Custom Card Game Design

Orion 2014 Rules Update

This post is supposed to be a reference for the upcoming rules update for Conquest of Orion. If you want to learn about this game, you should start here.

I. Changes to the Game Start

Previously, both players started with 3 basic planets, of which one began the game exhausted. This rule, coupled with the fact that during the first turn of the game no player gains a gem, was introduced to slow down the pace of the game. To balance out the disadvantage of playing second, the starting player did not ready his exhausted planet during his or her first turn. This meant that the other player was up one crystal at all times.

The Orion 2014 rules update removes both the rule that one planet begins the game exhausted, and the rule that a gem isn’t awarded during the first turn of the game. Instead, the player going second will start the game with one crystal already in his or her resource pool.

While it is preferable that the game is paced down at the beginning so that both players have enough time to develop their game plans, this advantage of the old rules was heavily outweighed by the fact that these rules were excruciatingly confusing and unintuitive. The new rules accelerate the game, but still almost keep the balance of crystal & gem income unchanged as well as the resource balance between the player going first & second. Now, players just take three turns worth of resources during the first two turns of the game. However, they end up with one crystal less in their resource pool after the first two turns as compared to after the first three turns with the old rules. This is a desirable change, as it often turned out to be difficult to spend crystals until you can reach Tier 2.

Resource total for the player going first (Old Rules): 2/0 – 4/1 – 7/2 – 10/3…
Resource total for the player going first (New Rules): 3/1 – 6/2 – 9/3…

Resource total for the player going second (Old Rules): 2/0 – 5/1 – 8/2 – 11/3…
Resource total for the player going second (New Rules): 4/1 – 7/2 – 10/3…

Players will have more resources available early, and the cards in hand will be depleted faster. Nonetheless, I elect not to increase the starting hand size in order to compensate for now.

II. Resource generation of planets is now keyworded

Previously, basic planets all had the ability “At the beginning of your turn, increase your resources by {crystal} if this planet is ready.” Now, this ability is keyworded to “This planet produces {crystal}.” A reminder text has been added to basic planets. The same change affects unique planets, where the reminder text is omitted.

A basic planet after the rules update.

III. Change to the ‘Damage exhausting Planets’ Rule

Previously, a planet was exhausted when it was dealt two or more damage. This rule has been changed so that any amount of damage dealt to a planet exhausts it. This significantly increases the power of 1|3 units, which currently are printed with more powerful abilities than 2|2s, as those are understood to be stronger stats. This may no longer be the case and changes to those cards may follow.

IV. Pseudo planet is now a keyword ability

The planet subtype ‘Pseudo planet’ has been removed and replaced with a keyword ability for units:

Pseudo planet (This is a planet as long as it’s in the galaxy.)

Pseudo planets have all had their card type change to unit, have received unit classifications and the pseudo planet ability. Now, planet cards can no longer be part of a deck. This solution is much more intuitive, enables racial interactions, and simplifies the rules. Note that, unlike regular planets, a pseudo planet is still put into its owner’s junkyard when destroyed.

Traveler planets have been reworded in the same way.

V. Changes to the resolution of Damage

Previously, the rules regarding damage and the resolution of damage have been a mess. Although they were somewhat working, the implications that arose from those rules were confusing and inelegant. This mess was caused by the attempt to simplify combat math by disallowing damage abilities to potentially take out units before combat damage. The rules construct surrounding this has been removed. Now, damage resolves instantly and units that take fatal damage from abilities will be destroyed immediately. Units that previously dealt their damage by using an activated ability will now gain a passive ability that replaces their attack with that activated ability.

These rules changes entail significant modifications to damage and other removal abilities. Removal will now fall into three categories:

  1. Economy abilities: These are relatively expensive and will be available at Tier 2.
  2. Abilities: These are relatively expensive and will be available at Tier 3.
  3. Attachments: These attachments will be able to exhaust and destroy themselves to deal the affected unit damage. They are relatively inexpensive and available at Tier 1.

VI. Changes to Unit Movement Actions

The following changes have been made to the way units move between planets:

  • Exhausted units can no longer defend planets (move between planets you control).
  • The incapacitated state of permanents (double exhausted) has been removed.
  • Instead, a new action called “jump” has been added. All units, even exhausted units, that are defending a planet you control can jump during the defender’s step. When a unit jumps, it’s no longer on any planet. As you begin your next turn, you choose a planet you control and have that unit reenter the battlefield exhausted on that planet. Those units won’t ready during that turn as they reenter after you ready your permanents.
  • Units now also jump when they retreat from an opponent’s planet. This change delays the decision to which planet your units retreat to. Players want to think about what they want to play during their second economy phase before they decide how to retreat their units anyway, so this change only supports the natural thought process.

These changes remove complexity from the game as they unify the rules regarding defending and conquering a planet, and remove the inelegant incapacitated state.


4 responses to “Orion 2014 Rules Update

  1. murphy January 3, 2014 at 12:00 pm


    is it possible to get the current MSE with graphics/template sources of all your Conquest of Orion files, since i want to translate the cards to german. And when i got enough spare time i will add some cards myself. After that i want to get it to a card printer for a small set for playing with a friend. Would be great to have some informations from you. The game seems to be good.


    • antaresmtg January 3, 2014 at 8:59 pm

      I’m thrilled to hear that you’re interested in the game.

      I can send you the files, but they’re currently a mess. I haven’t kept everything updated and I need some time to clean them up. Don’t expect them to work as smoothly as regular MSE files, there are a lot of workarounds I had to use.

      Also, keep in mind that a good portion of what’s posted on this blog is quite outdated. Should maybe do a new introduction to the game post that explains all the basic concepts.


    • antaresmtg January 5, 2014 at 2:50 pm

      Hey again,

      I’ve cleaned everything up and compiled the files here:

      If something doesn’t work, as I would expect, or you have further questions, you can contact me at martin_schwesinger at


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