Custom Card Game Design

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Meet the Torians

Note: This post is about my card game Conquest of Orion. Find some additional infos here:

Meet the Torians

In Conquest of Orion, we follow the path of humanity as they explore and colonize the Orion sector, a wonderful, and mysterious corner of the galaxy. During their journey, they come across life forms so bizarre they challenge the notion of what exactly life is. But nothing could have prepared them for their encounter with the Torian race.

The storyline of the game is segmented into three sagas. Each saga consists of three sets and features two races, of which one are always the Humans (during deck building, you must limit yourself to one race).

The first saga features several nonsentient species capable of interstellar travel. Although seemingly different species, ranging from insects and space whales to fungal life forms, they all seem to share common ancestry, and were grouped under the simple term “Alien.”

A century later, several full-blown colonies have been established in the sector and the humans come in contact with the Torians for the first time, the race featured in the second saga.

Now, space whales, that’s easy stuff. They’re a part of mainstream culture just as much as zombies or angels. Space insectoids? That’s like the Zerg, right? But what is a Torian, you ask? Is that some kind of Surrakar? Not exactly, so here’s a rundown of what the Torians are, and how they are represented in the game.

A Torian voyager.


Torians are a sentient, humanoid species resembling humans in most of their basic body structure, but they are taller and slimmer, often with underdeveloped extremities due to severe underuse. They have a blue to purple complexion resulting from pigments in their skin used for photosynthesis. Although their stature appears to be that of a female to the human eye, Torians are in fact genderless.

The Torians would have evolved very similar to humans, wasn’t it for the fact they possess the ability to exert control over the forces of the universe with their mind. This ability allows them to easily achieve what humans can achieve only through the use of technology, including interstellar travel. Although extremely powerful, Torians are no gods. Far from it, they have finite lifespans and can be killed if their fragile bodies are damaged. However, doing so requires to pierce the barriers that Torians surround themselves with to prevent hostile environments (such as outer space) from harming them.


Torians range in character just as wide as humans do. They don’t possess a hive mind, or a leadership that makes decisions for the entire race. Each Torian acts individually, and while some are sympathetic towards humanity, others are not. Most Torians are solitary, traveling the stars to explore the universe and find their calling. Some spend their lifetimes building planets, each a unique expression of art. These are the architects, and they are accompanied by the designers, who create life forms to inhabit those planets. The voyagers do not engage in craftsmanship, but instead admire the works of the universe and their kin. Regularly, they hold contests where the architects’ creations are rated as works of art.


Voyagers seek out and find inspiration in cosmic events, such as supernovae or rare planetary alignments. These are represented by Abilities, so the voyager keyword cares about those. Attunement gives the unit +1 damage and +1 shield until end of turn whenever you play an Ability, and is therefore the Conquest of Orion version of Prowess.

Trigger attunement by playing cheap ability cards such as Nebulas. Abilities are sorceries in Magic, and fast abilities are instants.


The architects build planets, so their eponymous keyword is very straight-forward. An architect enters play accompanied by its own planet. You begin the game with three basic planets, and you can conquer additional unique planets throughout the game, for example Toria. Architects are the only way of getting new basic planets, so there will likely be synergy cards that are based around basic planets.

Architects create additional planets and increase your resource income. There might also be Torian cards that care about basic planets.


Designers constantly invent and nurture new life forms. In the game, exoplanet wildlife is already represented as neutral “Critter” cards, and are expanded upon in the sets that feature the Torians. In those sets, you may see creatures that mother nature could never come up with. The designer keyword should encourage you to play with those neutral cards, and thus cares about Critters. When a Designer enters play, you flip cards from the top of your deck, much like Cascade in Magic, until you flip a Critter that you could play on your current Tier (“researched”) and that you don’t control already. So, designers demand that you play a variety of Critters, and not just invent the same species over and over again.

Designers reward you for playing with neutral “critters,” cards that otherwise would only be considered limited fodder.

Interaction with Humans

The Torians did not suddenly arrive in the Orion sector out of nowhere. During the first saga, while the humans established their colonies, they were there. They simply chose not to reveal themselves.

An engineer believed that her friend and co-worker was replaced by an alien impostor prior to an incident that destroyed a colonial satellite.

Embedded into the Torian’s genetic code is a warning about an ancient race bent on undoing the work of their creators and destroying all life in the universe. Not much else is known about these destroyers, but that they would find them in the Milky Way eventually. When the humans entered the sector, many Torians believed them to be the race they were warned about. They witnessed the human’s ruthlessness, their willingness to destroy other life in their path of conquest, and figured that they fit the description. But most Torians were skeptical and prefered to simply observe the intruding race for now.

Torians is the human term for the race, as they were encountered first on the world Toria, whose name and location was transcribed from the records in an ancient alien archive. When the human explorers reached the Distant Realm, where the Torian homeworld is located, a small group decided to act against the majority and attacked and murdered the expedition teams that were exploring their world. Soon, more hostilities ensued and people of both races were killed. This caused the hostile-minded Torians to gain more and more support. Meanwhile, those who were more on the side of diplomacy established contact and tried to prevent further aggressions, but that proved to be very difficult. The exchanges were complicated by the human’s fear of the Torians, a race which they didn’t understand. In particular, they blamed the entire race for the actions of a few.

While the human leadership waged war, the citizens of the colonies demanded peace.

But eventually, the two races began to understand each other and the hostile Torians lost the support among their kin entirely. In the following sets of the saga, the two races work together to learn more of their origins. Do they both share common ancestry? How is it that every alien and its grandmother can bend the universe with its mind, but the humans lack that ability?

In celebration of their friendship, humans were invited to judge the planet creation contest held in year 2420.

Conquest of Orion Reimagined

Note: This post is about my card game Conquest of Orion. It’s not a prerequisite, but if you want to read more about the game, you can browse the posts under the category “Conquest of Orion.” However, most of it is heavily outdated. I also prepared a new document that serves as an early overview. You can find it here.

Conquest of Orion is a game I have been working on for many, many years now. I put the game to rest several times, picking it up again years later, after I had increased my design skills and after I had learned lessons that I could apply to improve the game further. With each iteration, the rules changed significantly, as did the appearance of the cards. When I look back at my old Conquest of Orion cards, I cringe just as much as when I look at the first Magic cards I created. Let’s see them!

The first iteration

A planet from the first iteration of Conquest of Orion. Background art by Jeff Michelmann.

The first iteration of the game could be described very accurately with “Magic in Space.” I must have been a teenager back when I created these cards, and I didn’t have much experience with TCGs or game design in general. And when you don’t, you lack the insight to know what’s possible, what you can do differently, and what you probably shouldn’t do differently. Just like in Magic, there were five resources generated by five different planet types, and those resources would empty at the end of turn.

