Decaying Orbits

Interplanetary Nuclear Warfare on the Final Frontier

Decaying Orbits

Interplanetary Nuclear Warfare on the Final Frontier

Planetary humanity has been bought by the mega-corporations. To feed mankind’s insatiable demand for energy private enterprise has settled the solar system. But now the system has closed; and the economic conglomerations turn their competitive edges on each other. Reaching the planets has unleashed powerful technologies that threaten to rip apart the fragile environments they have precariously settled. On Earth, the mass of kept consumers observes the fireworks, and like some dumb amoebae, stirs in agitation…


Decaying Orbits is a low-complexity space war board-game suitable for multiple players. The rules are few in number and easy to apply, but allow for considerable strategic thinking on the part of players. Any number of players from two up to six can play. The initial counter mix allows for four players. The game is suitable for solitaire play. A game can be resolved within a couple of hours of play.

Set towards the end of the twenty-first century, the game describes a future where vast corporate conglomerates have divided most of the world’s economy between them. Research and manufacturing has moved off-planet to automated moon factories, and Earth has become a consumer culture. Hidden behind corporate confidentiality, in secret laboratories on remote moons, the technology for inter-planetary warfare has been developed.

On Earth, a popular anti-corporation movement constantly threatens to disrupt corporate activities on the planet. There are those that believe that this competitive corporatized civilization is doomed…

The first military spacecraft are single-stage-to-orbit space-planes fitted with kinetic kill weapons and configured to intercept missiles aimed at planetary installations. Rapidly variants appear, including those that carry nuclear-armed planetary attack missiles, and those that carry complex artificial intelligence, communication and electronic warfare systems. Bases install kinetic kill defensive systems and build silos of nuclear attack missiles.

Bristling with weaponry, on the eve of open space warfare, the game commences. The players take the roles of the CEO’s of the respective rival corporations, each seeking the ultimate monopoly. They must destroy the bases of the enemy with nuclear weapons, and colonize the vacant planets with their own facility.

The game features an interactive turn sequence, where the planetoid bases activate in a sequence independent of their ownership. Rules simulate the communication with spacecraft across interplanetary distances and subject to enemy action. Spacecraft activate in a series of steps to simulate a mission. Economics are simple, require no bookkeeping, and yet allow the player a series of exploitation options. A basic principle is that a colony spacecraft contains the complete makings to allow a self-sustaining base to develop on a world. Once it is fully operational, that base can fabricate another colony vehicle.

The planetary environments are fragile compared with the strip-mining operations and nuclear onslaughts that can be unleashed against them. Planets can easily be rendered uninhabitable in the course of the war. The players must take care to avoid devastating the solar-system and alienating the people of Earth, who are beginning to realize that allowing competitive corporations to take control of their ultimate destiny might have been a serious mistake…


Decaying Orbits ã Andrew Kelman 2003

A prototype version of the Decaying Orbits board-game can be assembled by downloading and printing the contents of the following zip files. The first contains the rulebook and other text. The second contains A4 board images. The third contains the A4 color counter-sheet images. These images can be printed on white card in most printers. (230Kb) (1.23Mb) (1.01Mb)

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