Nationbuilder in Space

From 1d4chan

It's Nationbuilder, but with a hexgrid map and exploration rules instead of a pre-set map of landmasses. We also use a bajillion sci-fi clichés instead of fantasy stuff.

The rules are usually passed around as a *.pdf file, but with MegaUpload, FileSonic and the rest of the file-locker services being a bunch of pansies, a wiki article may be better. Most of this is copypasta from version 2.0, with edits for clarity or flavour; the rules are the same.

Kalmuk wrote the rules and runs a game on /tg/ with sessions once a week. The irc chatroom for Kalmuk's game is shared with Nationbuilder channel on mibbit.

Hexographer has a space tileset that's good for this game, and the free version does all you need.


Each player is the god/ emperor/ hivemind/ lead-singer of what will be a star-spanning empire. The empire will control many areas of space, including star systems and resources from same. Empires may compete for resources, ideological differences, or on mandates from their terrifying gods.

Sessions start when at least three players are onboard. Most sessions are once a week. IRC or instant-messaging can be used for tabletalk, but any official diplomatic declarations, as well as rebuttals (saying 'yes' or 'no' to an offer) must be made in the forum so that everyone knows what's going on and important stuff is recorded publicly.

A core idea for the game is the 'Action.' Every player gets four Actions each turn, which they use for efforts to improve their empire as a whole. They could be anything from the mundane ("explore northward," "build more naval forces,") to the abstract ("declare a public holiday to raise loyalty," "pray to the lion-headed mantis for divine guidance"). The free-form style gives plenty of freedom to players to flavour their empires as they wish without forcing other players to make only similar changes.

Empires are never obligated to engage in conflict with each other, and peace is often more beneficial to one's imperial citizens/ cultists of the faithful/ hive drones/ whatever. However, contention for resources can happen, or suspicion of an ulterior motive for encroaching on their borders, and some empires may receive a mandate from their god to cleanse the cosmos of "those with less than ten eyes." It pays to be both a diplomat of peace and a general of war when running your empire.

Above all: have fun, and help your other players to have fun as well. This is the most important thing to remember and it is quite feasible with the cooperation of the players.

Creating Nations[edit]

When signing up for a game, you will need to provide the following to the game master to establish your nation:

  • Race Name & Home Starsystem Name. It is heartily encouraged that you create your own unique alien culture, but it's okay if you just want to re-use something from Alpha Centauri, or play SPEES MUHREENS or GREEN ORKS THAT AREN'T WH40K ORKS HONEST BOSS.
  • Colour for marking territory on the map. Since the map will be a white hexgrid on a black spacescape, don't be an idiot and say "white" or "black." Also see below about the colours used for system markers.
  • Government Type. Autocratic? Democratic? Don't go into too much detail, just one line of how you manage to govern a civilzation that spans multiple starsystems. This may affect how your empire handles military, trade or other inter-empire interactions at the borders.
  • Ideology. This is important for diplomatic relations. A technocracy (Adeptus Mechanius) and a plutocracy (Ferengi) will have a better time getting along than, say, militaristic vegetarians (K'kree) and territorial carnivorous hunters (Kzinti).
  • Location. A vague idea of where you'll be starting on the empty hexmap. Rather than use sci-fi terms like 'coreward' and 'spinward', just "center, east, north, south, west" will do.
  • Fluff. Some flavour and color for when you're interacting with the other players.

Each empire also starts with four temporary bonuses to help distinguish this empire's proficiencies: +15 to wealth, two +10 bonuses and one +5 bonus. Bonuses are explained below. Some sample choices are:

  • Military culture: +10 military research, +10 shipbuilding, +5 weapons
  • Scientific culture: +10 research, +10 military research, +5 engines
  • Applied Sociology: +10 espionage, +10 happiness, +5 culture

The bonuses that an empire starts with must be approved by the referee, and they are one-use only but need not be used in the first turn. Empires will use their Actions to gain other temporary bonuses, or smaller permanent bonuses.

Taking Your Turn[edit]

All players submit their turns with their four Actions simultaneously to the referee. On 4chan, this means posting with your tripcode to the SpaceBuilder thread with 'dice+4d100' in the email field.

dice+d100 effect
01 disaster
02-50 failure
51-70 moderate (+1)
71-80 good (+2)
81-90 excellent (+3)
91-99 amazing (+4)
100 vunderbar!

