A few months ago I ordered, by rough estimate, a cup and a half of dice. A few of the standard cube shaped, 6 sided variety, but more importantly, there were 4, 8, 10, 12, and 20 sided dice in there. I know that it’s difficult to imagine a nerd like myself would not already have a hoard of the things. For some reason, while I had gone through life gathering a regal crust of nerdy detritus, half remembered game systems, decades old electronics, comic books, and toys, polyhedral dice never formed part of that concretion. I wasn’t about to let that grim fate befall my children. Their nerdiness is assured. I write this here, so that when the time comes, they will know exactly when and where the blame lies.
Around the same time I purchased the dice I also purchased RPGKids. We played through a few simple adventures, but I very quickly started modifying the rules and tuning it to their particular brand of flagging interest. I built all the adventures out of lego and used the small lego game pieces to represent our characters. At first it was them vs. the world, or them vs me as DM. While they liked the adventure elements, adding a certain amount of structure kept them much more interested in the game than just running a free wheeling storytelling session. Anything that put them in direct competition with each other was a no go. It was cooperative or nothing. Children under 5 are not known for grace in defeat.
When I started working on a new adventure for them, I decided to create something that would be entirely cooperative, where there is no DM. What we ended up playing was much more of a board game, with many elements lifted directly from FTL, or really any space ship game.
This is how we played it, but I’ve been adjusting and tuning the game from the first turn. If you come up with any good rule variations, let me know.
Attention Astronauts! This is the ship computer speaking! I am waking you from cryo-sleep to attend to an emergency situation! Space pirates are attacking this ship. We are caught it in a tractor beam and you will need to destroy the 3 pirate ships before they can steal all of our power cells, leaving us adrift in space. Good Luck!
The blue area is your ship and the red is the pirate ship. The white lego bricks between rooms, are doors. We've taken out the doors where the pirates have broken them down. The pirates are in grey and the astronauts are blue, red, white, and black. The counters on the left, outside of the ship, are where we keep track of shields and player health. In the upper right of the game board is the pirate ship status. This pirate ship is one shot away from an explosion. The pirate in the lower left corner of the ship (the medical bay) has stolen an energy cell and is making a run for it. I have put one empty room between each room with a console to allow for a bit more planning. The room at the stern of the ship is the power cell storage room. Feel free to build your ship to your own specs.
All actions take one turn. You can decide together what an action is.
Move from one room to another. The doors have force fields on them that are coded to the astronauts. Any player can pass through any door, but pirates will have to break the doors before they can pass through them.
Run a console
Repair a broken door
Pick up a power cell
Install a power cell
Recharge personal shields 1 unit
Heal up 1 unit
consoles can be operated by any player, but they need a power cell installed to work. If a pirate has stolen the power cell you will either have to retrieve it, or get another one from storage.
Shake the ship. If you are successful the pirates docking bridge will break and they will have to repair it before they can board your ship. Roll any die, over half succeeds, under half fails.
Fire on the pirate ship. If you are successful the pirate ship shield will be damaged. If the shield is down you will damage the ship. Roll any die, over half succeeds, under half fails.
Shield recharge console
Recharges one level of personal shields to a player in the room.
*make the game harder by requiring one player to run the console for the one being healed.
Recharges one level of health to a player in the room.
*make the game harder by requiring one player to run the console for the one being recharged.
Power Management console
Boost available power to the other consoles. Weapons console can fire twice per turn. Pilot console can shake twice per turn. Shield and Medical consoles can recover two points the player in that room per turn.
*make the game harder by providing the boost to only one console at a time. The players will have to choose what console gets boosted for that turn.
The docking bridge has 3 sections. At the start of the game the first pirate ship has it’s bridge fully extended and the pirates are leaving their ship to attack your airlock. If you damage the bridge by shaking the ship at the Pilot console, the pirate ship can repair one section per turn. After a pirate ship is destroyed, the next pirate ship will need to fully deploy a docking bridge before more pirates can board your ship. The entire bridge counts as one room.
We only had the pirate ship dock from one side, but I had originally intended that the pirates could dock from either side and you would roll a die to determine which side you are being boarded from. I will rebuild the board to allow for that next time we play.
Players take their turn first. You are working together so you should talk about coordinating your movements and actions. If a player spends their turn using the power management console other players receive the benefit during that turn. This is more important if you are using the modifications that make the game harder.
pirates go second and all deployed pirates, likewise, take their turn at the same time. All pirates choose their targets first and then attack. If an astronaut is defeated during an attack, but another pirate also has that astronaut targeted, the second pirate will attack nothing, wasting their turn.
The space pirates only want to steal the power cells on your ship and carry them back to their ship. They will fight any astronauts they encounter, and they never, ever retreat from a fight. The only time they backtrack, is when they are carrying a power cell. If there are two astronauts in a room, the pirates will always attack the one that has lowered shields or injuries first. They aren’t really interested in chasing down injured astronauts though, they are there for the power cells. If they get the power cell back to the pirate ship, it is lost.
1 pirate can leave the pirate ship at a time. We played with only 4 pirates active at a time. If a pirate is defeated they return to the pirate ship and can step onto the docking bridge during the next turn.
Whenever the pirates came to a decision point, we would talk over what we thought the space pirates would do, and I would usually set up some sort of binary choice. Would they walk through a broken door or try to break down another door? Would they attack this player or this player? Then we would roll one die and just do a high-low to see what the pirate chose to do. If there was a three way decision, like one pirate choosing from 3 equally powered astronauts we would just roll a twelve sided die and split the decision between 1-4, 5-8, 9-12.
Combat with the space pirates is handled by opposing dice rolls. If the attacker rolls higher they win and damage the defender, if the defender rolls higher they defend and no damage is taken. A tie goes to the defender.
We played with each pirate only having one unit of health. That turned out to be too easy, so we added one unit of shield to each pirate.
*Kid friendly modification. If an astronaut is defeated they are not out of the game. they are instantly transported to the Medical bay and will need to recharge to full health before they can move again. They are in cryogenic stasis and pirates won’t bother them.
**Kid bonus. You get to teach your kid words like cryogenic, and stasis.
You win When you repel three pirate ships and escape with some power cells.