Tharsis was on sale on Steam for 67% off (still is, as of this morning), and I saw it being on sale and thought “what the heck?”
Holy cow, this is the most stressful game I’ve played in years. Here’s the conceit: you’re in charge of a team on a rocket mission to Mars and everything starts going horribly wrong. Like, Flight Control has had a meteor strike. The medical bay has experienced a blue screen of death. And the greenhouse is on fire. You’ve got a team of differently-skilled technicians who have a dice pool and need to go to each room and roll their dice pool to deal with the problem. Let’s say a meteor strike is worth 23 and a BSOD is only worth 11. You send your tech to the room and roll their dice.
Now, your pool is going to be anything from five dice to just the one. So you roll your dice and figure out what to do. (Oh, and each differently-skilled tech has different skills… some people get extra rolls, some people can heal themselves or others, other people can reduce the stress on the ship, others can devote dice to strengthening the hull.
MEANWHILE, each room that has a problem will have a negative effect on your roll. Let’s say that all 3s end up doing a point of damage to your tech. Maybe all 2s experience “stasis” (which is to say, they cannot be re-rolled). Maybe 1s experience “void” (which is to say, they get sucked out into the vacuum and you don’t get them, you don’t get to re-roll them, you don’t get nothing).
At the same time, you have “research projects”. Think spillover dice that you can add to research projects rather than to address the catastrophe. You rolled a 6, 6, 2, and 1? Just put the low ones into research and dump the sixes into the catastrophe. Research projects can be anything from “use one die in the research project to address 3 repair points of the catastrophe” to “use two dice to give +1 to the hull” to “use three dice to give everybody in the crew +1 to health” to “use six die in the research project to address 28 points of the catastrophe”
So roll your dice. Try to turn that catastrophe into something less catastrophic.
Oh, did I mention that next turn something else is going to break?
Just playing through the training missions were stressful. The very first one involves a situation where your tech wakes up alone on the ship and has to survive for five weeks (five turns). I failed to do this four or five times before I figured it out. Then on the second training mission, I had a full team but no hull repair… so I had to figure out how to determine what was a life-and-death problem and what was merely really important.
I was nerve-wracked by the time I made it through the training missions and only *THEN* did the real game start.
I’ve seen situations where I rolled three dice and was begging “please add up to seven, please add up to seven, please add up to seven” and they didn’t… I’ve seen situations where I rolled two dice needing them to add up to eleven and I happened to have rolled boxcars. The chance part is fun, the strategy part is fun, the storyline will stress you out.
And, get this, you can get it for less than five bucks before the steam sale ends. If you like dice games, you should, seriously, check this out.
So… what are you playing?
(Picture is HG Wells playing a war game from Illustrated London News (25 January 1913))