In June of 2014, I posted the rules for Offworld Trading Company on my company’s blog. Of course, given our practice of constant iteration, it didn’t take long for those rules to get out-of-date, so I am now editing that post to keep it up-to-date with the current game. Indeed, as more and more time passes, that original ruleset will diverge considerably from the publicly available version. Thus, I am re-posting the original June 2014 version here as an archived snapshot of the game, which might make it interesting reading by the time we officially release the game. As a reminder, Offworld can be pre-ordered at offworldgame.com.
Offworld Trading Company is a game about the colonization and exploitation of Mars by corporations who have taken to space for a profit. Each company will found a colony on the map, claim territory, construct buildings, produce resources, and then make money by selling them on the open market. Players can harass each other with industrial sabotage, mercenary pirates, and market manipulation. The end goal is to buy out all the other corporations via the stock market, in which each company’s price goes up and down based on the value of their current assets.
2.1 The Map
The map represent a section of Martian terrain that has been opened for commercial development. This map has been divided into hex-shaped tiles, each of which can be claimed by players. Some tiles, such as mountains, slopes, and canyons, are marked as unusable and will never contain any resources. Also, each usable tile has one of five height levels (Very Low, Low, Medium, High, and Very High) which means that the map is a collection of plateaus. These plateaus are useful for connecting buildings together into rail-based networks that allows the transportation of resources without using Blimps. Tiles also have a wind level (Very Weak, Weak, Moderate, Strong, Very Strong) and ice content (Normal, Permafrost, Ice), which determine how certain buildings perform.
2.1 The Resource Deposits
Each tile can contain deposits of the primary resources (Water, Carbon, Silicon, Aluminum, and Iron). These deposits are classified into four different resource levels, which each have different yield rates:
- Trace (-75%)
- Medium (+50%)
- High (+100%)
Also, some tiles contain a Geothermal Source, which is required for the Geothermal Plant.
2.2 The Colony
Each player founds one colony to start the game, which stretches across multiple tiles, all of which need to be usable and of the same height. All resources underneath the colony will be mined although at only a quarter of the rate that a normal building would produce. A geothermal source will produce energy but, again, at only a quarter the rate of a Geothermal Plant. The colony will contain the player’s resource stockpile, which is where resources are taken from when sold on the open market and deposited into when bought. Each colony also consume life support (Water, Food, Oxygen) which have to be bought on the open market if they are not in the stockpile.
2.3 The Buildings
Each claimed tile can contain one building, and the different types are listed here:
- Water Pump (mines Water)
- Ice Condenser (creates Water from ice content)
- Hydrolysis Farm (turns Water into Food)
- Electrolysis Reactor (turns Water into Oxygen and Fuel)
- Chemicals Lab (turns Fuel and Carbon into Chemicals)
- Elemental Quarry (mine Carbon and Silicon)
- Glass Furnace (turns Silicon and Oxygen into Glass)
- Goods Factory (turns Carbon, Silicon, and Aluminum into Goods)
- Metal Mine (mines Aluminum and Iron)
- Steel Mill (turns Iron into Steel)
- Solar Panel (creates Energy from height level)
- Wind Turbine (creates Energy from wind level)
- Geothermal Plant (creates Energy but requires Geothermal Source)
- Patent Lab (can discover patents)
- Engineering Lab (can improve industrial production)
- Pleasure Dome (produce money from population)
- Hacker Array (can create artificial shortages and surpluses)
- Offworld Market (can sell resources offworld)
Each building (except the Ice Condenser) consumes Energy when active.
2.4 The Units
Units cannot be controlled directly by the players and are instead generated automatically based on player actions. Each unit consumes Fuel, and Blimps consume more Fuel depending of their cargo. The different unit types are listed here:
- Drone (claims tiles)
- Engineer (constructs buildings)
- Blimp (ships resources)
- Pirate (steal resources from Blimps)
Offworld is a real-time game, but the game system itself is updated in turns. Every turn, buildings produce resources, the colony consumes life support, and various other event might occur. The game has five different speeds which determine how fast the turns occur, but the default speed (Normal) is set at one turn per second. In single-player games, the player can change the game speed (and also pause the game) whenever desired.
Before founding a colony, the player will spend some time exploring the map. Each tile will have one of three visibility states:
- Fogged (tile and resource deposits are not visible)
- Revealed (tile is visible but darkened, resource deposits are not visible)
- Visible (tile and resource are visible)
Most of the map will start the game as Fogged, but each player will begin with a small section of the map Scanned. The player can then perform scans on specific tiles to reveal more of the map – each scan will set all tiles within a radius of 2 as Visible and all other tiles within a radius of 6 as Revealed. The player will acquire a new scan every 4 turns. Once the first colony is founded, the map will slowly reveal itself automatically to all players.
