Rules for Colonies
Colonies is a resource management game in which the players compete to dominate in trade, politics and technological development.
1 game board, 5 player screens, 1 rule book, 1 first player card, 1 turn marker, 5 pairs of voting cards, 25 event cards, 9 player markers in each of the five player colours. Resource tokens: 25 of 1 resource, 25 of 3 resources and 10 of 5 resources in each of the five colours. Colonist/pirate tokens: 40 of 1 colonist/pirate, 30 of 3 colonists/pirates and 10 of 5 colonists/pirates. Colonial Credits pieces: 30 of 1€, 20 of 2€, 20 of 5€ and 30 of 20€.
Contents // Jump to section:
- Game overview
- Four player game
- Three player game
- Game end and scoring
- Event cards
- Determine which player has which planet with its unique resource. Draw lots to distribute a planet to each player. Players arrange themselves around the table accordingly.
Determine first player
All players present a closed fist. On the count of three all players show a number of fingers between zero and five. The first player is the player who presented the most fingers. If there is a tie, the first player is the player who presented the second-most fingers. If there is a tie again the first player is the one who presented the third-most (and, as it were, fewest) fingers. If no first player could be determined because no player showed a unique number of fingers, start over. The first player receives the first player card.
Prepare the board
Please refer to the description below. There is no limit on the number of resources, colonists, pirates or Colonial Credits you can have in play. In case you run out of tokens, redefine the large tokens to represent more of the item in question.
Receive starting resources, Credits and event cards
- Each player receives a player screen in the colour of his planet.
- Each player receives two voting cards in the colour of his planet.
- Each player receives two of each of the other four resources (none of the player’s own resource). The resource stock is public information.
- Each player receives 50 € (Colonial Credits). The money stock is secret information.
- Each player receives 5 face down event cards.
Create event card deck
Each player chooses one of their five event cards and places it face down in the middle of the board. The players keep the remaining four event cards they received face down in front of them. The chosen cards (one from each player) constitute the event card deck used in the first five event phases. If there are fewer than five players, the deck is randomly supplied from the remaining, undealt event cards so that there are five cards in the event card deck. Shuffle the event card deck and place it beside the board. Reveal the top-most event card; this is the current event card.
Preparation of the board
- Place turn marker.
- Place players’ technology markers on 1 of each of the five technology tracks. All players begin as level 1 in all five technologies.
- Place trade markers on trade agreements on the lowest, outer-most number on each side of each trade agreement: Blue player places blue tokens on the near end of his four trade agreements on the field marked with 1 blue dot. These represent how many blue resources Blue player has promised to trade partners. Similarly for Red, Purple, Yellow and Green player.
- Place the supply of each resource on the planet with the corresponding colour.
- Place one matching resource on the top shelf of each of the markets.
- Place the supply of colonists/pirates beside/on the corner of the board.
- Place the supply of Colonial Credits beside/on the corner of the board. Each player receives 50 €.
- Players receive two voting cards
- The first player receives the first player card
The purpose of this chapter is to provide an overview of the game concepts and game play before going into the actual rule details. This chapter can be skipped by the reader; all rule information in this chapter is found also in the following chapter on Game play.
The thriving colonies of Zel’var is the destination for many adventurous souls who choose to leave the Solar System and good old Planet Earth seeking a new life and good fortune. But not all find what they are looking for. Many become disillusioned and even discontent and turn to pirating the prosperous trade routes between the five planets, much to the regret of the leaders of the five trade guilds who have great need of the trade income in order to advance technologies and create jobs for the newly-arrived colonists.
The game is played over 10 turns (10 years), and the winner is the one with the most victory points. Colonial Credits and technology advances are the two sources of victory points.
Resources and markets
Each player controls the administration of a planet with access to a unique resource: Information (blue), Biotech (green), Energy (yellow), Space Ships (purple) and Luxury Goods (red). Each resource has a market where players can sell resources and under special conditions buy resources. The more resources are available at the market, the lower the market price for buying and selling.
