Offworld Rules

Offworld is heavily inspired by board games (besides obvious influences like Settlers of Catan, Power Grid, and Agricola, there is an old GDW game called Belter that is almost a starting point for Offworld), so I’m writing the rules in the style of a traditional board game rulebook. (You can pre-order Offworld here.)

1.0 Introduction

Offworld Trading Company is a game about the colonization and exploitation of Mars by corporations who have taken to space for a profit. Each company will found a HQ on the map, claim territory, construct buildings, produce resources, and then make money by selling them on the open market. Players can harass each other with industrial sabotage, mercenary pirates, and market manipulation. The end goal is to buy out all the other corporations via the stock market, in which each company’s price goes up and down based on the value of their current assets.

2.0 Components

2.1 The Map

The map represent a section of Martian terrain that has been opened for commercial development. This map has been divided into hex-shaped tiles, each of which can be claimed by players. Some tiles, such as mountains, slopes, and canyons, are marked as unusable and will never contain any resources. Also, each usable tile has one of five height levels (Very Low, Low, Medium, High, and Very High) which means that the map is a collection of plateaus. These plateaus are useful for connecting buildings together into rail-based networks that allows the transportation of resources without using Blimps. Tiles also have a wind level (Very Weak, Weak, Moderate, Strong, Very Strong), and the height and wind levels determine how Solar Panels and Wind Turbines perform, respectively.

2.1 The Resource Deposits

Each tile can contain deposits of the primary resources (Water, Carbon, Silicon, Aluminum, and Iron). These deposits are classified into four different resource levels, which each have different yield rates:

  • Trace (-75%)
  • Low
  • Medium (+50%)
  • High (+100%)

Also, some tiles contain a Geothermal Source, which is required for the Geothermal Plant.

2.2 The Headquarters

Each player founds one HQ to start the game, which stretches across multiple tiles, all of which need to be usable and of the same height. The HQ will contain the player’s resource stockpile, which is where resources are taken from when sold on the open market and deposited into when bought. Each HQ also consumes life support (Water, Food, and Oxygen) which have to be bought on the open market if they are not in the stockpile.

2.3 The Buildings

Each claimed tile can contain one building, and the different types are listed here:

  • Water Pump (mines Water)
  • Solar Condenser (creates Water from Ice tIke’s and Carbon and Oxygen from Dry Ice tiles)
  • Greenhouse Farm (turns Water into Food)
  • Electrolysis Reactor (turns Water into Oxygen and Fuel)
  • Chemical Refinery (turns Fuel and Carbon into Chemicals)
  • Elemental Quarry (mine Carbon and Silicon)
  • Glass Kiln (turns Silicon and Oxygen into Glass)
  • Electronics Factory (turns Carbon, Silicon, and Aluminum into Electronics)
  • Metal Mine (mines Aluminum and Iron)
  • Steel Mill (turns Iron into Steel)
  • Solar Panel (creates Power from height level)
  • Wind Turbine (creates Power from wind level)
  • Geothermal Plant (creates Power but requires Geothermal Source)
  • Patent Lab (can discover patents)
  • Optimization Center (can improve industrial production)
  • Pleasure Dome (produce money from population)
  • Hacker Array (can create artificial shortages and surpluses)
  • Offworld Market (can sell resources offworld)

Each building (except the Solar Condenser) consumes Power when active.

2.4 Ships

Ships cannot be controlled directly by the players and are instead generated automatically based on player actions. Each ship consumes Fuel, and Blimps consume more Fuel depending of their cargo. The different unit types are listed here:

  • Engineer (repairs buildings)
  • Freighter (ships resources)
  • Pirate (steal resources from Freighters)
  • MULE (mines resources)

3.0 Turns

Offworld is a real-time game, but the game system itself is updated in turns. Every turn, buildings produce resources, the HQ consumes life support, and various other event might occur. The game has five different speeds which determine how fast the turns occur, but the default speed (Normal) is set at one turn per second. In single-player games, the player can change the game speed (and also pause the game) whenever desired.

4.0 Scans

Before founding an HQ, the player will spend some time exploring the map. Each tile will have one of three visibility states:

  • Fogged (tile and resource deposits are not visible)
  • Revealed (tile is visible but darkened, resources are visible but their identity is unknown)
  • Visible (tile and resource are visible)

Most of the map will start the game as Fogged, but each player will begin with a small section of the map Scanned. The player can then perform scans on specific tiles to reveal more of the map – each scan will set all tiles within a certain radius as Visible and all other tiles within a larger radius as Revealed. Once the first HQ is founded, the map will slowly reveal itself automatically to all players.

5.0 Headquarters

5.1 Founding

Once the players have scanned enough tiles to discover a good place to found an HQ, they select an HQ type and then place it on the map. Once an HQ is founded, the player receives their initial claims, money, and resource stockpile. Players who found later will receive an extra claim. Resources underneath the HQ are removed from the game, and the player gets a one-time bonus relative to the resources’ levels.

