Capitalism in Space

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This is an open educational resource.
supported by the University of Westminster

SPIR608 Political Simulation and Gaming is BA Politics Level 5 Optional Module at the University of Westminster

Imperialism in Space is designed and created by James Moulding, Kateryna Onyiliogwu.


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Learn the concepts not rules!

Imperialism in space...the next frontier of capitalism! Imperialism in Space is a 4X game, players explore space, expand their territories, exploit their capital and export their population in order to exterminate their rivals in a galactic inter-imperial war for the galaxy, fail to export surplus populations and players face the forces communistic revolution!

In Imperialism in Space players learn the concept of Lenin's Imperialism not the rules!

Imperialism in Space is a 2 to 6 player game. Players take on the role of a future MULTI-SYSTEM CORPORATION (MSC, analogous to today's MNCs and TNCs)

Imperialism in space is not a war game, it is resource management game.

Our game has many elements from a variety of different games - Our game has borrowed the concepts of phases and player elimination from MONOPOLY, building on the free market, competition and monopoly phases onto an intergalactic imperial level...

We took the modular game board design from SETTLERS OF CATAN, players explore space by flipping hexes revealing the game terrain, changing and constantly manipulating the values and importance of areas of the board... We took our familiarity with space and science fiction games and applied it in the form of our Trade Networks and the quasi-4X set up, from games such as Galactic Civilisations, Civilisation and Sins of a Solar Empire.

Europe Aflame was the initial basis of the Army Group, or Fleet Box system too.

Many aspects of our game are truly original, after extensive and painful research we have found no other similar engines to that which we have created, lending to a truly original and unique game, or as we prefer, learning experience... Our game is a ludic simulation of Lenin's Theory of Imperialism . This is an educational game which uses real theoretical concepts on the abstraction of space.

As a player you are Multi-system corporation ( analogues of the multinationals) which are situated on particular planet. Domestically capital is concentrated into large monopolistic corporations.

1st stage you leave your home planet in the search for the new raw materials and to export the population because... as Lenin noted of Cecil Rhodes,

...“employment must be found for the energy which is being hurled out of the definite class channel, it must be given an outlet abroad in order to avert an explosion at home”. (p.85)

2nd stage players seek to expand their reach across the galaxy coming in to contact with other players, imperialist wars are inevitable result of uneven development. Rivalry is inevitable.

3rd stage players have to deal with the risk of REVOLUTION as rising population levels put increased pressure on capital... if players population exceed the capital present on the Home Planet then the population revolts and the imperialist MSC loses... “the growth of the urban industrial population is more likely to be hindered by a shortage of raw materials for industry than by a shortage of food”... (p.82)

… “If you want to avoid civil war, you must become imperialists... The Empire is a bread and butter question” … (p.79)


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A ludic simulation of V.I.Lenin's Theory of Imperialism in space...the next frontier of capitalism! Imperialism in Space is a 4X game, players explore space, expand their territories, exploit their capital and population in order to exterminate their rivals in a galactic inter-imperial war for the galaxy, fail to export surplus population from your Home Planet and players face the forces communistic revolution!

Player identities

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Imperialism in Space is a 2 to 6 player game. Players take on the role of a future MULTI-SYSTEM CORPORATION (MSC, analogous to today's MNCs and TNCs)

Ingredients in the gaming soup

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Resources Capital Population

Player counters

81 hex-tiles (61 in play, 20 extra in order to randomise the game)

36 Player Fleet Markers

Fleet boxes

Player Aids

Turn Track with population increments


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We purchased hexes from, Spaceship fleet markers from Ebay, our player currencies from Beadworks London. We were able to produce the designs through Inkscape.


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Monopoly (phases, elimination), Settlers of Catan (hex tiles), Magic (card tapping), Sins of a Solar Empire/Civilisation series/Galactic Civilisations II (Space, 4X, trade), Europe Aflame (initial combat, bluffing in Army Groups).

Game mechanics

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Military - Combat



Player elimination

Resource Management



-How do you simulate space? The game board (hexes) start the game placed face down, with beautiful cosmic artwork showing, when players move across the vast expanses of space in search of capital and places to deposit their populations they flip the hexes revealing the game terrain - they can reveal to uncover any number of planet types asteroids and of

-Tell me about the different types of starship? Before our first playtest there were many many types of starship, this confused matters, we have refined this to a very abstract form, fleets are composed of capital and population units, organised into fleets.

-How do these fleets work? Fleets are the basic unit of the game which players control in order to explore the game space. All ship types are placed in fleets to be moved, and players may mix their ships, and hide their collections of ships which are represented no matter the number of ships in a players collection by one single Fleet Marker! Is that fleet orbiting an opposing star system a single colony ship that you could destroy at a whim, or an entire warfleet ready to reduce your home planet to burning rubble?

