Downlink: The Game of Planetary Discovery
Journey into the world of Solar System exploration – launch spacecraft, travel across the solar system, and explore distant planets.
This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Sat, December 15 2018 1:00 PM UTC +00:00.
It is the modern era of space exploration, six space agencies from the United States, the European Union, Japan, China, India, and Russia lead the world in launching spacecraft on journeys of planetary discovery. Believing that cooperation is key to success, multiple players must band together to build the rockets, spacecraft, and science instruments needed to reach the far-flung targets of exploration. Relationships are tested as each player strives to outperform each other and score the most discoveries to win the game.
Downlink: The Game of Planetary Discovery launches players into the incredible world of Solar System exploration – based on real science, rockets, and technology -- created by Dante Lauretta, the leader of the NASA OSIRIS-REx mission, which has just started exploring asteroid Bennu!
2-6 players, 60 - 120 minutes, Ages 10+
Downlink builds on Xtronaut's recent success delivering top-notch, science-themed board games.
Our last game, Constellations: The Game of Stargazing and the Night Sky has received rave reviews and awards, including the prestigious Mensa Select Award for 2018! Downlink builds on this experience to deliver a competitive, strategic, and balanced board game for the serious gaming community.
Our first game, Xtronaut: The Game of Solar System Exploration has sold nearly 10,000 copies and received the Good Housekeeping Board Game Award.
In Downlink, players lead a space agency to develop missions of planetary exploration. Resources are limited, and players must constantly decide where to allocate them best to score the most points. They can choose to specialize in launching rockets, delivering spacecraft to targets, downlinking science data, or spread their resources across multiple areas to increase the likelihood of success. Key events require dice rolling, and team training is available to stack the odds in player's favor.
Do you have what it takes to lead the world in planetary exploration? Find out in Downlink: The Game of Planetary Discovery.
Once your data are on the ground - you combine them to make scientific discoveries. Want to discover a subsurface ocean on Europa? You must combine atmospheric science, astrobiology, cosmochemistry, and geophysics data. With over sixty downlink data cards and thirty discoveries - the possibilities are endless.
Downlink creator Dante Lauretta is the Principal Investigator for NASA's OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission. Xtronaut is pleased to partner with Shire Post Mint, a leader in creating custom coins using an antique coin-making process, to create a unique set of four OSIRIS-REx mission commemorative coins. These coins trace the mission from launch, to sample collection, to sample return to Earth.
- Launch coin: features the Atlas V rocket, struck in solid copper
- Surveying coin: features Bennu and the OSIRIS-REx, struck in solid brass
- Sample Collection coin: features OSIRIS-REx and the TAGSAM taking a sample from Bennu, struck in solid brass
- Landing coin: features Sample Return Capsule and parachute during descent to Earth, struck in solid steel
Coins designed by Dylan Craig
Limited Edition - Sample Collection Coin in silver
- Real meteorite embedded in the coin
- 1 oz solid 999 pure silver
- Made in limited edition of only 100 coins
- Serial number (001-100) stamped by hand on each coin
Also available: Full Moon Silver Coin
This coin of Earth's Moon features a geographically (technically it's selenographically) correct 136,794,240:1 scale design of the surface texture of both its near and far side. A great worry coin, gift, or reminder coin.
- Struck in solid 999 fine silver
- Expert patina to highlight the engraving
- 1" coin weighs 1/4 oz
- Broadstruck for a rounded edge
- 999 FS stamped on the edge
- Archival packaging comes with description of the coin and Moon Facts!
The coloring and patina process is done by hand, and it is both an art and a science so coins will vary slightly. Coins are struck one at a time in the USA using antique machinery and traditional coining techniques.
Set up is easy - Place the game board, then distribute a ground system mat and resource cubes to each player. Deal playing cards and discovery cards to each player, select the solar system targets, and you are ready to begin exploring.
A player’s turn consists of four sequential phases, taken in the following order:
Phase 1 – Trade Cards
The objective in Phase 1 is to assemble the best hand for Phase 2 so that the player can perform various game actions.
All Playing cards in this game are dual use. The letter in the upper left-hand corner of each Playing card indicates whether a card represents a Technical, Management, or Cost element. This trio represents the three types of analyses that are required for each stage of space mission development. The text in the lower left-hand corner describes the second use of the card. During Phase 2, a player must discard one Technical, one Management, and one Cost card to form a TMC Triplet. The remaining three cards are available to play as Actions.
To assemble the best hand for Phase 2, a player may trade one or two cards with the Market (five face-up cards available to all players). A player may also discard any three cards into the TMC Discard Pile and draw three new cards.
Phase 2 – Discard TMC Triplet and Perform Actions
After discarding their TMC Triplet, the player may perform up to three actions in any order. Possible actions are:
- Retrieve a Card from the TMC Discard Pile: Search through the TMC Discard Pile, retrieve one card of your choice
- Build a Rocket: Place a Rocket card from your hand next to the matching Launch Pad on the Game Board - then place the indicated number of Resource Cubes on top of the card
- Build a Spacecraft: Place a Spacecraft card from your hand next to a matching connector on any open Rocket or Spacecraft - then place the indicated number of Resource Cubes on top of the card
- Build a Science Instrument: Place an Instrument card that matches any open connector on a Spacecraft card - then place the number of indicated Resource Cubes on top of the card
- Enhance Ground System: Each player operates a ground system. The capabilities of the ground system can be enhanced by playing specific cards as actions
- Add Resource Cubes to a Component on Earth: A player may add one or two of their Resource Cubes to any Rocket, Spacecraft, or Science Instrument card that is still on the Earth and already has at least one of their cubes on it.
