My main Homeworlds page
For now, I'm leaving out the most basic terms (ship, build, etc.).
Most of these "official" terms are found in the
version of the rules.
- Homeworld star combinations
A small star and a medium star
(makes it easy to set up early investments).
A medium star and a large star
(difficult to invade after most of the small pieces become ships).
A small star and a large star
(connected stars are medium, or "just right" between the other sizes).
- Gemini star
Two stars of the same size.
- Universe sizes
The sizes of the stars in the players' homeworlds
affect how many move actions it takes for a ship to travel from one to the other.
This affects the length and style of the game.
- Large universe
Players' homeworlds are three moves apart from each other.
Large universes are considered standard.
- Small universe
Players' homeworlds are two moves apart.
Players' homeworlds are one move apart (they are connected).
- The three paths to victory
Removing the last ship from a system so that it fades
(its star(s) return to the bank).
- Achilles color
The color of the remaining star of a homeworld after one star has been destroyed.
Since your opponent can win by causing one catastrophe of that color at your home,
that color is your "weak spot."
Sometimes people refer to the colors of their homestars as their Achilles colors
even before either of their stars is destroyed.
- Andy Looney
The inventor of the Looney Pyramid game system
that John Cooper used to make Homeworlds.
which publishes Looney Pyramids for playing Homeworlds and other games.
Andy is a prominent promoter of Homeworlds,
famously offering a fine medal for anyone who beats him at the game,
as described in this video.
- Ark moment
This is what Andy sometimes calls the point in the game
where a player realizes that they will lose.
Imagining that the game is about the destruction of an actual world,
this is when the inhabitants might try to load a few people or things onto an
"ark" spacecraft in an effort to preserve their species or a record of their culture.
This term does not appear in Pyramid Quartet,
but Andy uses it in Homeworlds Theater
(I'd like to include a link to a specific moment. Let me know if you find it.)
An old (but still widely used) term for the red capture action.
Notably, SDG requires users to type the word "attack"
(or the abbreviation "a")
when performing captures.
More broadly, the word "attack" can refer to any aggressive action,
like trying to cause a catastrophe against the opponent's ships.
"Binary" has two meanings in Homeworlds.
- Homeworlds was originally conceived as a four-player game.
The term "Binary Homeworlds" was introduced to distinguish the two-player variant game.
Homeworlds is now most popular as a two-player game,
and the word "Binary" is usually omitted unless there could be confusion with other game types.
- "Binary stars" are the two star markers in players' home systems at the start of the game.
- Bluebird mistake
Allowing your entire home fleet to be destroyed in a single catastrophe.
Pyramid Quartet introduced three versions of the Bluebird.
- Sitting duck
You have nothing but three ships of the same color in your home.
Your opponent destroys you by moving in the fourth.
- Easy Bluebird
You have nothing but two ships of the same color in your home.
Your opponent destroys you by sacrificing a y2 to move in two more ships of that color
(each from 1 move away).
- Tricky Bluebird
You have nothing but two ships of the same color in your home.
Your opponent destroys you by sacrificing a y3 to move in two more ships of that color
(one from 1 move away and another from 2 moves away).
Someone who knows the rules of several Looney Pyramid games,
but not enough to qualify as a starship captain
(according to the
official Pyramid site).
In the Homeworlds community,
junior officers are sometimes
referred to as cadets.
Removing all of the pieces in a system that are part of an
Performing this optional action may be called
"triggering," "declaring," or "calling" the catastrophe.
Players sometimes use the word "catastrophe" as a verb, as in
"You catastrophed my ships!"
Attempt to take control of a system.
A system where both players have ships is "contested."
If only one player has ships in a system, then the system is "uncontested."
You control a ship if it belongs to you.
You can also "control" a system, but this is a fuzzy concept.
If I were trying to be precise, I would say that control of a system
is the power to choose what happens to the ships that are in that system.
- Demolition fleet
A tactic to destroy your opponent's only large ship in their home
and simultaneously invade with a large ship of your own.
