The unofficial Icehouse wiki is found at http://icehousegames.org/wiki/?title=Homeworlds. Any ideas for variants and other general Homeworlds discussion should probably be posted there also, for the sake of consistency. There's lots of pyramid colours out there! Any ideas for new powers?

Implementation-Specific Details

  • This implementation uses an N+1 economy where N is the number of players.
  • The center area of the map is updated dynamically as new systems are discovered. Their order is purely arbitrary. Movement in this game is completely non-linear. The only restriction is that the systems cannot share a similar star. Don't be distracted by the blocked-out map.
  • Homeworld systems can accept up to 16 ships.
  • Peripheral systems can accept up to 24 ships (though this rarely occurs).
  • Multiple orders (ie. sacrifices and catastrophes) should be separated by a carriage return. To prevent the accidental wasting of a sacrificed piece, you are required to explicitly pass any undesired moves.
  • Occasionally, you may have unused sacrifice actions that you are physically unable to use. In this case, you still have to pass.
  • The code has now been updated to warn players of the basic 4 starting blunders:
    1. not starting with a size-3 ship
    2. not starting with Green or Blue technologies
    3. not including 3 distinct technologies in your homeworld
    4. starting with stars of the same size
  • The system no longer requires you to enter the entire command keyword. Simply entering the first letter (and any others if you like) will be sufficient. This required us to change the construct keyword to build. You may continue to use construct as an alias as long as you enter at least the letters con.
  • In the Sinister Homeworlds variation where the object is to eliminate the player on your left, eliminating a player to your right or across from you does not end the game and does not give somebody else the victory. Instead, the game continues with whoever is remaining still trying to eliminate whoever is now on their left.
  • Handicapping is implemented. If desired, a stronger player can create a homeworld with just one star. This is done by replacing any one of the two star definitions with a hyphen(-) like so: homeworld y1 - g3. This will generate a warning unless followed by an asterisk(*) to override the check. So, if you're sure you know what you're getting yourself in to, type homeworld y1 - g3.
  • TODO: Make it easier to figure out how to send orders from double systems. I (mneme) have spent about 5-8 variations of orders trying to build something in my homeworld without issue.

Implementation Request

  • (jeep) I went to replay an old game and I found it really difficult because the messages don't tell you what the homeworlds were, nor what the discovered stars are. Maybe the messages could be more like ”<player> has discovered a homeworld with a X# ship. It's a binary system with a X# star and a X# star.” and ”<player> left <name> system with his X# ship and discovered a new X# star system.” -JEEP
    • (Aaron) Added to the SDG TODO list. — Aaron 24 Nov 2005 19:19
    • (Jesse) In the meantime, don't delete the game reports sent out by email; they contain the full commands needed to replay the game.
      • (jeep) That's great for games that are complete. I've started keeping them, but several were eaten by spam filters. -JEEP
  • (ldd23) I enjoy the dynamics of the good vs. evil victory condition. Is there any chance that this will be implemented on SDG?
  • (fnord) I had the amazing strategy of moving my last ship from my homeworld, forgetting that this would annihilate me, and win the game for my opponent. Would it be possible to add a warning to the player when they're about to do something this… *ahem* inelegant?
    • (Aaron) Can you give me a game number? The system should not allow a player to eliminate themselves. — Aaron 01 Jul 2006 12:15
      • (mjbuyck) I just did it on my first game. >_< #4375 –~~~~
  • (Jerzy) On the subject of additional colors, maybe purple could allow a player to merge two stars. This way, one would be able to regenerate a crippled homeworld… It would make the game much longer, though, and it would be useless to have purple as one of your homeworld stars.
    • (Freemonty) I actually don't think that new abilities are needed. at least not in the basic game. first of all, the four basic abilities are necessary for the game to work in the first place; without them the game just doesn't work. this means that the new abilities would be extra. Of course this should be obvious to anyone who has played the game even once. More complicated reasons: game balance, game length, and ease of learning.

