Mars Colony: A game of dirty politics

August 22, 2012

I just picked up Mars Colony today, which is a small, 2 player game. Earth sends Kelly Perkins, the best and brightest mind to try to set right the problems of the ailing Mars Colony before it completely destabilizes and fails altogether – one player plays Perkins, the other player plays The Governor and every other NPC.

You put together 2-4 fictional political parties, loosely based on historical, real world political parties you think would make for good story fodder. You name real world political problems and those become randomized scenario generation tools for play. And then, you get to work trying to fix the problems.

The mechanics are simple, and terrifying. Perkins develops plans to fix problems, rolls some dice in a classic sort of Blackjack/21 set up – you can keep adding rolls and getting better results to fix the problems, but if you roll badly, you lose all the points.

Which then sets up the core of the game: You can lose all the points, and lose Admiration of the people and gain Contempt (which eventually gets you ousted) or you can lie, and cover up the failure, keeping the points, and keeping your good name. Of course, there’s always a chance that the Lies will be revealed before you can fix the problems, then, the more lies you’ve told, the more things come crashing down.

I think this game does an amazing job of nailing so much of what goes on around politics. The fact that the problems took years or decades to create, and you’re expected to clean it up in a short amount of time. The ways in which people find themselves rationalizing to keep power, in the hopes of making things better overall.

The PDF is $6, I recommend it!

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