Art Preview: Planet Cards

That’s right, we’re finally ready to show some of the artwork that will be part of Habitable Zone! This week, we’re showing off the artwork for the planet’s you’ll be able to terraform and colonize over the course of a game. When you take ownership of a planet on the game board, you’ll also add the planet’s corresponding card to your play area. (Click on the images to view them at a higher resolution)

Tau Ceti 5

As you can see, Tau Ceti is a fairly small planet. This can either be helpful or detrimental depending on your overall strategy. On the upside, Tau Ceti only requires a few resources to terraform, making it an easy acquisition early in the game. On the other hand, sending colonists to Tau Ceti won’t provide much in the way of Victory Points. The first colonist you send will provide you with additional income, but isn’t worth any Victory points. A small planet like this will certainly help you on your way, but it won’t carry you to victory.

Mu Arae 3

Mu Arae is a large planet, and thus it will take quite a bit of time and effort to terraform. Though if you do settle a large planet, it will certainly be worth your while. It will provide you with more Victory Points than a small planet, bringing you much closer to winning. The artwork for  Mu Arae is definitely one of my favorites. The way the planet’s shadow falls on the rings really gives a great sense of scale.

In addition to terraforming, you’ll also be able to undertake Public Missions to increase your standing among the other captains, the colonists, and your government. Public missions are available to all players, so if you want to be noticed, you’ll have to act quickly or it may get snatched up by another captain. Here is an example of a mission that players may come across:

aid_mu arae

As you can see, you will gain some cargo in addition to the inherent reputation that comes with all mission. Not only will the reputation bring you closer to victory, but the extra cargo could be just what you need to gain the edge on the other players.  That’s all we have to show for today! If you haven’t done so already, you should follow this blog for news happening in the Habitable Zone.

From Alpha to Beta

Habitable Zone went from conception to prototype in an extremely short period of time. Joe and I both had a vision for what Habitable Zone would become, so it didn’t take long for us to set pen to paper. Pretty soon we had a set of rules drafted, concept art sketched, and player mats organized. A lot had changed during that gungho alpha stage, and today I’ll give you some insight into how some of Habitable Zone’s mechanics and rules were shaped into what they are today.

When I initially dreamed up the concept for Habitable Zone, the only thing I was certain of was the way I wanted planets to be terraformed. My vision involved players buying resources, venturing out to barren planets, and using their cargo to visibly change the board by adding physical rings to each planet to mark the progression of the terraforming process. As we poured more and more resources into a planet, the rings created not only a large physical presence on the board indicating a force to be reckoned with, but also symbolized the evolution of the planet from wasteland to colony. I strived to make this game as realistic as possible, and how a planet was terraformed was a key part of that challenge. Without the right support system an atmosphere will dissipate, heat will radiate into space, and life will die. This is why all three planetary modifiers must be present to secure a planet’s status as terraformed. The earliest versions of this mechanic even included a timer that would tick down each ring the longer you left it on the planet. The idea was that eventually the planet would revert back to its original state. However, in playtests it proved to be impractical and the removal of that mechanic didn’t affect the game as much as we expected it to. This also had the beneficial side effect of taking a confusing section out of the rulebook, and giving the players more freedom in their choices.

In addition to changing the terraforming mechanic, we also struggled with how to regulate income. The initial idea of automatically collecting income at the start of each turn worked, but lacked involvement and, when you think about all the other options, just didn’t hold water. We quickly adopted a new form of currency collection and we love how it is working. Because each planet you have colonized generates revenue, we have adopted currency tokens that fit on the planets and inside the rings. Every turn the planet adds more to its revenue pool and you have to send your cargo ship over to collect on your profits. This lead to the wonderful addition of having stacks of money growing on the board in different places. Between the terraforming rings and towers of money, the board was truly becoming a 3D experience that grows as the game goes on.

I am quickly reaching my character limit for today, so I would like to wrap this post up by mentioning a fellow gamer and blogger who has taken an interest in Habitable Zone. Zak Fay is currently embarking on a journey to play 100 games in 100 days, and Habitable Zone has made the list. He will be writing all about his thoughts on Habitable Zone on his blog, but until then, read up on his journey so far at 100 Games-in-100-Days.

A Thematic Delve into the Unknown

Space. From one look at this blog you can probably tell that we like space. And we do. Habitable Zone not only exists in space, but in the interactions between an ordinary freighter captain, a massively overpopulated planet, and fresh opportunities, ripe for the picking. In Habitable Zone, players take the role of a budding ship captain who has the perfect combination of bravery, ambition, and good fortune. You are one of the select few who has been given the opportunity to venture to the nearby exoplanets and turn them into budding colonies for the human race.

Seems straight forward enough, right? Take people from an overpopulated planet, and place them on the empty ones. Piece of cake. There’s just a slight hiccup in that plan – the planets are not quite people friendly at the moment. Toxic atmospheres, boiling lava, and seasonal instability may leave you wondering why these planets were chosen in the first place. But that answer is rather simple, they have potential. These planets are located in the famed Habitable Zone, meaning that they are in the correct position to be able to support liquid water. Your job, prior to putting your eager colonists on these worlds, is to use your planet’s supply of terraforming tools to make these planets mirror images of the place you once called home.

Although this seems like a wondrous process that you should carefully monitor and make fine tune adjustments over the course of a few decades, time is a luxury you don’t have. You’ve only been given a short amount of time to complete your task, and if you don’t perform to your government’s standards, you will be striped of your command and another captain will fill your shoes before you can even get your foot out the door. In addition, players must compete with each other to lay claim to their choice planets. There are plenty of planets in the universe, but when you make cargo runs you need to pick carefully, as not all planets are created equal.

Habitable Zone does an excellent job immersing you in your task, but be wary of the other players; if you don’t keep your eyes on them, the game may be over quicker than you think. Players must keep one eye on the board and one on that shifty captain across the table. Any sign of victory in his face can mean a huge upheaval in gameplay across the entire board. And while you are planning what you are going to do with the vast amounts of wealth gathered from your colonies, keep another eye on this blog. More updates will be coming, and you don’t want to be left in the dark with what is happening in the Habitable Zone.


TNT Games is Ready for Takeoff!

Welcome to the TopNotch Table Games dev blog! We’ll be posting updates on our board game Habitable Zone here, along with other board game related musings.

The picture you see in the background is artist’s rendering of a small star system in the Cygnus constellation. The system was found by NASA’s Kepler Mission and hosts the smallest known Exoplanets outside of our solar system. For more information visit


Stay tuned! We’ll be posting more soon!