Robert Faust

Tracy Kreckman

Jennifer Martin

Kristin Packer

| Instructional Objective | Learners & Context | Object of Game | Game Materials |

| Time Required | Setup | Rules | Design Process | References |

Instructional Objectives

The learners will be able to name, recognize, and locate various constellations in the northern hemisphere. They will learn that the constellations appear to rotate about a celestial pole (Polaris) and that their position in the night sky depends upon both the time of year and the time of night. In order to predict which constellations are visible to the naked eye on a particular day of the year and at particular time of night, the learners will be able to use the Night Sky tool. The learners also will be able to name and locate major stars and other objects of interest in the northern hemisphere. Finally, the learners will become familiar with the mythology associated with the constellations as well as with general astronomy facts.

Learners & Context of Use

This game is designed for learners 12 years of age and older. It is designed to reinforce recognition of various constellations in the northern hemisphere, facts about our solar system, and concepts in general astronomy. This design also considered the need to increase the skill with which the Night Sky tool is used to locate objects in the northern hemisphere at different times of year and at different times of night.

Object of the Game

The object of the game is to be the first player to take over all 32 constellations on the board. This objective applies when the players intend to play the game to completion. For shorter duration games, the player with control of the most number of constellations at the end of the game wins.

Game Materials

  • A game board
  • 4 space ships, each in a different color
  • 2 six-sided dice
  • "Armada" game pieces in five different colors
  • 1 "The Night Sky" tool
  • 1 stack of Interstellar cards
  • 1 stack of Constellation cards
  • 1 stack of Nebular cards
  • 1 stack of Solar System cards
  • Combat Outcome Table
Game Board

Night Sky Tool

The night sky tool indicates which constellations are visible in the night sky on a particular date and at a particular time. By aligning the red marks which are located on June 21st and 12 midnight, the player can see which constellations are visible at that time.

Sample Cards

This game contains four different types of playing cards. Three of these card types - Constellation, Interstellar, and Solar System - contain questions which a player must answer correctly in order to obtain armada pieces. The number of armada pieces collected by a player for a correct answer is indicated on each card and depends upon the level of difficulty of the question. The fourth type of card - Nebular - is a type of "chance" card which requires the player to perform an action.

The Constellation cards contain questions about the constellations or require the use of the Night Sky tool. A great majority of these questions can be answered by looking at the game board or by correctly using the Night Sky tool. This stack of cards will also contain questions about the mythology relating to the various constellations.

The Interstellar cards contain questions about facts and concepts in general astronomy.

The Solar System cards contain general questions about our solar system.

The Nebular cards are "chance" cards which contain interesting facts and possibilities relating to astronomy.

Time Required

The game is for 2-4 players. Set up time for this game is approximately five minutes. The time required to play the game to completion is between 1-2 hours. If desired, this game can be played for a set time period of 30 minutes or more. This game also can be be played over a number of days if (1) the board is left undisturbed between sessions and (2) at the end of each session both the order in which the players roll and the last player to roll are written down.

  1. Shuffle all cards and place them in their respective piles face down.
  2. Players each roll a die. The player with the high roll begins by placing an armada on a constellation.
  3. Proceeding clockwise, all players then take turns placing armadas on remaining constellations until all constellations are occupied.
  4. Each player chooses a movement token and places it on the Start space.

The Rules
  1. The person with the high roll begins first. That player rolls a die and moves that number of squares clockwise around the board.

  2. If the player lands on a Question space (Constellations, Insterstellar or Solar System), the person to the player's left reads a question from the appropriate category. Each question has a value of 1, 2, or 3, based on the difficulty of the question. If the player answers the question correctly, (s)he may place a number of armada tokens equal to the difficulty of the question on any constellation(s) occupied by that player.

  3. If the player lands on a Nebular space, (s)he reads the Nebular card and performs the action listed on the card. The turn then passes to the next player in a clockwise fashion.
  1. If a player lands on a Con-Quest space, (s)he may (but does not have to) enter conflict with another player that occupies an adjacent constellation. To initiate conflict, the player must have at least two armadas on the attacking constellation. The attacking and defending player may only have one constellation apiece involved in a conflict at a time.

  2. Each player rolls a die. The player who rolls lower must remove an armada from the constellation involved in the conflict. In case of a tie, no armadas are removed from either side.

  3. If all armadas are removed from the defender's constellation, it has been conquered, and the attacker must move at least one armada into that constellation. The attacker may attack as many times as desired until the defending constellation is conquered or (s)he chooses to stop.

  4. More than one constellation may be attacked on a single turn in the same manner until no other conflict is possible. If a player is left with no occupied constellations, (s)he is out of the game.

  5. At the end of the attacker's turn, (s)he may move as many armadas from one constellation into an adjacent constellation, as long as at least one armada remains in each constellation.
Alternate Rules
  1. Timed game: rather than play until one player has conquered all 32 constellations, an arbitrary time limit may be set. At the end of that time limit, the player with control of the most constellations is the winner.
  2. Advanced conflict: instead of each player rolling a die to determine the outcome of a conflict, use the Combat Outcome Table. This table requires only a single die roll. It takes into account advantages gained by superior numbers, and makes it possible to lose more than one armada per die roll.

Design Process

The design process for Con-Quest was a lengthy and difficult process. The diversity of topics within the field of astronomy gave us endless ideas for educational games, and inevitably became a barrier to establishing a clear focus for our game. There were many subjects for initial ideas: constellations, planets, traveling through the universe, etc. After hours of deliberation, we decided to focus on a "Risk"-type game in which players worked to conquer the constellations on an inner constellation map, as they moved around an outside track answering questions and gaining armadas to place on their designated constellations.

We initially designed a moveable map of the constellations with part of the map covered, simulating the rotation of the earth throughout the year and showing the effect on viewing particular constellations during certain seasons/months. This design was based on the tool used to help stargazers locate constellations.

In this design, the players were to move their markers on the constellation map and lay down pieces or somehow mark the constellations they had captured after earning markers by answering questions about astronomy. However, the playability of this type of game board proved much too difficult to create, because the markers would be displaced as the board moved under the covering.

The final board game is arranged in a circular shape with a map of the northern hemisphere constellations as they appear in the night sky, surrounded by a circular track on which the players move around. We chose to include the map of the northern hemisphere constellations as part of our board because we felt if learners were able to see and interact with the shapes of the constellations, they would become familiar with the common shapes and number of objects within the visible constellations.

We liked the idea of interacting with the constellations on a stationary map with all of the constellations displayed, but once again ran into difficulties trying to create a meaningful and fair way to have players move across the map. Finally, we decided to create a track around the outside of the stationary map, designating squares with specific types of questions to answer when landed upon. If a question was answered correctly, a player then earned armadas to place on one of his/her occupied constellations on the board. We felt that this model would allow for:

  • easy playability
  • interaction with the constellation map
  • enrichment information through the astronomy questions.

The outer track is divided into squares that each fall into one of three categories: Questions (Solar System, Interstellar, or Constellations), Random Event (Nebular), or Conflict (Con-Quest). When a player lands on the Solar System, Interstellar, and Constellation squares he/she must answer a question correctly pertaining to that particular category to earn armadas. The answers to many of the constellation questions can be found by looking directly at the game board, or by using the "Night Sky" tool provided with the game. Initially, we were going to use only questions regarding constellations, but quickly realized that including the other categories would enrich the learning as well as provide an extensive question databank for players.

The Nebular squares are the random event cards (similar to Monopoly's "chance" cards). These cards can produce either a positive or negative outcome for the player. These cards are hypothetical situation cards that are meant to enhance the knowledge of the players by presenting situations that are random occurrences in the field of astronomy.

The Con-Quest squares facilitate the conquering of the constellations on the board. This concept was taken from the game of Risk, though the method of conflict is somewhat different. If a player lands on one of these squares, he/she may challenge another player for control of a constellation by waging a battle of armadas. A simple die roll by each player determines the outcome of one armada at a time.

An advanced version of the rules incorporates a Combat Outcome Table to resolve conflict. Using this table, players must figure out the ratio of their armadas to their opponents armadas and then determine a loss or gain of armadas based on the roll of a die as designated by the table. This type of conflict interaction was created to add a more challenging engagement to player interaction rather than a simple role of the die to determine the resolution of a battle for the constellation.


 Books & Journals

Hoyle, Fred (1962). Astronomy. London: Rathbone Books Limited.

Mitton, Dr. J. & Mitton, Dr. S. (1979). Star atlas. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc.

Soter, S. & Tyson, N. D. (2001). Cosmic horizons, astronomy at the cutting edge. New York: New York Press.

Friedman, H. (1990). The astronomer's universe; stars, galaxies, and cosmos. New York: Norton and Company.


The American Association of Amateur Astronomers

Space Hopper Constellation Game



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Last updated October xx 1999