Starforce: Alpha Centauri

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StarForce: Alpha Centauri[1] is a board game published in 1974 by Simulations Publications Inc.. It was one of their first science fiction games, a departure from their usual historical wargames. Redmond Simonsen, SPI's art director, wrote its background information and designed the game.


StarForce describes a future history of humanity reaching out into local interstellar space, and making first contact (and war) with a number of alien species as well as itself. FTL (faster than light) travel is based on "telesthetic" (teleportation) powers enhanced by artificial intelligence, both from on-board crew members and with the assistance of fixed StarGate installations; TeleShips (starships) do not move through space but rather instantaneously "shift" from point to point. Space combat is relatively non-violent, mostly based on telepathic disruption of the enemy's crews. The game's background article notes that all of the human TeleShip crewmembers are women, an unusual detail to include in 1974.[1]


The game map represents a three-dimensional volume of space within 20 light years of Earth, with star positions based on astronomical data from the edition of the Gliese Catalogue of Nearby Stars available in 1974. Game pieces represent one StarGate, or single or multiple StarForces (squadrons of four TeleShips). Game turns represent 12 hours (strategic turns) or 1 hour (tactical turns).

Two modes of play are available, the Basic and Advanced Games. The Basic Game restricts action to the just-described star map. Groups of StarForces maneuver on the map and, when they come into combat, battle through an abstract combat system; fixed StarGate units at given star systems both enhance movement ranges and assist in combat. All movement is pre-plotted and resolved simultaneously. Also, movement is "semi-hidden": the vertical positions of StarForces are not revealed to the opponent, nor are the actual numbers of StarForces in given hexes, until they are moved into positions where that information would need to be revealed to determine if combat takes place. Many scenarios are provided, based on conflicts in the background future history for the game; their victory conditions are based on neutralizing enemy StarGates and occupying star systems that are under contention.

The Advanced Game adds a small tactical maneuver map and rules for tactical combat. When enemy forces engage, they are transferred to the tactical map and maneuver, attack, and defend using a set number of action points per tactical turn. Unlike the Basic Game combat system, a successful attack does not destroy a StarForce, but transfers it to a random location on the strategic map.

In addition to the Basic and Advanced Game rules, many optional rules are provided for players who wish to experiment with them, including use of reserve forces that may be brought into battle after an engagement starts, decoy units ("FakerForces"), enhanced movement options with StarGates, and suggested procedures for doing away with plotted movement.


Two spin-off games were developed, as well as a scenario that was practically a game in its own right.

StarSoldier[2] covered "super-infantry" combat on the worlds and objects of the StarForce universe, and included rules that allowed it to be used to resolve planetary actions during a StarForce game. It also used pre-plotted simultaneous turn resolution. StarSoldier could also be played as a "link game", in which StarForce was played as the primary, or strategic game and StarSoldier was used for the "tactical resolution" of battles, using game counters called "Strike Commands" representing 100,000 individual soldiers transported by a single StarForce. The playing time required was typically many times that of either game alone, 8–12 hours of continuous play being an average.

Outreach[3] took the game to a galactic scale, covering centuries of time, and describing massive movements of huge civilisations across a large part of the Milky Way galaxy.

Moves magazine issue 21, published in June, 1975, contained much material devoted to StarForce, including many new scenarios. One of those, "Scenario 100: The Outleap",[4] added an economic framework to the game, turning it into a simple version of what would be called a 4X game in the 1990s. Players begin by occupying a single star system and use its resources to construct TeleShips, StarGates, StarSoldier divisions, economic exploitation groups, and seed colonies. Turns, or "EcoYears", represent a year's time, and during them players use the units they construct to colonize other star systems and derive further resources from them. Eventually players may declare war on each other, at which point the economic game is paused and standard StarForce play is used to resolve the outcome of the war. A variety of victory conditions, involving both military and economic domination, are provided for players to choose among.

Cultural impact[edit]

The synthpop group The Human League took their name from one of the StarForce interstellar states.[5]


  1. ^ a b "StarForce 'Alpha Centauri': Interstellar Conflict in the 25th Century | Board Game". BoardGameGeek. Retrieved 2012-11-27. 
  2. ^ "StarSoldier: Tactical Warfare in the 25th Century | Board Game". BoardGameGeek. Retrieved 2012-11-27. 
  3. ^ "Outreach: The Conquest of the Galaxy, 3000AD | Board Game". BoardGameGeek. Retrieved 2012-11-27. 
  4. ^ "StarForce Scenario 100: The Outleap". BoardGameGeek. 
  5. ^ Turner, Sean: Blind Youth, a complete guide to The Human League 1977-1980.