Board games that tell stories

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First Martians GDJ - Three types of stories

Ignacy Trzewiczek
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First Martians GDJ - Three types of stories

Working on Robinson Crusoe scenarios was easy. I just looked at my book shelf, picked one of the many great XIX century stories and the scenario was ready. Once it was cannibals, other times crazy cultists, or volcano. That was a crazy ride of picking all great themes from the literature.

With First Martians, it was far more different experience. From the very beginning, I wanted the game to be science fiction, but with the accent on science, not fiction. I wanted the game to be more or less accurate simulator of actual settling on Red Planet, with actual tasks, missions, objectives.

Instead of looking at my book shelf and picking all the crazy sf novels about Martians, Russians, Jesus on Mars (yes!), I headed to hard sf novels, and soon after to the actual science books about the colonization of Mars. Never in my life, I thought I will learn and self-educate myself with physics, chemistry, and all that boring stuff. But well, I did.

Believe me or not, there is a ton of scenarios these smart people at NASA and other organizations painted and considered already to prepare astronauts for all bad things possible. There is apparently a ton of people whose job description is 'What could go wrong?'

The dude sits 8 hours a day in the office and comes up with all terrible things that may happen in space. Then he goes back home, his wife greets him as usual:

'Hi, honey. How's your work today?'
'Awesome. I came up with this new cool suffocation scenario. The oxygenator line got hoar frosted because of a minor malfunction in the heating system. This frost cumulates for weeks and at some point the line is no longer flexible enough and burst...'

Well, I am getting side tracked. Back to the topic...


We decided to divide missions into three groups. When you start the game, you'll see in the menu three options to choose - Building, Explore and Research. These are - in my opinion - three main reasons you would like to play the game.

These missions speak to the players who imagine Mars as a building zone. They imagine themselves as first settlers who will build solar panels, farms, new crew quarters and all other cool things. It's all about adding new rooms to the board, it is about seing our HUB grows with new things we built.

In the tutorial mission (which is building type) players have to build back up solar panels, back up oxygenators and back up farm. This one is super simple, it is a tutorial mission after all, but all these simple tasks show players how the game works and let them add new facilities to the board - they see that HUB grows with new rooms and spaces and they see that building stuff is not easy, because facilities have malfunctions that must be fixed asap.

The other mission - Landing - is the opposite. It is the hardest, almost impossible scenario. Players just landed and they have to build everything from the scratch. Like literally, everything. This one is a Bob the Builder dream come true. You must plan which facilities build first and executed the plan well. You need Med Lab first or you need Probe Bay? You bring Oxygenerators as fast as possible or you go for food supplies first? How much you can stretch health of the astronauts and how much they can handle before Crew Quarters, Med Lab or Farm start to work? This is the hardest mission, but if players like to build - there is a ton of stuff to put on the map.

For Early Launch of First Martians in the app there will be one more building mission available. No spoilers, but you just got from Earth containers with parts to build new Crew Quarters. You gonna have new beds! How cool is that, huh?


The reason to come to Mars might be a drive to explore it. To find all the valleys and mountains and all amazing things. For all players who love playing on the map, to plan routes and discover new parts of the land we added explore type of missions. Once again - in the base box you will find two of this type.

The guessing game is a mission about the plan that went really wrong. The supplies from Earth were sent as planned, but then something happened. Long story short, the supply of food, spare parts, and scientific tools landed very far away from the HUB. Your systems show where three parts of destroyed container landed, but you have no idea which part have food, which spare parts... And you must act quickly because the signal from containers is getting weaker and weaker.

The Probe on the loose is a funny one. The probe got some software malfunction and stopped to listen to the HUB. It goes on its own. You better find it before it got lost in the storm. Players have to analyze last signals from the probe and nail down where the hell this stupid thing is right now. It's a working on the map all mission long. We even added a PDF handout for players, so they can print it and literally mark where this stupid probe is at any point of the mission. It's fun mission. Not too serious, but fun.

And the third one - science. Real serious science. You play the game because you want to feel like you are the scientist in the laboratory and you must do important discoveries. You will use a calculator, you will be adding some numbers, you will be doing math and calculations. Serious stuff.

Malnourished Plants is a most stressful mission in the game. The plants in the farm are dying. There are not enough minerals in the soil and the whole plantation is dying. You will have no food in a few weeks. You better get to work and find minerals here on Mars. Players start the game with the precise info how much they lack Mg, K, Si and other minerals (we are talkin' here chemistry, dude!) and then the mission starts. Once again we have a handy printout to download and print so you can feel like a real scientist filling some tables and doing calculations. Find minerals and enrich the soil to stop wilting of your food. And do it fast.

The other one - Local minerals - once again ask you to play chemistry class. You must create concrete. Once again find minerals, find water, bring the stuff to the HUB, mix different ingredients together, get some new ingredients out of this and mix with other shit... Yes, we have a print out for this as well. And yes, there are calculations needed again. You wanted to be a scientist in the first place, did you?

This year we will publish the third scenario in this category, but this one will be less about numbers, and more about finding a cure. The mission is called Epidemic. I say no more.


First Martians is - as all my designs - solid euro game with a ton of story behind. The one thing that changes, the one thing that differs it from Stronghold, Robinson Crusoe or Imperial Settlers is the fact that this time the story is science. And designing that game was a hell of a task!
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