Sci-Fi Concept Cards | Instant Universe, Just Add H2O

Created by Stephen Coffey

Playing Cards which each describe a sci-fi setting element - available in decks of planets, characters and locations

Latest Updates from Our Project:

Want to Beta Read? | Two New Suit Symbols
about 1 year ago – Thu, May 10, 2018 at 01:47:52 AM

This post is for backers only. Please visit and log in to read.

Thank You!
about 1 year ago – Thu, Apr 12, 2018 at 01:49:01 PM

A Grand Total

So the final tally is £5,544 and 244 backers. Thank you all, every last one of you. We couldn't do this without you and we like doing this!

We have reached the stretch goals for two extra cards per deck, and three extra suit symbols.

What Remains To Be Done

Elvis may have gone home to live among the stars, but we still have work to do. There are a few cards left to write, more now we have reached that stretch goal, and we need to commission more art.

Then comes the process of proofreading. To be honest it's my least favourite part of the job, not least because I'm not very good at it. Fortunately Ali is, and we have a couple of volunteers to aid in the process. It is very necessary, though - I am rather prone to making typos. By the time it goes to print I am confident that every error but one will be squashed (that one will show up three weeks later...). 

After that is done we send files to the printers, and wait anxiously for them to send us boxes of decks.

Then we package and post them and not long after that you receive them.

We will, of course, keep you updated every step of the way.

Now how do I apply this to my life?
Now how do I apply this to my life?

In Jokes and Side References
about 1 year ago – Wed, Apr 11, 2018 at 03:01:27 PM

We've put a lot of references throughout the decks, of varying levels of obscurity.

I’m just going to share a few of my favorites - most cards have some kind of reference or insinuation somewhere, something subtle below the surface.

While you haven't seen most of these cards yet, we hope the teasers here will give you more of an idea of what to look forward to.

For the Trekkers:

"Dr Kelly Gates" - our space doctor pays tribute to Deforest Kelly (Dr Leonard McCoy, TOS) and Gates McFadden (Dr Beverly Crusher. TNG). I was going to make her an osteologist, so she could legitimately be Bones, but epidemiology was just more interesting.

"Daniel Derrington" is a genius engineering trainee, who doesn’t want to be one. He’s a nod to Wil Wheaton (as Wesley Crusher) - which is part of why he wants to be an actor!

Star Wars fandom

The smuggler "Liang Arioso" is described as ‘Scruffy Looking - He might almost be a Herdsman’ - calling back to Leia's description of Han Solo. The name is also a reference, via the medium of music; an Arioso is a type of solo performance.


"Detective Deeley" was originally named Decker, for the Blade Runner - but we decided that was a bit too on the nose, and instead named him for the director of the film. He’s also got a bit of Robocop, and a shade of Demolition Man. Because only in a dystopian future would the real cops resemble a private security firm.

In the Planets deck we have two sentient planets. A telepathic hivemind which borrows somewhat from the planet Gaia from Asimov’s "Foundation and Earth", with elements of Pandora from the film Avatar , and a fungal worldmind named after the largest organism on Earth - Armillaria Gallica.

(CW family soppiness)

At some point, almost all of us geeks struggle to explain our worlds to our families. My parents decided that to really understand this roleplay thingie, they ought to have a go. They played a ridiculous fantasy game with us , and fun was had by all.

My stepdad played “Dwanga the Dwangerous Dwarf”, and the 3 of Spades is a gift for him. Dwanga’s an engineer, because my stepdad was a systems analyst. And he’s an AI champion, because Roger taught me to stand up for what was right.

We’ve got a backer level so you too can reference a character, a friend or a family member that needs immortalising. Jump in quick!

Stretch And Relax
about 1 year ago – Wed, Apr 11, 2018 at 02:31:16 AM

  • Stretch goals so far - have you shared the project?
  • Hello everyone, and welcome new backers
  • Blog post


As you may have noticed we have reached our second stretch goal - that means we will be commissioning more art for the suit symbols. The decks will be even better thanks to you wonderful backers.

But on the social stretch goal front - we asked you here to share the Kickstarter project via social media, and in return we would give you a longer piece about a solar system, which Amy has been writing. We have since discovered that our ability to track that sort of thing is worse than we thought.

So if you have shared it anywhere, please let us know, either by responding to this post or by messaging us.

