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Martians!!!» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Nope, never played Zombies!!! rss

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Harvey O'Brien
Ireland
Dublin
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You might have thought it impossible for someone to buy this game without having played Zombies!!! or one of the other Twilight Creations titles, but though I was well aware of these others, I never bought in. When I saw Martians!!! in the FLGS, I decided to go for it.

Expectations

So, first of all though I'm not therefore going to reference gameplay with reference to Zombies!!!, I do have to say up front that my expectations of the game were based upon having an idea of what those games are like. In other words, I knew this was 'beer and pretzels' stuff. It would be hard to think of it otherwise - come on - look at the box art, not to mention all those exclamation marks!!! !!! !!!

First Impressions

Out of the box, it's not 'impressive'- very thin card stock for the tiles, murky artwork on the tiles - but it does have a great big bag of little green men in three different poses, and that put a smile on my face. Player pawn sculpts are not bad either, though the backwards baseball-cap wearing ipod user isn't nearly so much fun as a beany-wearing hula-hooper would have been...

Rules

The basic mechanic is that you draw a random tile each turn featuring a grid of squares overlaying a section of landscape on which you place a varying number of Martians (bad - they want to kill you) and sometimes also items (good - they help you to kill Martians). You also get to draw cards that help you out (weapons, events, card-cancelling cards). You move (dice roll), you fight (dice roll), you collect power-up items (affects dice rolls). Next player - rinse and repeat.

There are rules about tile placement that allow you to build a map of a small town and outlying rural locales, including the all-important farms, where crop circles appear, one of which will eventually be the site of the mothership, which you must attempt to destroy (well, you don't have to if you're playing competitively, but who doesn't want to blow up the alien mothership? Come on.) You need to gather three specific items to do this. These appear randomly as face-down counters as you build the map.

There are two gameplay variants in the basic ruleset - co-op (all players trying to defeat Martians) and competitive (players try to kill the most Martians and mess with other players). The use of cards varies between the two rulesets - in short in co-op the Martians get their own deck and you trigger a card drawing by moving your pawn across the martian-head symbol. These cards usually make bad things happen, and they tend to affect everyone. In the competitive version the Martian deck is part of the general draw pile and you can use the nasty effects on whomever you like (or don't, as the case may be).

Gameplay

How does it play? It's fun. It's a self-consciously silly game designed for a bit of aimless mayhem. I've played it solo, co-op, and competitive, and I'd play any of those styles again easily enough. Solo is actually pretty good fun if you use a 'couple' (male and female pawns) and the rules for co-op. It's interesting how quickly they stop co-operating with one another. Co-op proper (with another actual person playing) isn't massively rewarding. Unless the other player finds it tactically challenging (which it isn't), they're probably playing just to humour you. Competitive is really very brainless indeed, and the screwage factor is only as high as the level of vehemence with which you play your cards on other players. The game is really much the same, but doesn't feel quite right thematically when you're just trying to kill more Martians than the other guy. I'd actually recommend it as a solo game before either of the other variants, and with a few themed House Rules it gets even better.

Niggles

There are some ambiguities with the phrasing of some of the rules, particularly when the words 'tile' and 'space' become interchangeable in there somewhere. It's also a little hard to make out what you're looking at on the map sometimes, and with the strange rule that the farms act like a crossroads (four entry/exit points), it takes a little time to figure out what can go where. Veterans of the other games may not be bothered by this, but to a total initiate, it's not necessarily intuitive and it's not that clear from the rules (placing items is also more confusing than it should be because of linguistic ambiguity).

However, all such issues are negated by the explicit encouragement to deploy House Rules. Again, we're not in hardcore wargame territory here, and being fast and loose and creative is probably your best bet.

Bottom line

Look, it's called Martians!!! with three exclamation points, it's got a bag of little green men, and it makes no pretence to be anything other than a time filler. As such, it's absolutely fine. But it does seem like it could be a lot more fun than it is. The graphics on the map didn't need to be so murky, and the cards go for the gory Mars Attacks! style illustrations which though fine as far as they go aren't really adding much. I'd actually have liked a cleaner 1950s graphic style look to the whole thing; self consciously 'sanitised' as part of the ironic take on the genre. Illustrations of decapitations and mutilations may be part of what sells the 'beer and pretzels' game, but it does make it not suitable for younger gamers (depending on how troubled you are by these things - I'm just remarking on the fact of this, not making a judgment on it), who may be, in fact, a better demographic for this.

Should I buy it?

There are better games out there. There are worse games out there. It's not cheap (not in Ireland anyway) and it's not going to reward years of commitment. I think if you even think you might buy a game like this then you are going to get what you are looking for. It could have been better, but you know, with the encouragement to use House Rules, it might be up to you to make it so. Only you can say if that's worth your time and cash. Hopefully this review has given you a little help with your decision.

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Andrew Royal
United States
Manchester
New Hampshire
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I would suggest not moving backwards to Zombies!!! after playing Martians!!!, it certainly didn't work for me. The collecting/investigation mechanic of finding the 3 components in Martians!!! is completely missing from Zombies!!! and makes Z a bit underwhelming. If you do want to play Zombies!!! I would suggest getting Zombies 4: The End or buying an Expansion, such as Zombies 7: Send in the Clowns. Both add gameplay elements that keep the game engaging.
 
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Joe Reil
United States
Barre
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sinfreealex wrote:
I would suggest not moving backwards to Zombies!!! after playing Martians!!!, it certainly didn't work for me. The collecting/investigation mechanic of finding the 3 components in Martians!!! is completely missing from Zombies!!! and makes Z a bit underwhelming. If you do want to play Zombies!!! I would suggest getting Zombies 4: The End or buying an Expansion, such as Zombies 7: Send in the Clowns. Both add gameplay elements that keep the game engaging.


I have to agree. I don't actually own Martians, nor have I played it. I already have Zombies (nearly a full set) and Humans and I think, between these, my itch for this basic system will be well covered.

However, I was intrigued by the collecting/investigation mechanic in Martians, after having read about it in two different reviews and I think it'd probably be pretty easy to back-fill it into Zombies or maybe the combination of Zombies/Humans.

Now to come up with some house rules to combine Z/H together with the collecting/investigation idea from Martians and I may have something.
 
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James Schubert
United States
Batavia
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I have played all three and may have enjoyed Martians the most out of the box. I like the option to play co-op or not. It makes it nice that the rules are set for the option as opposed to house rules. I liked the wild card aspect of the Martians cards too.
As far as house rules go, I actually like the way the family of games can be customized. It makes the games your own, and now that a good number of miniatures and poses have been put out, all the more options are available to customize.
 
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