Aug 052007
 
Wormholes
David Artman
A mind-warping space battle for 2 or more players.
Players: 2-10 (see Equipment)
Icehouse stashes: 1 Treehouse set per 5 players
Other equipment: One set of Martian Coasters per 4 players, plus up to two Black Coasters; one six-sided die
Setup time: 5 minutes
Playing time: half hour to an hour
Rules complexity: Medium
Strategy depth: High
Random chance: Medium
Mechanics: Dice, Move & Fire, Placement
Theme: Space
BGG Link: not ready yet
Created in August, 2007

The Ancients thought space was mostly empty, a vacuum, a void through which a spacecraft could creep for eons without getting anywhere important. They were wrong.

Space is teaming with wormholes: bridges between regions of space that are free of time, through which spacecraft may instantly travel. But space is also teaming with Others: sometimes allies, ofttimes enemies.

Equipment

For any number of players, Wormholes requires a Treehouse die and a six-sided die (d6) numbered 1 through 6.

Further, each player needs a stack and a Martian Coaster of a color different from every other player. Common ways to break this down based on Looney Labs products is as follows:

  • A two- to four-player game requires one Rainbow Treehouse set and one Martian Coasters set.
  • A five-player game requires the above plus one of the following:
    • A Black Coaster
    • One stack from a Xeno Treehouse set and the corresponding coaster from another Martian Coasters set, marked to indicate that it is associated with the Xeno set.
  • A six- to eight-player game requires a Xeno Treehouse set and another Martian Coasters set, marked to indicate that it is associated with the Xeno set.
  • A nine-player game requires the above plus a Black Coaster.
  • A ten-player game requires the above plus another Black Coaster, which is marked to indicate that it is the White coaster.

Note: Everywhere “Rainbow” or “Xeno” appears above could be switched to “Xeno” or “Rainbow,” respectively; the point is that everyone has their own color stack with that color coaster, and the Xeno coasters are marked to distinguish them from their Rainbow counterparts.

Setup

Determine the order of play by whatever means. Determine who will play what color. Each player gets his or her color coaster and a small, medium, and large pyramid of his or her color1.

The first player places his or her coaster in the middle of the playing area; this is that player’s home system. Then, in turn order, each player places his or her own home system on the playing area such that his or her coaster is squarely and completely adjacent (i.e. lines up “cleanly”) to at least one other coaster. After placement, all of the coasters are collectively referred to as the galaxy.

After all coasters are placed, each player then, in turn order, places a nest of his or her pyramids flat on any square on his or her home system, with the point of the pyramid stack pointing in any orthogonal (non-diagonal) orientation. (Throughout play, pyramids are always flat and are always orthogonally oriented.) These nests are the players’ ships, with two ablative shields (the large and medium pyramids) and an inner hull (the small pyramid).

Throughout setup, players tend to notice and comment upon the relative strengths and weaknesses of various home system placements in the galaxy. Such observation typically leads to early advice, alliances, and deals: all such “table talk” is perfectly legal throughout the course of play, but it is never enforced by the game rules.

Play

A player’s turn consists of rolling both the d6 and the Treehouse die, moving his or her ship, and firing on another ship (in that order).

Movement

The d6 result is that player’s movement points for this turn.

To move from one square to another square, the ship must be oriented to point at the destination square, there must be an arrow (called a wormhole) pointing from its currently occupied square to the destination square, and the destination square must be unoccupied. (There is no “collision” or “capture” in Wormholes.) A player uses one movement point per wormhole crossed (but see “Double Movement” and “Warping” below) or per 90 degrees of rotation (see “Turning” below).

A ship may not move out of the galaxy (i.e. all ships must remain on squares on coasters).

Double Movement – If the player’s ship is moving in or into its home system, each movement point is worth double movement (i.e. half of a movement point to move one square or to turn 90 degrees). Likewise, if a ship is moving in or into an ally’s home system, each movement point counts double, but only if the ally agrees to it during the player’s turn: the ally must confirm the alliance.

Warping – If the player’s ship is resting on the center square of its (or an ally’s) home system, it may “warp” to the center square of an ally’s (or its own) home system. As with double movement, the ally must confirm the alliance to permit the warp to or from its center square; and as with any movement, the destination square must be unoccupied. Likewise, a ship may warp between two of its ally’s center squares if both allies confirm the alliance and the destination square is unoccupied. A warp uses half of a movement point.

Once a player is eliminated from play (see Damage), that player’s home system becomes “allied” with all other players for purposes of warping, but not for purposes of double movement. In other words, anyone may warp to (or from) that system’s center square, from (or to) one’s home system or an ally’s system.

