by Jonathan Leistiko and the folks at ProtoCon 8
It’s the year 3535. You’re a hyperevolved intelligent whale. You and your cohorts have been selected out of hundreds of petitioners for a rare opportunity: Sufficient psychic energy has accumulated for one of you to Transcend, becoming a being of pure thought. To access this energy, your pod’s elders have transported you to Cetacean Ascension Moonbase 8 (CAM 8), a cluster of underground lakes at the polar ice cap of the moon.
To channel the pool of psychic power and successfully Transcend, you must expand your mental faculties by growing. This requires vast amounts of the lunar krill that live in the lakes. Unfortunately, the seed lakes at CAM 8 can not support enough krill for you grow and ascend. You are not capable of performing the excavation required to expand your lake. Fortunately, you have a small group of giant hamsters you’ve genetically engineered to perform specific tasks, such as digging tunnels and harvesting krill.
Will you be the first to sufficiently expand and flood your network of tunnels, thereby harvesting enough krill to grow and successfully ascend?
A CAM 8 board
CAM 8 initiative cards
A whale brain and a whale pawn for each player
A large lake hex for each player
A set of same-colored tunnel tokens in different colors for each player
Lots of water tokens
A Feral Hamster token
Paper and pencil to keep score
Put the board where everyone can reach it. Put the Feral Hamster token on the Feral Hamster tracker at “0”.
Claim a whale brain and a whale pawn. Claim a homogenous set of tunnel tokens. Put your whale pawn on the “1” space for Whale Size.
Place a large lake hex so one of its hexes covers a starting (gray)hex. Put one of your tunnel markers on that lake. This is your starting lake.
Take a look at your whale brain. It lists the five types of hamsters you can breed:
Pick three hamsters to start the game with. Note them on your whale brain.
Pick a player to go first.
During the course of play, subtract the number that the Feral Hamster token is on or most recently crossed over from each die you roll. Also, round all fractions up.
Play in CAM 8 proceeds in phases. All players complete each phase before you move on to the next phase. The phases are: Diplomacy & Trade I, Initiative, Command & Resolve, Flooding, Harvest, Diplomacy & Trade II, and Feed.
Diplomacy & Trade I – You may make any promises or trades that you want to with the other players. Remember to note any changes on your whale brain. Diplomacy & Trade I ends one minute after half (or more) of the players ask for it to end.
Initiative – The player with the least Politicians gets first pick of initiative cards. Next pick passes down, ending with the player with the most Politicians. The tied player with the most krill can spend one krill to break the tie. If players are still are tied randomly pick a tied player.
Command & Resolve – Starting with initiative card 1 and going up, declare and resolve your actions for the turn. The number of actions you may declare is equal to how big your whale is. Each action resolves immediately after you announce it.
If an action causes you to gain a hamster that does not already have an occupation (or is feral), declare what kind of hamster it is when you get it
The actions you can take are: Engineer, Breed, Tunnel, Harvest Krill, Patrol, Invade, Recruit Barbarians, Recruit Hamsters, Psychic Boost, and Transcend.
Engineer – Gain one hamster.
Breed – Roll a die. If it is less than 2, gain hamsters equal to 1/2 your number of Breeders. If it is greater than 4, gain hamsters equal to twice your number of Breeders. Otherwise, gain hamsters equal to your number of Breeders.
Tunnel – You get as many tunnel tokens as you have Diggers. Place these tokens in spaces without tunnels adjacent to tunnel tokens you have in play or your starting lake. Roll a die for each token you place. If the result is less than one, remove that token and lose a Digger.
Harvest Krill – Roll a die. If it is less than 2, gain krill equal to 1/2 your number of Harvesters. If it is greater than 4, gain krill equal to twice your number of Harvesters. Otherwise, gain krill equal to your number of Harvesters.
Patrol – Roll a die for every Guard you have. Reduce the number of Feral Hamsters by 1 for every result greater than 3. Lose 1 Guard for every result less than 3.
Invade – Target a player whose territory is adjacent to your territory. Roll dice equal to the number of Guards you have. Convert one adjacent space from them to you for every result that is greater than your target’s number of Guards. Lose a Guard for every result less than 1.
Recruit Barbarians – Roll a die for every Politician you have. Reduce the number of Feral Hamsters by 1 and gain 1 hamster for every result greater than 4. Lose 1 Politician and add 1 Feral Hamster for every result less than 2.
Recruit Hamsters – Target a player. Roll a die for every Politician you have. Every result greater than the number of Politicians your target controls forces that player to give you a hamster of his or her choice; the hamster retains its occupation.
Psychic Boost – You get +1 to all rolls you make on your next action that requires die rolls in this phase. This effect is cumulative.
Psychic Assist – Give an Assist token to another player. That player may give you hamsters or krill in return for the Assist token. That player gets +1 to the first action he or she takes that requires die rolls in this phase. If you use an Assist, discard the Assist token after you use the bonus. This effect is cumulative with other bonuses.
Transcend – Roll a die. If the result is 10 or greater, you win the game.
When you’re done taking and resolving your actions, turn your initiative card in.
Flooding – Every space with a tunnel token adjacent to a lake or a water token at the start of this phase gets a water token.
Harvest – Your territory generates 1 krill for each section that’s flooded with water. Put your krill in your “Storehouse” on your Whale Brain.
Diplomacy & Trade II – You may make any promises or trades that you want to with the other players. Remember to note any changes on your whale brain. Diplomacy & Trade II ends one minute after half (or more) of the players ask for it to end.