Each planet has a trade agreement with each of the other four planets. In this way all players have access to all five resources. At the beginning of the game the trade agreements all promise the delivery and the reception of one resource. E.g. the total status of Blue player’s four trade agreements is that he agrees to deliver one blue resource to each trade partner and is promised one resource in each colour in return.
Each turn an event occurs, the outcome of which can be influenced by the players through a vote in the Council. Resources can be spent to achieve extra votes. The upcoming event is known one year in advance.
Each year a number of colonists arrive at the five planets, sometimes in large numbers sometimes in smaller numbers. The actual number is known one year in advance.
The resources and the new colonists that arrive each year are used to make advances in five areas: Community, Military, Commerce, Influence and Industry. These five technologies are each associated with one action and one passive ability.
At the end of each year remaining colonists turn into pirates, blocking the trade routes. If the pirates are not removed in time, they will steal a player’s resource income and dump the resources on the markets.
Turn sequence for each year:
- Income phase. Resource production and arrival of colonists.
- Event phase. Vote and resolve event card. Reveal next event card.
- Action phase. Each player has 3 actions; one at a time.
- Upkeep phase. Fullfill trade agreements. Colonists become pirates.
grant citizenship (income phase). The community level determines how many newly arrived colonists you can reject when they arrive at the colonies. For each colonist in the rejection group that you choose to grant citizenship, you receive 1 €.
provide refuge (action). The community level determines how many pirates can be turned into productive citizens. For each pirate removed from opponents’s trade routes you gain one resource from the bank of the corresponding type, i.e. a resource of the type that the pirate was blocking. Pirates can also be removed from the player’s own trade routes, but for these no resource reward is received from the bank. The removed pirates from the player’s own or from opponents’s trade routes can be added to the active player’s colonist supply.
police sector (beginning of upkeep phase). The military level determines how many pirates can be removed from the player’s trade routes at the beginning of the upkeep phase, i.e. before fullfillment of trade agreements when the pirates otherwise would have blocked resource income. The pirates cannot be added to the active player’s colonist supply.
hunt pirates (action). The military level determines how many pirates can be caught. For each pirate removed from opponent’s trade routes the player collects 1 € from the opponent(s). Removing pirates from the player’s own trade routes is also possible but gives no money reward. The pirates cannot be added to the active player’s colonist supply.
salesmanship (upkeep phase) The Commerce level determines how many of the players’s own unique resource he is able to substitute with one of the other four resources when it is found impossible to fully meet the trade agreements. However, a player can never give a trade partner that player’s own resource in order to fullfill a trade agreement.
business trip (action) The Commerce level determines how many resources the player can sell at the markets.
lobby groups (event phase). The level of influence determines the player’s number of free votes in the Council.
trade negotiations (action). The level of influence determines the player’s ability to negotiate trade agreements.
order book (income phase) The Industry level determines how much of the player’s own unique resource is automatically produced in addition to the production meant for export to the other colonies in the income phase.
production peak (action). The Industry level determines the ability to produce more of the player’s unique resource and at the same time attract further colonists.
Table 1: Technologies and their active and passive abilities.
The rules are written for five players. Changes for the four and three player game are explained separately at the end of the rules.
Each turn has four phases:
- Income phase. Resource production and arrival of colonists.
- Event phase. Vote and resolve event card. Reveal next event card.
- Action phase. Each player has 3 actions.
- Upkeep phase.
- A. Fullfill trade agreements.
- B. Place pirates.
- C. Advance the first player clockwise.
- D. Advance turn track.
At the end of the event phase in turn 5, the event card deck is resupplied with one card from each player’s hand in the same way the initial event card deck was built, as explained below.
1. Income phase
Players produce as many of their own resource as the total export value of their trade agreements. In addition they produce as many of their own resource as their Industry level.
Example 1.1. Resource production: Red player’s trade agreements promise 2 resources to Blue, 3 resources to Green, 1 resource to Yellow and 1 resource to Purple. Totally the export value of Red player’s trade agreements is 7 (2+3+1+1). Red player has an Industry level of 2. The export value and the Industry level are added (7+2), so all in all Red receives 9 red resources.