Any time you ad a new ability to the game (any game)you change the basic balance of the game. Your homeworld repair ability would make it harder to kill players,which would not only lengthen the game, it would favor the player who knew to take advantage of it. Thats not all. Adding any ability lengthens the game because you have more pieces in the global stash to go through. And players would use them because there is an advantage to having more options in your turn in any game. Lastly, Homeworlds is hard enough to teach to newbes as it is. I speak from experience because I am still new to it (I just happen to have experience with 4x games and games in general). Adding complexity to any game makes it harder to teach. If you've ever had to teach someone Magic; The Gathering, you would know how hard it is to teach a complicated game (worse if you've tried teaching a role playing game) All three of these things aren't unique to Homeworlds either. They are natural issues in TCG's where new abilities come in every set in droves. Lastly, a few notes. I refer to abilities not colors. Remember that its the abilities that count, and the color only distinguishes it from the rest of the abilities. Its only convention that green is Build and red is Attack. Also, if you do make new abilities you don't want them to only be useful in your Homeworld or it won't be very important. Your purple ability is like that.

  • (mneme) You aren't forced to explicitly pass a catastrophe. Since one rarely sets up the conditions of a catastrophe without -intending- to blow it up, (as that just gives the opponent the choice, and gives them more options), shouldn't you be? The wikirules imply this, but it's not bourne out by play.
  • (Tank_7) Regarding the idea of a Purple Color and New Ability, while I agree the game is complete, expansion can be a good thing. I did some thinking and came up with this for a 5th color, say Purple: “Switching”. It's kind of like the Blue “Trade”, but it does not use the global stash. What it does is, say you have a Purple Ship. The Purple Ship may Switch Positions with the System Marker of the System it's in, ONLY IF THEY ARE SAME SIZE. In Reverse you could have a Purple Star that can Switch with a Ship in that System. Sacrificing Purple Ships could allow switching any 2 of your pieces as long as they are in the same system. It's a weird idea but it could open up interesting tactics. It kind of adds a new angle to “banking” pieces as system markers. The same size restriction prevents you from changing the System Connections or else that would just be pure chaos :)

Strategy Tips for New Players

I've seen a number of players here making newbie blunders right from the first move. That's okay; we all go through much the same discovery process. I would, however, like to set down a few tips that will help sidestep a few of the common blunders. – Jesse

There is now also a page for discussing strategy in Homeworlds at the (unofficial) Icehouse games wiki. – lambda

Setting Up Your Homeworld

  • Always include green in your homeworld, either as one of your two system markers or as your ship. If you do not, you will waste your first move changing it to green. Consider: You can't use red until your forces come in contact with the enemy. You can't abandon your homeworld, so you can't use yellow until you have more ships to leave behind. Blue only lets you change the ship's color to the one remaining useful color, green.
  • Always take a large piece for your first ship. Size is power, and you will be essentially defenseless without a large ship at your homeworld. It will be a while before you can construct a large ship, and players with large ships will be able to obtain them more readily.
  • After green, yellow and blue are the next most important colors to have. Yellow allows you to spread your pieces efficiently, and blue allows you to diversify your fleet. Both are important to secure growth, because if you have too many ships of the same color in one place (especially your homeworld), you are vulnerable to catastrophes. You can use red at your initial homeworld if you want, but it is not generally to your advantage to do so.
  • Use three different colors in your initial homeworld. Duplicating colors limits your flexibility and leaves you vulnerable to catastrophes. If you have access to blue at the homeworld, you can recover. If you do not, this is a recipe for a quick loss.
  • It is generally bad to use exactly the same size system markers as one of your opponents. This puts your homeworlds only two movement steps apart, where the usual is three, making invasions easier and putting your initial colonies in immediate danger. In a multiplayer game, this means you and your nearest neighbor will have to be highly cautious of each other, while your opponents will be able to develop more freely. In a two-player game, choosing the same system sizes as your opponent is disadvantageous because your forces are in almost immediate contact with an opponent who has had one additional move. It is likewise dangerous to pick two system markers of the same size, since that puts your homeworld in close contact with more of your opponents.