But at least combat was a bit different. Each planet could be attacked individually and units (creatures) could defend a planet or, when you’d rather keep the unit, escape from the planet when it was attacked. The combat system could be described as a hybrid between the Magic and Hearthstone systems. In Magic, you can’t attack a specific creature. You simply attack the opponent and he or she has full control over the creatures he or she controls that are entering combat with the attacker. The Hearthstone system is the polar opposite: You can attack minions directly and the opponent is unable to do anything about it.

Both systems have their strengths and weaknesses. In Magic, you sometimes end up with board stalls, which can never happen in Hearthstone, and you sometimes lack the ability to do anything about a problematic creature. Hearthstone, on the other hand, is the most frustrating game to play when you’re behind. Every single minion you play gets taken out and there’s little you can do about it.

The Conquest of Orion system tries to find the middle ground between those two extremes. You can attack a planet which is defended by a unit that you want to take out, and the defending player can evacuate it, but doing so comes at a cost.

The second iteration

During the second iteration, I kept the combat system but I changed the resource system significantly. In Conquest of Orion, you don’t play the resource cards from your hand, but you conquer planets to gain resources – and you have to defend them. The amount of planets you control doesn’t necessarily increase throughout the game, so copying the mana system from Magic won’t work.

The resource system was scrapped in favor of a different system of progression. Now there were two resources (blue crystals and gold gems), which had a slightly different purpose. Crystals were accumulated faster and used to pay for low-tech “bread-and-butter” cards. Grizzly Bears would have costed two crystals. Gems, on the other hand were accumulated slower and used to unlock more powerful cards, which also require gems to be played. An Inferno Titan would cost say three crystals plus three gems. Cards also had a Tier requirement. You start at Tier 1, and you can pay a gem-heavy cost to advance to the next Tier, unlocking more powerful cards.

With only a single resource, too much strain would be put onto that resource. While you spend your turn advancing to the next Tier, your opponent just plays more low-Tier units and runs you over.

A card from the second iteration. Not even I know what this card does.

The cards also received some visual changes. The disproportionate card frame from the older version was replaced with a much slimmer and well-proportioned one. Still, I created them using primitive software and the formatting was a mess. Add that you couldn’t decipher some of the card texts even if you knew the rules by heart.

The third iteration

The game engine worked quite well by now. The game just needed to be cleaned up – heavily.

A card from the third incarnation. Created with Magic Set Editor.

Luckily, I learned to use a very potent program for designing cards and card sets by then – Magic Set Editor. The card renders looked a lot more polished, although the template resembled the Magic template a lot since it was based on a few small edits of the Modern Magic template.

Gameplay wise, the third iteration largely focused on simplifying things and making them more intuitive. I think that “simpler is always better” is one of the most important lessons you have to learn as a game designer, and it takes a long, long time before you’ve learned to fully live by this rule. You’ll say: “But… but I want it to work that way so that in this super-narrow corner case X that comes up every ten years, you can have this cool interaction Y.” I have fallen into that trap many times, and I have seen plenty of other designers fall into it before. And it doesn’t only apply to game design: Frequently, I hear talks where the speaker presents a graph on which ten different data sets are plotted, and he or she talks about them in a blistering speed, while I sit there trying to figure out what’s actually plotted on the x-axis.

The fourth iteration

I made some desperately needed simplifications, but I was still too attached to many of the rules that were just not necessary to exist. I tried to come up with solutions to rules problems that were more intuitive, instead of getting rid of the problematic rules altogether. It is useful in such a situation to let the project rest for a while, so you can get a more objective view on it. You have to identify what doesn’t work and forego your emotional attachment to those parts so you can throw them overboard.

So, this leads us to the fourth and current iteration. I tried to move the cards away from these complex interactions, to simple and (hopefully) interesting combat-based keywords and I’m currently working on the batch of evergreen keywords for the game.

A card from the fourth incarnation (Click for a HQ version).

Meanwhile, I gave the card frame a few minor changes. I try to move it away from the Magic frame and give it its own style. The power/toughness box was replaced with icons representing damage, health, shields, and more. I’m not completely happy with it yet; I’d like to have them blend better with the rest of the frame, but I’m no graphic designer, so my amateurish attempts didn’t turn out too well so far.

Tell me what you think of this frame design and whether you want to hear me talk more about Conquest of Orion. Otherwise, I have plenty of Eldrazi and Pirates to show you. Here are some more cards:

Two Human cards, an Alien, and a Torian. During deck building, you must commit to one race.

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.

Glory of the Colonies – Part I


‘Glory of the Colonies’ is the second set of the game. It continues the story of the human colonists in the Orion sector and also adds many new mechanics to the game. I will split my article about ‘Glory of the Colonies’ into several parts. In this part, I want to give you an overview over the new mechanics and the setting of the set.

Clustering and declustering

A normal Conquest of Orion game begins with each player playing small units and conquering a planet with them. Pressure can’t be applied to your opponent at this stage of the game and you don’t want to fall behind in income. Then, the players go to Tier 2 and the first action starts. As the game progresses, units become more and more powerful and the game is about to come to its conclusion. At this point, retaining control of your planets becomes a secondary concern, as the amount of resources they will produce over the rest of the game becomes ever smaller. Taking out or locking down your opponent’s powerful units and protecting your own becomes your major concern instead. Units begin to outvalue planets. This leads to what I call ‘clustering’. Players will deploy all their units on a single planet to retaliate an attack on his or her most valuable units with as much firepower as possible.

Now, a few things can happen:

  • The fortified planet can’t be attacked advantageously by the opponent. In this case, it becomes a race on the remaining planets; each player attacking undefended planets one after the other. The game then becomes a war of attrition and can be dragged out very long as both players have a crippled income.
  • The fortified planet can be attacked advantageously and a huge battle occurs where most units are traded away.

There are mechanics that emphasize clustering and there are those that deemphasize clustering. Mechanics that emphasize it include:

  • Units that strengthen other nearby units (“auras”).
  • Units with more health than damage.
  • Immobile cards such as stationary units or planet attachments that protect units or must themselves be protected.

Mechanics that deemphasize it include:

  • “Area of effect” damage.
  • Units that weaken other nearby enemy units.
  • Units with more damage than health (“sweepers”).
  • Superluminal (If a unit with superluminal would move onto a planet, instead it is teleported onto that planet without being exhausted.)

In general, there is nothing wrong with cards encouraging clustering. However, it is important that there are enough cards that emphasize declustering or punish clustering so that it doesn’t become the only viable strategy. It would take away something that is essential to the game – the positioning of units and the complex decisions involved.

Head of BotanyArmageddon

New keyword: Traveler

But from time to time, building up a giant fortified planet can be fun, right? ‘Glory of the Colonies’ will therefore focus on such gameplay, while the third set, ‘Decadence’, will focus on the opposite. In Glory of the Colonies you will fortify your planets with powerful cannons (respectively mushrooms if you play Aliens) and render those planets truly impregnable. You will then be able to even attack with those planetary fortresses using the ‘Traveler’ mechanic. A traveler is a (pseudo) planet that can threaten enemy planets and by doing so transports all units on it into the combat zone as well, even stationary units which could otherwise not attack.