Each player receive colonists: the number stated on the current event card plus the turn number. Each player can use his Community level to receive Credits with the colonists, up to a maximum equalling the Community level, or the player can receive fewer colonists, up to a maximum reduction equalling the Community level, or a combination thereof. A player cannot receive more Credits than the number of colonists, even if his Community level exceeds the number of arriving colonists.
Example 1.2. Receive colonists: It is turn 4 and the current event card says “5 colonists”. Each player receives 9 colonists (4+5). A player with community level 3 can choose to receive Credits with up to 3 colonists (receiving in total 9 colonists and 3 €). Or he can choose to receive up to three colonists fewer (receiving in total 6 colonists and no Credits). Or he can choose any combination thereof, i.e. to receive 1 € and receive 2 fewer colonists (receiving in total 7 colonists and 1 €) or to receive 1 € and receive 2 fewer colonists (receiving in total 8 colonists and 2 €).
2. Event phase
The players vote and resolve the current event card. The number of votes each player has equals his influence level plus the number of resources he chooses to spend. Each player chooses behind the screen one of the two voting cards which determines whether the cast votes are yes votes or no votes. Each player places any number of resources on the chosen card. Each resource placed on the vote card counts for one vote. A player can choose not to spend any resources on extra votes. The resources used for votes are spent; the players never get the resources back whether they win or lose the vote. The unused voting card can be used to indicate to the other players that the player is ready to vote by placing it face down in front of the player screen.
The players’ stocks of resources are public information at all times, and players are allowed to know their opponents stocks before voting.
Event cards have two possible outcomes: adoption of the official proposal (listed first on event cards) or adoption of the alternative proposal (listed second on the event cards).
In case the outcome of the vote is tied between the two alternatives, the first player decides the outcome.
If the majority of votes are yes votes, the first motion is carried, and the player(s) with the most yes votes get the first effect stated on the card. In case of a tie, all the tied players get the effect. When the first motion is carried, players can always choose to receive 4 € instead of the stated effect.
If the majority of votes are no votes, the alternative motion is carried, and all players receive the effect stated in the middle of the card, and in addition the player(s) who cast the fewest votes (whether yes or no) get the third effect stated on the card. In case of a tie, all the tied players get the third effect.
When the event card has been resolved, the next one is revealed.
Example 2. Event: Red votes yes with level 3 in Influence and spends 5 resources and has a total of 8 yes votes. Blue votes no with level 3 in Influence and doesn’t spend any resources and has a total of 3 no votes. Green and Yellow both vote no with level 5 in Influence and each spend 2 resources resulting in a total of 7 no votes each. Purple votes yes with level 2 in Influence spending 1 resource and has a total of 3 yes votes. The outcome is no, since there are 17 no votes (3+7+7) and 11 (8+3) yes votes. All players get the effect stated in the middle of the card. Purple and Blue both get the third effect stated on the card, since they tie for the fewest votes.
At the end of the event phase in Turn 5 the event card deck has been exhausted and is resupplied with one card from each player’s hand in the same way the initial event card deck was built. If there are fewer than five players the event card deck is randomly supplied from the remaining, undealt event cards so that there are five cards in the event card deck. Shuffle the event card deck and reveal the top-most event card; this is the current event card.
3. Player actions
3.1. Community action – provide refuge
When taking the Community action, the player converts pirates to citizens and receives resources. The player returns a number of pirates to the supply or to his own colonist stock and receives for each pirate removed from opponents’s trade routes 1 resource from the bank corresponding to the resource the pirate was blocking. The player can also return pirates blocking his own trade routes, but receives no resources for these. The number of pirates that can be returned is determined by the player’s Community level. The player can choose to return fewer pirates than his Community level. With the Community action the player is able to both receive his own unique resource and resources produced by opponents. The player is free to choose how many of the removed pirates are returned to the colonist supply, and how many to his own stock of colonists.
