Mothership: Tabletop Combat was designed and illustrated by Peter Sanderson. The base game was originally successfully funded on Kickstarter in 2016. The first expansion Into the Vortex had a small print run in 2017. That same year, the game was picked up by the publisher, Outer Limit Games. The current Mothership: Tabletop Combat features a revamped base game, a new unit, and a new expansion, Call of the Void. The current campaign went live Mar 4.
New Frontier, Old Rivals
The Great Space Disagreement of 5046 has displaced your colony into the harsh, cold, unexplored space. However, you were not the only people displaced by the great conflict and many colonies thought the rewards of space travel far outweighed the risks. This set the stage for a new conflict. In this harsh terrain, one mistake could lead to the end of your entire colony. With people’s lives in your hands you must brave this new frontier and come out as the last colony standing.
The Big Bang
Board setup is a major component of the replayability and challenge of Mothership: Tabletop Combat. There are three key features of the universe: asteroid belts, mineral planets, and gas planets. Asteroid belts shape the geography of space. They are natural barriers as they are hazardous to enter. Once entered you can travel with some shelter from attack. These can be placed in any amount chosen by the players. The mineral and gas planets are the primary way to get the two resources in the game which are gas and minerals. Access to minerals is pivotal to your colony’s success. Gas, while useful, is not necessary for success. Place one to two more mineral planets than players in the game as a starting point. This is the first major decision of the game as a balanced board puts all players on an even playing field. The modular game board makes your imagination the limit. The rulebook does offer some suggestions if the task seems daunting.
Fight to the Death or Fight for Dominance?
There are two multiplayer modes in Mothership: Tabletop Combat: deathmatch and victory point mode. The game was originally designed for the deathmatch mode, so victory point mode shares many mechanics. The victory point mode provides a different experience with respawning ships and faster gameplay.
All Hands on Deck
Your turn can be made up of as many actions as you have the resources. On your turn you can move, attack, spend resources, build guardian canons, manage energy, and use action cards. Actions can be performed in any order, but individual ships have two phases that happen once per turn: movement and attack. Either phase can be skipped, but ships can’t move after they have attacked. Action cards add a lot of variations and can be resold for their resale value should you no longer want or be in need of funds. A turn ends when all the ships have performed an action or the player declares they have no more maneuvers. At the end of your turn, collect your income from your controlled planets.
You have a collection of ships under your command. Every player has three fighters, two bombers, and of course only one mothership. In general, fighters attack small targets while bombers can attack larger targets. Motherships can attack everything.
Your control panel is the command center of your whole game. It features the three subsystems of the mothership: engines, weapons, and shields. It also displays your hull points, which represent the health of your mothership. The control panel details the colony station’s hull points, as well as the base stats of your ships. The cost of actions is also listed for easy reference.
Your Queen and King
Your mothership and your colony station are analogous to the queen and king of chess. Your mothership’s energy-based stats: engines, weapons, and shields can be adjusted before you move your mothership. This is locked until the next turn, so it is important to plan accordingly. Your colony station is indispensable because it houses your whole civilization. Should it be destroyed, then all our units are destroyed as well. It is normally not able to move and is never classified as a ship. Your colony has one base stat of health listed in units of four.
The Wonders of Technology
Your technology tree gives you a competitive edge on your opponents. You have four different tracks to follow: economy, combat, support, and colony. You spend minerals to advance on the track and you retain your previous upgrades. Each track eventually splits into two. The final tiers on each track can be completely game changing when reached. Utilizing the technology tree to your best abilities is a pivotal portion of your strategy.
Play However You Like
In victory point mode, players set a collective victory point goal at the beginning. It can be 10 for a shorter game or 20 for a longer one. You can respawn your ships unless your colony station is destroyed. Your mothership can respawn but only with six hull points instead of a full 12. Another option is a team deathmatch in which teams of two or three work together to eliminate the opposing team. There is also a solo mode where you must defeat all enemy ships before they destroy your planets if you are flying solo that night.
Fleet Commander Wanted: Inquire Within
Mothership: Tabletop Combat is a clean and punchy war game. Elements like actions cards and tech trees add meaningful variability while the various modes still allow for targetting a wide range of playing styles. People who want a more traditional experience might prefer the longer and more methodical deathmatch mode. Others who want a faster experience where risks have less impact due to respawns might enjoy the volatile nature of the victory point mode. The inherent puzzle of the solo mode is an interesting take and has varying levels of AI difficulty and player defined maps.