Your opponent has only one large ship at home along
with another piece of that color.
Sacrifice a y3 to move two ships of that color to their home,
call catastrophe, and move in a large ship.
You are likely to win if you have a red somewhere for sacrifice.
- Direct assault
Taking control of a system (especially a homeworld) by using red power to attack the enemy ships.
Moving a ship to a new system with a star marker taken from the bank.
- Doomsday machine
A collection of nine ships arranged such that they can destroy
the opponent's homeworld in two turns.
The ships you need are
You employ the Doomsday machine over two turns
by sacrificing the large yellows
to move each of the groups of three ships into your opponent's home
and declaring the catastrophe.
- Two large yellow ships (anywhere).
- Three ships of the color of one of your opponent's homestars.
These ships must be in systems one move away from your opponent's home.
- Three ships of the color of your opponent's other homestar.
These ships must be in systems that
will be one move away from your opponent's home
after your opponent's other homestar is destroyed
(keep in mind the Hyperspace Bypass).
- Any additional ship to keep your homeworld occupied.
- Elephant's Foot
A ship (especially a small one) that moves to an enemy-controlled star of the same color
with the intention of building more ships for a star catastrophe.
Andy endorsed this term
An invading ship could also pose other types of threats via builds.
It could set up a fleet catastrophe (rather than a star catastrophe)
or a direct assault (if the invader can build a larger ship).
I suggest that such a ship could also be called an elephant's foot.
An elephant's foot in an enemy homeworld,
especially if it is not immediately captured
but allowed to remain in enemy territory like a consulate.
Andy endorsed this term
A large green ship and at least one other green ship
when there are no greens left in the bank.
The g3 may be sacrificed and rebuilt
effectively allowing two build actions per turn.
- Fleet catastrophe
A catastrophe that destroys all of a player's ships in their own homeworld
(see the Bluebird mistakes).
- Frozen out
The inability to (safely) get even a single ship of some color.
If one player is frozen out of some color,
their opponent has a monopoly on that color.
- Galactic overlord
This was never an official game term,
but in 2020, Andy Looney asked the
Homeworlds Facebook group
what they thought about referring to all Homeworlds players as "galactic overlords"
(since the term "starship captain"
now officially refers to fans of Pyramid games).
He decided not to include the term in the Pyramid Quartet rules.
- Green teleport
Sacrificing a green to rebuild it in another system.
- Happy system
An uncontested system with exactly one piece of each color (including star(s)).
A player-owned system for which the game is named.
A player's homeworld may be called their home, home system, or homeworld system.
Just as as the terms "system" and "star"
are informally interchanged,
"homeworld" may refer to the star(s) marking a home system.
A player creates their homeworld on their first turn
and must defend it or lose.
Initially, homeworld systems are marked with binary stars,
so it's clear which systems are homes.
If one of the stars is destroyed in a homeworld,
players may like to use an improvised token as a reminder that the system is still a home.
- Hyperspace bypass
The change in system connectivity that occurs
when one star is destroyed in a home system.
Occupying a system with a green ship
with the intention of sacrificing the green piece
and immediately building the star piece as a ship.
An investment makes the large star piece unavailable for the opponent to build,
so it's like making a reservation.
- John Cooper
The inventor of Homeworlds and other fine games.
- Junior officers
Relatively inexperienced Homeworlds players.
The community sometimes refers to junior officers as
Discovering a star rather than letting your opponent build the star piece as a ship.
Commanding enough ships of one color that one's opponent cannot (safely) get any.
If a player has a monopoly of a color,
then their opponent is frozen out of that color.
The presence of four (or more) pieces of the same color in a system
(including ships and stars).
If an overpopulation is present anywhere in the game,
any player may declare that the overpopulation
has become a catastrophe.
- Planetary defense system
A red star in a home system.
- Primary directive
Defend the homeworld with these principles:
- Keep a large ship in your homeworld.
- Get a red when your opponent does.