Offense and Defense

  • Size is power. Large ships are crucial to both offense and defense, as well as rapid growth. Try to obtain new large ships, while preventing your opponent(s) from doing so, if possible.
  • Always defend your homeworld. Going on the offense without defending your homeworld is usually disastrous if your attack is unsuccessful. If you do move your large ships away from your homeworld, be sure either that you are delivering the final blow, or that your opponent(s) cannot counterattack, and have a plan to bring them back in case the situation changes.
  • Make sure you have red ships if your opponents have red ships. You may be able to temporarily ignore this if your opponents cannot reach you, but once an opponent lands a ship in your homeworld, it's usually too late to build a red ship because your opponent gets the first shot.

General Tips

  • Avoid sending your ships to planets it will be hard to get them back from.
  • Don't keep many ships of the same color at one planet; that reduces your options to build more ships of that color.
  • Make sure you get ships of each color before it runs out. Getting frozen out of any of the four colors severely limits your options, and makes it harder to obtain large ships.

"What should I be doing?"

One of the biggest problems beginners face is knowing what they need to do at any given point in the game. The eventual objective is to capture or destroy the opponent's homeworld, but the early game doesn't seem to be about that at all. The game may seem to lack direction. “Okay,” a player might say, “I'm building ships and moving them around, but to what end? Clearly, I have to destroy the opponent's homeworld, and building new ships is the only thing I can do at first, but how are these connected? What do I do in between?” Let's take a look at that, starting at the end.

The final goal is to wipe out the ships at your opponent's homeworld. You can do that by capturing them, destroying them with catastrophes, or causing catastrophes to destroy the system itself. Whichever way you choose, it's going to take a lot of resources. Your opponent should, if they have any sense, keep a large ship at their homeworld for defense. If you want to capture it, you'll need a large ship. And not just one, oh no! You still need to guard your own home system, and odds are if you send just one ship in your opponent will be able to capture it. That's no good. You'll need to send in enough large ships that they can't all be captured at once, and be able to capture back more ships than your opponent. That's a tall order. If you want to cause catastrophes to destroy either your opponent's ships or stars, you'll probably still need to send multiple ships in. They won't have to be large, but you'll need at least two, and usually three, plus a sacrifice to get them into the system. And then – here's the kicker – you'll typically need to do it again, but now your opponent has more resources than you do because you just blew up a bunch of your own ships (likely including a y3 to get your ships into the system). The short version: You need a lot of ships to take out your opponent, preferably large ones. So, your intermediate goal is to get more and bigger ships than your opponent.

When I say “more and bigger ships”, I should perhaps say “bigger and more ships”. Given three large ships against one large and a half dozen others, I'd typically favor the large ships. Large ships are power! So, you want to get more large ships than your opponent. But just how do you do that? Well, that's the meat of the game, building and manuevering ships to manipulate the stash in your favor, to get more and bigger ships. (More later…)


The text that follows is not mine. These are comments made by Zoltar in game #4222 in response to a request for information on openings: What are their names and what one should be doing after each of them? [Keith citing Zoltar]

The strongest is “the banker” which is a small and medium star. It allows you to go to large stars first, and you can 'invest' in a large star by placing a g1 or g2 on it. When the color is used up, (e.g., suppose you had a g2 on a y3 star), you could sack the g2, and build the y3 somewhere you have a yellow piece, and rebuild the g2 at the same time, somewhere you have a green piece. Because large pieces are next to your homeworld and easy to 'invest' in, small-medium systems are called “The Banker”.

I'm playing “The Fortress” which is the best defensive position later on, because only small stars are connected to my homeworld, and you run out of small pieces in the middlegame, so it's harder to attack the homeworld. The disadvantage is that I have to use small pieces to expand, and my opponent can more easily calculate so that he will get the first middle-sized piece in a particular color.