An Action is something the empire as a whole resolves to do (even if it doesn't require the entire empire's particpation), and its success or failure effects the empire. Every player gets four actions during their turn to make changes to their empire, and every player's turn is resolved simultaneously. Actions are described in greater detail below.

Example: "Distributing food through the empire" would not require an Action, even though it requires the entire empire to maintain trade routes -- success means business as usual. An Action is would be something like Terraforming a new agri-world -- success would increase food surplus throughout the empire.

The referee (or the KusabaX software with 'dice+4d100') rolls d% for each player's Action. Over 50 is a success; see the chart to the right for a guideline for what sort of bonuses can be earned from great success.

Actions that have pre-defined game mechanics are: Exploration, Colonization, Trade, Espionage, Research and Military Conflict. Don't limit yourself to just these actions -- much of the fun in the game is adding your own flavour to it. Use Actions for trading resources, diplomacy, or domestic improvements or appeasing great and terrible space-gods, and give the referee and other players material to work with for having fun.


An empire can do better than just 50/50 chances in their pursuits. An empire collects bonuses which can be applied to their Actions. Bonuses come in three types:

  • Planetary - Bonuses gained when colonizing a system. A system's assets are dedicated to a purpose that improves the entire empire. If this system is lost to conquest or disaster, the Planetary Bonus is also lost. These Planetary Bonuses can be used creatively, if you can convince the referee that they would apply.
  • Specialized - Larger than Planetary Bonuses, but are restricted to certain types of Actions. (ie. a Military Bonus can be used for an Action involving conquest, but isn't much good in peacetime). Any Specialized Bonus is useless outside it's field, no matter how creatively you describe its application to the referee.
  • Temporary - Can only be used once for a single Action, then it is depleted and gone. It could be a precursor artifact with one charge left, the last of an evaporating black hole, or a boon owed by time-travellers. Temporary Bonuses are larger than other bonuses, but must be used wisely.

There is no 'tech tree' in this game; the advantages of new developments are expressed as accumulating these Bonuses. A successful empire will balance the development of Specialized and Temporary Bonuses with the exploration, colonization and conquerization to acquire Planetary bonuses.

Example: The empire of Orcs That Are Pretty Much Orks uses an action to colonize a new system. The player adds +5 Planetary Bonus of "agriculture" saying the colonists brought their own bag lunches to kickstart the food surplus through the local winter. The player also adds +10 Specialized Colonization Bonus for "reproduces by budding." A +15 Specialized Military Offense Bonus of "wwaaaaaaghhhhh!!!" would be nice, but can't be used here, because this isn't a military offensive Action. Last, the player decides to use up a small +5 Temporary Bonus "weird boyz what kin telyport by makin' dere heads explode." The roll was 64, already enough for success, but the +20 from Bonuses bumps the roll up to 84, and the referee decides that's enough to get a +2 Planetary Bonus immediately from this new system. "Your weirdboyz made a mistake and teleported half your colonists to a different world, but since you brought extra food both colonies in the system manage to thrive."


NationbuilderInSpace session4.png

The map will be a large hexgrid, 21 or 23 hexes on a side. Each hex represents enough space for one solar system with planets (and comets and Oort cloud, etc) Not every hex will have a solar system. Those that do are important assets for an empire, as they provide resources for the military and Planetary Bonuses to improve an empire's Actions.

The map starts out empty, with just the home systems for each empire revealed. The rest of the map is unknown and must be exposed by using Actions for exploration. The first exploration will expose the six hexes around the home system, and exploration Actions after that will expose six hexes in a specified direction.

When hexes are exposed, their background colour is changed from black to the colour of the exploring empire. The exception is new systems, which have a white background until they are successfully colonized, then they have the background colour of the occupying empire.

Roll System type uncovered
1 Blue (see below, malevolent)
2-50 lifeless (grey, no useful worlds)
51-70 average (light red, one useful world, +1 x1)
71-80 good (dark red, two useful worlds, +2 x2)
81-90 excellent (yellow, three useful worlds, +3 x3)
91-99 paradise (green, four useful worlds, +4 x4)
100 Blue (see below, miraculous)

The roll used for the exploration Action will also tell the referee the quality of systems found in the exposed hexes. See the chart below for the value of the system uncovered and the colour used to mark that world. Note that each world in the system provides a Planetary Bonus, so colonizing a excellent/yellow system can give the empire up to three +3 Planetary Bonuses.