Improvement after play-testing/ game development log

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Our FIRST in-class playtest on 18th March 2013 showed many flaws in the initial design, the game mechanics were too complex, and although not fully inclusive of Lenin's ideas, the early stages showed a lack of knowledge of his fundamental concepts, such as population and capital 'export' or overflow. The initial design had 3 resources, Metal, Crystal and Credits, this overcomplicated the game and resource management aspects, we resolved to simplify the game to the core ideas - the only resources becoming Population and Capital. We have decided to simplify the game as much as possible to the core concepts, the game should be about learning the political concepts, not the rules!

Other points from first playtest: Cons: Lack of theory, don't need left player (passive 'resistance' built into game mechanisms), combat needs to be scrapped in favour of Game of War style points based math war, attack v def. Pros: Bluffing with the fleet decks is a good thing, generally a good idea.


Good idea - 'Game of War'-ish Networking, population and capital move through networks established with 'player identity chits'(or something) - Capital needed to support population means that players cannot just export all their population to colonies.

Make it unwinnable as imperialist player, obj - last imperialism standing wins etc, fatalism, >>> Increase population growth increments.

Emphasise economics and non-military elements, this game is not a war game, there is no military victory, except perhaps to blockade opponents home systems - rendering trade and capital imports impossible!

THIRD PLAYTEST (and Tutorial session with Richard Barbrook)

After we had received our hexes in the post and marked them, divvied them up and found some substitutions for other counters etc we needed, and bought the other relevant items, we played a game with our friends. We played 4 times, restarting after a few turns the first 3 times and playing almost fully the fourth time just to refine certain aspects.

The general framework of our game worked, the engine or, *cough* cybernetics *cough* needed a little tinkering. From the playtest feedback we changed Home Planet values, reducing the population from 5 to 1, and the starting capital from 10 to 5, and allowed the Home Planets to produce 5 capital per turn but at the same time making players play capital 'upkeep' on their Home Planet population. We also foresaw a problem in that the game was lasting far too long, we needed to speed it up and reduce players capital build up, which was mostly fixed by the new upkeep rule. We played around with various ideas for population increases, at the time the system was +1 pop per turn until it hit 10pop and then it doubled, and so on, after our tutorial session, as our friends had suggested earlier, we implemented geometric population doubling. Turn 1 pop rises by 1 and so on until Turn 4 where it doubles to +2, and so on until the amount rises at Turn 8 to +4 and then players really start feeling the burn and fight eachother to gain capital and keep the capital amount above population. In our playtest one of our friends almost went into revolution by not exporting his population and would have had the game not ended.

The pop export cap of 1 per turn to either fleets or colonies (via trade network) was introduced to place pressure on players and speed the game up.

Final points after Final Assessment

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With our game fully assembled and 'prettified' with our beautiful planet designs, new painted spaceships etc, player aid cards, updated rules, fleet boxes and a turn track for population tracking, we started our game.

Players sent out their colony ships in the few opening phases, despite the board being completely randomised (as space really is) players explored and flipped and more or less everyone settled on the first turn, after the second and third turn players realised the importance of building combat fleets. Only 5 turns into the game players had initiated two battles and a colony invasion, wiping out the opposing player, one of the battles wiped out the opposing player and the other forced the player to retreat. Most players had founded 3 or 4 colonies or increased the population of their colonies at the expense of fewer colonies and built large fleets, but felt the threat of increasing population and the need to colonise more planets as a result.

The game was called to an end due to time pressure. Post-game it was suggested we implement some sort of cost to players for initiating a combat, otherwise winning players tend to snowball without losing strength of fleets. Also, having players only able to build from their home planet was criticised.


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Components - FLEET MARKERS (Spaceship) represent entire fleets, they have their fleets marked underneath their bases, and are coloured to represent their Multi-System Corporation/player.

BASIC TURN PHASES Each players turn (in whichever order they choose, by die or by choice) proceed as follows:

- Players start the game with 5 capital, and 1 population on their Home Planet HEX, and 1pop and 1cap on a fleet (box) of their choice.

>Players RECEIVE population (+1 pop per turn, 10 or above +2 pop per turn)

>Players COLLECT their capital (from Home Planet (+5) and Colonial capital (1cap per population up to capital limit-if player owns colonies). Players store their capital on their Home Planet.

>Players pay CAPITAL UPKEEP of population on the Home Planet, population present on the HP costs 1 capital per turn.

