The Establishment:

Innerworkings of a Secret Cabal


Game Overview

A card-based, story-driven roleplaying game about a secret society controlling the future of a space-faring humanity.

Combining the best elements of a roleplaying game with the benefits of a card game, The Establishment's story-driven, card-based play requires no game master so all players can participate, making it perfect for both RPG newbies and advanced gamers. Like most roleplaying games, players do not complete points-based objectives to win—the goal is to lead the faction and achieve a fitting end to the story.

The game is played over four rounds. Players choose a path they agree with using storyline cards. Players debate, make deals, and support others by playing influencers. A society card, representing the whims of society, may swing the story's direction.

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How to Play

Players choose their faction and receive seven influencer cards. They then draft for description cards that help them roleplay their faction.

Each round has three branching storylines. A single storyline card gives players information about the current situation and two options to vote on. Players place their influencers on the side they favor on any of the three storyline cards.

Players describe how these influencers do their bidding—a favor owed, a plea from a loved one, or even blackmail. Players decide and narrate this as part of their story.

Resolve each storyline by adding the value of each influencer, any experience points, and any matching realm icon bonuses. A society card, representing the whims of the people, can drastically change the landscape. Specific realm icons are cancelled, and none of the influencer’s bonuses count. A bonus is added to one side.

In this example, before the society card, the score for the first option (left) is 8, with three cards played (3+2+2) and one matching realm bonus (+1). The society card flips elite and finance influencers. The left side has a value of only 3, with a +1 bonus from the society card, which loses to the right side, which has a total of 5, with the three cards played (1+2+1), one XP star (+1), and no matching realm bonus.

Game End

The game ends after four rounds when all storylines have concluded with an epilogue. Players are encouraged to discuss how the epilogues affect their factions.


Explore Ceres

After Mars is successfully colonized, Earth’s climate crises and overpopulation lead masses of humans to migrate to other settlements.

Humans have established the inner planets (Venus, Earth, and Mars), the Main Asteroid Belt based on Ceres, and the outer planets (Jupiter and Saturn) and their moons. While Ceres began as a mining town, it grew as miners and their families decided to stay and call Ceres home.

map of the solar system showing the major human settlements on Venus, Earth, Mars, Ceres, the moons of Jupiter, Enceladus, and Titan.


Choose from Five Factions

Play as the leader of one of five factions on Ceres. Use each faction’s unique realm of influence, such as transportation, politics, or entertainment, to team up with other players.

Rabblerousers, Anarchs, Social Justice Warriors

The Equity Front

Concerned about justice and fairness, this group fights for equal treatment for all.

Mobsters, Cabbies, Teamsters

The Taxi Union

An organized criminal enterprise masquerading as a legitimate union, this group controls how people, goods, and information move around the Belt.

Nerds, Scientists, STEMers

Ceres Institute of Technology

Ceres’s best and brightest, doctors, lawyers, researchers, and engineers from all sciences make up this group.

Stars, Execs, Moneybags, Cultists

Galactic Artists Inc.

Shrouded in intrigue, this group embodies classic Hollywood—glitz, glamour, and mystery. Their success is rumored to be due to an embedded secret society.

Queens, Blue bloods, Royals

The Descendants

Consisting of well-off individuals, this group’s ancestry traces back to the queens and kings of Earth.


Realms of Influence



The world’s banking and business sector. This realm lends money, makes purchases, bets on stocks, invests, and gains wealth. Influencers include bankers, financial advisors, wealthy investors, and cryptocurrency experts.


Moving goods and people to, from, and across Mars. This realm includes commercial and leisure travel, immigration, shipping, importing, and exporting. Influencers include dock workers, ship’s captains, logistics experts, truckers, or public transportation workers.


The world’s working class and industry. This realm includes mass production, factories, utilities, building projects, office workers, physical labor, service industry, and AI/robotic work. Influencers include union representatives, staffing agency owners, service workers, and utility executives.



Pursuits of the mind and science. This realm includes institutions such as universities, research laboratories, libraries, and history and science museums. Influencers include doctors, engineers, biologists, historians, and professors.


Events of the rich and famous. This realm includes the arts, theater, music, movies, parties, television, and sports. Influencers include movie stars, top athletes, famous painters, and fashion designers.


The spread of information between people in society. This realm includes traditional news media, online networks, advertising, and mass communications. Influencers include news reporters, investigative journalists, official spokespersons, and popular talking heads.



The administration of government and policymaking groups. Influencers include elected leaders, appointed administrators, pollsters, and lobbyists.


The seedy and corrupt underbelly of society. This realm includes organized crime, human trafficking, illegal gambling, and smuggling. Influencers include mob bosses, grifters, white-collar criminals, and their associates.


The rules and regulations of society and the institutions supporting them. This realm includes peace forces, court systems, legislative bodies, security forces, and military. Influencers include judges, lawyers, peace officers, and the military.



The average person and the more common elements of society. This realm includes the lower- and middle- classes, low-level criminals, street gangs, the homeless, and the disenfranchised. Influencers include social workers, gang leaders, neighborhood watch leaders, and hackers.


The spiritual, mystical, and supernatural. This realm includes believers ranging from cults to organized religion and mysterious things science cannot yet explain, such as UFO sightings, rumors of ghosts and vampires, and psychic impressions. Influencers include pastors, shamans, ghost hunters, and psychics.


The upper class of people in society. This realm includes those with great power and wealth. Influencers include wealthy investors, privileged philanthropists, well-connected debutantes, and “old world” money.

About the Designer

A first-time designer, Manda Shafer, like many, had a lot of free time in 2020, which she used to work on her game idea.

Manda is a storyteller, designer, play tester, dungeon master, creator, and now game designer. With The Establishment's launch, Manda combines her love of crafting engaging stories and developing new gaming mechanics in a new, interactive way.

When not imagining ways to improve The Establishment’s player experience, Manda cares for foster animals, teaches board games to new players, explores new crafting options in her workshop, and relaxes with her cats.

Contact her at mandashafer@gmail.com