High Frontier 3rd Edition PBF/Vassal - Remember the Cant!

The thread is to facilitate a PBF/Vassal game of Phil Eklund’s High Frontier 3rd edition. This first post will be in flux for a bit while I get everything set up. I’ll keep it updated with instructions and file locations.

The Players

We currently have the following interested players, with room for a fifth:

  1. @JoshL - ESA (green)
  2. @Matt_W - PRC (red)
  3. @Juan_Raigada - NASA (white)
  4. @Grunden - UN (purple)

Software and Logistics

Google Drive

Rulebook pdfs and any other important files are available in our Google Drive folder here:

There is also a “vlog” folder inside the Google Drive folder, which is where log files will be stored. The initial setup file is already there. If you wish, you can download the Google Drive desktop app here. This will allow you to automatically synchronize a desktop folder with the Google Drive folder, just like you can with Dropbox.


We’ll be using version 3.2.17 of Vassal (the most current version.) You can download it here:

We’ll be taking turns using version 1.4 of the the High Frontier Vassal module posted here (and also in the Google Drive folder):

Log File Name

Please use this format: “RC-0001-Y01-ESA.vlog”

  • RC is a game descriptor (Remember the Cant)
  • 0001 is a sequential identifier so that the log files can be sorted in order by name. Please use the next number in sequence when you save a log file
  • Y01 is a year identifier
  • After the year something descriptive, like faction name

How to Take a Turn

  1. Retrieve the latest vlog file from the Google Drive folder.
  2. Double-click on the file to open it up. (You must have Vassal and the High Frontier module installed)
  3. If this is the first file you’ve opened, it will ask you to choose which player you want to play. Please choose your color.
  4. Each vlog file is a log of the previous turn. You have to step through the log file so that you can add your turn to the end. Do this by either clicking the right arrow on the left side of the toolbar, or pressing the PageDown key.
  5. Step all the way through the previous turn, checking as you go to be sure it was done correctly.
  6. Once you reach the end of the log, Vassal will prompt you “End of logfile. Start new logfile?” Choose “Yes”
  7. Input the name of the new log file and then take your turn.
  8. Feel free to use the chat bar in Vassal to comment as you take your turn. The comments are saved to the log.
  9. If it’s the end of your turn (and not an auction or other mid-turn point), increment the turn counter in the game.
  10. Once your turn is done (or has reached a stopping point, like an auction), choose “End Logfile” under the file menu and exit Vassal.
  11. Upload the new log file to the Google Drive folder.
  12. Make a post here, summarizing your turn and tag the next player.

@Grunden, as the final player, you’ll be responsible for advancing the sunspot cycle marker after your turn and rolling for any events.

Patent Decks

  • When auctioning a card, move it to the auction area of the patent deck page.
  • Right click on a card (or the top of a deck) and you can choose “Send to my playmat” or “Send to discards” as appropriate.
  • When a patent deck is empty and you need to draw a card, right-click on the discard pile and choose “Return all to deck”.
  • When the rules say to place a card on the bottom of a deck, send it to the discard pile instead.
  • Patent decks should never be shuffled.
  • If you need to examine a particular card that is in or on one of the decks, please start a new separate game for this purpose so you don’t mess up the decks in the log files.


There’s an (ahem) excellent (though not comprehensive) player aid here:

A very nice summary of all of the cards is here:

And a summary of all the sites and spaces is here:

PBF Rules

I tend to run PBEM/PBF games pretty loosely. These are for fun, and I trust the other players to not try to ruin the experience by cheating (otherwise, why play?) So, we’ll use the following guidelines:

  1. All random actions (deck draws, prospecting/hazard rolls, etc) taken in Vassal. Decks will be initially shuffled and we can just trust each other not to peek ahead or cheat on dice rolls. This makes taking turns so much easier and efficient and facilitates just playing rather than going back and forth to an external die roller/deck shuffler.
  2. Auctions carried out here on the forum, in free-for-all bidding: bids can be placed at any time and in any player order, but must be a “winning” bid. Once a player passes, they’re out of the bidding. Auctions last until all players but one have passed.
  3. Rule ambiguities will be decided by vote among players. Ties broken by me. I tend to vote against my own advantage.
  4. We should be checking the previous player’s turn for errors. Errors in play should be corrected, if they can be with minimal disruption to the game state. If not, I’ll try to decide on a suitable correction that we can vote on. This tends to work out pretty well.

Game Rules

  • We are playing a full Colonization game including all modules.
  • Hazard rolls fail on a 6 rather than a 1. This makes low dice rolls consistently beneficial throughout the game.
  • I have locked-in-time pdfs of the rules. The pdfs are identical to the printed rulebooks shipped with the 3rd edition. (The one difference I’ve found is that the Glossary is in the back of the reference manual in the pdfs and in back of the Colonization rulebook in the printed edition.) These locked-in-time rules, and not the living rules are what we are using for play. I’ve posted them here:

My take:
-Auctioning is tense and part of the game. I’m all for public, in-thread auctions.
-The 24h limit for an auction might be too strict for a forum game, specially on weekends. We are also on different time zones and sniping, even if involuntary, would be a concern and quite frustrating. In the previous thread we ran auctions until everybody passed and it worked out well, with crazy auctions running long and unimportant ones going by quickly (specially now that we are using the fast start variant, so everybody should have a viable rocket without auctioning).
-I agree with the fast start rules (although they should be called slow start, since 12 turns in players probably have more resources than using this). It does cut on early game auctions and that’s a good thing.

As for everything else, sounds good

Haha, great game name!