>Players make FLEET ACTIONS - Colonise Planets/Asteroids - Movement - Combat - Export capital to fleets(ONLY Fleets on Home Capital HEX) and colonies via TRADE NETWORK - Export population ONCE per turn (to either any Planet/Asteroid(with TRADE NETWORK to Home Planet) OR Fleet(On your Home Planet HEX)

Movement and exploration

- Fleet markers may move 2 hexes per turn to adjacent hexes.

- Flip HEXES to reveal space terrain

Settling planets/asteroids

- To COLONISE a Planet/Asteroid players FLEET must contain at least 1 pop and 1 cap and be placed on a Planet/Asteroid HEX.

- Remove 1pop from the fleet marker and place on the Planet/Asteroid you intend to COLONISE and remove 1cap from the fleet and DISCARD it to the 'Game Bank'.

- Place your faction colour counter. The Planet/Asteroid is now settled and will produce capital for the Home Planet starting next turn.

- Fleets without any population or capital (representing ships, weaponry and colony pods) are removed from the board.

Building actions - all building takes place on the Home Planet hex.

- Place capital and population onto a FLEET MARKER'S box(MAX 1POP EXPORT PER TURN) into FLEET MARKERS)

- Place capital from your Home Planet onto FLEET MARKERS (in the FLEET BOX) to increase strength of FLEETS.

- Fleet borne capital and population (for colonisation, combat or invasion is placed on the relevant Fleet Marker's box).

- Fleets with at least one pop and one cap are considered as being able to colonise.

Fleet Proximity - If two or more players find their fleets on the same hex they can choose to remain neutral towards each other and proceed as normal, or engage in combat.

Combat - Combat is won by the fleet with the highest capital (held in the fleet box), not population.

- If one player chooses to engage in combat, every fleet must engage in combat in that hex, either as the attacker, the defender or as an auxiliary which sides with the attacker or defender.

- If two or more fleets fight together the capital with which they fight is their combined total.

- Where (capital) strength is +1,loser forced to retreat.

- Where strength is +2 or more, losing players ships are destroyed.

Colony invasion

- Invading fleets capital vs colonial population = highest wins result, loser is destroyed (colonies lose all capital and population).

- Winning side keeps or may place their faction counter on the hex, losing player removes their faction counter.


  • Economy of Imperialism in Space *

- Population and capital are the two resources of IiS.

- Capital (blue) represents the means of production, food, tools, raw materials, machines.

- Population (white) is people, labour, the masses.

Home Planet

- Your Home Planet starts with 1 POPULATION (POP) and 5 CAPITAL (CAP).

- The Home Planet produces 5 capital per turn.

- Each population present on the home planet consume 1cap per turn.

- Home Planet population grows by 1 each turn, when population reaches 10pop population grows by 2 per turn.

- Players must not allow their Home Planet population to exceed the capital on their Home Planet or face REVOLUTION.

- Players may export their population ONCE per turn onto fleets for colonisation OR export population through the TRADE NETWORK directly onto COLONIES.

- Players can increase the amount of capital on their Home Planet by importing capital from COLONIES via TRADE NETWORKS.

Colonies (planets and asteroids)

- Population is needed to 'work' capital.

- Colonies CANNOT support population above amount of capital.

- Capital can ONLY be exported to the Home Planet if worked by population.

- Example, Colony has 1pop with 5 cap, it exports 1capital to the Home Planet. Only 1 of the 5 raw materials (capital) is worked by a population)

- Population on colonies does not grow. Pop is imported.

- Asteroid colonies are limited to 1pop and 1cap and export only 1cap to Home Planet.


- HOME PLANET: 1 starting population, 5 starting capital.

- Type 1: 5 capital (max 5cap export)

- Type 2: 3 capital (max 3cap export)

- Type 3: 2 capital (max 2cap export)

- Asteroid: can colonise with 1pop, 1capital (max 1cap export)

Trade Network

- To export capital from colonies a TRADE NETWORK must be established.

- After a TRADE NETWORK is established, population and capital may flow freely between Home Planet and Colony.

- Trade Networks must form a direct route from Colony to Home Planet (or to nearest networked Colony)

- Must be traceable through revealed space (not unflipped hexes)

- Enemy fleet markers blockade TRADE NETWORKS

- Blockaded TRADE NETWORKS allow no capital/population flows.

* VICTORY CONDITIONS: Players must not allow their population to exceed the amount of capital present on the HOME PLANET or face the forces of PROLETARIAN REVOLUTION!
The last imperialist standing is the victor.

With thanks to...

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Our comrades in Class Wargames.

With thanks to for the production of our hex tiles cheaply and very quickly.

And our warfleet of reliable friends and students to do the hard labour of helping painting and cutting and sticking!