The four different types (and their bonuses) are listed here:

  • Expansive
    • One extra claim with each HQ upgrade
    • Needs half as much Steel for buildings
    • Units move +50% faster
  • Robotic
    • HQ does not consume life support
    • Units use Power instead of Fuel
    • Double bonus from tiles under the HQ
    • Requires less Aluminum and Electronics instead of Glass to upgrade the HQ
    • Buildings receive an adjacency bonus if next to a building which supplies an input resource (such as a Water Pump next to a Hydrolysis Farm)
  • Scavengers
    • Uses Carbon instead of Steel to construct buildings
    • Learn about shortage and surplus events earlier
    • Can use Black Market more frequently
  • Scientific
    • Conversion Buildings can use resource deposit on their own tiles (for example, a Hydrolysis Farm could use Trace Water to create Food)
    • Recovers faster from EMPs and Power Surges

5.2 Upgrading

Each HQ starts at population level one and can be upgraded four times. Each successive upgrade costs an increasing quantity of resources, and each upgrade increases the life support demands of the HQ. The benefit of each upgrade is that the player is granted new claims.

6.0 Claims

The players receive a set of claims upon founding and upgrading their HQs. Extra claims can also be gained from random events, bribed via the black market, and won in claim auctions.

7.0 Buildings

7.1 Construction

Buildings can only be constructed on claimed tiles. The player purchases buildings by spending resources, and then the HQ create an Engineer unit which travels to the tile and constructs the building.

7.2 Production

Every turn, buildings produce resources. Some buildings create resources directly from resource deposits (the Elemental Quarry creates Silicon and Carbon from the corresponding deposits). A few more create resources based on the tile’s ratings (the Wind Turbine creates Power modified by the tile’s wind level). Others convert input resources into output resources (the Glass Kiln consumes Silicon and Oxygen and produces Glass). Buildings can be turned off if the player determines they are not profitable.

Adjacent buildings of the same type have increased production rates – two adjacent building receive a +50% bonus while three get a +75% bonus. Higher numbers of adjacent buildings receive higher bonuses but with diminishing returns.

7.3 Shipping

After resources are produced, they are shipped either to other buildings or to the HQ. If one building produces a resource required by a second building and if these two building are connected by an unbroken string of claimed tiles, this resource is instantly transported to the second building via rail. If no such building exists and if the first building is instead connected to the HQ by an unbroken string of claimed tiles, the resource is similarly transported to the player’s resource stockpile.

If, instead, the building producing the resource is not connected to either a building that requires the resource or to the HQ, the resource is stored within the original building. Once the building accumulates enough units of the resource, a Frelighted is created which transports the resource directly to the HQ. Players can choose manually to ship resources earlier.

Finally, buildings which require resources can also be supplied from the HQ. For example, a Steel Mill that is not connected to a Metal Mine on an Iron deposit will receive shipments from the HQ. If the building is connected to the HQ via an unbroken string of claimed tiles, the resources will travel instantly via rail. Otherwise, a Frelighted will ship Iron from the HQ to the building.

7.4 Optimization Center

The Optimization Center allows players to research technologies that increase the production rate of specific resources in all corresponding buildings. For example, Improved Water Pumping increases Water production at Water Pumps by +25%. The bonus affects the building’s output but not the input, so Improved Food Production will mean that a Greenhouse Farm produces more Food but does not consume more Water. Each technology costs Chemicals to research. The four levels of research possible for each technology are listed here:

  • Improved: +25% production
  • Efficient: +50% production
  • Optimal: +75% production
  • Super: +100% production

7.5 Patent Lab

The Patent Lab enables players to acquire patents that can change how their company operates in fundamental ways. Each patent costs Chemicals to discover and becomes unavailable to all other players after the initial discovery. The different patents are listed here:

  • Superconductor: +100% Power from buildings connected to the HQ.
  • Energy Vault: Can store up to 100 units of Power (refills automatically +1/turn)
  • Water Engine: Ships use Water instead of Fuel
  • Financial Instruments: Receive 25% cut from all other players’ debt interest
  • Virtual Reality: +50% revenue from Pleasure Dome
  • Perpetual Motion: -50% Power consumption
  • Water Engine: Units use Water instead of Fuel
  • Nanotech: When scrapping buildings, the resource cost is refunded.
  • Cold Fusion: Buildings use Water instead of Power
  • Carbon Scrubbing: Buildings which require Carbon harvest it from the atmosphere
  • Slant Drilling: Buildings can access benter resource deposit in adjacent tiles
  • Thinking Machines: Buildings adjacent to HQs receive 50% less damage from sabotage
  • Teleportation: All buildings and HQs are considered connected

7.6 Hacker Array

The Hacker Array allows players to trigger artificial shortages and surpluses which can alter the price of specific resources. For example, a Food Shortage would increase the cost of Food. The cost of shortages and surpluses go up each time they are used by the player. These artificial events are indistinguishable from the random events that occur naturally during the game although the impact of the former will lessen the more they are triggered.

