Posted on August 27, 2009 by spikexan
Twilight Creations earns the distinction of being the first board game I review. I’ve been familiar with the company since Zombies, moved through When Darkness Comes, and looked forward to their Deadlands release (I didn’t get a chance to play a demo, but I did hover for a little bit while a quartet enjoyed a brief visit to the weird west. Today, I’m reviewing Martians.
Martians is a tile-based board game similar to Zombies. The game is intended for two to six players, ages thirteen and up. I should go ahead and point out that my five-year-old son, a board game enthusiast, wanted to try out this game. After reading the rules and deciding to go with the cooperative version, I told him he could try. Except for reading the cards, he quickly grasped the fundamental concepts of the game. He places little green men and tokens accurately; furthermore, he understood the turn sequence just as well as his dad (who had to sometimes look at the rules). The artwork is probably a bit too intense for some parents, so approach this with caution. I’d personally rather him look at cartoon monsters than the Jonas Brothers (who I find really frightening).
Let’s talk artwork first. Dave Aikins artwork for the cards is perfectly demented.
Gruesome fates meet both Martians and humans on the cards. Some remain a bit neutral. Some of the cards are rather strange. “Four-sided Dice” depicts a dead alien. What killed it? D4s have been chucked into its exposed brain. That card works to prevent Martians from attacking your character. The cards and cover art possess high energy and manage to be somewhat creepy too, such as the card “This is not Happening.”
The artwork for the tiles has improved some since their first release. I personally prefer grids separating all nine segments of the board; however, I may feel differently the more I play this game. The tiles seemed a little too dark. The Crop Circle disks is way too dark. I would have liked more color contrast to make things stand out a little bit better. I did think the cinema marquee was a nice nod to both The X-Files and ET.
Bullets and Hearts return in this game. These are the same as in their other games. As long as they don’t go back to all black pieces for bullets and hearts, we are good. There are 100 Martian pieces that come in three poses. There are six player pieces that come in male and female variants. These little adjustments are a big win when these games can, on occasion, last an insane amount of time.
Writing-wise, I found no typos in either the rules, cards, or tiles. Clear details allowed me to set up the game and play in five minutes. Knowing Zombies didn’t really factor into things as my wife jumped right in too without ever having played their earlier release. The game allows for competitive or cooperative play. When our son played, we opted for cooperative. The game lasted about an hour. In co-op mode, you have to meet the winning criteria (blowing up the mother ship with three separate item disks) before all the Martians are placed on the board. In Competitive mode, you can win by the same means or be accumulating thirty kills. My wife and I played the Competitive mode later that night (it took roughly as long, but game play went
A fear some may have for this game is that it is too much like Zombies. This fear is remedied by the Martian Deck. You know all the cool things cards let you do to enhance your stats or screw over your opponents. The Martians get them too in this game. Certain tiles have an alien head watermarked into the center of them. When players hit these tiles, the Martians get a card. These cards are horrible, horrible things. For example, “This is Nothing Like the Video Game” forces players to discard down to three hearts and three bullets (In competitive mode, a single player is targeted). The Martian deck is terrible enough in co-op. In competitive, each card threatens to be a killer.
The disks also change the format of the game a little bit by forcing players to go to certain places. The disks are required to win (unless you’re feeling spry enough to off thirty Martians), so you have to traverse the board in order to collect all three types. Also, crop circle and the mother ship disks have to be investigated.
All in all, Martians ranks as my favorite game from GenCon. It demands as much strategy as players want to put into it while being rules friendly enough for a beer and pretzels night. My scores are a little different for a board game, but here goes:
Rules: Five out of Five Dice (Quick to learn/Makes sense)
Artwork: Three out of Five Dice (More color and distinction on the tiles/cards and pawns are good)
Playability: Five out of Five Dice (Engaging play/Creates good table banter)
Overall: Four out of Five Dice (Solid game)
Review by Todd Cash