Example 3.1. Community action: A player with level 4 in Community chooses the Community action and removes 4 pirates from trade routes. He chooses to return 2 of them to the colonist supply and adds 2 of them to his own colonist stock. The first pirate was blocking an opponent’s trade route with Blue, and the player receives one blue resource from the bank. The second pirate was blocking another opponent’s trade with Blue and again the player receives one blue resource from the bank. The third pirate is blocking the same opponents trade with Red (which happens to be the player’s own colour) and the player receives one red resource from the bank. The fourth pirate blocks the player’s own trade with Yellow. For this the player receives no resources.
3.2 Military action – hunt pirates
When taking the Military action, the player removes pirates from trade routes and receives Credits from opponents. The player returns a number of pirates to the colonist supply, and for each pirate removed from opponent(s) trade route(s) he receives 1 € from the opponent(s) whose trade route(s) were blocked. The number of pirates that can be removed is determined by the players Military level. The player can remove any pirates he chooses on any trade routes, his own or opponent’s trade routes. For pirates removed from the player’s own trade routes, no Credits is received. The player can choose to remove fewer pirates than his Military level, still receiving 1 € for each pirate removed from opponents trade routes.
Example 3.2 Military action: A player with level 5 in Military chooses the Military action and returns 5 pirates to the colonist supply. The player removes 2 pirates from his own trade route with Red. The player removes 1 pirate from the Blue opponent’s red trade route and removes 1 pirate from the same opponent’s purple trade route and receives 2 € from Blue. The player removes 1 pirate from Red opponent’s yellow trade route and receives 1 € from Red. Totally the player has received 3 €. The player could choose to remove fewer pirates.
3.3 Commerce action – business trip
When taking the Commerce action, the player sells resources and receives Credits from the bank. The player places a number of resources from his stock on the markets of the corresponding resources. The player must place each resource on the highest shelf with free space. In each market there is space for 1 resource on the top shelf. For each resource placed on a top shelf the player receives 3 €. In each market there is space for 3 resources on the middle shelf. For each resource placed on a middle shelf the player receives 2 €. In each market there is space for an unlimited number of resources on the lowest shelf. For each resource placed on a lower shelf the player receives 1 €. The player must sell resources at the highest possible price at the chosen market. E.g. if the top shelf at the blue market is free, the player cannot choose to sell one blue resource for 2 or 1 €, he must sell for 3 €. If he wants to sell further blue resources, the next three must be sold for 2 €, and further blue resources for 1 €. The player can choose to sell fewer resources than his Commerce level.
Example 3.3 Commerce action: A player with level 4 in Commerce chooses the Commerce action and sells four resources. The player places one green resource on the top shelf of the green market and receives 3 €. The player places 2 red resources on the middle shelf of the red market where the top shelf is already filled and receives 4 €. The player places one yellow resource on the lowest shelf of the yellow market where the top and middle shelves are already filled and receives 1 €. Totally the player receives 8 € (3+2+2+1) from the bank.
3.4 Influence action – trade negotiations
When taking the Influence action, the player adjusts his trade agreements. The player has a number of adjustment points available corresponding to his Influence level. The cost of adjusting a trade agreement one step is 1 adjustment point. Adjusting the same trade agreement an additional step costs an additional 2 adjustment points. Adjusting the same trade agreement with one step a third time costs an additional 3 adjustment points. Adjusting trade agreements can be done in four ways; the cost of adjustment points is the same:
- Bilateral advancement: both markers on the trade agreement are advanced by one step.
- Unilateral advancement: only one marker on the trade agreement is advanced by one step. 1 € is payed to the trade partner.
- Bilateral decrement: both markers on the trade agreement are moved back by one step.
- Unilateral decrement: only one marker on the trade agreement is moved back by one step. 1 € is payed to the trade partner.
Example 3.4 Influence action: A player with level 5 in Influence chooses the Influence action and adjusts 1 trade agreement two steps and 2 trade agreements one step. The player has 5 adjustment points. Adjusting the same agreement twice costs 3 (1+2) adjustment points, leaving 2 points for adjusting two other agreements. The player makes two bilateral adjustments on his agreement with green, advancing both sides of the trade agreement by two steps, for the cost of 3 adjustment points. The player makes one unilateral adjustment on his agreement with red, adjusting only the part of the agreement that determines his red income, and pays 1 € to Red player. The player makes one decrement on his trade agreement with blue, decreasing both sides of the trade agreement by one step.
