T-Minus

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T-Minus
Daniel Cristofani
T-Minus board during play
It's Not Rocket Science.
:Players Players:
:Time Length: unknown
:Complexity Complexity: Low
Trios per color: 5
Number of colors: [[Number of colors::1 per player, or 3 Treehouse sets]]
Pyramid trios:
Monochr. stashes: [[Stashes::1 per player, or 3 Treehouse sets]]
Five-color sets:
- - - - - - Other equipment - - - - - -
three 6-sided dice, 12 to 18 risk tokens (e.g. pennies), game board
Setup time: 15 seconds?
Playing time:
Strategy depth: Low
Random chance: High
Game mechanics:
Theme: Low :)
BGG Link:
Status: complete? (v1.0), Year released: 2987

Under development


This game is currently under development, in the Playtesting stage. Feedback is strongly encouraged! Feel free to give comments on game design or structure on the talk page.

Premise

In T-Minus, you control one or more three-stage rockets. Your goal: to land an Unarmed Personnel Capsule on the moon.
The main tradeoff in this game is speed versus safety; a rocket can take up to six actions per turn, but each action is more dangerous than the last.

Setup

Each player takes nine pyramids of any one color:

  • 3 (large) Primary Fuel Tanks,
  • 3 (medium) Secondary Fuel Tanks, and
  • 3 (small) Unarmed Personnel Capsules.

Decide by mutual consent which player will go first, and in what order players will take their turns, except that any actual astronauts or cosmonauts should go last, to counteract the advantage conferred by their superior expertise.

"Risk" defined

Whenever these rules say to "risk" a rocket, you roll one die and compare the result with the number of risk tokens that rocket has.

  • If the number of risk tokens equals or exceeds the number rolled, the rocket is destroyed; take back its parts and tokens. All players should bow their heads in a moment of silence for the crew.
  • If the number rolled exceeds the number of risk tokens, the rocket survives. Add one risk token to the rocket!
    • If the rocket had no risk tokens to begin with, you can skip the die roll and just add the token.

Turn structure

Generally, when it is your turn you may attempt any one of the four following actions, and unless the action was "pass", it will still be your turn afterward—you decide how far to push your luck.
However, if your last rocket has just been destroyed, you must pass. You can build more rockets next turn.

Actions

You may BUILD a new rocket.

  • You cannot build if you already have three rockets in play.
  • You must risk any rockets you already have—see above.
  • If you have two rockets, you must risk both of them separately.
  • If no rockets were destroyed, assemble a tree in your color—small on medium on large.
    • Place it on its side in the starting position on the board.
    • Give the new rocket one risk token.

You may FIRE one of your rockets.

  • First, risk that rocket.
  • If it's not destroyed, note the rocket's current size, then get a number:
    • Three-stage rocket: Roll two dice and use the maximum (largest) of the two values.
    • Two-stage rocket: Roll three dice and use the median (middle) of the three values. (If two dice match, use that value.)
    • One-stage rocket: Roll no dice. Use the value 1.
  • Now move the rocket forward that number of spaces.
    • If this brings even the tip of a Fuel Tank across the goal line, your rocket has crashed.
      • Take its parts and tokens.
      • All players should bow their heads in a moment of silence for the crew.
    • If the move brings the whole Personnel Capsule past the goal line and both Fuel Tanks have already been separated, you have won the game!
      • Declare victory and celebrate as desired, then clear the board.

You may SEPARATE a Fuel Tank from one of your rockets.

  • First, risk that rocket.
  • If it's not destroyed, remove its largest remaining Fuel Tank, leaving the other stage(s) in place. Sound effects are optional.

You may PASS.

  • Remove all risk tokens from your rockets, leaving them within reach of other players.
  • Give the dice to the next player. It becomes that player's turn.

The Board

There are several options here. The main requisite is that the board should have nineteen parallel lines, spaced roughly 3/4" apart. When a rocket is first built, the base of its Primary Fuel Tank is aligned with line 1 and the base of its Unarmed Personnel Capsule is aligned with line 3. You win by aligning the base of your Personnel Capsule with line 19 after separating both Fuel Tanks—i.e. you must move one rocket forward a total of 16 spaces, and it must have done two "separation" actions before the final "firing" action.

A standard go board works fine for two or three players. So would a big sheet of paper with parallel lines drawn on it. If you want something more specialized, you can print this file on 11x17 paper or card stock, portrait mode, with half-inch margins added all around (or enlarge it to that size with a copier). You'll need one copy of this board for every two players.

Communications

Before rolling the dice, a player must specify what action is being attempted, and with which rocket. It is courteous to announce risk levels and outcomes as well. Here's a sample turn:

  • "Build A, risk 0." (Places rocket A and token.)
  • "Build B; A risk 1" (rolls a 5, places another token by A), "okay, B risk 0." (Places rocket B and token.)
  • "Build C; A risk 2" (rolls a 2), "destroyed" (removes rocket A and its tokens; pause); "B risk 1" (rolls a 3, places 2nd token by B), "okay."
  • "Build A; B risk 2" (rolls a 3, places token by B), "okay, A risk 0." (Places rocket A and token.)
  • "Fire A, risk 1" (rolls a 6, places token by A), "okay." (Rolls two dice, 3 and 4. Moves rocket A 4 spaces forward.) "Four."
  • "Fire A, risk 2" (rolls a 3, places token by A), "okay." (Rolls two dice, 2 and 6. Moves rocket A 6 spaces forward.) "Six."
  • "Separate A, risk 3" (rolls a 4, places token by A.), "okay." (Removes biggest pyramid from A.)
  • "Fire A, risk 4" (this is really chancy. Rolls a 6, though, and places token by A), "okay." (Rolls three dice: 3, 5, and 5. Moves rocket A 5 spaces forward.) "Five."
  • "Fire B, risk 3" (rolls a 1), "destroyed." (Removes rocket B and its tokens; pause.)
  • "Pass." (Removes all five tokens from A, passes dice.)

Of course, you could also role-play Mission Control elaborately, if your group wanted to and didn't mind lengthening what is essentially a luck-based filler game.

Probabilities

For convenience, here is how far a rocket is likely to move when fired:

1 2 3 4 5 6
3-stage 3% 8% 14% 19% 25% 31%
2-stage 7% 19% 24% 24% 19% 7%
1-stage 100% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%

Notes

-First-player advantage is considerable. I haven't decided whether or how to compensate for it. Maybe the first player should get an immediate jump to risk level 2?
-I have been thinking about a marginally more strategic variant, in which each player gets a limited number of risk tokens, which are lost when used, but replenished after each turn based on the number of active rockets the player has.
-Thanks to Matt, AJ, Angela, Rachel, and Erika for playtesting, suggestions, and general encouragement. And thanks in advance to anyone who gives feedback via the Net.

Entered in the Icehouse Game Design Competition, Summer 2008
Winner: Ambush 2nd: Logger 3rd: Albiorix 4th: Virus_Fight 5th: Atom_Smasher
6th: Dog_Eat_Dog & Martian_BattleSpires 8th: Pass_The_Pyramids 9th: T-Minus 10th: Tresurion