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A Sneak Peek at Gunship: First Strike

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Gunship: First Strike is an Escape Pod Games core release in a planned series of tactical space combat games. Players fight to win battles in a futuristic civil war with a variety of ship types. From the agile and speedy Fighters, to versatile Gunships and powerful Assault Carriers, every battle is a well-balanced slugfest that comes right down to the wire!

The War

Having conquered and colonized all of Known Space and the frontiers of practical Hyperspace range, the Galactic Regent ushered in a new Era of Peace. The mighty War Fleet, battle-tested and forged with the blood of a dozen generations, was ordered to be disarmed and sentenced to further the causes of commerce and diplomacy. The proud warrior society, dedicated to a life of noble warfare passed down from their ancestors, was given one final command: lay down your arms and fight no more.

This “peaceful era” lasted only a few scant months. The Industrial Sectors, led by the greedy warmongers of the Warship Guild, launched a deadly and unexpected assault on the Galactic Capitol. The unarmed Senators and bored security detail were no match for the hordes of Warbots that burst in and laid the entire assembly to waste. Energized by the prospect of new leadership and a return to the old way of life, the people watched and waited for new orders. Dissent, if it existed, was silent.

Filling the newly created vacuum of power was not as easy to achieve as staging the coup. Dozens of competing factions, fueled by the bitter animosity of old grudges, emerged throughout the galaxy. These groups, many having a small fleet to back them up, fought vigorously for control of key resources. Loyalty to the Regency was replaced by loyalty to Homeworld, clan and occasional brief alliance. Treaties of convenience were signed and quickly broken when no longer useful.

A new Era of War had begun.

A year later, a few of the more powerful groups have established uneasy truces and new territories. Troops who once fought side by side are now sworn enemies. Ships that once belonged to the same task force now destroy each other in fierce combat. But for the millions of officers, pilots, soldiers and engineers of the shattered Fleet, it’s a better life than being a farmer or merchant. To die in combat is to join those who went before them to Paradise. Many will rejoin their defeated brothers in the times soon to pass.

The Battle

In a far-flung sector of space, two Assault Groups are about to emerge from Hyperspace at exactly the same time. Each Commander has orders to establish an outpost on the planet below – but only one side is going to survive to make planetfall. Battle alerts sound, Fighters launch, and last-second adjustments are made to the Gunships. The Carriers take their first ranging shots as their hangars launch spirited combatants into the fray. As targeting data calibrates and pulses accelerate, glorious battle is joined once more.

The Ships

GUNSHIPS – Versatile, durable and heavily armed, the Gunship is the most widely used and popular ship class in the fleet. Crewed by the best and brightest that the Navy has to offer, Gunships are capable of engaging a variety of targets, including capital ships, fighter craft, other Gunships and every vessel in between. Equally suited for a ground attack role, Gunships are also used for planetary assault missions that include air support, transport of troops and equipment, and tactical bombing raids on valuable targets.

As a unit in the game, your Gunship is the most valuable weapon in your arsenal. Gunships are the only units that use cards, and the only unit that can consistently do heavy damage to the enemy Carrier. Keep it protected and properly equipped and it will serve you well.

FIGHTER SQUADRONS – Fast and agile, Fighters serve as escorts for the Gunships in addition to engaging the enemy squadron in fierce dogfights. On defense, Fighter Squadrons establish zones of control, attacking any vessel that tries to move through. The first side to lose all of their Fighters is going to find itself at a major disadvantage!

Your Fighters lack the firepower needed to damage the enemy Carrier, but they offer protection for your Gunship and help in other ways.

ASSAULT CARRIERS – Loaded with a mission-specific combination of Gunships, Bombers, Dropships and Troops, Assault Carriers are sent in to capture vital planets, orbital facilities and military installations. Far from being as powerful as a Battle Cruiser, Assault Carriers are armed with enough weaponry to engage other capital ships at long range and deploy multiple batteries of Defense Cannons to defend themselves from smaller craft. Carriers possess excellent hangar facilities and highly-trained mechanics and crew. Having a Carrier available in the battle zone to use as a safe place to get repairs and new weapons is a Gunship’s greatest asset.

In Gunship: First Strike, your Objective is the destruction of your opponent’s Carrier. In addition to defending your own Carrier, all of your efforts should be directed at doing as much damage to his as possible every turn.

The Rules

Simply enough, the game is played in turns, which are split into Phases.

The Initiative Phase and Carrier Phase are conducted at the start of each turn – both Players participate.

After the Carrier Phase, play alternates. Player 1 performs Phases 1-4, and then Player 2 does the same.

After Player 2 discards, a new turn begins. Initiative and Carrier Phases repeat. Players will end up going first on some turns, and second on others.

Play continues until one Player has destroyed the other Player’s Assault Carrier.

Escape Pod Games founder and designer of Gunship: First Strike, Steve Wood, pointed out to me prospective players shouldn’t worry that the 20+ page rule book means undo complexity as the rules are jam packed with photos and examples of play to ensure no more than one read through is required to grasp the core concepts behind Gunship. No head scratching after giving the rules a once over! Don’t believe it? Download the rules right here!

If you like the drama of sci-fi space combat, when the battle depends on getting those Shields online, fighting your way through the enemy fleet, and hitting the bullseye with your last Torpedo to win the day, you’ll LOVE Gunship: First Strike!

Gunship: First Strike is…

  • a Card Game that utilizes Dice and Boards in a new and exciting way
  • a Space Battle between 2 players that lasts between 30 and 45 minutes
  • Customizable, Innovative and Highly Expandable
  • Well-Balanced.  Most games are won by less than a handful of Hit Points
  • Flexible.  A great game to start the night or to have fun playing all day in Campaign Mode
  • perfect for players who like to blow things up with a variety of ship-mounted Heavy Weapons!

Gunship: First Strike will take flight on Kickstarter in mid-February but it isn’t too early to start taking a look at the project. The title is generating a lot of buzz pre-Kickstarter launch so I recommend popping over to Escape Pod Games to get a look at what’s coming to Kickstarter next month and keep your eyes peeled for more inside dope on Gunship: First Strike here on The Gaming Gang!


  1. Hi! Great article! I’m Luca Oleastri, the author of all illustrations of Gunship.

  2. Nicely done Luca, as they look great!


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