Traveller was one of the first role playing games I ever played — and it definitely was the first science fiction RPG I ever played.
But that’s not what I remember about it. What I remember about it was the strange little mini-game in the back of the rulebook, essentially a set of rules for interstellar trading. Really no more than a few tables and some guidelines, it was a bare-bones simulator for an independent trade ship in the stars. It was nonetheless enough to fire our imagination, and my friends and I spent many summer hours rolling dice, struggling to keep our tiny commercial vessels profitable as we tried to find viable trade routes between Altair and Ursa Major. Other games had better combat and character generation, but none could terrify you with the specter of bankruptcy like Traveller.
I think that’s why I’m so interested in the new Traveller Customizable Card Game. While it’s not an RPG, it does promise some of the deep-space capitalist thrill that those old tables delivered. It puts you in the shoes of a independent ship captain — think Mal Reynolds in Firefly — plying the mains in search of profit and adventure. You can hire a crew, find contracts, explore, choose piracy, pay off your ship, and go bankrupt, all against the rich backdrop of the Third Imperium.
[Click the images for stellar-sized versions.]
The boxed Two Player Starter Set was published in 2017 by Horizon and Far Future Enterprises, the same outfit that reprinted the original Traveller books and games in affordable omnibus editions a few years ago. It comes with two different Ship Decks, the Beowulf Free Trader and the Type S Scout decks, 60 additional cards, a rule book and counter sheet.
Although it’s a card game, don’t think Magic. It’s non-collectable, meaning the cards you get in each deck aren’t random, and there are no rare cards. The contents of each deck are fixed, so you always know what you’re getting.
Starter Set contents: counters and a whole lot of cards
Here’s the description.
The Traveller Customizable Card Game is an adaptation of Marc Miller’s classic science-fiction setting designed to accommodate between two to four players. Be the first Captain to pay off your ship, fending off bankruptcy, pirates, and the hostility of an uncaring universe. Alternatively, lone captains may challenge themselves with one of three solo play scenarios. As a customizable card game, Traveller cards come in fixed sets, from which players may then assemble their decks. On the space lanes of the far future, independent ship captains ply the mains in search of profit and adventure. Great rewards can be found on the commercial routes, but ruin stalks the careless or unlucky. Take the captain’s chair and lead an iconic vessel of the Third Imperium. Hire crew, find jobs and engage in piracy, all in a bid to stay in the black.
There are a number of reviews out there, but the one I found most useful was this 4-star Amazon review from Richard A. Edwards. Here’s a snippet.
Designed as a competitive card game, in addition to adding Complications to Contracts, each round players can choose to pursue Piracy or a Contract. Piracy combat can result in destroying Ship Upgrades and costing Credits, which can reduce the effectiveness of your ship or even run you into Bankruptcy. The first player to 20 Victory Points wins, the first player to go Bankrupt loses…
If you’re a Traveller fan looking for an RPG-like experience in a card game, you won’t find it here. But if you’re a fan of competitive CCGs, this is an interesting game with many options.
The game has been out for two years, and there are already some expansions for it, including two additional Ship Decks, the Empress Marava Far Trader and the Subsidized Merchant decks.
There are also two expansion packs: Aliens of the Imperium, and Trouble on the Mains.
As a CCG, the game doesn’t promise the same level of depth as an RPG, but it does offer the opportunity for a much-enhanced version of the simple space trading mechanic that kept me so enthralled all those years ago. I bought a copy two weeks ago; now I just need to find someone to play it with.
Mongoose Traveller: A Bright Future for Science Fiction Role-Playing by Howard Andrew Jones (2010)
Interview with Marc Miller, Part I (2010)
Interview with Marc Miller, Part II of II (2010)
Howard Andrew Jones Reviews Traveller RPG Supplements (2011)
Better Fantasy Gaming Through Traveller by Howard Andrew Jones (2012)
Appendix T by James Maliszewski (2013)
Step Into the Traveller Universe with Fate of the Kinunir by John O’Neill (2013)
When Stellar Empires Clash: GDW’s Dark Nebula and Imperium by John O’Neill (2014)
GDW Co-Founder and Game Designer Loren Wiseman Has Died by John O’Neill (2017)
How Much Adventure Can Fit on One Planet? Find Out in Tarsus: World Beyond the Frontier by John O’Neill (2018)
And M Harold Page did a fine series on the Mongoose edition of Traveller in 2017.
The New Mongoose Traveller RPG #0: Transported by Free Trader Beowulf! by M Harold Page (2017)
The New Mongoose Traveller #1 — First Impressions by M Harold Page (2017)
The New Mongoose Traveller #2 — More Than Just a Science Fiction Midlife Crisis Simulator? by M Harold Page (2017)
The Traveller Central Supply Catalogue Page by Page: New Rules and Armour by M Harold Page (2017)
The New Mongoose Traveller #3 — Random Adventures, Or How I GM’d With No Prep by M Harold Page (2017)
The Traveller Central Supply Catalogue Page by Page: Survival Gear, Electronics and Computers… by M Harold Page (2017)
Traveller Resources Without Dice #1: The Travel Survival Guide by Lloyd Figgins by M Harold Page (2018)
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