Posted in Artwork, Rules Design

Triggered! Random Events in SW1

Trigger Cards and why there are no dice in Saucer War One

Hello, Miniaturists! Welcome back for another game design-related article, as we navigate through the process of bringing Saucer War One to reality. Today, I’m revealing the Trigger Card, which provides the mechanism for random events. Let’s take a look.

In terms of the ‘look’ of the cards, I’m trying for a ‘nose art pin-up’ feel, but with a retro sci-fi vibe. The illustrations are not mine; they are the work of the talented Dan Morton, (part of his Stellar Queens folio), and are there entirely as ‘placeholder’ art, until I commission some bespoke artworks. But, they give you a feel for what I’m aiming at.

Incidentally, if anyone has a website for Mr. Morton, I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a link in the comments; I’d intended to provide a link in this article, but no site can I find.

I’ll talk more about the artwork later, but right now, let’s break down the symbols on a Trigger Card…

Each Trigger Card displays a Randomizer Number from 1 – 12 in three places. (That’s just to make it easier to read the number regardless of the card’s orientation.) This is used in the same way as a normal twelve-sided dice (D12) and most commonly tells us if a Crew Check has passed or failed.

The Grav Shield Result tells you if your Saucer’s Grav Shield bounced an incoming Hit, or if the Hit got through the Shield, inflicting Damage.

The Damage Result tells us how many Pulses a Saucer loses as a result of taking Damage. The number is sometimes replaced with a Critical Hit Symbol, which is bad for whoever is on the receiving end, as Critical Hits inflict special effects such as disabling a Weapon, bashing the Crew around, or making you explode, scattering you as debris all over a ranch in New Mexico. (What, again??)

“So why not just include a D12 in the game? Wouldn’t that cover all these random elements, aided by a written table or three?” I hear you growl.

Fair question! Read on, and things will become clear.

Fractions for Factions

Trigger Cards come in decks of 36 cards, with each deck customised for each faction; Hence the changes in colours and Faction Icons. This is not merely for appearances’ sake. The proportions of certain results change from Faction to Faction, reflecting their different technologies and doctrines.

For example, the Noordicans have the best Grav Shields, so their Trigger Deck has a higher number of ‘bounce’ results than the Grav Shield Results of the other Factions.

Similarly, there are features on some Faction’s Saucers that just don’t appear on those of their rivals, so those features need only appear as Critical Hits on that Faction’s Cards.

In other words, customising a Deck to its Faction elegantly avoids many of the ‘special rules’ that are such a feature of wargames which utilise one dice type as their randomiser. It also allows a lot more finesse when fine-tuning results to achieve factional balance, without the need to add more rules to ‘beef up’ or ‘nerf’ a faction which becomes too powerful.

And, if players agree, they can swap certain cards in and out of the Decks, customising results to their tastes! Does your gaming group like to see Saucers exploding in droves? Add more lethal Critical Hit Cards! Using Saucer War One for combat in a RPG, but don’t want to kill your characters too easily? Take out the Crew Hit results. The possibilities are endless.

Yes Cheesecake but no Beefcake?

Now that we’ve looked under the hood of the Trigger Cards, let’s take another look at the bodywork.

When I went Googling for images of sci-fi pin-up art, I knew I wouldn’t find much material in the masculine form. Pin-ups are overwhelmingly female in subject, and sadly, often demeaning.

This may be perfectly fine from an historical perspective. Much of the past was a sexist place, the 1950’s doubly so.

But for the men and women fighting side-by-side in Saucer War One, there’s no room for such nonsense!

ANTIC in particular has a deliberate policy of ignoring a pilot’s sex during selection; either you’re good enough, or you’re not, genitals notwithstanding.

The Mondreich can hardly pick and choose, up there on the Moon, and besides, they’re ruled by a mysterious woman with remarkably long hair…

The Noordicans have been through the population-shrinking horror of nuclear war, and have no time to debate the roles of the sexes. For the denizens of Venus, the grains in the hourglass are running out…

This is a little closer to what I have in mind; a character who can appear sexy, dynamic and in control of her situation, unlike the Fay Dunaway stand-in below.

So, I liked the idea of adding beefcake to my cards, alongside the cheesecake. But there’s an acute lack of good-looking beaus in goldfish bowl helmets from this era. Most of them are portrayed wearing very unsexy rubber diving suits. Who the heck was their tailor?

So, I seem to have a quest in the future, to find an artist who can create a balance of male and female pin-ups, each equally appealing and dynamic. If you can think of someone, I would love to get their details!

I’m also thinking it might be neat to offer a Kickstarter stretch goal that enables a backer to become immortalised in a card. Do you think that might be a fun option?

That’s all for today, and I hope you’ve enjoyed this insight into the mechanics and philosophy of Saucer War One. Next time, we will move onto the Weapons with which the Saucers blast each other out of contention!

Until then: Watch the Skies!


The man who is Miniature Martin. A maker of games, models and other things to please lovers of sci-fi, alternate worlds, and the strange beings and machines that you find there. Join me at for adventures into the realms beyond the Alternoscope!

2 thoughts on “Triggered! Random Events in SW1

  1. Personally I’d like some varied artwork to go along with the nose-art illustrations. For example ANTIC could have some recovery crew assessing a downed Biga, the Mondreich a propaganda poster of a lunar city, Noordicans could have one of their “stables” with saucers neatly lined up, etc etc. That along with the pinup art would be pretty neat, I’d argue.


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