Stanford Torus

New keyword: Equip

Humans will also get an own mechanic to use with stationary units called ‘Equip’. You can install stationary units such as the devastating ‘Ion Cannon’ to battleships and further increase their firepower. The equipped unit will follow the equipping unit onto each planet and will no longer be able to be attacked. However, if the carrier gets destroyed, so are all units equipped to it.

Pride of OharalIon Cannon

New game mechanic: Virtual units

A unit that’s not actually a unit…? Many people have difficulties with understanding this mechanic. If you’re playing Magic, you can compare a virtual unit with a Ball Lightning. It is a source of damage in the form of a unit. Virtual units represent for example interplanetary missiles or deadly spores. The example card ‘Fission Bomb’ is a powerful weapon that has to be launched by a spacecraft you control. It can sweep through most of your opponent’s defenses:

Fission Bomb

New mechanic: Swamp planets

As mentioned in my ‘Races of Orion’ article, Swamp planets are the major mechanical focus of the Fungus species. It will be the Alien-only mechanic in this set. Some cards turn your planets into Swamps, others gain a bonus from being on a Swamp planet:

Swamp PollinatorsHeart of Tarkarius

Watermarks: The Five Colonies

Maybe you’ve already noticed the watermarks on some of the cards I showcased. In Glory of the Colonies, all human cards will have a watermark that affiliates them with one of the five colonies. The watermarks and their affiliated planets are:

  • Leaf: Luwynar, the jungle planet.
  • Loop: Azure Infinity, the gas giant.
  • Handshake: Oharal, the ice planet.
  • Fist: Charveus, the lava planet.
  • Hourglass: Kalintura, the desert planet.

The different colonies won’t have seperated mechanics and synergies, but their flavor will set them slightly apart. This card is from Kalintura:

Scarab Tank

New unique planets: The Outer Realm

Glory of the Colonies adds five new planets to the game and ups the count to 15. These planets are located in the outer realm, a loose star cluster containing inhabited planets. It’s about 300 lightyears more distant from earth than the inner realm, where the ten planets of the first set are located.


As with all our sets, you can view the current card list of Glory of the Colonies here, though some of the cards might be outdated. Have fun!

To be continued.

On keywords and abilities


I updated the ‘Conquest of Onlion’ package. It now contains the theme for Magic Workstation. You can see it in action here:

Fleet Signaler game state


We had to take a screenshot of our board state because MWS crashed again when we moved our attachments around. It happens that these guys are selling a product with many obvious bugs that aren’t being worked on – that as a side note…

As always, you can find the download here.

Keywords of the first set

I am currently working on the second set, named ‘Glory of the Colonies’. I try to make every set feel and play a bit differently, and Glory of the Colonies will have many awesome mechanics I want to talk about. But before I can begin with that, I have to finish with those of the first set ‘Conquest of Orion’. It doesn’t have any set-specific mechanics, but introduces most evergreen keywords (keywords that will be in every set). We’ve already learned about some of them. Let’s recap:

Stationary (This unit cannot move between planets.)
Mass destruction (This unit may split its damage between multiple targets.)
Execute (This unit may attack fleeing units.)
Superluminal (If this unit would move onto another planet, instead teleport it onto that planet without exhausting it.)
Armor +/-X (All damage dealt to this unit is reduced/increased by X.)

Now, let’s look at some others. The following are very simple and just give you more control over your draws:

Abandon X (Pay X, Discard this card from your hand: Draw a card.)
Replenish X (You may pay an additional X as you play this card. If you do, draw a card.)
Unique (You may only control one card with the name of this card at a time.)
Exchange (Discard this card from your hand: Draw a card. Activate only if you control a card with the name of this card.)

The following keywords are a bit more interesting:

Recovery (At the end of turn, ready this unit if it exhausted to move between planets this turn.)
Recovery is a very potent defensive ability. It allows your unit to threaten your opponent’s planets and ready at the end of turn, so you can have it defend itself on the backswing. It also allows you to move units between your planets without any cost. However, it isn’t as powerful as ‘superluminal’. Superluminal allows your unit to defend any planet without being exhausted during combat, which recovery doesn’t. Here it’s on a card:

Jordan's Lily

Jordan’s Lily is a cheap way to recover your biggest, most expensive unit. Since it can only recover biological units, it fits best into Alien decks, though it can be played in any deck. Let’s say you attack with your Warp Whale and wreak serious havoc, but your opponent could still mount an attack on his next turn. If you retreat your Warp Whale onto the planet of Jordan’s Lily, it can now use the ability to recover it – Warp Whale will be readied at the end of turn and able to devour any attacker that comes at it on the next turn. Note that recovery doesn’t do anything if the unit exhausted this turn, but not because it moved between planets.

Swiftness (This unit can be exhausted and can threaten planets the turn it entered the galaxy. // This planet/achievement/attachment can be exhausted the turn it entered the galaxy.)
In a previous article I told you that all units have to wait a whole turn after you played them before they can threaten your opponent’s planets. Also, all permanents can’t use “exhaust”-abilities (abilities with the arrow-symbol, such as Jordan’s Lily’s ability) on the turn they entered the galaxy and on your opponent’s next turn. Swiftness overrides this rule. Let’s see it on a card:

Hazard-Zone Explorer

Hazard-Zone Explorer’s stats make him one of the most ineffective combat units, but his protection from planets and his swiftness make him a very effective harassment unit. Remember, a planet that’s been dealt 2 or more damage is exhausted and doesn’t produce resources on the following turn. Play him, immediately swing for an attack on an undefended planet and get your free 2 damage in! Your opponent might have a larger unit to soak the damage, but can he deal with all your other units at the same time?

Immobile (This unit cannot move between planets.)
Yes, immobile does exactly the same thing as stationary. The only difference comes when you look at interactions with other cards. Stationary are units that are entrenched into the ground, immobile are those units that are hindered from moving by an outside force. Cards will refer to stationary units and maybe even allow them to move as though they weren’t stationary, but immobile is absolute. For example, placing a ‘Stasis’ on one of your opponent’s unit doesn’t enable the bonus from another card, ‘Plasma Barrier’:

Plasma BarrierStasis

Gatecrash (You may play this permanent at any time you could play an ability.)
Gatecrash allows you to play your permanents, mostly units though, at times that wouldn’t normally be possible, such as during your opponents turn after he already sent his units to your planet. “I’ll attack your undefended jungle planet, there is nothing bad that could happen… ohh.” Gatecrash appears on only one card in the first set, and it’s pretty straightforward:

Crag Wurm

All these keyword abilities always have reminder text on the cards except for some gold-rarity cards, so you don’t have to memorize them all. Don’t panic!

