by Steve Jackson Games Incorporated. Thanks for your interest and help!

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A campaign game may involve a dozen or more players, and be played out over dozens of sessions, as commercial (or piratical) empires are built and crumble again. This is a roleplaying game as well as a tactical one. Negotiations with the other players will help you succeed in your own goals! The campaign uses the MCr purchase table, with one exception: to reduce bookkeeping, fuel is free. Pirates refuel at Clandestine; other players may refuel at any base or from friendly tankers.
Ships must still ration their fuel carefully to leave a margin for error – or for pirate gunfire!

@D-HEAD = Merchants

Merchants are the driver of the economy. They use commercial ships to carry cargo and freight throughout the system. There are assumed to be hundreds of merchants in space, enough that the Space Patrol cannot specifically protect any one ship, but must answer calls for help as they occur. There's a lot of cargo out there, so merchants can pick up a load whenever they are ready – but stolen cargoes can be easily sold because there's a big market.
Each merchant starts with either two transports or one packet, fully loaded with fuel, on any world(s). Merchants may buy transports, packets, liners, and tankers, starting them on any world.

Each merchant player keeps track of their own delivery "cycles," as in the Piracy scenario (p. 00). A merchant receives MCr 3 for each successful delivery via transport, as long as the delivery is either to Terra or to a world that merchant's ships have not visited during the cycle. Merchants are not affected by the status of their competitor's cycles, unless the referee (see below) wants to make competition more intense.
The MCr 3 payment assumes the cargo is carried in a transport. Merchants may buy other ships:

  • A packet earns MCr 5 for each trip, because shippers will pay more for safety.
  • A liner, which carries only passengers and small valuables, earns MCr10 for each trip.
  • A tanker, which carries only fuel, does not make standard trips, but can turn a profit by negotiating rescues with the owners of ships which would otherwise go off the map.
  • @D-HEAD = Prospectors

    Asteroid prospectors start with MCr 25, and prospect and sell as in the Prospecting scenario . . . with the added hazard of pirates.
    Prospectors may buy transports, packets, and tankers, starting them on any world. They may also buy all equipment listed in the Prospecting scenario.

    @D-HEAD = The Space Patrol

    The Patrol starts with two corvettes and two corsairs, located on any world. Its job is to protect shipping and suppress piracy.
    The Patrol's Budget: The Patrol receives MCr 4 on any turn when a ship is actually under attack (including maneuvering to surrender). It gets 3 on any turn when a pirate ship is merely detected but is not attacking, and 2 on turns when no pirate is detected. The Patrol does not have to pay for fuel; it refuels free at any base. Likewise, its mines and torpedoes are free. Its only expense is new ships.
    The Patrol may not engage in civilian commerce.
    Prize ships: The Patrol may take captured pirate vessels into service, or sell them on any world for 75% of their new price. The Patrol is expected to return recaptured civilian ships to their owners, but once a captured ship has made it to Clandestine, it's treated as a pirate and may be taken as a prize and sold by the Patrol.
    Patrol tactics: The Patrol should not shadow civilian launches, or permit them to shadow its own ship movements. The Patrol wants the pirates to show themselves so it can act.
    The Patrol may not burn toward a pirate ship until it has entered detection range of a world or ship, or until it attacks a target.

    @D-HEAD = Pirates

    One player may start as a pirate, with either two corvettes or a corsair, fully fueled, on Clandestine. Pirates treat the blue asteroids surrounding Clandestine as clear space. The pirate's objective is to steal merchant cargoes and sell them at hidden Clandestine or rowdy Ceres. A stolen cargo, regardless of its origin or the ship carrying it, nets the Pirate MCr 10 when sold. If the pirate ship or fleet does not have enough cargo space for the whole cargo, it gets paid only for the percentage that it can carry away from its victim.
    Stolen ore and CT shards may be sold at Clandestine, at prices as for Ceres. Note that a pirate ship may not steal a CT shard unless it has PM grapples!
    Pirates may not engage in regular civilian commerce; it's too much like work.
    Detection of pirates: This rule is important and will require a certain amount of roleplaying. Pirate ships only become "detected" when they enter detection range of a world or ship (5 hexes for worlds, 3 for ships and bases), or when they fire on a target. Other players must simply ignore the pirate ship counters that they "cannot see."
    Prize ships: The pirates may take captured vessels into service, or sell them for 75% of their new price on Clandestine, or 50% on Ceres or any world.
    Refueling: The pirates may refuel only on Clandestine. However, a successful pirate may keep a hidden tanker or two in-system to refuel ships and prizes.
    If all pirate warships are eliminated, the pirate player may re-enter the game after 20 turns, with either a corsair or two corvettes on Clandestine. The Patrol gets no money during this time of no piracy, because the Grand Senate of Earth does not have the sense that God gave a flatworm.