- Diversify and minimize your home fleet.
- Once one star is destroyed, monopolize the other color.
- Quick start
A homeworld configuration including a yellow star.
(This term is not found in Pyramid Quartet,
but Andy uses it in
Homeworlds Theater - Episode Two.)
- Red alert
A warning that a player might give to their opponent
who is one move away from elimination
(equivalent to "check" in chess).
Returning one's own ship to the bank in order to exercise the sacrificial turn option.
The player may then use the power of the sacrificed ship one or more times
(up to the size number of the ship).
To clarify, the "sacrifice" is the act of returning a ship piece to the bank.
The rest of the turn consists of "sacrifice actions."
- Senior officers
Relatively experienced Homeworlds players.
The community sometimes refers to senior officers as
- Shopping Spree
Wil Allyn's term for building three ships after a large green sacrifice.
This is especially powerful if at least one of the built ships is large.
Andy endorsed this term
See also chameleon factory.
A standing pyramid that shows the existence of a system.
Stars are also called "planets" by some people sometimes.
- Star demolition
Destroying a star with a catastrphe.
Moving the physical play pieces (especially system stars) to clarify their relationships.
Players often arrange the star map with the convention that
systems controlled by a played placed on the same side of the play area.
If a system is conquered by the other player,
its star and ships may be "towed" to the other side.
- Starship captain
Someone who knows the rules of at least ten Looney Pyramid games
(according to the
official Pyramid site).
Some sources refer to all Homeworlds players as "starship captains"
(see also galactic overlord).
Sacrificing a ship to manipulate the bank's piece supply
(preventing one's opponent from building ships larger than the one just squonked).
I also call it "squonking" when I sacrifice a ship to prevent its capture.
Andy has also used the term when trading
(rather than sacrificing)
a ship to block larger builds,
as in Homeworlds Theater - Episode Two.
[link] (or star system)
A "space" marked with a star which may be occupied by ships.
Less formally, the word "system" sometimes refers directly to the star itself.
Sacrificing a yellow ship and discovering a new system with the sacrificed piece as the star in the same move.
I have observed that the Homeworlds community uses these abbreviations.
- Piece designations
- R for red,
Y for yellow,
G for green,
B for blue
(not necessarily capitalized)
- Numbers can be appended to specify piece size
- R3 is a large red piece
- R2 is a medium red piece
- R1 is a small red piece
- Y3 is a large yellow piece
Board Game Geek.
Also used as a verb for causing a catastrophe.
"Homeworlds" (the game) or "homeworld" (a starting system).
where you can play Homeworlds online in real-time.
which is (as of 2021) the flagship packaging of Looney Pyramids since 2016.
which is a series of smaller packagings of Looney Pyramids released in 2020.
As of 2021, the Homeworlds PQ set has
the most up-to-date version of the official rules.
- Sac or sack
Super Duper Games,
where you can play Homeworlds online by email.
which is commercial software for playing board games online using a physics engine.
There is a module for playing Homeworlds available
Other terms that I use
A system that I control but that isn't my homeworld is my colony.
In a large-universe game, I use terminology for how far from my home the colony is.
- Near colony
if it is connected to my home and not my opponent's.
- Far colony
if it is connected to my opponent's home and not my own.
- Island colony
if it is connected to neither home.
- Andy's home
The homeworld with b2 and r1 stars and a g3 ship
Andy's standard start
for a long time, although he now says her prefers a yellow homestar rather than red).
- Big no-no
Failing to keep a large ship in your homeworld.
- Chameleon factory
Sacrificing a g3 to quickly build the three ships of another color
including at least one large.
This can be used to quickly lock your opponent out of that color,
or to get an additional large ship
without giving your opponent the chance to get a large ship.
This is similar to a factory move, but the new large ship is a different color
(hence I call it a "chameleon" factory).
See also shopping spree.
The number of pieces of the same color in a system (including enemy ships and stars).
A happy system is one where you own all of the ships
and every color has concentration of one.