On Abilities, Economy Abilities and Combat Abilities

So, gatecrash allows your units to be played at any time you could play an ability, but when can abilities actually be played? Abilities can be played at any time in the game. There are some restrictions that have to do with what’s called priority, but that is advanced stuff.
Economy Abilities can only be played when you could play permanents, that is during the economy phase on your own turn. Combat Abilities can only be played during the combat phase and at the end of turn. These are mostly damage-dealing abilities. Those abilities can only be used in combat, because you shouldn’t be able to wipe your opponent’s units before they get the chance to fight back. You can read more about this and on the phases in my article on combat. Note that all these cards count as the card type ‘ability’. Economy and combat are merely subtypes.

Let’s look at an example for each of those ability types:

Enter the InfernoMaelstrom

Enter the Inferno is a combat ability because it deals damage. If you use it during combat, units dealt lethal damage by it can still attack this turn. A planet dealt 2 or more damage this way isn’t exhausted until after it attacked. You may also use a combat ability at the end of turn. Let’s say your opponent threatens several planets you control with units that have 3 health. Those units are all dealt 2 damage by your planets. Your opponent then makes the mistake to retreat those units all onto the same planet. Blowout – you can use Enter the Inferno at the end of his turn and destroy all of them!

Maelstrom is an economy ability at first and can only be played during your turn in your economy phase, but it loses the economy subtype if you are at Tier 4. First, you can use it as a simple “I’d rather have this stationary unit on another planet”, then on Tier 4 it becomes a combat trick. Marginal note: Don’t play this card if your deck doesn’t make good use out of the effect – it’s really bad.

Activated abilities work exactly the same. There are activated abilities that can be activated at any time and others can only be activated when you would be able to play a combat ability. This is always written as a “Activate as an economy ability” / “Activate as a combat ability” at the end of the activated ability’s text.

Bonus card

How about a card that’s REALLY expensive? The game should support all kinds of playstyles – aggro decks, timing decks, tech decks, control decks, macro decks and to a lesser extent combo decks. The Last Journey is the finisher of choice for a macro deck, a deck that just wants to sit back and get an absurdly high income while trying not to die. The Last Journey is so expensive that you sometimes can’t even reach the resources required to pay for it, because you can only store six resources until the next round. So, you need a lot of planets which also scales the ability very well:

The Last Journey

A multiplier symbol might be a good idea here so that this kind of resource cost can also be written where it normally belongs.

The next article will be about ‘Glory of the Colonies’. Until then!

The Races of Orion


I’ve compilated all files for playing Conquest of Orion on Magic Workstation. You can find those files here.


  • There is no rules compilation, which is something I’ll prioritize to work on and include.
  • The duel decks are horrible and should be seen more as example decks. The games between those decks tend to go on forever because I was hesitant to add good offensive stuff. Use these merely to get used to the game. I will rework these decks, but I’m in over my head keeping everything organized currently.
  • You can print cards from the MWS images, but I plan to include a printout pattern for the duel decks.
  • There will be a custom theme for MWS once I get it done.

The Races of Orion

Today I will talk about the races in Conquest of Orion. The races are more than just a theme – when you build your deck, you must choose one race and stick to it. You can’t play cards from other races, though you can play neutral cards. The race affiliation of a card is printed at the right end of the type line and is shown as a crest of the respective race.


Humans have no race-specific mechanics, but excel in many areas where other races have shortcomings. They are a technology-based race and that shows mechanically in their strong support of achievements and attachments and their ability to ascend Tiers by alternate means. They have the best targeted unit removal, they can reduce the cost or even the Tier requirement of achievements, get bonuses from playing achievements and can create or reattach attachments instantly. If you want to take out an alien-infested planet, why send an entire armada and suffer high casualties? Instead attack just with a small stealthed spaceship that’s equipped with a nuclear missile.

Science LabBurst of Knowledge

Humans have three subthemes. The first theme are biological units. These represent scientists, soldiers, mercenaries… whatever you can think of. They are designed for an aggressive strategy or as your early plays in a slower deck to survive the first turns. They will mostly be limited to Tier 1 and 2 cards. The second theme are mechanical units. These represent mostly walkers or stationary cannons and are best suited for a very control-based strategy. One of the most powerful decks we played in our games was the “Supreme Science” deck that played Science Lab and several walkers. It was very resilient and had one of the most powerful late-games possible. The third theme are Spacecrafts. Spacecrafts represent the late-game power of the humans. Though there are Tier 1 and 2 Spacecrafts, those are only small fighters or science vessels. Tier 3 and 4 is where you get the good stuff – powerful battleships able to bombard planets or unleash an armada of interceptors.


Humans are the only race that will be in every set as the story evolves around their journey through the galaxy. To keep it interesting, in each set the appearance of the race will drastically change. This also shows that the humans are a race that has great potential and is very adaptive.


The aliens are the second most common race next to the humans. Though everything but humans are by definition aliens, the term is applied only to the three non-sentient or semi-sentient species able to travel through space. These are the Insectoids, the Iamurans and the Fungus. Racial synergies exist for each of these species, but you can also mix them together to find inter-synergies – they all have the same crest and can therefore be played in a deck together. The aliens will appear in the first three sets. Let’s take a closer look at the three species:

The Insectoids originate from the planet Paiura, a large planet covered completely by an alien jungle. This species’ strength is to generate large amounts of units and just overrun the opponent with shear mass. Many of their cards can create Insectoid unit tokens. These are treated as 1|1 units. There will also be cards that allow for an exponential growth of units. Support cards of Insectoids are focused on protecting their swarm of small creatures from area of effect damage, such as the Prometheus shown above. Aliens also get access to armor reduction abilities (a unit with reduced armor takes additional damage from an attack). This allows the Insectoids to take down even massive battleships with ease.

Hatching EggsAcid Spit

The Iamurans are the dominant species in the oceans of the terrestrial planet Iamur. They are completely opposite to the Insectoids, as they focus on playing huge mosters that can win the game on their own. Many of their units cost many resources and even require you to sacrifice other units to play them. Tier 1 Iamurans aren’t suited for aggressive strategies and are merely enablers for the big fish at Tier 3 and Tier 4. Iamurans get a bonus for only controlling one unit on each planet.

The third and last species are the Fungus. These mushrooms and other fungaly creatures all are part of a giant fungal network that has befallen the planets of the Tarkarius system in the outer realm. The Fungus species focuses on stationary units and resource generation. A fungus player sits back and lets his mushrooms grow and build up a superior economy. The Fungus get effects that turn planets into swamps and bonuses if their units are on such a swamp planet.

Ethersea HorrorInstant Fungus

The inter-synergies are apparent – the Fungus bring the resources and the Insectoids the sacrifices for the Iamurans. Aliens as a whole get access to superior achievement destruction and abilities that force your opponent to discard cards.


