Rocket Wreckers


Thanks for checking out Building the Game, and being interested in Rocket Wreckers.  I thought it would be a good idea to write something up about the game here, just in case you wanted to know a little more more.  Please keep in mind that this is an abbreviated version of the rules, simplified for quick reading.

The Setting:

Rocket Wreckers takes place in a retro-futuristic world, set against the backdrop of two warring factions, the Verum Alliance and the Steel Fist.  These nations have been at war for decades, and the Verum Alliance has just completed their Great Weapon: a 200 foot tall rocket packed with explosives.  Their target is the center square of Magnes, capitol city of their enemies.  If they hit their target, they’ll wipe out the leadership of the Steel Fist and end the war forever.  But in their haste to complete the Great Weapon, the Alliance engineers were unable to devise an automated guidance system.  That means they need a pilot – a Rocketer – to fly the gigantic bomb as far as possible, point it at the final target, and bail out.


But the story doesn’t end there.  The Steel Fist managed to get a spy into the Alliance’s top secret construction facility and steal their plans.  Now that launch day has arrived the Steel Fist have sent one brave solider – codenamed Wrecker – to climb aboard the rocket and sabotage it in flight.  His goal is to bring it down before it strikes.  If he succeeds he will have saved his people, equalized the war and become a hero for all the ages.  If he fails, his people and their homelands will burn.

The Game:

Rocket Wreckers is a two-player asymmetrical card game.  Each player takes on the role of the rocket pilot (The Rocketer) or the saboteur (The Wrecker) in an attempt to achieve their own unique goal.  The Rocketer must fly the Rocket a total of 1000 miles to the target.  The Wrecker must force the Rocket to plunge 10,000 feet out of the sky and crash.  The first player to reach their goal is the winner.

Each player has a deck of 20 cards, and at any time will have a total of 8 cards available.  These 8 cards may be in their hand, in play on the table, or a combination of both.  On their turn, each player has two actions to spend.  Actions can be spent the following ways:

  • Play a single card on the table (Fight Cards) = 1 Action
  • Play  a Linked Pair of cards on the table (Link Cards) = 2 Actions
  • Destroy a Linked Pair on the table = 1 Action
  • Discard a card from your hand and draw a new one = 1 Action

There are two types of cards in the game: Link cards and Fight cards.  Let’s talk about Link cards first:


All of the Link cards in Rocket Wreckers have two pieces: The Power section, and the Value section.  A Link card cannot be played on the table alone.  In order to play a Link card, you must pair it with another Link card.  One card will be played horizontally on the table, to identify it as a Value.  The other card will be played vertically on top of the first card, to identify it as a Power.  The effect of this Link is that the player is choosing the Power from one card and the Value from another card.  The unused Power and Value are lost.  Because a Link is comprised of two cards, it costs two Actions to play (1 Action for each card).


A Link card cannot stay in play on the table without a second Link card.  Therefore, if you wish to destroy a Linked pair, you need only spend 1 Action to discard one of the two cards.  The other card is automatically removed from play.

Fight cards are the only cards in Rocket Wreckers that can be played alone on the table.  These are one-time use cards that are immediately discarded after being played.  Because they are played alone, they only cost 1 Action to play.

The Goals:

The Rocketer is trying to travel a total of 1000 miles.  Each time the Rocketer destroys a Linked pair, she moves Power card to the discard pile, but the Value card is moved to the Rocketer’s Distance pile.  This is how she tracks the total miles traveled.  When the Rocketer has a total of 1000 miles in the Distance pile, she wins.

The Wrecker is trying to make the Rocket descend a total of 10,000 feet.  When the Wrecker destroys a Linked pair, he cannot move the Value card to the Altitude pile unless another Linked pair permits him to do so.  If the Wrecker does not have that permission, the Value card is discarded along with the Power card.  When the Wrecker has a total of 10,000 feet on the table, across both his Altitude pile and in the play area, he wins.

The History:

Rocket Wreckers began life as a completely different game, called Splitters.  You can hear that original game pitch on Episode 32: Odd Men & Splitters.  Splitters was a game about hacking steam-powered computers by re-routing the flow of the steam, trying to earn points.  I put a lot of work into the game, including the development of a game system I called the Off-Set Card system (The OSC).  After months of testing and revision I got the game into great shape, and it was playing really well.  But there was one glaring problem: The theme.

In hindsight, it makes a lot of sense.  But it wasn’t until I put some artwork on the prototype cards that I realized how boring a game about changing pipe fittings actually was.  It played great, but the theme was completely uninteresting.  Better artwork would have helped, but not enough to make a difference.

After a lot of exploration, I finally decided to re-theme it as a game about two people having a fistfight while riding on the back of a gigantic rocket.  You can hear all about that on Episode 55: Pointless Goals & Wreckin’ Rockets.  The benefits of that theme over Steampunk computer hacking are obvious, adding characters, story, excitement, and tension.  But it also necessitated a lot of mechanical changes to the game.  I split it into two separate decks, rather than having both players draw from the same deck.  I added in the asymmetrical structure, with each player having different goals.  But the hardest part was dropping the most exciting piece of Splitters: The OSC system.  By eliminating that, and instead placing one card on top of the other, the game suddenly came to life in a new way that was better than ever before.

Thanks again for your interest in Rocket Wreckers!






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