3.5. Industry action – production peak
When taking the Industry action, the player produces a number of his own unique resource and a number of colonists. The player can produce as many resources as his Industry level, and at the same time the player can produce as many colonists as his Industry level. The player can choose to produce fewer resources than his Industry level. The player can choose to produce fewer colonists than his Industry level.
Example 3.5. Industry action: A player with level 3 in Industry chooses the Industry action and produces 3 of his own unique resource and 1 colonist. The player can choose to produce from 0 to 3 of his own unique resource and can additionally choose to produce from 0 to 3 colonists.
3.6. Upgrade technology – research & development
When taking the Upgrade technology action, the player chooses one technology in which to advance by one level and pays the cost and advances his technology marker on the relevant track. Each action allows an advancement of one technology by one level, so even if the player has the resources to make two advancements at once, he must spend two actions in order to do it. Each technology is associated with two resources: the two neighbouring resources on the board. Each advancement costs a number of each of the associated resources corresponding to the obtained level, plus an equal number of colonists. For example, advancing to the Industry level 2 costs 2 blue resources, 2 green resources and 2 colonists. The cost of technology upgrades is summarised in Table 2.
Table 2: Cost of upgrading technologies and technology level victory point values at the end of the game.
Example 3.6. Upgrade technology: A player with level 3 in Military chooses the Upgrade technology action and pays 4 yellow resources, 4 purple resources and 4 colonists and advances to level 4 in Military. He advances his technology marker on the military track from 3 to 4.
When using the Upgrade technology action, players are allowed to buy resources from the markets, but only if the player doesn’t have enough of the resource in his stock.
Players can never buy resources for his stock, and can never buy resources except when using the Upgrade technology action. Players are only allowed to buy the resources that enables an upgrade that would otherwise not be possible. After the upgrade the player can have none left of the resource type(s) that was bought.
Players can only buy resources from the markets, never from the supply. If the top shelf of a market is empty, none of that resource is for sale.
Example 3.6.1. Buying resources in connection with the Upgrade technology action: If the green market has one resource on the top shelf and one resource on the middle shelf, a player who had no green resources when upgrading Industry or Community can buy one green resource for 2 € and a second for 3 €, as long as he has no green resources, and as long as he uses all bought resources for his Upgrade action.
4. Upkeep phase.
In the upkeep phase players first fulfill their trade agreements and then any remaining colonists become pirates.
4A. Fulfill trade agreements
Players fulfill their trade agreements by paying the promised number of resources to the trade partners in clockwise order. Resources are placed in the trade partners’ trade route areas for clarity. Income received in this phase cannot be used to fullfill trade agreements. When all dues are paid, players take their resource income from the trade route areas and place in their personal supply. If a player is unable to fulfill all trade agreements, he is allowed to substitute a number of resources corresponding to his Commerce level. However, a player is never allowed to pay a trade partner with the partner’s own unique resource type. If a player needs to substitute further resources beyond his Commerce level, he pays 1 € with each substituted resource. If the player runs out of resources, and still hasn’t fulfilled all trade agreements, trade partners are paid 3 € for each missing resource. If the player has no Credits, the trade partner receives no compensation, and the player no further penalty. Note, that since trade agreements are fulfilled in clock-wise order, the player cannot choose which trade partner receives substituted resources or Credits.
If a player’s trade route is blocked by one or more pirates, none of the promised resources are paid to the player. In stead the pirates intercept the resources and dump them on the corresponding market. When a pirate has intercepted at least one resource, he is removed from the trade route and returned to the colonist supply. If there are more than one pirate, one pirate is removed for each resource intercepted.
Example 4A.1. Fulfill trade agreements: Blue player has trade agreements that promise 3 resources to Green, 2 resources to Yellow, 2 resources to Purple and 1 resource to Red. In his stock, the player has 5 blue resources and 2 yellow resources. The player has Commerce level 3. The player pays 3 blue resources to Green and 2 blue resources to Yellow. Now he has no further blue resources, so he substitutes the 2 resources to Purple with yellow resources; this is no problem as he is allowed to substitute 3 resources. Now he has run out of resources and must pay 3 € to Red. If he has fewer than 3 € left, he pays all his Credits to Red.