- Retrieve One Resource Cube: A player may remove one of their Resource Cubes that is in play and return it to their Available Resources box.
- Transfer Resource Cubes: A player may transfer one or two of their Resource Cubes across a Connector. Connectors exist between Rockets and Spacecraft, between Spacecraft and Instruments, and between training boxes on the Ground System Mat
- Launch a Rocket: Requires a dice roll. Remove Resource Cubes from a Rocket card to gain dice. Train your launch team to increase the odds of success.
- Move a Spacecraft: Requires a dice roll or Gravity Assist cards. Remove Resource Cubes from a Spacecraft card to gain dice. The more experienced your spacecraft team, the more likely you are to arrive at the target.
- Downlink Data from a Science Instrument: Requires a dice roll or Science Operations Center cards. Remove Resource Cubes from a Science Instrument card to gain dice. A knowledgeable science team has a better chance of downlinking data.
- Acquire New Discovery Cards: Draw three Discovery cards and choose to keep one, two, or all three
Phase 3 – Make Discoveries
With the right combination of Downlink Cards, players make scientific discoveries. Players may claim their Discovery cards once they have the right combination of Downlink cards. After completing the Discovery, the player scores the points indicated on the Discovery card.
Phase 4 – Restore Hand
At the end of their turn, each player draws new Playing Cards to restore their hand to six cards.
The game ends when a player reaches 30 or more points on their turn or if there are no cards left for a player to restore their hand to six cards. When one of these events happen, each player gets one last turn. The game can be lengthened or shortened by adjusting the number of points needed to win.
After each player completes their last turn, they total up the number of points scored. The player with the highest total number of points wins. In the case of a tie, the player with the highest Discovery points wins.
Read the full set of rules here
Backers that support us at the $39 level and higher will receive the Kickstarter-exclusive Downlink Mission Patch!
Playtesting and Feedback
For an excellent rundown of a playtesting session - read this article by Jason Davis: The Player of Games: A round of Downlink with Dante Lauretta
We spent over a year testing and improving this game. We play tested with kids as young as 10 years of age, college students, graduate students, gamers (some pretty intense), spacecraft engineers, scientists, and more. Along the way we made improvements and refined the game mechanics. We are confident this is a game everyone will love!
Downlink has been playtested by over 50 people across the world, and launched on Kickstarter with the design complete. Just like with Xtronaut and Constellations (which were delivered to all backers on time), Downlink is ready to move into production once the Kickstarter campaign is complete.
Reviews of Xtronaut Games
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Xtronaut has a track-record of designing award-winning games that combine fun with a bit of science learning along the way.
We formed Xtronaut to inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers and citizen scientists through space mission-related games and education programs. Professor Dante Lauretta, the leader of the NASA OSIRIS-REx mission (launched September 2016, to an asteroid named Bennu), and Michael Lyon, a leader in the space tourism sector (organizing the first tourist flights on the Soyuz Rocket to the ISS) founded Xtronaut. Our games are distinguished by their family-friendly engaging play and adherence to real scientific principles.
Shire Post Mint has fulfilled 6 successful Kickstarter campaigns in the past. They have been making and shipping coins for 15 years so we are confident in our coin-making timeline. Shire Post Mint is a traditional fantasy coin making mint with four full time staff specializing in the fabrication of fully-licensed fantasy currency from fictional worlds. Shire Post utilizes antique coin making processes to recreate the feel and look of ancient and medieval coins, from hand-carving dies, using solid metals (never cast or plated), stamping with antique machines, to tumbling and chemically or thermally treating the coins in order to bring about the weathered look of old coins. They will be creating the coins in their workshop so we will have full control and give accurate updates on timing and any challenges that arise. Space mission coins are a new venture for us, but prototypes have been very successful.
We have worked hard to be ready for this Kickstarter. When our campaign is funded, we will immediately place the order for production of the final product -- all materials are ready to go, and the game has undergone extensive and fruitful playtesting. We have proven our manufacturing and distribution system with Xtronaut and Constellations. For Downlink, we have brought on two new partners for fulfillment and shipping.
Backerkit is the platform we’re using to manage your Kickstarter pledges. After the campaign, you’ll be able to add additional items to your pledge, manage your shipping address, and be informed when your items have shipped.
We look forward to getting Downlink in your hands as soon as possible, with our goal of on time delivery. We will use Fulfillrite to fulfill the games. We recognize that shipping costs are substantial. The prices reflect our best estimate of the actual shipping costs with no markup. Our goal is to provide the best and least costly shipping available. Shire Mint will ship the coins to backers directly.
We would like to thank SpaceCom for their support of our Kickstarter campaign and at their upcoming conference and exposition in Houston! Look for Xtronaut at the exposition area.
To Aerolite Meteorites for assistance with the video production.
Risks and challenges
As with any project that involves the production and manufacture of tangible product to be delivered, there is a real chance for production delays and other factors presenting challenges along the way. Many board game projects on Kickstarter have been seriously hampered by art production delays, problems with an overseas factory, missing units, and shipping mistakes.
Fortunately, the designers of this game are used to managing large projects. Just like in building a spacecraft, we developed plans to handle a wide range of contingencies. Our success with Xtronaut and Constellations has resulted in a streamlined system for design, testing, production, and distribution. Downlink will be ready to go as soon as the campaign ends!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter