Late Thursday night I discovered Quadrant Z, an elaborate "paper and pencil game of galactic warfare." Against a buzzing background of midnight frogs and palmetto bugs I leaned forward in my chair and emptied the last dregs of coffee from my long since cooled mug. The rules can be difficult to decipher and don't always conform to modern expectations, but the reader is presented with a unique implementation of fog of war and an apprehensive finality of action.

This game is not mine but belongs to Derek Hohls. The rules here are reproduced from The Way Back Machine along with minor spelling corrections and clarifications when necessary.


A paper and pencil game of galactic warfare

by Derek Hohls Version 1 - 6 February 1999


The objective of the game is to conquer the galaxy - either by occupying the most stars; or by capturing the opponent's home base star, or by destroying the opponent's forces.


Each player should draw a 10 by 10 grid. Each set of adjacent 4 squares is grouped into a quadrant, and labelled from A to Y, starting from the top, left hand side quadrant. Each square in a quadrant is numbered from 1 to 4, starting from the top, left hand side square. See Figure 1 for layout.

One player is allocated the 6 quadrants in the top-left hand side of the board as his home sector, and the other takes the 6 quadrants in the bottom-right hand side of the board as his. The remaining 13 quadrants form the neutral sector. The corner quadrants in each player's home sector are their respective home quadrants.

Each player receives 45 points to create stars in the galaxy. The rules for allocation are as follows:

  • Players must place stars with a total value of 15 into their home sector (see Figure 2), and must place stars with a total value of 30 into the neutral sector. They cannot place stars in their opponent's home sector.
  • Stars in a player's home sector can be of value 1, 2 or 3. There may be no more than two value 3 stars. Stars in the neutral sector can be of value 1 or 2.
  • Each quadrant can contain 0, 1 or 2 stars. A star is created by writing its value in a square in a quadrant.
  • A player's home quadrant must contain at least 1 star, and one star in that quadrant must be designated the player's 'home base star'.
  • A player must place at least one star in each of the neutral sector quadrants.

Each player now receives 15 points to create ships in his fleet. Each ship has an offensive (laser batteries) and defensive (force shields) capability expressed as points. Either the offensive or defensive values can be zero. Ships can be of any size, provided that the initial total points value (offensive plus defensive) of all the ships does not exceed 15.

Ships must be allocated starting positions somewhere in a player's home sector.

Each ship's details and starting position should written on a separate line on the player's sheet to keep track of its movement. The suggested notation is, for example,

SHIP 1: 3/2: Start: A3 .....,

where '3' is the offensive and '2' the defensive capability of that ship, and 'A3' is the staring quadrant/square.


A summary of the steps in each in turn is as follows:

  • Build new ships
  • Movement
  • Combat
  • Capture stars

At the end of a turn, players should determine if either has won.


Some, all or none of player's ships can be moved in the same turn. Movement orders are written down simultaneously by both players and then carried out. All movement is resolved before Combat takes place. The suggested notation is, for example:

SHIP 1: 3/2: Start A3: Turn 1: A3 to B2 / Turn 2: B2 to B3 / etc.

A ship can be moved either: from its current position to any square in an orthogonally adjacent quadrant; or from its current position to an orthogonally adjacent square in the same quadrant.

Any number of ships may occupy the same square. Ships may not be moved off the board.


When a player's ship enters a new quadrant, he will gain information about the stars located in it. If it is in the opponent's sector, the opponent must reveal the size and location of the stars. If it is in the neutral sector, then both players must reveal the value and location of any stars placed there. If two stars have been placed in the same square in a neutral quadrant, then their values are added together to form a new, higher value star.

If a player's ship/s move into or through a quadrant in his opponent's home sector, he must reveal the size and location (quadrant and square) of his forces.

When entering a neutral quadrant, however, a player does not have to reveal details of his forces (size or square) - merely that he has a force there.

If a player wants to capture a star, then he must announce the total offensive size of his ship/s occupying that square.


Combat is resolved on a quadrant-by-quadrant basis, starting from A through to Y.

If both players have forces in the same quadrant, then combat between them is automatic; however, if all opposing ships are diagonally opposite then no combat takes place at all.

Combat is resolved as follows:

  • If a ship does not occupy the same square as any opponent's ship, and is diagonally opposite to all his others, then that ship does not take part in combat.
  • Each player then adds the total offensive and total defensive capability of all his combat-capable ships in that quadrant. For each ship that does not occupy the same square as any opponent's ship, and is orthogonally adjacent to any others, subtract one point from the offensive total.
  • Now compare one player's offensive total with his opponent's defense. If the defense is equal or greater his total he has done no damage. If the offense is greater then the defense, then the opponent has taken that many points of damage. Repeat this step for the other player.
  • All damage is taken simultaneously, and must be taken in terms of number of ships lost ie. ships are lost until their total value is equal to or greater than the damage taken. If the total damage is less than the value of one ship, then only one ship is lost. Example: a player with 2 ships - a 2/0 and 3/1 - takes 4 points of damage. He loses the 3/1. If had taken 5 points of damage, he would have had to lose both ships.
  • The choice of which ships are lost is at the discretion of the owner.


A player can capture a star by occupying it with a ship (or ships) of offensive capability equal to or greater than, the value of that star, for one turn. A captured star yields points equal to its value to the player who has captured it. He should keep track of the stock of total points received. Stars cannot be recaptured! A star is only captured if it was occupied before any movement in the current turn ie. it must have been occupied for a full turn.


At the start of each turn, before any movement, players may build new ships from any points in stock. Players may accumulate points in stock until they are ready to use them. Any or all of the points in stock may be used in a turn. New ships can be built in any square in a players home quadrant that contains an star that has not yet been captured.


A player wins the either by occupying the most stars; or by capturing the opponent's home base star, or by destroying all the opponent's forces. If a player still has points in stock, but has no ships left at the end of the current turn, his forces are still considered destroyed.


Quadrant Z is very much a game of cat-and-mouse. As in many wars, you have some idea of an opponent's strength and general location, but very little about the exact composition and location of his forces. Hence, the value of intelligence gathering should not be underrated.

Strategy will vary from game to game, but a major focus should be on the capture of stars: without them your forces will not grow, and , in the long run their lack will certainly cause you to lose. Think carefully about the initial layout of stars, and place your ships to capture the maximum number of points as soon as possible. Try and maintain a balanced force of ship sizes. Movement is hidden, and fairly rapid shifts of forces from one quadrant to another are possible. Remember that in combat the aim is to have the largest combined force - not necessarily a single, high value ship. A single, large strike ship may penetrate enemy lines and take out the opponent's home base... but if he sees it coming he may have time to regroup and knock it out. Spreading your ships out too thinly in a quadrant could also be problematic in combat.

Clarifying Questions

Will be added later