If Blue instead had 5 blue and 2 purple resources he would deliver as above 3 blue resources to Green and 2 blue resources to Yellow. Now he has only Purple left which he can never give to Purple; instead he must pay 6 € (3 for each missing resource) to Purple. To Red he delivers 1 purple resource; this is no problem as he is allowed to substitute 3 resources.
If Blue instead had 4 blue, 4 green, 2 yellow and 1 red resource he would deliver as above 3 blue resources to Green. Then he would deliver 1 blue and chooses to deliver 1 green to Yellow and 2 green to Purple; this is no problem as he is allowed to substitute 3 resources. To Red he gives a green or a yellow resource and 1 € in compensation, as he has now substituted beyond his Commerce level.
Example 4A.2. Fulfill trade agreements: Blue player’s green trade route is blocked by 2 pirates. Green player has promised 3 green resources to Blue, but has only two left and substitutes 1 yellow resource. The 2 green resources are placed on the green market in the highest free shelves. The yellow resource is placed on the yellow market in the highest free shelf. The two pirates are both removed from the player’s green trade route since at least two resources were intercepted. (Green still receives his income of the trade agreement with Blue, unless there are also pirates on his Blue trade route).
4B. Place pirates
If a player has remaining colonists, they are converted to pirates and placed one at a time in counter-clockwise order on the player’s trade routes, always beginning at the rightmost trade route. The trade partners are not affected by the pirates on their trade partners trade routes.
Example 4B. Place pirates: Blue player has 5 colonists and they are all converted to pirates. The first pirate is placed on the red trade route. The second pirate is placed on the purple trade route. The third pirate is placed on the yellow trade route. The fourth pirate is placed on the green trade route. The fifth pirate is placed along with the first on the red trade route. If there was already a pirate on the red trade route, there would now be three pirates on the red trade route.
4C. The first-player token progresses clockwise to the next player.
4D. The turn marker progresses to the next turn.
Rules for four players
One of the five planets is not controlled by a player. This neutral planet always fullfill trade agreements, always paying with its own unique resource (never employing substitution). Trade agreements with the neutral planet must be fullfilled on the same conditions and subject to the same rules for substitution and penalties as trade agreements with opponents. Resources and Credits payed to the neutral planet go back in the supplies. The neutral planet’s trade routes are never infected with pirates; pirates cannot be placed here. When players are adjusting their trade agreements with the neutral planet, only bilateral adjustments can be made. The neutral planet is never affected by the outcome of event cards.
Rules for three players
The rules for four players apply, but there are two neutral planets which cannot be neighbouring planets. In addition, players start the game with 100 €.
Game end and scoring
The game ends after the Upkeep Phase of the 10th turn. The players get victory points for their technology levels as given in Table 1 and for each Credit. The winner is the player with the most victory points.
For each technology level receive 0-2-5-9-14-26 victory points
For each Colonial Credit receive 1 victory point
If there is a tie, then the winner is the one of the tied players who has acieved the highest tech level (most victory points for technology levels). If there is still a tie, the winner is the tied player who has the most resources in his stock.
Event cards have two possible outcomes: adoption of the official proposal (listed first) or adoption of the alternative proposal (listed second). When several players are affected by the outcome, effects are carried out in player order from the first player. In case of a majority of yes votes, the player(s) with the most yes votes can always choose to take 4 € instead of the outcome stated on the event card.
In case the outcome of the vote is tied between the two alternatives, the first player decides the outcome.
In the lower right corner of all event cards the colonist number for the next income phase is listed, either 0 or 5. The number of colonists arriving is the turn number (of the coming income phase) plus the colonist number given on the event card.
When a player is required to place pirates on his trade routes it is done in counter clockwise order beginning at the rightmost trade route.
If a player is required to pay resources or Credits that he doesn’t have, or is unable to downgrade a technology when required, there is no further penalty.