8.0 Resource Markets

8.1 Local Market

Once the HQ is founded, players can buy and sell resources freely on the open market. If Food is $20, then a player can sell one unit of Food for $20 or buy one unit for the same price. However, each time a resource is bought or sold, the price goes up or down accordingly. Thus, if a player decides to purchase 100 units of Food for $20, the price will go up during the transaction so that the total cost will be more than $2000. Resources bought and sold are added to and take from the player’s stockpile at the HQ.

Energy is a special resource because it cannot be stockpiled. Instead, it is automatically sold to the local market at the current price. If a player is instead losing Energy, it is bought automatically from the market. Similarly, life support resources (Water, Food, Oxygen) are also purchased directly from the market if the stockpile is empty. If the player also has no money, the automatic purchase increases the company’s debt, which has a very negative effect on its stock price.

8.2 Offworld Market

Offworld prices are set randomly at the beginning of the game and rise slowly over time. With the Offworld Market, players can sell resources offworld, often for prices higher than on the local market. Each offworld sale requires 100 units of the resource, 20 units of Fuel, and 20 units of Aluminum. Thus, if the offworld price of Food is $500, the player would lose 100 Food, 20 Aluminum, and 20 Fuel and then earn $50,000.

9.0 Time of Day

Each turn, the game clock moves forward, which affects a number of buildings. Both of the buildings which require sunlight (Solar Condensor and Solar Panel) turn off between 21:00 and 05:00.

10.0 Auction

Every day at 12:00, an auction can be triggered. The auction is open to all players and is timed. Bids start in increments of $1000 and go up as the bidding increases. Further, the time limit is extended if a bid is made close to the end. Five types of auctions are possible: a new claim, a specific tile, an unclaimed patent, a sabotage item, and an advanced building.

11.0 Sabotage

The identify of the player triggering each sabotage event is hidden and not revealed until the game is over.

11.1 Auction Tile

Can start an auction for a tile on the map. If the tile is owned by the player, the player receives the money from auction.

11.2 Hologram

Hides the identity of a building from other players.

11.3 Spy

Reveals the identity of buildings hidden by a Hologram, the location of Goon Squads, and what advanced buildings (Patent Lab, Optimization Center, etc) are developing.

11.4 MULE

A unit which will mine 200 units of a resource from a tile without a building.

11.5 Pirates

Attacks Freighters and give the lost resources to the player who hired them. Pirates will stay on the map until they have captured at least 100 units of resources.

11.6 Magetic Strorms

Destroys all units (except Pirates and MULEs) within its radius.

11.7 EMP

An EMP freezes buildings within a radius from the targeted tile.

11.8 Power Surge

The Power Surge freezes a number of buildings, travelling along a random path.

11.9 Circuit Overload

Doubles the Power consumption of buildings and disables buildings which produce Power, travelling along a random path.

11.10 Adrenaline Boost

Doubles the speed of buildings within a radius from the targeted tile.

11.11 Slowdown Strike

Halves the speed of buildings within a radius from the targeted tile and is not blocked by Goon Squads.

11.12 Network Virus

Locks the player out of buildings, travelling along a random path. These buildings cannot be scrapped, cannot be turned on or off, and always have auto-supply turned on. The Network Virus also eliminates Holograms.

11.3 Core Sample

Discovers a new resource on a tile. The probability of the resource found depends on the terrain type.

11.14 Underground Nuke

The Underground Nuke lowers resource deposits by two levels. For example, a High Iron would be reduced to a Low Iron. (Resource deposits can never be lowered below Trace.)

11.15 Dynamite

Dynamite destroys a building; the owning player can repair it for half its normal construction cost.

11.16 Mutiny

A Mutiny allows a player to capture another player’s building for a period of time.

11.17 Goon Squad

The Goon Squad protects a building from sabotage. If that building is targeted, the sabotage fails, the identity of the saboteur is announced, and the targeted player steals the sabotage item.

12.0 Black Market

The Black Market is where all sabotage items are purchased. Also, the player can Bribe Claim (to receive a new claim) and Cook the Books (to improve the player’s Debt Rating). The Black Market is initially closed for a specific number of the turns after a player founds an HQ; the number of turns is lower for players who found their HQs later.

Each time items are purchased from the Black Market, the price is increased for all players in the game. Also, each player is locked out from the Black Market for 60 turns after a purchase.