Once the players have scanned enough tile to discover a good place to found a colony, they select a colony type and then place it on the map. Once a colony is founded, the player receives their initial claims, money, and resource stockpile. Players who found later will receive more claims. The four different types (and their bonuses) are listed here:
- Double production from tiles under the colony
- One extra claim at game start and with each colony upgrade
- Recovers faster from EMPs, Power Surges, and Mutinies
- Conversion Buildings can use resource deposit on their own tiles (for example, a Hydrolysis Farm could use Low Water to create Food).
- Double production from Trace resource deposits
- Uses Carbon instead of Steel to construct buildings
- Receive a free Pirate after each colony upgrade
- Learn about news events earlier
- Colony does not consume life support
- Units use Energy instead of Fuel
Each colony starts at population level one and can be upgraded four times. Each successive upgrade costs an increasing quantity of resources, and each upgrade increases the life support demands of the colony. The benefit of each upgrade is that the player is granted new claims:
- Level 2 Colony: +3 claims
- Level 3 Colony: +4 claims
- Level 4 Colony: +5 claims
- Level 5 Colony: +6 claims
The players receive a set of claims upon founding and upgrading their colonies. Extra claims can also be gained from random events, bribed via the black market, and won in claim auctions. When a player initiates a tile claim, the colony automatically creates a Drone unit, which then moves towards the tile and claims it if no other player gets there first.
Building can only be constructed on claimed tiles. The player purchases buildings by spending resources, and then a Construction Yard immediately appears on the chosen tile. The colony create a Engineer unit which travels to the tile and constructs the building.
Every turn, buildings produce resources. Some buildings create resources directly from resource deposits (the Elemental Quarry creates Silicon and Carbon from the corresponding deposits). A few more create resources based on the tile’s ratings (the Wind Turbine creates Energy modified by the tile’s wind level). Others convert input resources into output resources (the Glass Furnace consumes Silicon and Oxygen and produces Glass). Buildings can be turned off if the player determines they are not profitable.
Adjacent buildings of the same type have increased production rates – two adjacent building receive a +50% bonus while three get a +100% bonus. Higher numbers of adjacent buildings receive no additional bonus.
After resources are produced, they are shipped either to other buildings or to the colony. If one building produces a resource required by a second building and if these two building are connected by an unbroken string of claimed tiles, this resources is instantly transported to the second building via rail. If no such building exists and if the first building is instead connected to the colony by an unbroken string of claimed tiles, the resource is similarly transported to the player’s resource stockpile.
If, instead, the building producing the resource is not connected to either a building that requires the resource or to the colony, the resource is stored within the original building. Once the building accumulates 20 units of the resource, a blimp is created which transports the resources directly to the colony. Players can choose manually to ship resources early before they reach 20 units.
Finally, buildings which require resources can also be supplied from the colony. For example, a Steel Mill that is not connected to a Metal Mine on an Iron deposit will receive shipments from the colony. If the building is connected to the colony via an unbroken string of claimed tiles, the resources will travel instantly via rail. Otherwise, a Blimp will ship Iron from the colony to the building.
7.4 Engineering Lab
The Engineering Lab allows players to research technologies that increase the production rate of specific resources in all corresponding buildings. For example, Improved Water Pumping increases Water production at Water Pumps by +25%. The bonus affects the building’s output but not the input, so Improved Food Production will mean that a Hydrolysis Farm produces more Food but does not consume more Water. Each technology costs Chemicals to research. The four levels of research possible for each technology are listed here:
- Improved: +25% production
- Efficient: +50% production (+75% cumulative)
- Optimal: +75% production (+150% cumulative)
- Super: +100% production (+250% cumulative)
7.5 Patent Lab
The Patent Lab enables players to acquire patents that can change how their company operates in fundamental ways. Each patent costs Chemicals to discover and becomes unavailable to all other players after the initial discovery. The different patents are listed here:
- Nanotech: When deleting buildings, the resource cost is refunded.
- Superconductor: +50% Energy from buildings connected to the colony.
- Energy Vault: Can store up to 100 units of Energy
- Virtual Reality: Doubles revenue from Pleasure Dome
- Perpetual Motion: -50% Energy consumption
- Water Engine: Units use Water instead of Fuel
- Slant Drilling: Buildings can access best resource deposit in adjacent tile
- Cold Fusion: Buildings use Water instead of Energy
- Teleportation: All buildings and colonies are considered connected
- Thinking Machines: Buildings adjacent to colonies are protected from sabotage
7.6 Hacker Array
The Hacker Array allows players to trigger artificial shortages and surpluses which can alter the price of specific resources. For example, a Food Shortage would increase the cost of Food. The cost of shortages and surpluses go up each time they are used by the player. These artificial events are indistinguishable from the random events that occur naturally during the game.