The Torians are a sentient species from the planet Toria Nair in the distant realm. They will appear in the fourth set. Though there exist only a few of them, the Torians are most powerful beings, their blue-skinned body merely a vessel for a nearly omnipotent mind. Their mechanical focus in on abilities and activated abilities. They will get a keyword ability that allows you to teach an ability to a Torian instead of playing it. If you do, that Torian can activate the ability for as long as its in the galaxy, but may only choose a nearby target if targets for the ability are chosen. The first attempt to format this ability utterly failed. The fourth set ‘Eye of Infinity’ still only exists very roughly in my mind and the Torians are not very elaborate yet. They will not get any powerhouse units, but rather compensate their lack of physical strength with absorption shields and powerful offensive abilities. However, a  great percentage of the time, the game is about raw power, so balancing these abilities will be very difficult.

Another difficulty is finding artwork – the Torians have no use for technology and most artwork either depict technology, swords or other fantasy-based objects or are otherwise inappropriate.

Torians have no gender, though their appearances are female to the human eye.

Elemental BenderArchitect of Life


The Godrakah appear in the fifth set ‘Invasion’ and are an apocalyptic evil from another galaxy. Their mechanical focus will be direct damage to planets. Godrakah units get a bonus as long as they are on a damaged planet. Their leaders are the four Ancient Ones, which will appear as giant, nightmarish monsters in the set. Godrakah will also have cards that are references to cards from earlier sets, but twisted and with slightly different abilities. Hybrid crests are a possibility here, so that a corrupted Torian for example can be played in a Godrakah and a Torian deck.

Godraki TrooperUadrun, the Primal Chaos

Stay tuned for updates on the MWS files and if you have suggestions on the Torian or Godrakah races, let me hear them – there is still much room for ideas.

A mechanic a day keeps the judge away

The Iamuran card “Ethersea Horror” seen above showcases a very key mechanic in Conquest of Orion: Executor. The reminder text is “This unit may attack fleeing units”. The purpose is very clear: There is no escape from this unit! Here is how it works: Executor only has an effect while a unit is threatening an opponent’s planet. After you decide which planets your units threaten, your opponent (the defending player) can then move his units to defend his planets – but he may also be interested in protecting his units by moving them away from the threatened planet. If he does, a unit with executor may still attack that unit during the following combat although it’s no longer on the same planet.

The large body, the executor and the fact that Ethersea Horror even forces units to flee from it makes it an extremely dangerous threat and very worth the aliens required to sacrifice for it.

Mechanics – Finishing up

I posted the full spoiler of the first set as well as some peeks at later sets – you can find those here. But let’s get started. There are still some mechanics we need to look at:

You aren’t really a planet, are you?

Remember, when I said planets aren’t part of your deck? I was lying! Well, at least partially to keep things simple. Planets can in fact be part of the deck, but those are other types of planets. These are called pseudo planets because they are only planets under some game rules, but do not represent celestial bodies. Rather, they represent say space stations and space aliens that are so large that your units may move on them – thus they are planets under the game rules. To clarify: What I said about basic and unique planets still applies – I’ve just added another type of card.

  • Basic planets: You control three basic planets at the start of the game. One of them starts the game exhausted. All basic planets are the same, except for the artwork.
  • Unique planets: There are ten unique planets with names and different abilities; more unique planets will be added in later sets. Before the start of the game, four unique planets are randomly chosen from the pile and put into play. They are neutral and players may conquer those planets.

Basic and unique planets have a different background, no Tier box and a blue rarity symbol.

  • Pseudo planets: These planets can be part of your deck and are subject to the same rules of deck construction (four copies maximum of the same card) as other cards. Other than basic or unique planets, a pseudo planet is actually destroyed when dealt damage – it doesn’t become neutral and can be conquered again, but it is put into your junkyard (where everything that is destroyed goes). They are treated as planets in every other aspect – for example, damage on them is permanent and isn’t removed at the end of turn.

Pseudo planets have the normal background and a Tier box.

Let’s look at an example of a pseudo planet:

Fleet Signaler

Fleet Signaler makes use of the orbit mechanic discussed in the “bonus card” section of the previous article. You can move your units on Fleet Signaler, use its ability to orbit another planet you control, then move your units onto that planet without exhausting them. So, Fleet Signaler grants your army a great deal of mobility. Here is a game state that might occur when Fleet Signaler is in play:

Fleet Signaler game state

Here, you are attacked by not only one but two Warp Whales. You have two units to work with. You activate the ability of Fleet Signaler, which costs one mineral, and it moves into the direction of Paiura and remains in orbit. Now you can move your units between those two planets without exhausting them. You can either move Osiris onto Paiura and deal 8 (4+2+2) damage to the left Warp Whale to destroy it, or move the Field Researcher onto the Fleet Signaler to do the same to the right Whale. In both cases, you would lose the Osiris and one of your planets. Is Paiura more valuable than the Fleet Signaler? You can also leave the units the way they are and save both your planets, but you wouldn’t destroy a whale that way. However, Warp Whale has an ability called ‘mass destruction’. It allows it to split its damage between any number of targets until all damage is dealt. So, in the current situation, Paiura would take 5 damage (6 minus 1) and would be exhausted due to the damage. Maybe you switch the positions of Osiris and the Field Researcher instead, so that Paiura can produce resources during your next turn. In any case, why did you waste a resource to activate the ability of Fleet Signaler? It didn’t do anything, fool! The optimal choice here would be to kill the left whale and save Paiura almost all the time.

In the second set, the design space of pseudo planets will be greatly expanded on.

About activated abilities

Units that entered the galaxy this turn are not allowed to threaten enemy planets. This gives your opponent always a turn to prepare his defense for your threats. This is known as “summoning sickness” in Magic. The same rule disallows units to use an ability with the “exhaust”-symbol (arrow) if it entered the galaxy after the beginning of your last turn. So, if you play a unit with such an ability, you have to wait until your next turn to use it. This rule applies not only to units, but to all permanents (important difference to Magic!).

We’ve already seen a wurm that could remove damage from planets by exhausting itself:

Tunneler Wurm

The arrow is the exhaust-symbol. It is written before a colon. All costs to activate an ability are written before the colon and the effect is written after the colon. Note that the aforementioned rule only applies to exhaust-abilities. You can exhaust the wurm to move it to another planet you control, even if you just played it.

The “attack”-symbol is another symbol similar to the exhaust-symbol. It is a small reticle and can be seen on the next card:

Service Ship

An ability with the attack-symbol isn’t subject to the “delay one turn”-rule. The unit isn’t exhausted by activating the ability, however it can still only be activated as long as the unit is ready. It is called attack-symbol because it replaces the unit’s attack for the turn.