You're playing the third kind, called “goldilox” because your homeworld is adjacent to middle-sized pieces. Some players prefer this one most of all, but I don't know yet the advantages or disadvantages.

The top player of all time, Andy Looney, swears that the banker is the strongest, and gives a strong advantage; the second best player in the world, who goes here by TwoShort, disagrees and doesn't think the banker gives anyone more than a minimal edge. However, the banker is the easiest for beginners, so I used it for all my first dozen or so games, and recommend you get familiar with it.

Usually any ybg color combo is good to start, which ships usually being y or g, but recently the top players are using red stars. I'm trying them out (as in this game). It's harder in the opening, but later on, you have a strong defence, as you don't need a red ship in your homeworld to defend, but it is tougher for beginners because red is used least in the opening, so you have to build more ships before you can use the other three color powers, all of which are used in the opening.

(TwoShort) For the record, I think the banker is the strongest opening. I would always take small and medium stars as first player. My only disagreement was with the idea that one might as well give up when a strong opponent chooses it. The banker is an advantage, but not insurmountable.

(TwoShort again) It's now some number of months since I wrote than last comment, and I'm entertaining the idea that the 1-3 (Goldilocks?) opening is the best: moving out to 2 pointers lets you influence the availability of 3 pointers, which is what the early game is all about. If you're on top of things, you can mess with the bankers investments more easily than he can overcome your additional control of stash timing. Maybe. I guess. Perhaps it is important to note that Homeworlds is a young game, don't take anyone's strategy thinking as gospel.

(Aaron) I analyzed 1431 Homeworlds games played on SDG (games ending up to 11 Mar 2013, at least 10 moves long, only 2 players, no systems with two stars of the same size). The results I got are as follows:

  • Goldilocks vs. Banker: Dead even; Goldilocks won 312 times and Banker won 311 times.
  • Goldilocks vs. Fortress: Goldilocks fared slightly better here; 104 vs. 84 wins.
  • Banker vs. Fortress: Banker was more successful; 276 vs. 208 wins.

Rules Clarifications

(Shadowfirebird) Can we have a consensus on these?

Q: If I sacrifice a green ship, can I use it to build (say) a red ship in a system that doesn't have any red in it?

  1. No. In any move, there is a piece supplying access to the power, and a piece using the power. These need not be the same. The color of the piece supplying access determines what you do; this could be a ship of yours or star in the same system for a normal move, it's the piece you sacrificed in a sacrifice move. The ship using the power could be any color, but it moves, or determines the color you grow, or the size you trade for, or the strength of your attack. So to grow red, you must have a red ship that uses the grow power supplied by the green you sacrificed.

Q: If I sacrifice a yellow ship, can I use it to move (say) a blue ship though a system that I didn't have any ships in at the start of the turn? Or how about a yellow ship, since that moves “under it's own power”?

  1. If you sacrifice a yellow ship, can have any of your ships use the move power just as if their were a yellow ship in their system. You can move to (and out of if you sacrificed a 2 or 3) a system you didn't have anything in before, or even a system that didn't exist before.

Another rules clarification

(Quuxplusone) My computer and I were poring over some archived games, and I found that move 25 of game 710 http://superdupergames.org/main.html?page=archive_play&gid=710 appears to be illegal. Was this a programming bug in SDG's implementation that got fixed later, or does someone answer the following question differently from the way I answer it? (update) Never mind. I see that this game was played on 2005-09-14, and Andy Looney commented on 2005-10-13 that a bug like this had been fixed on SDG “recently”. http://www.wunderland.com/WhatsOld/2005/WN.10.13.05.html So the answer below is indeed the only correct answer.

Q: If there are no small yellows in the stash, and I have a small yellow star occupied only by a single green ship, can I sacrifice that green ship to build a medium yellow ship somewhere else?

  1. No. As soon as you sacrifice the ship, the star becomes unoccupied and is returned to the stash. You must build the smallest yellow piece in the stash (the small yellow that just returned there) before you can build a medium yellow.
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