You could consider replacing the auction mechanic with the online colony auction rules of Through the Ages. Everyone makes a secret bid of the most they are willing to pay. Once everyone has bid, the highest bidder wins, with ties determined by turn order. They pay only just enough to beat the second-highest bid, that is the same amount if ahead of them in turn order, one more if behind.


Current player bids Other player bids Winner Payment
3 1 Current player 1
1 3 Other player 2
3 3 Current player 3

This could be less of a tense back and forth, but it would definitely speed things along.

Auctions here work so that if the initiator doesn’t win, he gets the money, so they are a way of funding yourself by pushing other player to pay high. Secret bidding does away with a lot of the game in the mechanic, imho

My feelings are:

  • Public auctions for the entertainment of all
  • Quickstart is good
  • I agree with Juan on running the auction until passing instead of timer. With some reasonable limit for someone not weighing in
  • I generally concur on the honor system for cards and dice. There’s no pot to win here.

Just a heads up, my day job these days is away from a computer. I’ll be responsive on things like auctions via phone but deep analysis will have to wait for the evenings.

OK, I’m good with suggestions by @Juan_Raigada and @Grunden. I’ll edit the OP to reflect the consensus. I think I’m going to use the same folder I posted the rules in for vlog files. (I recently upgraded my Google Drive storage, so might as well use it.) I’ll play around with Vassal this evening and get that set up too.

Sooooooo… I may have jumped the gun on this a bit. Having now delved into the Vassal module and even the TTS mod for the game, both are very much in the prototype stage and neither reflect the current state of the rules. They’re using placeholder assets and/or art from the 3rd edition that should be updated but isn’t. I think it may be best to hold off on trying to PBF if it until the art assets for the game are more final. We could either just postpone this thread until then, or we could transition to a 3rd edition game. What say you all?

Are you referring to the colonist/freighter cards, or has the map not fully been updated? The futures are described on the achievements tabs, so I don’t see that as a barrier. I can deal without seeing the pictures on the cards.

That said, any HF is better than no HF so I’d happily play 3 if that’s the consensus.

Do we have any idea how long it would be before we could play with the 4th edition stuff?

If it’s a couple of weeks or so, I could wait. If it’s months or “who knows”, then maybe we could just play 3rd ed.

Kickstarter goes up tomorrow, so my guess would the that the modules will be updated soon?

I’m ok with placeholder art assets as long as they are rule compatible. What are we talking about here?

I agree with waiting a little and jump to 3rd edition otherwise.

The map isn’t updated, for one. And I don’t think that the new cards have been added to the basic patent decks. (Oh, I see looking at the card manifest that they haven’t been designed yet.) And the glory chits aren’t as described in the rules. That said, I think the Core game is probably playable.

The Colonist and Bernal module is bit of a mess though. The rules for exomigration must have changed fairly recently and the cards haven’t been updated to reflect this. (Example: there are several cards that affect or reference colonist recruiting, which isn’t an operation at all under the new rules.) And there are other inconsistencies (e.g. colonist cards list a number of delegates, but rules say only one per colonist.) I feel like if we used that module, we’d be fighting the rules the whole time.

TW thrusters and Freighters are probably OK, because they mostly use HF3 components and rules, but the Futures module requires colonists and Bernals.

Yeah sounds like it’s fairly in flux right now. The map in particular I know had significant changes, including hydration levels on various sites.

With all that I vote for doing 3E.

Yeah, it seems unlikely the Vassal module will be finalized if the damn cards are not designed yet.

I’m fine with 3rd edition too.

OK, I’ll switch everything over to 3rd edition later this evening. We can aim for a Monday start date.

I need players (tagging @Juan_Raigada, @Grunden, and @JoshL) to vote on the following:

  1. legacy or radical factions? I vote for legacy factions.
  2. randomized or chosen factions (in a random order)? I vote for randomized factions.
  3. include Combat module or not? I tentatively vote for including it; if we do I’ll post a Combat cheat sheet on the OP. All other colonization modules will be included.
  4. I propose a slight rules change. For every die roll in the game a low number is “good” except hazard rolls, where you decommission your stack if you roll a 1 according to the rules. I propose changing the rule so that hazard rolls to fail on a 6, so that low rolls are consistently a beneficial outcome. Similarly Epic Hazard Rolls will only fail on a 6 if you meet the modifying conditions or only succeed on a 1 if you don’t. Makes it easier to remember: low rolls always equal good.

Generally same PBF rules as before:

  • auction bidding is a free-for-all, no set order, until all players but one pass.
  • trust will govern die and card rolls. (We’ll come up with a system for election auctions. Probably asking another forum member to hold votes in escrow is easiest.)
  1. I’m not sure what radical factions are, so I guess I’d vote for legacy, although always up for something new.
  2. Random
  3. I’ve never used the combat rules, although we always said, “well, if someone starts trying to crash a comet into the Earth we can figure out what they are”. So I guess I’d vote for them to be included just in case.
  4. Fine with me, low rolls good.

They’re the other side of the faction cards in the 3rd edition with fiction privileges slightly different and shuffled around a bit. All players have to use the same side of the cards, so that they’re both asymmetric and balanced. There’s a chart here that shows how that breaks down:

  1. Yeah I’m fine with legacy factions (the radical factions are the flip side of the crew cards that mix and match faction/bernal powers)
  2. Random works
  3. I’m game for trying combat. Might boost the PRC a bit.
  4. Sure, low numbers always good is fine.

I concur with everybody else

Also, Mondays I’m unavailable until late my time (Spain). Which should be fine, just make sure I don’t go first.