Utopia Planitia Shipyards is Now Hiring... Games where you can design you own starships.
Scott Smith
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I've been lurking around the Geek for a few years now, but have put off creating a Geek List until I felt I had something to contribute. Having finally decided that I have found a subject that I know something about, I'm finally ready to make my first attempt. So here goes...

I love tactical starship combat games. It's probably my favorite type to game. Unfortunately, due to my location and the shortage of like-minded players in the area -- and that highly annoying thing called Life that seems to have an uncanny ability to get in the way of my fun -- I only get to play them a couple of times a year.

One of the things I love doing as much as fighting an epic space battle, is designing my own ships to participate in the fight. I like to try out different concepts and see how they work on the battlefield.
I've often just sat around and created designs even when I won't be playing a game, just to see what I can create: a missile armed battlecruiser... A torpedo carrying frigate... A fast battleship... A superdreadnought with a heavy fighter compliment... I love playing around with different concepts.

This list only includes games that I own and/or have played. There are probably more out there that I've never had a chance to try; but I'll leave it for you -- My Fellow Geeks -- to add more.

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1. Board Game: Full Thrust [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:2269]
Scott Smith
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About a year or so ago, one of our local FLGS was shutting down and they had a massive close-out sale. I bought their entire inventory of Star Wars Starship Battles miniatures. Unfortunately, it didn't take me long to discover that what I had heard about the game was true: The miniatures were pretty good quality for what you payed for them. The rules that went along with them... not so much...

So I started looking around the Geek to see if I cold find a set of rules that would work. In short order I discovered Full Thrust. Not only did it have everything I needed for a cross-genre conversion, but Ground Zero Games has made them available FOR FREE! I was able to download the four primary books from the most recent published edition -- Full Thrust (2nd ed.); More Thrust; and Fleet Books 1 & 2 -- take them down to my local Office Max on a thumb drive and have them printed out and bound for less than $15! Talk about a bargain...

When it comes to creating your own custom designs, Full Thrust is a wannabe designers dream.

A pretty easy rules system overall. The ship design rules only require you to keep track of a component's cost and mass as you add it to your design. A fairly extensive selection of weapons and other systems can keep one occupied for a long time, just staying within the basic rulebooks.

Despite the fact that Ground Zero Games does have their own in-house universe. The company states quite plainly that people should feel free to mod the rules to their heart's content so as to fit whichever sci-fi setting they desire.

And boy have they. The on-line community has produced a ton of homemade mods, crossovers and conversions. You can find adaptations for Star Wars, Star Fleet/Trek, Babylon 5, Battlestar Galactica, Star Blazers, Honor Harrington, just to name a few.

One group in New Zealand called the Wellington Warlords, has taken things a step further. They took many of the best homemade mods from the on-line community and combined them with the GZG's published rules and compiled them into their own set of rules. They update them several times a year as new things are added, existing things are tweaked, and actual play-testing shows where improvements can be made. (Their rules for missiles are particularly good.)

If you've ever wanted to see how a Sovereign - class starship would fare against an Imperial Star Destroyer, this is the way I would recommend you go.
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2. Board Game: Silent Death: The Next Millennium Deluxe Edition [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:3383]
Scott Smith
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Silent Death is quite possibly my all time favorite game. Although it does deal primarily in starfigher combat, there are rules for gunboats as well as for escort class corvettes, frigates and destroyers.

Although there are rules for constructing your own designs, unfortunately this is probably the weakest aspect of an otherwise outstanding game system.

When the original edition was released in the early '90's, there was a brief section in the back of the rulebook about making your own designs. However there weren't really any set rules for construction. A few suggestions about design theory, and a final warning about not making a design so over-the-top powerful/invulnerable/fast/cheap; that no one would want to battle against it.

When the Next Millennium Edition came out in the late '90's; there were finally well defined and structured rules for ship construction. Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that those rules could have used a bit more refinement before going to press. Particularly problematic was the space requirements for Defensive Value (shields, ECM, etc.), Drive (propulsion/maneuvering) and Damage Reduction (armor).

The first two were probably priced too low in terms of the proportion of space the systems took up for the defensive/speed factors that they gave; and the third was exorbitantly high. In order to give a design a Damage Reduction factor of "4" (quite common in the first edition published designs) you would have to devote at least half (or more) of the available space on the ship's hull just to the armor.

Not unexpectedly, soon you began to see a steady stream of designs (officially published and otherwise) that had zero Damage Reduction but Drive and Defensive Values of 16+.

Yeah, the ships would rapidly fall apart when they got hit; but hitting them in the first place became problematic. To counter this, designers started to incorporate multi-mount weapons systems that gave large to-hit (and damage) bonuses. This then raised cries that the multi-mount rules were broken because it became much more likely that a ship could cripple or outright destroy an opponent in a single shot. It led to quite a few spirited debates in the official e-mail List...

