Starship Captains: Designer’s Diary 1: Thematic Influences – Nathan Meunier

Live long and prosper 🖖 With the end of the successful series Star Trek: Picard, for many Trekkies a nostalgic journey into the Star Trek universe comes to an end. But before we all get too sentimental and rewatch the entire 758 episodes of all Star Trek shows, we want to show you the three-part designer diary for the Star Trek inspired board game Starship Captains, which is more than just a declaration of love for times of the good old sci-fi shows! The diary was originally written by Nathan Meunier and gives you interesting insights into the conception of the entertaining space adventure!

StarCalendar Entry 54821 — We’re poised to embark on a new, thrilling journey through the depths of space and beyond. Bravely adventuring where some have…errrr…potentially gone before-ish.

With the designer diary to Starship Captains we’re excited to share some behind-the-scenes fun about our sci-fi themed euro engine builder.

Set your energy blasters to incapacitate, grab some Andorian redbat nectar, and kick back for some easy reading! Today, we have an interview with the designer, Peter B. Hoffgaard, exploring his inspiration and approach to shaping Starship Captains’ thematic and visual vibe.

Meet the Designer

Peter B. Hoffgaard - Designer of Starship Captains

“I’m a typical Danish guy living in the Suburbs with my wife, my 14 month old child, and our Dachshund named ‘Spock,’” says Peter, who works as a programmer by day. He’s always been an avid board gamer, which led him to create Tabletop Together about eight years ago, where he and a small team of dedicated friends have been writing up board game review coverage.

It’s been a fun way to get into the industry and get a feel for the realm of board game publishing and game design and mechanics, he says. For many creative-minded folks, spending so much time immersed in the board game world tends to have a predictable side effect. An inkling formed, and it wasn’t long before Peter made the leap from board game player and reviewer to becoming a designer himself.

Starship Captainsis Peter’s first published game, which is impressive for someone who admits they never really expected to become a game designer in the first place. “I never had an ambition to design games, because I know it’s a lot of hard work,” he admits. “But back in early 2020 I had this idea for Starship Captains, and it sort of all grew from that. I made a small prototype, played it, and it seemed fun. It sort of just got the ball rolling from that.”

“What I really like about board game design is it’s a very nice combination of being super creative yet having to be extremely structured and approach things in a very logical way,” says Peter. “In my day job as a programmer, it’s very much all about structure, but I’ve always considered myself a creative person, so board game design is a really good marriage of two things I enjoy.”

Starship Captains

Sci-fi love letter to the stars

In Starship Captains, players have finally risen the ranks and been promoted to captain status at the helm of their own starship. Of course, high command doesn’t quite trust you yet, so they’ve given you a banged up old junker of a ship and skeleton crew of mixed cadets to start with. It’s not the best crew in the world, but it’s your crew. You’ll have to work with them, become a strong leader, and prove your worth if you ever hope to get a better ship in the future.

The focus is on utilizing your crew—training and promoting them as you go—to complete interplanetary missions around the galaxy, while upgrading your ship with powerful engine-building tech. All the while, you’ll work to gain influence with the galaxy’s various factions and strike a balance between discovery and diplomacy.

And just in case anyone was still wondering, there’s absolutely no denying where a lot of the game’s thematic influences are drawn from. “I am a big Star Trek fan,” says Peter. “I never wanted to make a Star Trek game, as such, but I wanted to make a Star Trek-inspired game.”

Growing up a huge sci-fi fan in the 90s, Star Trek: The Next Generation in particular is his favorite go-to TV series of the storied franchise. “The Next Generation has this very idealistic and bright view for the future of mankind in general,” he adds, noting it was important to find ways to incorporate this theme and also celebrate diversity among the game’s characters.

The message in Starship Captains is that it isn’t all about material possessions. You won’t find any monetary resources or currency in the game, which is intentional. Instead, the game’s lens and mechanics revolve around the captains, their crew, and their relationships with the game’s distinct intergalactic factions.

“It is a very important thing for me to have the theme and setting of the game convey that we all, as humankind, can stand together and be better than we are if we see beyond gender, religion, and economy, even,” he says. “That’s why I fell in love with Star Trek, and that’s also what I want to try and convey in the game.”

WIP art from Starship Captains (*not final art)

A brighter, more colorful space adventure

With many space games skewing towards a darker, grittier experience where horrible aliens are coming to eat you, Peter opted to go in the opposite direction with more of a toonish visual approach and bright bubble gum colors to match the game’s lighthearted tone.

“That was something we talked a lot about avoiding in the initial style of the game,” he says. In the initial character sketch designs, the art team mocked up a lot of different character styles, ranging from very toony to more serious crew members, and everyone was able to pick where on the scale they wanted to end up. “It was actually a super fun process.”

Starship Captains has a humorous vibe to match its lighter tone and visual style. It’s also packed with silly sci-fi Easter Egg nods to other geeky classics like Galaxy Quest, Star Wars, Doctor Who, and more woven throughout its mission and tech cards. Some references are more subtle, others are…well, you’ll see.

“Humor was always a major aspect of the design,” says Peter. “Euro games can be very dry. What if you have a euro that looks vibrant and fun color wise, but also has a sense of humor. That was always what I wanted to do…I wanted to have a fun, vibrant euro game. It won’t be oversaturated with goofy silliness, but there’s going to be a lot of it in it.”

Published on,
on May, 23rd, 2022.

You can find Starship Captains in our store if you click here.

Click here to read the second designer diary by Nathan Meunier.