Spaceships is a 2-4 player game where each player controls three spaceships. Each spaceship is allowed to perform three consecutive actions from a total of five possible actions. Players attempt to destroy all the opponent’s spaceships without being destroyed first.
Each player has 3 spaceships. These ships are all identical, except for color and designation. Each ship has an obvious front, left side, right side, and back. The front of each spaceship MUST always point directly and unambiguously at one of the 4 sides of the square it is in at the beginning and end of each of its’ actions. If, at the beginning or end of an action, any ship is pointing at a corner, the opposing player determines which of the 2 sides adjacent to that corner the ship will point at. (The players may replay the ship’s moves from the game’s start to determine the facing instead.)
During a turn, each ship on the board must perform, consecutively, any 3 of the 5 allowable actions, unless a ship is destroyed before the end of the turn, in which case it is removed from the board at the end of the action in which it was destroyed, and loses any actions it would have performed thereafter. A ship may perform the same action 3 times in a turn; or one action twice and another once, in any order; or three different actions, in each turn. The actions are numbered 1, 2, and 3. Each individual action, action 1, or action 2, or action 3, is considered to be performed simultaneously for each and every ship remaining on the board at the start of that specific action. In other words, ALL ships perform action 1 at the same time, get the results; then perform action 2 and get those results; then perform action 3 and get those results. Finally, to finish the turn, remove all remaining shields from all ships. Then the next turn starts, and everything is done again, in the same manner.
L Left Turn 90 degrees left, remaining in square. This turn is in relation to the specific ship making the turn, not the owning player.
R Right Turn 90 degrees right, remaining in square. This turn is in relation to the specific ship making the turn, not the owning player.
F Fire Fire into the square directly forward, causing one hit to each ship in that square. One hit destroys a ship or a shield in the square fired into.
M Move Move one space directly forward. If two ships wind up in the same square (or the same square side; see Results, below), they ram each other. A ram causes 1 hit to each ship in the square. If, after a ram, more than 1 ship is in the square (or side), the ships ram again, each taking one hit. This continues until only one ship, or none, is left in the square. Only one ship (or none) may occupy a square at the beginning or end of any action.
S Shield Put a defensive shield all around the ship which absorbs & neutralizes 1 hit. One shield is destroyed by one hit, two by two hits, etc. Unless destroyed by a hit, or a ram, a shield lasts until the end of the current turn. Shields may be accumulated (“stacked up”) during the turn, but all shields come off after the 3rd action of all ships is completed. No ship starts a turn with any shields.
Pencils and ruled pads are provided for players to use. Each ship is identified by letter, color, and style. Each ship is ordered to perform 3 actions, one at a time. These actions are numbered 1, 2, and 3. Players write their ships’ letters down the left side of a column on their pad, and the numbers 1, 2, & 3 across the top, or vice-versa. Then, in the appropriate boxes, they secretly write down the first, second, and third actions for each spaceship. Players are not allowed to examine opponent’s orders at this time. When all players have finished writing down their orders, and say so, the orders are placed face up so all the players can see them, and the actions are performed simultaneously. Players read out loud and perform action 1 for all of their ships. (All ships have a letter identifying them. Orders are read alphabetically.) Results of action 1 take effect. Then players read and perform action 2 with all remaining ships. Results of action 2 take effect. Finally, action 3 and its results happen. Then the cycle starts over for all remaining ships. Each remaining ship is secretly given 3 actions to do again.
While the game is quite simple, some of the possible results of actions can be confusing. Two general principles may be used to clarify a situation:
1) Imagine all actions as being completed in two half-steps. Each action for all existing ships is first half-completed. Once every ship, A through Z, is put halfway through its’ action, then the players start back at A and complete the action for each ship. So, ships move out of a square into the side between the square they are leaving and the one they will enter. Shots are fired out of the square the firing ship is in, into the side between the square of the firing ship and the square fired into. Thus, if 2 ships face each other and one fires while the other moves, the shot hits and destroys the moving ship in the side between the 2 ships squares. The moving ship does not complete its’ move and does not ram the firing ship. Further, the shot is ‘used up’ in the square side, and does not continue on into the destination square to hit any ships that end the action in that square.
2) As an action is completed, more than one thing will, on occasion, end up in the same square. Ships and shots may be in the same square, or just ships. In either case, any ship ending in the square will be hit once by each other thing, ship or shot, ending up in the same square. So, if two ships and one shot are in the same square at the end of an action, each ship takes one hit from the shot, and one (additional) hit from the other ship. EACH shot that ends an action in a square hits EVERY ship in the square one time, and then it is gone.