Feed – You eat krill equal to your size. If you don’t eat enough krill, you drop one size level; if you drop from 1 to 0, you’ve starved to death and are out of the game. If you eat three times as much krill as your size, roll a die. If you eat six times as much krill as your size, roll two dice and add them. If the result is greater than your current size, move your whale pawn to the next size up on your whale brain.
Each of your hamsters eats 1 krill. Any unfed hamsters run away to the surface and become feral hamsters. Move the Feral Hamster token one step up the Feral Hamster tracker for each hamster that flees to the surface. If the Feral Hamster marker moves past “5”, the feral hamsters stage a revolt and take over CAM 8. The game ends and everyone loses if this happens.
Once the Feed phase is done, a new turn starts.
If you roll to Transcend and get a 10 or greater, you’ve sloughed off your corporeal body, transformed into a being of pure energy and thought, and won the game. Congratulations!
Attack of the Giant Feral Hamsters! – If you trade with another player and your tunnels do not connect to their tunnels, make a Feral Hamster check for each half of the trade. If the Feral Hamster check succeeds, that half of the trade never arrives.
Hamster Trails – You need an additional token type: Hamster Trail tokens. Your diggers can dig tunnels (see the new qualifiers below) or can dig and lay hamster trails. New hamster trails must be in spaces without trails adjacent to your starting lake or existing hamster trails you control. You get to place hamster trail tokens equal to the number of diggers you have. You do not need to roll to see if you are successful. When you place a trail token in a space without a tunnel, place one of your tunnel tokens under it to indicate that it’s your trail. Hamster trails never flood.
New tunnels must be adjacent to your starting lake, dry tunnels you control, or hamster trails you control. You can have hamster trails and tunnels in the same space. Tunnels in the same space as a hamster trail can still be flooded.
Sept. 23, 2006: I’ve been making roughly one game a month since January of 2000. It was hard at first but, like anything you practice regularly, it’s become easier. It’s gotten so I’ll get most of the idea for a game just minutes after a friend makes an off-hand remark. So I’m developing a somewhat unique stunt: Gamestorming.
Several years ago, I gave a Toastmasters speech where I guided the club through making up a new game in 15 minutes. It worked pretty well, but 15 minutes really just isn’t enough time to make a game. Lesson #1: A gamestorming session needs more time.
In January of ’06, I tried again at a little get-together of friends. This time I had 30 minutes and actually made a game out of it. It hasn’t been featured as a Game of the Month because the mandate of the brainstorming group was that the game be about Sex, Drugs, Rock ‘n Roll, and Ice Cream; at least three of those are not site-appropriate content. Lesson #2: If you want to share the results of a gamestorming session with the world, hold the session in a public place.
I gamestormed Cetacean Ascension Moonbase 8 (CAM 8) at ProtoCon 8 on September 15, 2006 from 5 PM to 6 PM. (Incidentally, if you helped with the creation of this game and would like to be credited, please contact me.) I asked the audience to think about what they liked about games and gaming. I asked them to think about the game that they would most like to make right now, then share those thoughts with me. Here’s what they said:
Initially, we wondered if it was possible to reconcile these diverse ideas into one coherent whole. The presence of whalers on the moon implied whales on the moon. The audience quickly latched onto the idea that each player was an intelligent evolved whale. The “limited combat” restriction quickly attached itself to this, creating a game design mandate that whales could not be attacked or killed by other whales. The use of hamsters as whale minions and the presence of feral whaler hamsters emerged in parallel to the presence of whales as player avatars and the habitrail component. Whales require water, of course. One of the audience members (Thanks, JP!) noted that scientists theorize that there could be significant water deposits underground at the moon’s poles. This rapidly evolved into the underground lakes in CAM 8. The concept of hamsters as tools led us to ask what tasks the whales would need the hamsters to perform for them. When merged with the mandate for resource allocation, this led to the development of the five classes of hamster. The presence of hamster resources and the diplomacy mandate implied that there’d be trading phases during the game. Sometime during this first part of the session, we decided that you needed to harvest krill from your territories and that unfed hamsters became uncontrolled feral hamsters.
At about this time, I guided the group to sketch out how they’d expect the game to play. We rapidly agreed that a phase-based game with simultaneous player actions during phases would work well. It was easy to agree on a board structure, setup, and the general sequence of play. The use of feral hamsters as a difficulty enhancer for actions and a possible “all players lose condition” emerged from the audience at this time. We worked pretty hard to think of why the whales were on the moon and what the victory condition was (one audience member had strong opinions about building toward the center of the board and entering a control room to pilot the moon like a giant spacecraft), but we didn’t reach a strong consensus. That’s about when we ran out of time.
I promised that I would complete the game and put it online for free download before the end of the con. Unfortunately, timing and restricted access to free Wi-Fi conspired to prevent that from happening. I borrowed the “whale ascension” victory condition from our older free game Jovian Syzygy while laying out the board and pieces and eating a quick lunch at a Schlotsky’s with free Wi-Fi near the A&M campus. The hardest part was coming up with a name for this crazy game about hyperintelligent psychic whales in lakes under the polar caps of the moon commanding giant genetically engineered hamsters in a race to transform into beings of pure thought. Lots of people offered really good suggestions, but it was Ben who gave me the seed for what would eventually become Cetacean Ascension Moonbase 8.
And there you have it.
First Edition: 9/17/2006
Revised on 10/24/2006
Unedited as of 2/20/2008