13.0 Stock Market

Each player’s company begins the game with a stock price that goes up and down according to the value of its current assets (money, debt, resources, buildings, HQs, and stock shares). Shares can be purchased in increments of 1,000, and each company has 10,000 total shares. If no more shares are available for purchase on the open market, a rival player can buyout the player’s own shares by purchasing them for double value. However, once a player owns half of her total shares, they have to be bought all together.

If at any point the other players in the game own (in combination) over half a player’s stock, that player becomes a subsidiary. Subsidiaries are controlled by the AI but play a more conservative version of the game; they don’t bid on auctions, don’t use the black market, and don’t buy stock. Every turn, subsidiaries distribute 1% of their cash to their owners, relative to shares owned.

The game ends when all other players are subsidiaries of the winner.

14.0 Random Events

14.1 Dust Storm

  • Wind Turbine: +100% production
  • Solar Condensor, Greenhouse Farm, Solar Panel: -50% production

14.2 Solar Flare

  • Solar Panel: +100% production
  • Solar Condensor: +100% production

14 thoughts on “Offworld Rules

  1. Sounds great, Soren. Look forward to trying it. THink the boys and Dianna and I will all have another summer distraction.

  2. Sounds fascinating. I’ll be interested to see how a few particular elements work interactively with one another (particularly aggressive actions near auction time) and just how disruptive one player can be towards another (tear-down-opposition playstyles as opposed to build-up-self-centric playstyles) but then, my gaming interests have always been towards such questions, I suppose. 🙂

  3. Scans:
    Does the visible part of the scans stay visible for the entire game or drop back to revealed?
    Is there any indication of other player’s scans or their bases being built in the opening phase?
    Do scans continue every 4 seconds after a colony is founded, or just the gradual opening of the map emanating from the base?

    Base choice:
    It seems that there is a lot of pressure to choose the right base type for the situation. I’m assuming this would be a make-or-break choice and one that new players may not be able to comprehend without playing with each base type for a game or 2. Is there going to be a gradual introduction of the base types or a recommendation system of (ala civ5 city founding spots) to help guide new players in what would be deemed a good move by the AI?

    There seems to be Drones and Engineers named in 2.4, but ‘Prospector’ & ‘Droid’ in sections 6 & 7

    Forums seem to be not updating or allowing login. Password reset sends blank email.

    1. Sabotage:
      Most of the sabotage tasks seem to be anonymous, but does mutiny show who they are now working for? Are the resources blimped to the new owner?
      Are you able to direct the pirates in some way or are they just let loose on opposing corporations?
      Is there a way to counter pirates or mutinies? It seems that other events are immediate, but these feel like they would give opportunity for the impacted player to do something about their plight while it is in action.

      Stock Market:
      Are you in the game as an individual or do you represent the corporation?
      Is the company able to buy out their own stock?

      1. – Mutiny is anonymous too (although if you follow the blimps, you can figure it out…)
        – The pirates stay wherever you place them.
        – There is a patent which protects some buildings from sabotage, but the events are also all temporary.
        – You represent the owner of the corporation. (You can’t lose you job unless your company is bought out.)
        – Yes, companies can buy their own stock as a defensive move.

    2. – They remain visible the entire game.
      – Other players’ colonies are revealed when founded.
      – When you found your colony, the map starts to auto-reveal, so you don’t have to scan every tile manually.
      – The initial SP tutorial will unlock bases slowly.
      – Let me know if the forum problem continues.

  4. First of all: I’m very, very excited about this game. My quibble below will not stop me from buying it ASAP. That said:

    I have an issue with the way company stock is represented in the rules here. It seems wrong that a player will be able to perform a hostile takeover by simply purchasing all of another player’s stock out from under them–no one is forcing you to sell, and in real life a “hostile takeover” at twice market value would be a HUGE win for the acquired company–the guy who pays double for the other company’s stock would be the loser 99 times out of a hundred. I think that is literally the dream for a small-cap company.

    What I would prefer to see would be for the game to start with a fixed number, (say 10,000) shares of each company on the open market of which 1,000 shares (or whatever) are owned by the player. The game would end when one player owned 5,001 shares of the other company’s stock, or draw if both players acquire more than 5,001 shares of their own company’s stock.

    1. @salathor – I definitely understand what you are proposing, and that would be a great system if there were only 2 players. With more than 2, you can end up where 4 or 5 players own minority shares in a company with none left over. Without forced takeovers, the game would never end…

      1. Soren–

        Good point, hadn’t considered the multiplayer angle and the number of draws it could potentially produce. Hrm. I guess it is a question of griefing and complexity, too. In real life, another shareholder could probably be talked into selling their shares for reasonable — and especially for inflated — values, but in “game terms” that sale might be a bad idea regardless of price if it sets up player X for victory, while in real life the price of the offer would usually matter more than whether it “eliminates” another company.

        I’ll just pretend the player is CEO, not a shareholder, and the shares bought out from under you during a takeover are sold by someone else. 🙂

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