Each ready unit may only either
1. activate one ability with the exhaust-symbol
2. activate one ability with the attack-symbol
3. or attack
each turn. So, if a unit uses such an ability, it can’t attack this turn and it can’t use another ability with one of those two symbols. A unit that exhausts to activate an ability, but then is somehow readied again, still can’t activate another ability. Very simple rule: One action per turn, including attacking! This is what I call the “infinite-combo-prevention-rule”. An infinite combo is a string of actions that can be looped indefinitely and often involves readying units that can use exhaust-abilities. During the previous version of the game, one infinite combo showed up inadvertently because this rule didn’t exist.


Service Ship talks a whole lot about stuff being “nearby”. Maybe you already guessed that it has to do somehow with planets. The definition is: Nearby: “On the same planet as [reference].” The reference is always the card itself if the context doesn’t conclude otherwise. A planet is also nearby to units on it and vice versa.

Incapacitated units

The last mechanic for today. A unit can be exhausted even if it’s already exhausted. Such a unit card is turned upside down and is called an incapacitated unit. When an incapacitated unit is readied, it becomes exhausted (see it as “double-exhausted”). A unit rarely becomes incapacitated as the only way to do this is to move an already exhausted unit between planets you control. To allow exhausted units to move between your planets prevents the game from stalling and prevents many unfair plays.

As mentioned in my post about combat, units are exhausted when they return to your planets from their attack. This only applies to ready units – exhausted units simply stay exhausted (you may have used an exhaust-ability while the unit was on the opponent’s planet to exhaust it.)

An incapacitated unit doesn’t have any abilities and doesn’t protect planets. When an incapacitated unit is defending a planet, the opponent can attack that unit, but can instead choose to ignore that unit and attack the planet instead. Simple rule: You only incapacitate a unit to protect it from an opponent’s attack and it’s already exhausted.

Let’s mash all these mechanics together in a scenario and see Service Ship in action:

Service Ship game state

Here, both planets are attacked by hungry Cragoloths. Service Ship and an Osiris are defending Paiura. Osiris is affected by two attachments: New Horizons and Encapsulate. New Horizons is a beneficial attachment that you control and Encapsulate is a harmful attachment the opponent controls.

EncapsulateNew Horizons

New Horizons allows the Osiris to move between planets (teleporting) without exhausting. Encapsulate disallows the Osiris to attack. To destroy a Cragoloth, the Osiris must be able to attack, so we use the second ability of the Service Ship to destroy the Encapsulate – this exhausts the Service Ship. Now can we prevent the left planet from taking damage? The Service Ship can move onto that planet, but it would be incapacitated, so the opponent gets to choose if he wants to deal 3 to the planet or destroy the ship. Still, this would be a better choice than having it remain on Paiura, since otherwise we would lose the Service Ship and take 3 damage on our planet.

Is there another line of play? The Service Ship can move the New Horizons attachment to itself by using the first ability, so it wouldn’t become incapacitated when it moves onto the left planet. But now it can’t destroy the Encapsulate – only one action per turn! Also, you can’t move the Encapsulate onto the Service Ship because you don’t control it.

Confusing? The combat mechanics are a bit unintuitive at first, but like with the stack system in Magic, there should be a point when you just get it. Of course you have to play some games first though. For those who want to try out the game, I will post all files you need to print out cards as well as the files you need to play on Magic Workstation. We’ll be working on “Duel Decks: Alien vs. Predator Human”, two thematic decks with some basic cards of the respective races. They will be (hopefully) balanced against each other and should be perfect if you want to try out the game.

New Worlds on the Horizon

“It is the 24th century. The humans made great progress in space travel and many planets in the solar system, such as Mars and Europa, have been colonized. Humanity evolved to a civilization able to use the resources of an entire solar system. But despite that great progress, no spaceships other than small unmanned vessels, sent to proximal stars like Alpha Centauri, ever left the boundaries of the solar system. And even with the most powerful telescopes, they never detected any signs of alien life in the universe. However, that changed when the astronomer Thomas Feynard aimed the largest earthbound telescope in the direction of the orion constellation and made an astounding discovery. In the light spectrum of a planet orbiting a sun-like star a molecular oxygen line appeared as clear as day. This was clear evidence for the existence of extraterrestrial life. New, even larger telescopes were constructed to search for other “second earths”, but none were found – the great orion nebula made such subtle observations in that region very difficult.

It wasn’t until 200 years later that humanity’s desire to travel to the stars became reality. The FTL drive was invented and soon the first science vessels were sent to Feynard’s Planet to clear away all doubt. What the “New Horizons” discovered, was beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Feynard’s Planet was inhabited, but it was a very boring planet – at least compared to many other planets in its proximity. In a volume with only a few lightyears diameter, countless worlds inhabited alien life of all possible appearances. Even completely dry or frozen planets, planets exobiologists previously thought could not possibly bear any life, were populated by lower organisms. All these planets were shrouded from sight by the great orion nebula the entire time.

New HorizonFeynard's Planet

Only a few decades later, a large colonization fleet set off from earth in the direction of the orion constellation. The fleet consisted of science vessels, huge transporters and military ships. Expeditions were sent to many planets, studying the native lifeforms and establishing the first outposts in this sector of the galaxy. Mining bases were constructed on asteroids and on rock and lava planets to support the massive need for resources.

Field ResearcherFirst-Wave Colonist

During the expeditions, they encountered many different species, and though they were all unique, none of them challenged the human’s conception of what an extraterrestrial lifeform should look like – until they encountered a species that was later named the Iamurans. These colossal beings could travel through the vacuum of the galaxy by bending space and time at their will. They resembled marine creatures from earth, so it was theorized that they evolved in water and later in their evolution learned to travel through space. This theory was confirmed, when the planet of their origin was discovered and with it lower-evolved species, yet to ascend from their aquatic nature.


Human spaceships often encountered Iamurans on their journeys and each encounter with these colossi was a memorable event. They aren’t a sentient race and rather act based on instict and may see that unidentified object in front of them as a threat – or as a snack on their way to the next planet.

These gargantuans were often accompanied by a swarm of smaller creatures, which due to their resemblence with earthen insects, were called insectoids. They appeared to live in a symbiosis with the Iamuran, traveling through space as hitchhikers and thus spreading to many different planets in the inner realm. Their planet of origin could be determined, a world completely covered by an alien jungle and embedded in a weird cosmic ether: Paiura.


Though this insectoid breed was composed of many different varieties, they all seemed to act as a single hive. They became the dominant species on Paiura somewhere in the past and wiped out all other species on the planet. They were extremely adaptable, being able to survive in space, and on ice planets and lava planets alike.