If concentration of a color is zero, then you don't have access to that technology.
The higher the concentration, the more the risk of your opponent causing a catastrophe.
- Deterrent principle
A red anywhere is a red everywhere, explained here.
- Doomsweek machine,
Doomsmonth machine, and slow Doomsday machine
Currently, I prefer to just use the term "Doomsday machine,"
but some other players really like the "week" and "month" terms,
so I'm leaving them on my list.
Types of Doomsday machine but slow-acting.
A traditional Doomsday machine uses two large yellows:
they are sacrificed to win in 2 turns.
A Doomsday machine that requires 3-5 turns can be called a "Doomsweek" machine
(since it takes longer than a traditional Doomsday machine).
The slowest possible Doomsday machine takes 6 turns to operate,
so that might be called a "Doomsmonth" machine.
There are details on what it takes to make these slow Doomsday machines
I like to use special notation to indicate the speed and type of a Doomsday machine:
(number of turns for phase 1)
(color of first star to be demolished)
(number turns for phase 2)
(color of second star).
For example, I would refer to a two-turns-then-one-turn Doomsday machine
against a blue-red homeworld as "2b/1r."
- The two phases are 2b and 1r.
2b is the first phase, 1r is the second phase.
- 2b means the blue catastrophe is achieved in two turns.
Here are the two turns, but they can be taken in either order:
- Move a single blue ship into the opponent's home.
- Sacrifice a y2 (or y3) to move two blue ships into the opponent's home.
- 1r means the red catastrophe is achieved in one turn.
The owner will move three red ships into their opponent's home all in one move
by sacrificing a y3 ship.
Removing a system from the game and putting its star piece in the bank.
This is the consequence of the system being abandoned.
A ship that is "stuck" in a system because there is no yellow or blue there.
If there were yellow, the ship could leave.
If there were blue, the ship could turn yellow and leave.
I see this most often when a red ship discovers a green star.
Unless it is worthwhile to stage a rescue by bringing yellow or blue (by move or sacrifice),
a Gilligan may be doomed to be unimportant to the game.
Making a Gilligan may be necessary when reducing a color concentration
or for occupying a star piece that is best kept out of enemy hands.
Even if it remains stranded,
a Gilligan is available for sacrifice and may play a critical role in the game.
The threat of sacrificing a red Gilligan can be especially powerful since
a red anywhere is a red everywhere.
A star in a homeworld.
The fastest possible economic freeze, explained here.
An action that is made primarily because it denies a building opportunity to the opponent.
Usually, it refers to discovering a large star
that the opponent would otherwise build as a ship.
- Local economy
The collection of colors at a particular system.
For example, if you move/trade away your last red ship in a system,
your local red economy disappears.
The amount of ship power a player has.
A player has a material advantage if they have more ships or larger ships.
Very roughly, material can be measured
as the total pip count of a player's ships.
[link] or system marker
Another term for a star.
I often say "marker" when I need to emphasize that the star is a piece
that may fill other roles in the game (as a ship or a bank occupant).
- Milking the cow
Repeatedly building and trading a large ship of a color that you have
The large ship of the monopolized color is of course the "cow."
Half of the plan for employing a Doomsday machine.
The parts of the plan that destroy the first and second star are phase one and phase two, respectively.
See the Doomsweek section for the notation I like to use for phases of a Doomsday machine.
- Red ram
A red ship that is sacrificed in order to capture a red ship in the same system
when the opponent is attempting a red catastrophe.
The attack could have been performed without the sacrifice,
but the sacrifice reduces the red concentration and saves the other ships.
on preventing slow red catastrophes.
- Soft freeze
When a player has one ship of a color, but they can't safely build another ship of that color.
This happens often when a player's only ship of some color is the large at their home system
and they also have a homestar of that color.
Building a ship of that color would mean three pieces of the same color could be in their home,
which is usually a nonstarter if their opponent could cause a catastrophe.
The player also doesn't want to move their only large ship out of their home for fear of invasion.