Blue systems are special. They mark places with cosmic anomalies or precursor artifacts that can be exploited. They are often already inhabited by indigenous sapients or hazards that must be overcome before colonization. Roll d6 to determine how many useful worlds there are and the Planetary Bonus for them, and the referee will have a surprise prepared for whomever manages to conquer that system.


It is assumed that communication technologies are developed enough to allow contact between all nations in the universe (no 'you gotta find me first'), and every nation shares at least one common language with any other. This is for the purpose of speeding up the game. Ideas that get lost translation can be funny, but don't use it to confuse nor mislead other players nor the referee.

Empires can trade technology (Specialized Bonuses) or goods (Temporary Bonuses), but must have an unobstructed and exposed path between their two empires, and both empires must use an Action on the same turn to facilitate the exchange.


There is no rigid tech-tree, as players basically open up their own tech trees, but traditional 4X tech trees will be used as a guideline for advancing nation technology. All nations start off with the ability to construct starships and colonize systems. For each military force, all nations start with basic (poor) weapons: direct-fire guns and missiles. Keep in mind that this game is not hard sci-fi so all sorts of wacky research is allowed. Even magic is allowed in a sci-fi form (ie. The Force, Psykers and The Warp, etc). Keep in mind that magic by itself will not win you the game but feel free to make your Stellar Wizard Empire.

If you want to research something that you don't want the other nations to know, put it as "Develop/Continue project X", where X is the codename of your research. These secret projects can be uncovered with Espionage Actions.


There are two parts to espionage – the espionage level and projects.

The espionage level is built up like fleets – the value increases as the player devotes successful actions to building up espionage. The espionage level can be spent to steal a bonus from another empire, however the espionage level spent has to equal double the value of the bonus being stolen. Also, a useful tactic for stealing bonuses and not getting found out is not to devote all actions to espionage that turn.

A Project is an action a player does not want the other empires to know about – a fleet build-up, new technologies or simple espionage. In such a case, players should put this as 'Develop/Continue Project X', where X is the name of your project.

If a player has more espionage than another player, that player can spend the difference between the empires espionage to uncover a project.


When diplomacy fails, war can be declared.

An empire chooses which system to attack and then the attacker and defender proceed to combat rolls.

During combat, 'fd10+b' is rolled, where 'f' is the amount of fleets an empire has and 'b' is all relevant bonuses. The defender can add 10 automatically to the roll for every planet in the system.

However, the amount of fleets an empire can have is limited by the fleet cap. The fleet cap at first is the amount of planets possessed (note that systems above light red have more than one planet) but can be increased by logistics fleets and planetary projects.

Each combat roll represents an entire campaign for a system, the roll as a whole shows how well your empire performed. If the attacker wins, they can occupy the system, gaining bonuses equal to the system's value or exterminate a system, denying its bonus values to anyone else.


To carry out combat, players need fleets. Fleets can be built on successful actions.

The amount of fleets

There are three different types of fleets:

  • Standard – The standard fleet that can attack, defend and occupy systems.
  • Logistic – Increases fleet cap by 1, cannot participate in combat and the amount of logistics fleets one can build is limited by the amount of planets one possesses.
  • Kamikaze – Can be built on a roll of 40 and above, on a combat roll of 7 or above the Kamikaze fleet automatically destroys one enemy fleet and is itself destroyed. These types of fleets cannot occupy systems.


Many different NPC's will be encountered throughout the game as blue systems are colonized, based on many sci-fi tropes.

There are also the Pirates, whose strength will grow as empires become richer and can be hired by empires to attack other empires.


There are two ways in which an empire can collapse:

  • Losing all planets
  • Inactivity – being inactive for at least three sessions without warning the GM beforehand.

If an empire collapses from inactivity (which is treated as the empire falling into isolationism and civil wars), the hexes for the systems become white and can be claimed by new players as a starting position.

Tips For The Tabletop[edit]

A /tg/ Nation Builder can attract a high amount of players, with at times as many as 20 being on the map. Real-life GM's obviously cannot gather that many people, so I suggest increasing the amount of hexes that can be explored and perhaps even shifting the system from d100's to d20's for the table-top.