Dark Nebula: Where are the Carriers?

Posted: 1 July 2015 in Settings
Tags: , , ,

“When word of a crisis breaks out in Washington, it’s no accident that the first question that comes to everyone’s lips is: ‘Where’s the nearest carrier?‘” – President Bill Clinton

What I should be doing is writing up worlds and adventures. What I’m actually doing is looking at the God’s Chess version of the Dark Nebula map and drawing inferences, some of which may even be valid.


Or in this case, the battleships. For the moment, I shall only consider those squares on the chessboard overlay (see previous post) which have worlds in them, which to be fair is most of them.

On the Confederation side, there’s a queen in D8 (Maadin), a king in E8 (Avair or Zloban, probably Avair – what on Earth is it doing there?), a bishop  in F8 (Llavia), and pawns in D7 (Icat), E7 (Gazzain), F7 (Kamat), G7 (Bulan), and H7 (Eski). We can infer from that an interest in the space around Bulan, between the Dark Nebula and Confederation space. There are also a number of pieces (both rooks, both knights, a bishop and three pawns) with no representation on the campaign map – I’m going to say those are being built at Maadin, in the production queue as it were.

In the Hierate corner, we have the king at E1 (Kuzu), the queen at D1 (Vaxt), and pawns in A2 (Kinada), B2 (Amani), C2 (Bors), D2 (Rosa), E2 (Xida), and F2 (Panas or Enjiwa). All of that is inside the Hierate’s borders, except for Kinada and Amani; and actually, the chain of Amani-Kinada-Mir, by my previous rulings on population, are all outposts planted by Vaxt, presumably on behalf of the Hierate. What is beyond Mir that the Hierate is interested in? Another mystery for the PCs to solve. Meanwhile, in the production queue at Kuzu we have both rooks, both bishops, both knights, and two pawns.

From this I extrapolate the following:

  • The Confederation has a slight edge in naval power, but nothing dramatic.
  • Both empires send warships beyond their borders, but both to roughly the same extent, so there is no reason to suppose one side’s spacers are more experienced by virtue of spending more time “at sea”.
  • There has been a military buildup going on for some time, an arms race between the two empires, and it’s still going on. I justify this by the number of units on the map, and off it in production queues – far more than either needs to subdue its neighbours, the Hierate and the Confederation must be expecting a fight with each other.
  • Something at the bottom right of the map interests the Confederation, and something offmap to the top left interests the Hierate.


When I came up with idea of using God’s Chess to run the war, I confess I hadn’t thought through how it would integrate with the faction rules in Stars Without Number, and just blithely labelled pieces as destroyers, various flavours of cruiser, battleships, and the "national government counter".

Then I thought, suppose the war begins when both sides have produced the right assets to give them a full lineup of chess pieces? PCs could them see the buildup, spy on it, sabotage it and so on. Could be fun, and it will provide direction to the monthly faction activities; I can see the backdrop to season one being run using the SWN faction rules, and that for season two using the chess game once all the pieces have been built.

At first blush, it looks like most pieces should be things like Space Marines or Strike Fleets, with a very limited number of Capital Fleets – probably one per side, represented by the queen. There is no obvious asset equivalent to the king, so I will most likely stick with the national government counter idea – in which case why is the Confed government on Avair? Perhaps because it is one jump further from the Hierate, perhaps as a symbolic gesture to demonstrate Maadin sees itself as merely “first among equals”?

However, a proper analysis requires more time and energy than I have at the moment, so I will park that idea for now.

  1. Eric Ullman says:

    This is super cool. I like the idea of abstracting the pieces and using them as you see fit when the time comes. And it needn’t always be that a chess piece represents a physical asset, either. The taking of the other side’s piece (or losing a piece, depending on one’s perspective) could be what matters in one case, where it might be the piece itself in another. One need not attempt to match the movement and size/power of fleets or assets to the class of chess piece. Reading the chess board could even be like reading tarot cards or runes. So many possibilities!

    • andyslack says:

      Yes, the more I drill into this the less I feel the need to interpret it rigidly. It also helps more than I expected with working out individual planets.

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