Odd as it may seem, even though this may be my favorite game -- this is probably the one game on this list that I played extensively where I did little designing of my own and was content to battle with the published ships.

Despite this one shortcoming, Silent Death is still a fantastic game. One of the few games on the Geek that I rated as a "10".
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3. Board Game: Galaxy Trucker [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:127]
Scott Smith
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The game that actually inspired me to create this list.

The tile based system of "everyone grab your components at the same time" is a lot of fun. Then seeing how your design fairs on a mission is just a blast (sometimes quite literally). The experience of seeing half of your carefully crafted masterpiece get sheared off can't quite be conveyed in words. Of course it's even better when it's one of your opponents that's feeling that experience...

One thing that can be said is that this game does very quickly make you familiar with the engineering term "single failure point."
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4. Board Game: Battlestations [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:1465]
Scott Smith
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Duncan
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This hybrid boardgame/RPG does something that none of the others I've listed can do: It actually makes you consider the interior layout of the ship as well as things such as weapon's arcs. Construction is limited to the modules provided by the publisher, and you are limited to a number of pre-set configurations if you want one of the species-design bonuses. However, you have a great deal of leeway within those configurations to arrange the modules as you choose.

Since moving the crew around the ship is a key aspect of the game, the way in which you arrange the modules becomes critical. Having your engine modules separated so that there is less chance that two or more are damaged by a single enemy hit is a good idea on paper. But if your slow footed Chief Engineer takes forever to move from one to the other in order to pump them for more power... Your probably going to have problems. Of course, lots of straight corridors running from one end of the ship to the other is a great idea... Until you have to deal with enemy boarding parties.

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5. Board Game: Starfire (3rd Edition) [Average Rating:6.65 Overall Rank:7956]
Scott Smith
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I got this edition in the mid-'90's mainly because I know David Weber personally. I never got to play as much as I would have liked; but there is a pretty extensive list of tech to play around with. I've never checked out any of the later editions but my understanding from things I've picked up here on the Geek is that they seem to have needlessly complicated the rules.

Great background, however. And the Starfire novels that David wrote with Steve White are top notch!
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6. Board Game: Knight Hawks [Average Rating:6.26 Overall Rank:7149]
Scott Smith
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The starship combat rules for the Star Frontiers RPG system. Never got to play them; but their were some interesting ideas. Also some odd stuff, possibly related to the fact that RPGs were still in their early development and sci-fi/space settings even more so. Probably the weirdest thing I remember didn't have to do with construction, but with FTL travel. According to the RPG rules, a character had to spend something like ten hours per light year to be jumped just calculating the jump co-ordinates! And this was along an established space route. And he couldn't be interrupted or he'd have to start all over again.

Apparently in this setting, the astrogators do all their calculations with parchment, a quill pen and an abacus...

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7. Board Game: Starfarers of Catan [Average Rating:6.81 Overall Rank:848]
Scott Smith
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The combat is restricted to the pirates that you come across on the Encounter Cards. But, you are building a ship(s); even if it's just restricted to three types of components --four if you wish to count "Fame". It is different in the respect that you can actually be adding new components to the ships -- while they're in route.
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8. Board Game: BattleTech: AeroTech [Average Rating:5.69 Overall Rank:10140]
Scott Smith
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The space combat version of BattleTech. The construction rules follow pretty much the same system for aerospace fighter and dropships as the rules for designing 'mechs. Also did allow for the construction of transformable LAMs (Land-Air Mechs).

Never got around to playing this one. I heard quite a number of people say that it was way more complicated than necessary. I remember talking to one guy that said in his BattleTech campaign they just ditched the AeroTech rules all together and used Silent Death for the space combat.
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9. Board Game: Star Trek: Starship Tactical Combat Simulator [Average Rating:6.69 Overall Rank:3342] [Average Rating:6.69 Unranked]
Erik Nicely
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This really cool ship combat game from FASA had 3 fleet-specific sourcebooks but it also had the Ship Construction manual. Copmlete rules for building ships for the Federation, Romulans, Klingons, Orions, and Gorns. Cool stuff.
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10. Board Game: WarpWar [Average Rating:6.24 Overall Rank:5364]
Erik Nicely
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The classic Metagaming microgame where you had to build ships, you didn't get any statted out for you. Neat little game, one that I think about trying to get my friends to play here in the 21st century.
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11. Board Game: A Sky Full of Ships [Average Rating:7.67 Unranked]
Andreas Johansson
Sweden
Linköping
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I spent 200 GG and all I got was this lousy overtext!
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This game is similar to Full Thrust in many ways; the movement system, in particular, is practically identical to FT "cinematic" movement. What I like about it is that combat and damage resolves faster, allowing you to play larger encounters in less time.