Finally, a player is not required to use all of his or her movement points on a turn, and any unused movement points or half-points are lost at the end of the player’s turn.

Turning

A ship must use movement points to change orientation, at the rate of one movement point per 90 degree turn (or half of a movement point per 90 degree turn, in its or an ally’s home system). Thus, a ship may make a complete reversal of course if it uses two movement points (or one movement point, in its or an ally’s home system).

It is permissible (but pointless) to “spin in place”—use four movement points to end up in the same orientation—or to “go the long way around”—use three movement points in one direction to effect a 90 degree turn in the other direction.

Cosmic Flux

The Treehouse die represents cosmic flux, and its result indicates one of the following:

  • TIP = “Turn In Place”—The wormholes are unstable; the current player may only use movement points to change the orientation of his or her ship within the square that it currently occupies.
  • SWAP2 = One time before, during, or after the current player’s movement, the current player’s ship swaps places with another player’s ship (do not change the orientation of either ship). This swap does not use up a movement point.
  • HOP = One time before, during, or after the current player’s movement, his or her ship may “hop out of space-time” to move from its current square to an unoccupied orthogonally adjacent square (do not change its orientation). Unlike normal movement, neither the ship’s current orientation nor the wormholes on the current square are relevant when choosing a destination square. This hop does not use up a movement point.
  • AIM = One time before, during, or after the current player’s movement, he or she may orient his or her ship in any orthogonal direction. This aim does not use up any movement points.
  • DIG = One time during the current player’s movement, his or her ship may “dig through space-time” to enter a square at which it is pointing even if there is no wormhole pointing from the current square to the destination square. This dig does not use up a movement point.
  • WILD3 = Choose one of the above.

Firing

At the end of a player’s movement, he or she may choose to fire a torpedo. An imaginary missile travels out of the front of the ship in a straight line until (a) it hits a ship and does damage or (b) it hits the edge of a square with no wormhole pointing to the next square in line and detonates harmlessly or (c) it goes off the edge of a coaster completely and leaves the galaxy.

Put another way, the torpedo “moves” like a ship that has unlimited movement points and can not turn or warp, but can leave the galaxy.

Damage

When a ship it hit by a torpedo, that ship immediately removes its outermost shield: the large first, then the medium on a subsequent hit. If a ship with no more shields (i.e. just its hull, the small) is hit, it is destroyed and that player is out of the game.

Winning

The last player with a ship on the board is the winner.

Two or more players can win if they are in an alliance and are the only players with ships on the board. Alliances may be formed overtly or covertly throughout the course of play; but to break an alliance, a player must declare his or her split from it before (or at the same time that) the alliance declares victory. Should such a last-second break occur, play continues as normal until only allied ships remain on the board (even if it ends up an “alliance” of one!).

Variations

Players should decide in advance whether any of these game variations are in effect:

  1. Tag Team: Players choose more than one color each. All of that player’s colors are considered allied to each other. Regardless of the number of colors that each player controls, make sure that turn order is preserved and that color order remains consistent. Thus, a player should never be allowed to take a turn with the same color as he or she used previously until every other color that he or she controls has been used on turns subsequent to the one on which the first color was used.
    For a variation on this variation, allow players to take their turns with whatever color they want, each turn.
    Both of these variations help to make a more dynamic game for smaller play groups. At no time, however, should a player be allowed to use all of his or her colors on a single turn: that sort of mass, uninterrupted coordination will make for very fast, lop-sided games that favor those who take their turns earliest.
  2. System Swap: SWAP = Choose any two home systems: those coasters swap positions in the galaxy (do not change the orientation of either coaster).
    This variation is best suited to smaller games where a critical system swap can temporarily save a lone player from an early assault by an alliance. In larger games, the frequency of system swapping will make for a game with a lot of movement compared to firing, which some players might find tedious.
  3. The Wild Shot: WILD = When you fire your torpedo, if it reaches the edge of a square with no wormhole pointing to the next square in line then it turns to the right in that space and tries to continue. It will continue until (a) it hits and damages any ship, including your own, (b) it must turn right twice in the same square, which makes it self-destruct, or (c) it goes off the edge of a coaster completely and leaves the galaxy.
    This variation is best suited to smaller games or games where the players appreciate more complex turns. A wild shot requires significant pre-planning of movement to end up in the right square at the right orientation to send a torpedo careening across the galaxy to hit someone who never expected it. Such pre-planning can make for much slower turns.

Credits

Wormholes was inspired by and borrows much of its mechanics from Chris Kice’s Zamboni Wars and Andrew Looney’s Martian Coasters.

Creative Commons 3.0 BY-NC-SA
This work is distributed by David Carle Artman under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.