Why Aren't You Playing... On Mars?
Every now and then, Jennah, my darling wife, pulls out a game from her favourite designer, Vital Lacerda, and tries to convince me it's worth playing. She's tried it with The Gallerist. She's tried it with Lisboa. And she's tried it a lot of times with Vinhos. Each time, I just look at the size of the box and the board on the back, and think "I just don't have time to learn this game." Well.. this time, it was me with the pestering! So check out why I'm excited to kick my anti-euro stance and why you should be playing the latest Lacerda game from Eagle-Gryphon Games, On Mars.
It's Terraforming Mars... ON STEROIDS
Terraforming Mars was a game that didn't jazz me at first due to the euro-style gameplay, but one that I quickly fell in love with. With a simple loop that builds on itself, it quickly became a fun puzzle to try and solve, particularly as other players contributed to the game's overall engine at the same time.
And if you loved Terraforming Mars, you're going to be enamoured by On Mars. At the core, they're the same premise; each player is trying to turn Mars into a habitable colony; but On Mars throws so many layers on top of the experience, that each game becomes this weaving ballet between the players, as you each captialize on each other's advancements.
Rather than having a central planet where conditions change based on other player actions, you are able to interact based on everyone's conditions. Did someone upgrade the technology for rover movement? Now everyone can move around the planet faster. Did you upgrade the maximum size of a Mining complex? Now everyone can build large complexes. Instead of having the planet determine what you are able to do, each player determines what you can do, building a communal engine that you can utilize to your hearts content (provided you don't want to give them too many extra resources for doing so).
The component quality is amazing
The component quality of On Mars is astounding. Each of the markers, save for the cubes, have been screen printed with a design (including the space shuttle), everything is a chunky size, and the artwork... my lord.
I may be a little biased, as Ian O'Toole worked on a little game that I published not too long ago called Smiths of Winterforge, but once again he has proven himself to be a maestro not only with artwork, but also iconography and user design. Each cost and reward has an icon that can be easily identified against a user manual, and, just like Scythe, once you crack this language, you'll be processing your turns in no time.
Simple Actions, Deep Gameplay
This is what makes the game so strong. If you can get past the 45 minute how-to-play video, you'll realise the game is extremely simple to play, but absurdly deep in it's outcomes. You pick an action, pay a cost (if any) and resolve it, getting any rewards. But the plethora of actions available to you, and the incremental growth of the engine, present a scenario that can quickly overwhelm you if you're thining any more than three turns ahead. Play the long game if you want, but I have found so much joy just picking the action that most makes sense at that point in time. Will you put yourself in a corner later in the game? Maybe. Or you'll find yourself pleasantly surprised where you end up. After all, it seems the best part of On Mars isn't the result at the end, but the journey along the way.
Missed out on the Kickstarter? Get a copy of On Mars now, including the Kickstarter exclusive content, right here at Vault Games.