A link would be nice so we can answer any questions anyone who saw it may have, but Facebook make it infuriatingly hard to find your own posts and comments, especially in groups and on pages, and other social media is not necessarily much better.

And Relax

Over the weekend we went to the Student Roleplaying and Wargaming Championships - the idea of competitive roleplaying is inherently ridiculous, so judging has to be not on who "won" as such, but rather on who made the game better for everyone. I ended up running a 40k roleplay game, so hello to any of my players who are here - if you died heroically or melted a filing clerk you know who you are! Bradford University Gaming Society also deserve a shout out for all the hard work they put in, and greetings to everyone who we talked to there and has come onboard to back us since.

It was a lot of fun, but tiring, so we did very little with yesterday. 


One thing that did happen yesterday is that Ste wrote a blog post which was supposed to be mirrored here as an update. Somehow that got forgotten though, so you can read it now. It's about backer interaction and contains Dio-Thaen Epeherades, one of the cards created via the Terraformer level. (There is a new post every Monday on the blog).

Diothean has appeared in one form or another in every set thanks to a very generous backer
Diothean has appeared in one form or another in every set thanks to a very generous backer

Ace, and a Hole
about 1 year ago – Tue, Apr 10, 2018 at 02:24:23 PM

The Ace

Aces have always been a little special - they are both the highest and lowest cards in a regular deck, so we like to make them a little unusual in Concept Card decks too. In these decks they are modifiers - they ask you to draw another card to modify, and rather than absolute numbers they have + or - some number (2 or 4 usually), and they describe how the other card's values change.

Each deck has four aces, each of which suggest another way of looking at every other card in the deck, and so providing even more options!

The galaxy is full of many wonderous alien species, why limit it to only those who have evolved sentience?
The galaxy is full of many wonderous alien species, why limit it to only those who have evolved sentience?

The usual candidates for uplifting are higher primates - chimpanzees, orangutangs, and so forth. Dolphins and other cetaceans also show up in games like Blue Planet (I've always thought orcas would be a good candidate, if they're not already as smart as us), and even octopi in Eclipse Phase. But you could choose anything - pigs, wolves, goats, or weird alien fungal creatures!

So how does this work with the characters we have already shown you?

Roberta "Starchild" McGee is an interesting place to start. She is a wanderer so some kind of nomadic or migratory animal might be a good choice, but the secret also suggests that wandering off alone is extremely unusual, so some kind of herd animal - what if her entire species were uplifted gazelles? But then again, maybe she is the only uplift among her people - that might be a reason to wander - "I am the first of my species who can even begin to comprehend the splendour of the heavens"

Next was Elira Arista Vespucci - an old-fashioned noble. So how does one get from there to an uplifted animal? Once again we could assume that the entire species were uplifts, or, more interestingly, just her family. Making just her an uplift seems unlikely, but a semi-noble family of uplifted lions could be good - and assuming breeding were even possible it would certainly introduce some genetic rejuvenation to the Vespucci family - especially when you take into account the secret on the Ace! Speaking of secrets, maybe it's not a proletariat equality movement who have paid her off, but an uplift equality movement.

Now The Lion's Moonlight may be the hardest to find a way to make work, but I think we can do it. The Lion's Moonlight is a living spaceship, so clearly its not simply an uplifted animal (well, probably not - some of the stranger bioengineering in Eclipse Phase could make that work I guess - there is MeatHab, a space station made entirely out of bacon, after all!). The ship gained sentience during a hyperspace accident - what if that intelligence is not spontaneous but transferred from someone onboard? The crew were transporting an uplifted whale when something odd happened, everyone on board died, but suddenly the whale was not trapped in a small tank in the cargo hold, but swimming free through space! Or maybe the crew were uplifted octopi (Stephen Baxter suggests in Time that they would be better able to deal with the rigours of space travel) - in that case the ship has probably had giant mechanical tentacles attached and can load its own cargo bay.

The Hole

Every card we show you is subject to change as we proofread, revise and write more cards. If nothing else numbers will often change as I will go over all of them once they are all written and ensure as even a spread as possible of each value.

Some get changed a little more, though, so I want to show you again the first card i showed you - the Black Hole. Having done a little more reading and thinking about Hawking radiation, the secret made no sense - the amount of energy it releases is miniscule, so I've changed the secret to be a little more plausible, and along the way I've made a few other changes.

It's been renamed to better pay tribute to Professor Hawking
It's been renamed to better pay tribute to Professor Hawking