Computer Games Games



Tharsis is a sci-fi survival/crisis management game on Steam with some board game inspired mechanics. Your Mars-bound vessel is struck by a meteor, killing one of your crew and destroying your food stores. Your remaining crew have to fight crises in your ship’s remaining modules to prevent loss of ship integrity, health, or system functionality.

It’s pretty hard.

Each crew member has health and dice, to manage a crisis you deploy a crew member to a module and they roll their dice. Dice can be deployed to offset the current crisis, activate the module’s function (each offers a different form of assistance), activate the crew member’s personal power (for example the doctor can improve health, the engineer can repair the ship) or contribute to a research pool which offers a set of possible bonuses.

Sounds ok so far?

Each turn your crew members lose a die. In addition some crises can cause you to lose die both generally (if not fixed all crew lose one die) or specifically (if in fixing this crisis you roll a 4 that die is gone). Die are replenished by eating food. The food you stored in the food store. The food store that got hit by a meteor.

So you need to harvest food from the greenhouse, which means spending die that could otherwise be spent fixing the problems that are going to destroy your ship, or you can cannibalise your dead crew. Which makes everyone pretty upset. And the more upset they get the worse their ideas are to save everything.

Needless to say, I’m yet to make it to Mars.

People Politics Words

Terrorism for Martians

Me: Look, we’re just trying to promote stability.

Martian: On Earth, war makes things more stable?

Me: It’s…complicated. But really, America is a peace-loving culture.

Martian: But you have more wars than anyone. On Mars, this does not seem peaceful.

Me: Okay, but it’s not terrorism. Terrorism is when, you know, you terrorize people.

Martian: But did you not, alone among the peoples of your planet, use atomic weapons against your fellow humans, when you bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

Me: Only to end the war.

Barry Eisler on the how you would explain the difference between war and terrorism to a Martian. Well worth a read.

Natural Science

Olympus Mons

The Olympus Mons mountain on Mars is so tall and yet so gently sloped that, were you suited and supplied correctly, ascending it would allow you to walk most of the way to space. Mars has a big, puffy atmosphere, taller than ours, but there’s barely anything to it at that level. 30 Pascals of pressure, which is what we get in an industrial vacuum furnace here on Earth. You may as well be in space. Imagine that. Imagine a world where you could quite literally walk to space.

– How To See The Future, Warren Ellis


PotW – 17/7/09