    @D-HEAD = Victory

    Play to a specified number of turns, a specified number of sessions, or a specified date on the calendar. Then calculate all players' net worth (the Patrol also wins if he knows he has done a good job). Or just play an open-ended campaign, with players going and coming, and see what develops!

    @D-HEAD = Referee

    A campaign game may have a referee who reins in any unrealistic behavior, such as civilian ships shadowing Patrol courses, or Patrol captains who head directly toward every pirate ship counter before it is actually detected. The referee also has the power to change any "social" rules to keep things interesting. For instance:

  • Regulation of trade. Unpopular or risky trade runs may be increased in payoff value. Special merchant cargoes, with high payments, may be offered from time to time. Bonuses may be offered for speedy delivery!
  • Prospecting. The markets for ore and CT shards may be opened on other worlds, with as much complexity as the referee is prepared to manage. Prospectors may also be able to find precious metals, asteroid ice to deliver to Ceres, alien artifacts, and even lost ships.
  • Bank. The referee may introduce money tokens and act as the bank. Money makes it easy for the players to trade and deal among themselves. Pennies and poker chips are good options.
  • Admission of new players. Entirely up to the referee's discretion. New merchants and prospectors are easy to add. The Patrol may be divided between players. It is even possible to draw a second secret base on the map, possibly well beyond Jupiter, and allow a competing set of pirates. And entirely new roles may be created.
  • Political climate. If piracy becomes rampant, the Space Patrol may get more money to buy ships. Conversely, if the Space Patrol is very successful, they may be rewarded with a funding cut or even by having some of their ships mothballed.
  • Modify the map or create a new or larger one. (Yes, we have experimented with systems to let the moons and planets move, and it doesn't seem to add enough play value to justify the bookkeeping. But feel free to try it!)
  • Private warships. Merchants who lose too many cargoes may lose faith in the Patrol and want to buy ships with more armament than mere packets. The referee may allow the purchase of private warships according to one of several possible rules. For instance:
  • Private warships may be purchased at any world, but there is a heavy tax: the ship costs 150% of list price, with the extra 50% going straight to the Patrol.
  • Private warships are illegal. Don't get detected. You will be treated as a pirate. Purchase of private warships must be negotiated with the referee, including a heavy bribe to keep them from being detected as they leave the world where they are purchased.
  • Private warships are tolerated outside the Belt, and may be purchased on any moon of Jupiter at list price, but they may not come sunward of the Belt.
  • Nukes. By unanimous agreement of the players, the Third Geneva Convention may be repealed and nukes allowed in play. Note that this genie will not go back into the bottle; on a game scale there is no provision for repairing planetary destruction.
  • @BOXHEAD = Variant: Orbital Bases

    In this variant, it is assumed that every planetary base has a highly developed orbital base overhead.

  • Any ship which could refuel at a planetary base may now refuel just by passing over it while in orbit.
  • Cargo can be delivered to orbit, which speeds commerce! The ship does not land, but makes delivery, and picks up new cargo, on the turn it enters orbit. This saves fuel and precious time.
  • If the planetary base below it is devastated by a nuke, the orbital facilities are lost.
  • Alternatively, if players and referee are willing to tolerate more complexity in the name of strategic warfare, orbital facilities may be represented by orbital base counters, which are not destroyed by nukes hitting the planet, but engage in combat in the usual way.

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