I guarantee you
That at some point
Everything is gonna south on you
You gonna say: This is it
This is how I end.
Now, you can either accept that
Or you get to work
As for today, The Martian trailer has 14 535 572 views. I alone might be responsible for 5K. Maybe few more. I watched this trailer over and over again. I also had this ugly piece of paper on my deck with YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN written on it. For long months I was building rules and mechanisms to create this experience.
Everything falls apart, everything fails you, the situation seems hopeless. But you are a human being and you gonna survive. You are trapped on Mars, you have not enough supply, you have no help whatsoever, but you have you. So you better get to work.
In most missions in First Martians, you start with almost fully functional HUB. Most of the systems are working, the supply is good, the malfunctions are a minor problem. Slowly, with each SOL (round) stuff starts to break, systems start to fail, the hell begins. And players must make choices – which of these fires they have to put out and which they must ignore and focus on a mission goal. This is the basic choice in the game. The goal of the mission, fulfilling objective versus surviving, versus having HUB operational, having our facilities and room available for future actions.
And on top of this super basic choice, we have many layers of small decisions.
You start the game with Upgrade cards. They are powerful items you can build to make your facilities in the HUB work so much better. Very tempting and very wise move to build them. On the other hand, I gave players a super simple choice – at any point of the game they can, instead of building the card, just rip it off for spare parts. It’s a free stuff. Just discard the card and get spare parts.
And the arguments start. Should we build it or keep for emergency purposes. The ability from the Upgrade is super awesome, but having back up plan and keeping the card as a spare parts option might save the day. A number of games I saw when in the last round players had no idea how to win and were ready to give up and suddenly somebody looks at the forgotten upgrade card and shouts: “Upgrade! Parts! Rip off upgrade! We can make it!”
If you have no spare parts to fix crucial facility in the HUB or fulfil mission objective, you can… get this part from other facilities. You can literally choose any room in the game and rip it off. Destroy Crew Quarters to fix Med Lab? My playtesters have been there. Take Garage Hall down and rip it off completely to fix other rooms? Yes, we’ve been there too. It’s always a hard decision and there is always a lot of debate which room they will sacrifice and destroy salvaging for microchips and hardware. But the feeling is awesome, removing microchips from Crew Quarters and plugging them in into Med Lab… Funny enough, I saw games when the situation changed dramatically and players had to fix the rooms they salvaged previously. Yep, you better get to work on Mars and prepare for unexpected.
Each player has 4 unique skills. These are powerful tools. They are all build to make impossible happen. The Engineer will fix facilities without new spare parts. The geologist will find shorter routes and ignore features of the terrain, the Medic… Well, you know why you took Medic with you, right? The skills are here to let players feel they save the day. The pure satisfaction when you spend your Morale Tokens and do magic. Whatever it is “Draw 2 Research cards and choose 1” or “Add 1 Sample to Cargo Bay”, it is always a big turn in the mission and creates new opportunities. It’s always as in The Martian movie – figuring out the solution. Or science the shit out of this, as Mark Watney said in the movie.
Each mission in the First Martians is a sophisticated puzzle with many moving parts. Objectives in each mission are very different and you must find the best way to approach the problem. It always looks difficult, but possible at the beginning. Then the game throws at you few unexpected surprises and things start being more and more difficult. The time is short, the objective looks more and more impossible to reach.
And then players start to really think. Start to check all possible options. Start to talk, like real talk, really brainstorming all options. They finally get to work.
And at some point, with a combination of using skills, upgrades, ripping stuff, and anything they needed, they may finish the mission.
And that’s quite the moment.