Part 2: Essentials

Card Layout

....races quickly adapted their natural talents in business, diplomacy, and technology to the art of warfare....

The figure below shows the basic layout of a Super Nova card.


On each card, the upper left corner shows the card's population potential, the upper middle shows the card's type, and the upper right shows the phase in which you may play the card. The title runs vertically along the left edge of each card. Below the art is a general description of the card, its abilities, and the name of the artist. At the bottom, three letter/number pairs define each card's value in three categories. The categories are:

M: Military Strength
D: Diplomatic Strength
E: Economic Strength

Card Types and Usage

....the variations among races, planets, and technology created an insolvable web of choices that made tactical decisions difficult....


During the course of the game, you build your empire by playing cards face up in front of you. A common layout is to have the planets closest to you with the ships slightly farther away to show that they are in orbit above a particular planet. Super Nova cards are specially designed so that if you stack them slightly offset from each other (as shown below) you can easily read the combined strengths of a planet or ship.

[Card Stacks]

In this example, Regulus is fortunate enough to have Abundant Land. Built on Regulus is a Megalopolis and Koolian Diplomats. The Relay Ship has been fitted with a Laze Cannon and is currently carrying General Bellis. In both cases you can quickly scan the bottom edges and determine the total strength of the stack.

While playing cards, each opponent must have an opportunity to play a card after every card you play. For example, laying down three cards simultaneously does not prevent an opponent from playing a Special card between your second and third cards. Players may ask to examine any card in play at any time. This includes all planets, ships, etc., but not the cards in an opponent's hand.


Planets enable you to support population and ships. You need planets to win the game. You may play one planet card during each Discover phase. Planets can assume three different roles; they can be Homeworlds, Colonies, or Uninhabited worlds. See the Homeworlds section for more details.


Environment cards permanently change the characteristics of a planet. Once played, Environments cannot be moved and are unaffected by attacks on the planet. All references to the planet in the rules or on the cards refer to the planet and all its Environment cards. During the Discover Phase, you may play Environment cards on any planet discovered that turn, including planets discovered by other players.


Civilization cards also change the characteristics of a planet. Once played, Civilization cannot be moved; however, it is subject to all forms of attack. The Build phase is the only time you may play Civilization cards.


Population cards represent the races and key individuals found in the galaxy. Population helps you attack and defend planets. Each ship or planet can carry the value of population cards equal to its population potential.

During the Build phase, you may play population cards on Homeworlds and Colonies in your empire. During the Transport phase, you may colonize planets and move population around (see the Build Phase and Transport Phase sections for details). There are two kinds of population cards: Mercenaries (usually just called Mercs) and Aliens.


You may build Mercs on any Homeworld or Colony. Some Mercs have their Headquarters on a specific planet. When a Merc is attacking or defending its Headquarters, you may double all the strengths of the Merc. Merc cards can coexist with Alien cards on both planets and ships.


You may build Aliens on one of their Homeworlds or on any Colony that has Mercs or Aliens of the same race. Normally, Aliens of different races cannot coexist on the same world; however, different races can coexist on the same ship. Note that some cards (e.g., Genetic Manipulation) allow you to have different Aliens on the same planet.


Each planet and ship has a maximum population it can support; a planet's population restricts the number of ships that can orbit the planet. You cannot deliberately exceed these limits.

Sometimes, however, the actions of other players may force you over these limits. When this occurs, you have until your Discard phase to correct the situation (e.g., you could transport your population to another planet). If, at your Discard phase, you remain over the limits, you must discard population cards in play until you are within bounds again. You may choose which population cards to discard.


Ships transport population between planets; they may also attack other ships and planets. Ships are assumed to have their own crew and can function without population aboard. Ships cannot land on planets; they are either in orbit or in deep space.

Many ships have a classification (e.g., Warship, Mercantile, Diplomatic) associated with them. Some cards have special abilities when dealing with ships of a particular class. For example, although ships normally must attack other ships Militarily, Antarians on Mercantile ships may attack other ships Economically.

During the Build phase, you may build Ships in orbit around any of your planets. Each planet, and each population card on the planet, can support a single ship in orbit. For example, a planet with no population can only have one ship. A planet with two population cards may have up to three ships.

Be careful! If you have a populated planet surrounded by the maximum number of ships, you cannot move population to the ships and leave them in orbit - If you did, the ships would no longer have the planetary population to support them. You must discard unsupported ships at the end of your turn - See the Discard Phase in Part 3: Turns for details.


Ship Modifier cards alter the strengths of a ship. You may play Ship Modifier cards during the Build phase. Once played, a Ship Modifier becomes part of a specific ship and moves with the ship.

Homeworld Evolution

....planets changed hands so often that cartographers could not keep up with the "home" race of any given world....

Planets may either be Uninhabited, Colonies, or Homeworlds depending on the planet and the other cards in play.

Briefly, you can build population on a Homeworld even if there is no population on it. Colonies must already have population on them before you can build more population. This means that you must initially transport some population to the planet before you can build on it. You cannot build population directly on an Uninhabited world. As there are further restrictions, please read the sections below.


A planet is a permanent Homeworld if it says Homeworld on the card. Permanent Homeworlds remain Homeworlds throughout the game and their Homeworld status is unaffected by attacks on the planet.

Any time you have no Homeworlds in play, you may designate one of your existing planets to be a Homeworld, even if it does not say Homeworld on the card. Note that you do not have to declare the home race at this point. You may build Mercs on your Homeworld even if the home race is undeclared. However, you cannot build the home race until you announce who they are. You may declare the home race of a Homeworld at any time.

Once you have a Homeworld, you can build Mercs or the home Aliens on it during your Build Phase. Designated Homeworlds revert to being Uninhabited if they are captured during a Military attack or if you remove all population.


Uninhabited worlds are planets that have no population and which are not permanent Homeworlds. Unless the card states it is a Homeworld, a newly discovered planets is Uninhabited. If you take a player-designated Homeworld militarily, it reverts to being Uninhabited. You cannot build population on Uninhabited worlds until you colonize them.


Once you transport population to an Uninhabited planet, it becomes a Colony (see the Transport Phase for details). Colonies are owned by whatever Alien race is there at the time. If an Alien occupies the Colony, you may either build Mercs or Aliens of the same race. When a Colony is exclusively occupied by Mercs, you may build more Mercs or any single Alien race.

Remember that you may only build new population on Colonies that currently have population. This means that if you remove all population from a Colony it reverts to being an Uninhabited world.


....eventually any ship that could fly was conscripted into the Nova Wars. It was not uncommon to see a fleet with Garbage Scows alongside Battleships....

A Fleet is any collection of ships that band together to attack or defend a planet. The strength of a Fleet is the total strength of all members of the Fleet. You do not have to do anything special to create a Fleet; a Fleet exists simply by having your ships in the same location. A ship's special ability (e.g., the ability to attack Economically when Antarians are on a Mercantile ship) does not extend to other ships in the same Fleet.


....unlike many planetary wars, the Nova Wars were fought over the potential for population rather than raw assets. Nevertheless, assets were still the means to the end....

On a ship, Assets are everything but the ship itself (i.e., population and ship modifiers). On a planet, Assets are everything but the planet and Environment cards (i.e., population and Civilization). The concept of Assets is essential to understanding the results of an attack. See Attack Results for additional details.

Advance to Part 3 of the Rules
Return to Rules Index
Go to Supernova home page