At the center of the inner realm, a small group of explorers discovered a planet that appeared ordinary at first – a simple ice planet, orbiting a young sun-like star. But when the scientist team landed on the planet, they discovered what was later described by the popular media as greatest mystery ever to be encountered by mankind. Though this was stated countless times within the last few decades, this would be the last time: Inscribed hedrons scattered over the surface, and ancient technology hidden in caverns pointed towards the existence of a civilization that predated all life in the galaxy. But except for the writings and the machineries, nothing seemed to have remained of that civilization. Soon, the icy planet became the focus of all scientific attention and countless expedition teams explored the many caverns scattered over the surface. Geological studies were made which showed that the planet was old – very old in fact, much older than its parent star. Electronical databases were found within the main complex on the planet’s south pole, containing thousands of pages of text and holograms depicting the milky way and the orion arm in particular. The interface of the database was the holographic avatar of an AI. In time, despite initial problems, the scientists were able to acquire a basic understanding of the AI’s language and logic. The holograms depicted this planet, the AI named it Kaskala, at the center of a celestial map and showed how life spread from Kaskala to other planets, whose names were taken from the database as well:

Paiura, Iamur and Esparand were already known to the humans, but the holograms pointed towards the existence of even more inhabited planets in the outer realms.

Ancient InscriptionsAstronomicum

While determined pioneers begin to build the first human colonies outside the solar system and biologists explore the planets of the inner realm like children a candy shop, the greatest mystery remains unsolved. Who are these ancient people and did life on earth descend from their creation as well? Explorers are already on their way to the outer realm to find new pieces of the puzzle.”

Bonus card:

Today’s bonus card is Astral Unity. For one turn, this Ability brings two planets so close to each other that units can move between those two planets without being exhausted. This is a keyword-ability called orbit. Note that you can play this card while you’re the defending player and after your opponent already declared his attacks on your planets. A handy trick – he didn’t expect that your units could fire back as you move them to defend the planet he attacked (remember that exhausted units can’t attack)!

Astral Unity

“Two allied planets” means two planets controlled by the same player.

Hope you enjoyed this short story. Until next time!

A look at the resource system


today I want to conclude the introduction to Conquest of Orion. In the upcoming articles I will then talk about the story and specific game mechanics that may be interesting to look at. What’s missing to a good overview is a look at the resource system.

Just quickly summarizing from the previous article: There are two resources in Orion – minerals (blue) and gems (gold). You control three basic planets at the beginning of the game, each producing one mineral per turn. You can store these resources for later use. To manage the resources, we always used colored glass stones, but you can also use two dice of different color. The first option has the advantage that you can quickly do math in your head by seperating the stones into two piles – one pile you just want to spend on a card and the other what will be left after you spend those resources. Also, your opponent can quickly confirm that you substracted the correct amount of resources.

So you get minerals from your planets, but how do you get gems? Each player has an innate income of one gem per turn. In addition, you can conquer unique (nonbasic) planets to further increase your income.

Unfortunately, Orion has a lot of tiny extra rules and numbers you have to remember, when it comes to the resource system. Those where all introduced during playtesting to further refine the system and optimize the tempo of the game. To help out, each player can get an information card on which everything important is noted. In a previous version of the game, this card was the “Star”-card and represented you as a player, but people got confused, thinking it was an actual card in the game when it was not. The new “Timeless Archive” is clear about that:

Timeless Archive

Art by Hameed Nawaz

Let’s look at the information given here. The first paragraph tells you that your starting hand size is five cards. Before the game begins, you have the option to increase your hand quality by exchanging any number of cards in one swoop (you draw the new cards from your deck). The second paragraph is the innate income of one gem per turn. Tiny extra rule: You don’t get a gem on your first turn. The third paragraph is the maximum storage clause, or “upkeep cost”. If you store more than six resources until your next turn, you must reduce the total number of resources in your pool to six. The fourth paragraph tells you that you can trade resources at any time with the offer curve three to one. Finally, the costs you have to pay to ascend a Tier: Each upgrade costs three gems and each consecutive upgrade costs one extra mineral.

Update: Mulligan rule obsolete with game rules update. It has been removed from the card.

Resources are all handled at the beginning of your turn. When you start with each turn, first pay the upkeep if you have more than six resources in your pool, then you gain resources from all planets, then you ready your units, attachments, achievements and planets (these are called permanents) and finally you draw the card for your turn. The fact that you gain resources before you ready your planets is important! To understand this, let’s look again at a basic planet card:


The ability of the planet says that you only gain resources if the planet is ready. There are multiple ways a planet can be exhausted. For example, you activated an ability that exhausted it. Some unique planets have such abilities.

But most important: When a planet is dealt two or more damage in a single turn, it is exhausted. This incites players to attack their opponent, even if they can’t destroy a planet in the process. Locking down a planet this way may delay your opponent for one more crucial turn.

The third way a planet is exhausted is another tiny extra rule (it’s the last one, I promise!): Each player starts the game with one of his planets exhausted. The player that begins the game also doesn’t ready that planet that turn and doesn’t draw a card, to compensate for the advantage he gets from going first. So, the income of the starting player is two minerals and zero gems on the first turn (2 / 0), 2 / 1 on the following turn and 3 / 1 on each other turn. The income of the other player is 2 / 0 on the first turn and 3 / 1 from there on.

Now let’s see how you can conquer additional plants to increase your income:
Each planet has a resource cost printed in the upper right-hand corner. This is the cost required to conquer that planet. A player chooses a ready unit he or she controls, moves that unit onto the neutral planet he wants to conquer, exhausts that unit and pays the resource cost of the planet. Neutral planets are best placed at the side of the table, in equal distance to both players. Before the start of the game, four unique planets are randomly chosen from the unique planet stack and put into play. These are the planets players can conquer this game. There will be ten unique planets in the first set (eventually increasing to 20 with the following sets). Basic planets also have a resource cost – when a player loses control of one, it can be conquered.

At the start of the game, the table should look like this:

Game begin


(Planet art by Cotetiu Madalin, Alexei Kozachenko, Robin de Blanche, Chris Cold, Mac Rebisz, Austin Pickrell, Long Pham, sanmonku & Faia89)

I try to keep this article slightly shorter than the last one, so I’ll stop here. But I think it’s a fun idea to post another random card at the end of each article.

Today’s card is from the nebula cycle (a cycle is a group of cards that share a similarity). Nebulas function as a way to look for a specific card in your deck. The cycle of nebulas this card is from (there will be others) each searches for a card of a specific card type and puts it on top of your deck. However, if you already reached Tier 3, you can simply put it into your hand – very handy since you don’t have much time to do random things once you are at that stage of the game. You might notice the symbol I added next to the card name. This is the set symbol which also shows the rarity of the card. There will be three rarities – copper, silver and gold. Kraken Nebula is a card with copper rarity.

Kraken Nebula

I hope you got a good overview of the game by now. If I should expand on something in another post, let me know.

Combat – It’s all about the planets!


in this article I’m going to talk about the combat system in Conquest of Orion (from now on abbreviated with Orion). I thought about talking about the resource system first, but I figured that seeing some combat situations is more important to getting a feel for the game.