Being a more streamlined game, the ship construction system has fewer options than the FT one, but still leaves plenty design space to explore.
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12. Board Game: Outside the Scope of BGG [Average Rating:6.75 Overall Rank:2540]
Wulf Corbett
Scotland
Shotts
Lanarkshire
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Somewhere in the system waiting for approval is Turning Point, the sequel to Fleet Action. Not so much a second edition as a whole new, more complex, game, it included a rather overwhelming ship design system...
 
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13. Board Game: Iron Stars [Average Rating:6.58 Unranked]
Michael Barlow
Canada
Stratford
Ontario
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Iron Stars is alternate history early 1900s aethership combat.

There's a large section in the rulebook for making your own ships.

Or on Majestic Twelve's website, at the Iron Stars page you'll find a ship builder for Excel.
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14. Board Game: Slag!: Combat on the High Frontier [Average Rating:5.79 Unranked]
Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
United States
Astoria
New York
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Build your own ships, complete with graph diagram, and then fight them in a luckless combat system.

Never got to play this, but was always curious how it would pan out...
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15. Board Game: Starmada X [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:7791]
Michael Barlow
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Stratford
Ontario
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This Majestic Twelve game also allows you to construct ships!
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16. Board Game: Twilight Imperium: Armada [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:5906]
Scott Smith
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Duncan
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I remembered this one after I posted the list.

Your construction is limited to the booster disk that you add to the basic ships; but there was quite a bit of room to tinker with design concepts.


I wish that FFG had continued to support this one. It was a pretty nifty little system. It's one of the few "collectible" marketed games that I actually ever got into.
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17. Board Game: Traveller: The Classic Games, Games 1-6+ [Average Rating:7.13 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.13 Unranked]
Sisyphean Gamestacker
United States
Taylors
South Carolina
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Certainly, the old RPG Traveller had rules for designing your ships -- I used to fiddle with those back in the early '80s. And as this entry points out, they also had non-RPG games and miniatures rules set in the same universe. The game went through many incarnations over the years, and someone has just rereleased collections of the original line of books.
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18. Board Game: Brilliant Lances [Average Rating:5.54 Overall Rank:12396]
Matthew Barratt
United Kingdom
Royal Leamington Spa
Warwickshire
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Another space combat game from the Traveller RPG universe that allows you to design your own spaceships. If I recall correctly it can be combined with the Fire, Fusion and Steel sourcebook, which, amongst other things, allowed you to design your own weapons to put on your ship.
 
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19. Board Game: Renegade Legion: Leviathan [Average Rating:6.23 Overall Rank:7161]
Jeffry Welfare
Australia
Guildford
New South Wales
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Of course the first thing you put on any ship you design is the largest missile racks you can manage, but I actually enjoyed this game universe and it's background back in the day.
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20. Board Game: Star Cruiser [Average Rating:6.17 Overall Rank:10559]
Jeffry Welfare
Australia
Guildford
New South Wales
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If it's GDW you know the construction rules are detailed. Pretty much the 2300AD equilivant to the Traveller equivilants already mentioned by others.
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21. Board Game: Renegade Legion: Interceptor [Average Rating:6.75 Overall Rank:4468]
Jeffry Welfare
Australia
Guildford
New South Wales
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Seeing as we have Silent Death and AeroTech also on this list I guess the Renegade Legion universe's Interceptor system also fits.

Always found weapon choices an interesting choice in this system. Some weapons actually dug under unused armor and you had the possibility of chunks of armor just falling off, and of course the critical tables looked like they were designed by electrical engineers.
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22. Board Game: Battlespace [Average Rating:6.04 Overall Rank:8859]
Art Gorski
United States
Prescott
Arizona
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The BattleTech game of space combat has construction rules for DropShips, JumpShips, WarShips, and space stations. Plus conversion rules for AeroTech craft.
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23. Board Game: Space Master: Star Strike [Average Rating:5.69 Overall Rank:12320]
Art Gorski
United States
Prescott
Arizona
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The Space Master series space combat game, with very detailed rules for all classes of spaceship.
 
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24. Board Game: Starship [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked] [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Art Gorski
United States
Prescott
Arizona
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Get my Mac and iOS software for Traveller at http://naasirka.weebly.com/
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This supplement to Star War 2250 A.D. adds a starship design system, among other things.
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25. Board Game: Starship Shootouts [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Art Gorski
United States
Prescott
Arizona
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Get my Mac and iOS software for Traveller at http://naasirka.weebly.com/
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A ridiculously tiny space combat game with design system.
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