Stellar Conquest

Tagged: Game

Board and counter Wargame (1974). Metagaming Concepts. Designed by Howard Thompson.

Stellar Conquest is perhaps the earliest precursor of the 4X Videogame form (see 4X Games); it inspired Reach for the Stars (1983), which was a major influence on such later games as Master of Orion (1993). Players take the parts of starfaring civilizations which have simultaneously discovered an uninhabited but resource rich cluster of stars. Gameplay revolves around the exploration and colonization of the cluster's worlds, while exploiting their resources to construct new spacecraft with which to attack other players. As in many 4X Games, players must balance the cost of building new ships against the need to improve their level of technology; victory often goes to the player who has researched and developed the most advanced weapons and stardrives. Other aspects of the game have less in common with Master of Orion and its successors. The player is less of a god than in a typical 4X Game, and more of a leader; orders can only be given to ships when they are in contact with the main fleet. Also, games of Stellar Conquest are ended after 40 simulated years, and a winner declared based on the numbers of Terrestrial planets controlled by the various factions, making the game less of a fight to the finish than most of its descendants. Other unusual aspects of the game are its emphasis on secret actions and lack of social interaction; negotiations between players are expressly forbidden. The result can be a curiously intense and lonely game, played out in silence. The setting is somewhat abstract, though steeped in the ambience of 1970s Analog magazine sf. Most importantly, Stellar Conquest largely created a type of game in which many different elements interact to form a subtly balanced exercise in strategy. Not only was it influential on such later Wargames as Outreach (1976) (see Starforce: Alpha Centauri), but it is the most important ancestor of a line of Videogame development which has continued into the twenty-first century, producing such well regarded games as Galactic Civilizations (2003). [NT]

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