Let’s start with the basics:
Each unit and each planet has damage and health. If a card takes damage that’s equal to or greater than its health, it is destroyed and removed from the game. Osiris (see my previous article) deals 4 damage in combat and has 6 health. This will be written as 4|6 from now on. Damage dealt to a unit is removed from it at the end of turn if not enough damage was dealt to destroy it – you have to destroy a unit in one swing! This is not true for planets. Damage dealt to planets must be remembered, with a dice placed on the card for example.

Units are always positioned on a planet. You lay out your planets in a row (usually you will control about 3-6 planets) with sufficient space between them and the units over of the respective planets.

As in all TCGs, turns in Orion are subdivided into different phases in which players are allowed to do different actions. The turns are divided as follows:

1. Beginning of turn: You gain resources from your planets, you draw a card and you ready your units and planets.
2. Economy phase: You play units, achievements, attachments…
3. Attacker’s step: For each unit you control, you choose if that unit is attacking this turn and if so, which planet it attacks. Doing this is called “threatening” a planet.
4. Defender’s step: Now it’s time for the opponent to move his units between his planets, positioning them in such a way that his planets are defended the best.
5. Combat phase: On each planet, units controlled by the two players attack and deal their damage to each other. After this is done, the units you control that survived the battle return to your planets.
6. 2nd Economy phase: Once again, you may play units, achievements and attachments.
7. End of turn: This phase is used for players to do their last action or two before the turn is handed over to the next player.

Let’s look at a very basic scenario. Here, both players only control two planets. The bottom player is the active player (let’s call her ‘Anne’) and the top player is the defending player (‘Dave’). Anne controls two basic planets, a 4|6 Osiris and a 2|2 Expedition Escort. Dave controls a basic planet which already has 2 damage on it, the unique planet Kaskala, a 3|5 Cragoloth and a 2|2 Tunneler Wurm. All planets are 2|6:

Situation 1

These are the cards used in this scenario:

Expedition EscortTunneler Wurm

We’re using very simple units here – only Tunneler Wurm has an ability which we’ll look at later. As I mentioned in my previous post, all basic planets are identical. The subtype you see here (Jungle, Rock, Gas ect.) is never referred to in the rules and is merely there to simplify communication between players (“I’ll attack your jungle planet.”).

We’re looking at the phases 3-5 (attacker’s step, defender’s step and combat phase). In the attacker’s step, Anne decides if she wants to threaten Dave’s planets with her units. She can threaten a different planet with each unit or the same with both. Then, Dave decides if he wants to move his units. Doing this will exhaust the unit. This is similar to tapping a creature in Magic – exhausting a unit is signaled by turning the card on the table by 90°. An exhausted unit cannot attack. All exhausted units are readied (turned back to the normal orientation) at the beginning of their controller’s turn (see phases).

Let’s say the following decisions are made by the two players:

Situation 2

Then the following image would show the game state after those decisions are made. To signal to your opponent which planets you threaten, simply move your units to the center of the table, in the direction of that planet. You don’t have to remember which planets they came from:

Situation 3

Cragoloth is exhausted – it cannot attack. So, why would Dave move it onto the jungle planet in the first place? The goal of Anne is to destroy that planet. To do this, she must first sweep away all the units defending that planet. If we ever engage in interstellar travel, doing a warp jump just to throw yourself in front of the missiles headed for the planet’s surface most likely won’t be a viable strategy, but in Orion it can be. If you’re wondering how a simple, rock-eating animal from another planet can do a warp jump in the first place, you’re probably playing the wrong game.

In the combat phase, each unit and planet gets to attack and deal damage to one other target. This damage cannot be split between multiple targets. Once all defending units have taken lethal damage, Anne can have her units attack the planet directly. Anne can have her Expedition Escort deal 2 damage to Tunneler Wurm and her Osiris 4 damage to Cragoloth. The result would be the destruction of the wurm. Cragoloth survives because he has 1 more health than damage dealt to it – and at the end of turn, that damage would dissipate. She may also choose to have both her units attack Cragoloth – in this case Cragoloth would take 6 damage and die, while the Wurm survives.

Dave gets to attack back! The Wurm and the planet itself may both deal 2 damage. Together, this still wouldn’t be sufficient damage to destroy the Osiris, so the Wurm deals 2 damage to the Escort and what the planet does is inconsequential.

What would be the situation if Dave didn’t move that rocky beast onto the jungle planet to defend it? The Escort would deal 2 damage to the Wurm and now the path is free for the Osiris to attack the planet as all defenders have been destroyed. He deals the 4 remaining damage to the planet and Dave loses control of it (Note that the damage is dealt successively in whatever order the player choses, but all damage resolves at the same time – all units get to attack and deal their damage!). So, it’s the question whether the Cragoloth is more valuable than the planet. Kaskala is worth much more than a basic planet, so the decision may be different if Anne attacked that planet instead with both units. For your practice, try to go through the possible plays in that scenario (you can also flee with units to protect them!).

After the combat step is over, Anne chooses a planet she controls for each surviving unit, withdraws it to that planet and exhausts it. This would be the situation after the battle is over:

Situation 4

Let’s add another element to our original scenario. Now, Anne is holding an Ability in her hand – Tachyon Ray. Abilities grant a one-time effect when played. Some can be played during combat and may take your opponent by surprise:


Tachyon Ray is a simple ability that represents one of the strengths of the human race in Orion – they can kill units from great distance, something which Alien species can’t do. Tachyon Ray allows you to pay any amount of resources (X) and deal that much damage to a single unit. Tachyon Ray can be played in the combat phase, just before units deal their damage. How about Anne deals 2 damage to the Wurm and lets her units both attack and destroy the Cragoloth? Or she deals 5 damage to the Cragoloth, lets her Escort destroy the Wurm and the powerful spaceship finish off the planet. Sounds even better! Note that though Tachyon Ray is used before units deal their damage and influences what targets the units can attack, its damage still resolves together with all other damage – a unit destroyed by Tachyon Ray still gets to attack!

Finally, let’s look at the ability of Tunneler Wurm. The arrow-symbol is the “exhaust-symbol”. You may exhaust the Tunneler Wurm to remove 2 damage from the planet it defends. This may change the combat math, since Osiris’ attack no longer is enough to destroy the planet. However, now the Wurm is exhausted when it would attack, so it can’t attack and doesn’t deal damage.

I think this is more than enough information for one article. There are most likely many people that can apply their knowledge of Magic or other TCGs to a new game much faster and get bored of my lengthy explanations, but I try not to have the reader require knowledge of Magic to understand it. So, let me finish this article with a random card that’s a bit more complex. This guy is a complete powerhouse and one of the strongest high-Tier units in the game.  Next time, I’ll write about the resource system and everything around it.

If something remained unclear, feel free to ask in the comments. Otherwise, until next time!

Warp Whale

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