8.0 Resource Markets
8.1 Local Market
Once the colony is founded, players can buy and sell resources freely on the open market. If Food is $20, then a player can sell one unit of Food for $20 or buy one unit for the same price. However, each time a resource is bought or sold, the price goes up or down accordingly. Thus, if a player decides to purchase 100 units of Food for $20, the price will go up during the transaction so that the final price will be more than $2000. Resources bought and sold are added to and take from the player’s stockpile at the colony.
Energy is a special resource because it cannot be stockpiled. Instead, it is automatically sold to the local market at the current price. If a player is instead losing Energy, it is bought automatically from the market. Similarly, life support resources (Water, Food, Oxygen) is also purchased directly from the market if the stockpile is empty. If the player also has no money, the automatic purchase increases the company’s debt, which has a very negative effect on its stock price.
8.2 Offworld Market
Offworld prices are set randomly at the beginning of the game and stay constant throughout.
With the Offworld Market, players can sell resources offworld, often for prices higher than on the local market. Each offworld sale requires 100 units of the resource and 20 units of Fuel. Thus, if the offworld price of Food is $500, the player would lose 100 Food and 20 Fuel and then earn $50,000.
9.0 Time of Day
Each turn, the game clock moves forward, which affects a number of buildings. All of the production buildings (except for the Wind Turbine and Geothermal Plant) turn off between 22:00 and 06:00. The Ice Condenser and Solar Panel also have lowered production during the hours of the early morning after 06:00 and the hours of twilight before 22:00.
Every day at noon, an auction can be triggered. The auction is open to all players and is timed. Bids are in increments of $500, and the time limit is extended if a bid is made close to the end. Four types of auctions are possible: a new claim, a specific tile, an unclaimed patent, and mercenary pirates.
The identify of the player triggering each sabotage event is hidden and not revealed until the game is over.
An EMP freezes buildings within a radius of 2 from the targeted tile for a period of time. Buildings closer to the target are frozen for longer.
11.2 Power Surge
The Power Surge freezes a number of buildings for a period of time. The surge starts at one tile and then travels randomly to adjacent tiles with buildings.
11.3 Underground Nuke
The Underground Nuke lowers resource deposits by two levels. For example, a High Iron would be reduced to a Low Iron. Resource deposits can never be lowered below Trace.
Dynamite destroys a building, reducing it to rubble. The owning player can repair it for half its normal construction cost; a Drone unit will automatically appear at the colony and travel to the tile to repair the building.
A Mutiny allows a player to capture another player’s building for a period of time.
Pirates look for Blimps to shoot down and give the lost resources to the player who hired them. Pirates will stay on the map until they have captured a total of 60 units of resources.
12.0 Black Market
The Black Market is where all sabotage items (except for the Pirates) are purchased. Also, the player can bribe claims on the Black Market. The Black Market is initially closed for a specific number of the turns after a player founds a colony; the number of turns is lower for players who found their colonies later.
Each time items are purchased from the Black Market, the price is doubled for all players in the game. Also, each player is locked out from the Black Market for 60 turns after a purchase.
13.0 Stock Market
Each player’s company begins the game with a stock price of $5, and that price goes up and down according to the value of its current assets (money, debt, resources, buildings, colonies, and stock shares). Shares can be purchased in increments of 1,000, and each company has 10,000 total shares. If no more shares are available for purchase, a player can buyout the other players’ sharing by purchasing them all together for double value.
Once one company controls all the shares of a second company, the second company’s owner is removed from the game, and all the buildings, colonies, and patents belonging to that company are given to the first company. The game ends when only one company remains.
Been following this since it was announced and it sounds like it’s really shaping up to something interesting. Reminds of some of the old Maxis games, possibly the once-rumored SimMars? 🙂
Curious if you’ve ever heard of the Minecraft server Civcraft. Not because it’s derived from Civ – it isn’t, that’s something different – it’s a sandbox socio-economic experiment modded to put the players in charge. Anyway it has some common ground with OTC in that players exploit resources to compete in an open market. I wonder if some of these concepts could carry over. reddit.com/r/civcraft if you’re interested in checking it out.
I have heard of CivCraft! Looks interesting, but I haven’t had a chance to try it yet…
Good stuff! Really looking forward to seeing your thoughts as the gameplay evolves.
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