Game Layout

Grid Spaces. The main playing area is a map of Kepler, divided into 68 grid spaces designated by letter-number pairs, and separated by white lines (crossable by Ground Units) or by cliffs (black lines or shadows). Grid spaces sharing a letter are considered latitudinal Zones, with similar resources. The map is spherical so movement across the left and right edges is possible, but the upper and lower map edges represent the Poles, and are not connected.

Messina Board
Messina Board

Orbits. Overlying the main map are two orbital paths: an orange equatorial path, occupied by the AI Starship, and a blue sinusoidal path, tracing the orbit of the Cryos Moon. Orbital craft may navigate the orbital paths, transition between the orbits and, in the case of Orbital Bombers, descend to the planetary surface.

The Cryos Moon is an important water-mining station in Kepler. Its current position is marked by a small token on the blue orbital path, and it is also shown on the board, in close-up, below the main map. It may be reached via the orbital paths, or via the Shuttle, a notional space between G6 and the Moon, usable by both Ground and Air Units.

The AI Starship is a movable military Unit, capable of launching missile strikes, and it is also home to the AI’s Fusion Reactor, which generates Energy. Orbital Bomber Units can approach the AI Starship and attack it in battle, but it is not possible for any Unit to enter the Starship.

The Orbital Velocity Indicator is used to mark the current velocity of the Starship (and any Orbital Bombers in the game). The top row indicates rightwards (eastwards) movement and the bottom row indicates leftwards (westwards) movement. The maximum velocity is 5 in either direction. The Moon has a constant velocity and moves three spaces eastwards each Round, but the velocity of the Starship may be adjusted during the Maintenance Phase. Orbital Bombers move and adjust their velocity during the Military Operations Phase, as explained in Section 13.

The RnD Area contains 3 Skill Tracks (Crypto, Technology and Military), which determine each faction’s eligibility to pick up Skill Cards.

The Action Area contains 6 Action Spaces, which may be claimed by placing an Action Pawn in a vacant space.

Action Spaces
Action Spaces

Player Areas. Seated around the board, five players represent the following factions:

  • AI (Computer, Red/Black). The Starship’s AI, which calls itself Kepler. The AI has not yet decided if any of the human factions is worth keeping alive. Home Spaces E3 and E5.
  • United Energy (Chairman, Orange). A company with a long and successful history of asteroid mining. They have a reputation for militancy and dubious ethics, with a powerful security section willing to do anything to keep the mines working and the money flowing. Home Spaces B3 and B4.
  • The Second Fleet (General, Purple). A branch of the military on Earth, just arrived. Originally sent to provide backup to the First Fleet pioneers, but now attempting a coup as a means of restoring law and order and averting a planetary famine. Home Spaces C7 and D8.
  • The First Fleet (Governor, White/Wood). The original government of the planet, appointed by the authorities on Earth two centuries earlier, before the long voyage in cryogenic storage. Home Spaces D1 and E1.
  • The Cryos Ice Miners (Union Boss, Blue). These space-savvy miners are stationed on the Moon, Cryos, but they also mine for Water on the planet’s icy South Pole. After years of living in the cold and dark, with frequent industrial accidents, the miners have decided they deserve better. Their strike has precipitated the current turmoil. Home Spaces G6 and H1.

Each of these factions has to manage three Commodities (Energy, orange; Water, blue; and Food green), represented by small cylindrical tokens (1E, 1W or 1F) or by large cylinders (5E, 5W, 5F). Commodities move freely, without geographical restrictions, by virtue of drones that are not depicted.

Commodities are produced in Utilities, represented by square tiles on the map:

  • Solar Arrays, which produce Energy in the sunny North (Zones A, B and C).
  • Energy Mines, drawing on radioactive deposits in the North (Zones A, B and C);
  • Water Mines, collecting ice from the South (Zones F, G and H) or from the Cryos Moon;
  • Farms, which produce Food in the equatorial region (Zones D and E).

The AI also has a special off-map Utility known as a Fusion Reactor, and the Cryos faction has a Solar Array near the Moon.

Colonists in Kepler are represented in two ways: as a resource, using Population Tokens kept on a Population Mat; and as on-map Units, consisting of Civilian/Worker Units, Infantry Units, Bomber Units and Fighter Units. (Mechs, the fifth type of on-map Unit, are not human and not part of the population). A Population Token on the Population Mat represents 1,000 adults (1P) and allows production of two on-map Units, each representing 500 adults. Population Tokens are the same size and shape as other resource tokens, and are wood-coloured regardless of the controlling faction. On-map Units vary in shape according to Unit type and are coloured according to faction.

Each player must also manage a variable hand of Location Cards and Skill Cards.

Part of the playing table should be set aside for a shared Death Zone, in which deceased Population Tokens are placed, and a shared Black Market, where tradeable Commodities accumulate.