Jorge Zhang

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Silent Ships

September 12, 2021 by Jorge Zhang

This is a new game that I am working on that is currently unnamed. It is just 27 cards and you can make it yourself by printing page 1 twice and page 2 once.

Page 1 download.

Page 2 download.

You should have the following cards once all is said and done:
27 total cards
2 Ammunition Ship
2 Patrol Ship
2 Speed Boat
2 Special Operations Craft
2 Salvage Ship
2 Missile Boat
2 Submarine
2 Frigate
2 Ramming Ship
2 Flag Ship
2 Fire Ship
2 Country
2 Island
1 Player Aid

Why I made this game: I have made tabletop games in the past but my issue has always been making efficient use of my components. Especially since I eventually want to start publishing my games, keeping the cost low is a very real design constraint that I wanted to challenge myself to meet. This got me thinking about card games, and how while I love ccgs/lcgs/card games I always lamented the fact that the placement of ships usually does not matter at all (shoutout to Summoner's War and Faeria, both card games that are played on a board). I also wanted to see if there was a way that I could move away from the mana system. To achieve the movement portion of this game, I borrowed mechanics from war games, and any Diplomacy players reading this might recognize some similarities in the "support" and "retreat" mechanics. The issue with not having a mana system is that there is no "ramp" to continually raise the stakes and keep players interested, so I added in islands onto the game board that grant additional draw per turn if captured. I also gave the strongest ships downsides and the weakest ships upsides so that all cards are the same cost but still have variance. The theme came after the mechanics were finalized, and I went with a naval theme because it seemed like a good fit given the relative emptiness of the board and the fog of war element.


Ways to win the game:
1. Capture the opponent's country and hold it until the end of their turn.
2. Sink the opponent's flag ship.
3. If the players stalemate or agree to end the game, the player who sunk the most ships wins. The player who went second wins ties.
This game is a turn-based card game played on a 5x4 board.
Set Up:
Place the countries and islands in the following configuration:
player 1
- - c - -
i - - - -
- - - - i
- - c - -
player 2
i = island
c = country
- = empty space large enough to accommodate a card
Each player takes one copy of each other card (except the player aid, put this to the side) to make their deck. All players shuffle their decks and draw 2 cards.
Turn structure:
-At the start of the turn, the turn player draws 3 cards. (+1 if they have a ship on top of at least 1 island)
-The player may then take any number of the following actions:
1. Play a ship from the hand face-down on, to the right, or to the left of their country. 2. Move a ship to an adjacent square and discard 1 card.
When a ship is moved onto a square occupied by an opponent's ship, an attack is initiated. The ship attempting to move into the square is the attacker and the ship currently in the square is the target.
1. The attacker may choose supports (add the attack value of adjacent ships to the target by discarding 1 card per ship)
2. The defender may choose to retreat by discarding 1 card if there is a valid space to retreat to (the attacker moves the target to an empty adjacent square that the attack did not come from, moves into the space the target was in, then skips the next steps. No battle actually happens)
3. The defender may choose supports (add the attack value of adjacent ships to the target by discarding 1 card per ship)
4. The attacker, target, and supporting cards are all revealed and the attack total of each side is computed. The side with the higher attack total wins. If the attackers win, they occupy the space and the target is sinked. If the defense wins, nothing occurs. The defense wins ties.
Sinking ships:
A sunk ship is removed from the game permanently. It should be placed face-up in a pile separate from the discard pile. [Reminder: normal discards are face-down.]
Capturing islands:
An island is considered captured as long as a ship is on that same square. Players draw 1 card if they have captured an island at the start of their turn in addition to their normal draw. There is no direct benefit from controlling both islands, but it does deprive the opponent of controlling any islands, and thus impacts their draw.
Capturing countries:
If an enemy ship is on the turn player's country at the end of the turn player's turn, the turn player loses.
Running out of cards:
Shuffle your discards and make a new deck. Do not shuffle back in sinked ships. If there are still not enough cards to draw, no more cards are drawn.
Face up vs. face down ships:
A ship can only use its abilities if it is face up. You can flip your own ships face-up at any time during either player's turn. They cannot be flipped back face-down once they are face-up. Ships are also flipped face-up at the end of combat.
Adjacency is cardinal and not diagonal. Placement:
Two ships can never be in the same exact space on the board.

Change history:

9/17/2021: For thematic reasons, changed the terminology "unit" to "ship" and changed the terminology of "captured" to "sink." Additionally, Salvage ship now has 2 base attack but has +1 attack per opposing ship sunk. Special Operations Craft now has an entirely new ability that swaps itself with any sunk unit when on an island/opponent's country. Speed boat now has 4 base attack and can move up to 3 spaces in one move. Additionally, players now draw 3 cards per turn instead of 2. This makes the game more "swingy" and speeds it up overall.
9/15/2021: You can play the game online on Tabletopia here:
9/14/2021: Named the game "Silent Ships"
9/13/2021: Added clarification that a unit with no available retreats cannot retreat, and that the attacker occupies the space it is attacking if the defender chooses to retreat. Additionally, updated Fire Ship's card text to reflect that it is captured after defending, and also fixed the player guide which incorrectly listed step 4 of combat as step 3.


Silent Ships 1 Silent Ships 2 Silent Ships 3

© 2020 Jorge Zhang