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Mars Colony

I won’t beat around the bush: Tim Koppang’s two player RPG Mars Colony is exactly the sort of storytelling game I got involved with IPR to help promote. It’s inventive yet minimalist, topical but timeless, and just a bit snarky. (I mean that as a complement: I’m a bit snarky.) It’s a little bit like a cross between a Kim Stanley Robinson novel and petty state capital level political intrigue.

The premise of Mars Colony is relatively straightforward. One player takes the place of Kelly Perkins, the would-be Savior of a problematic colony on Mars and darling of the Earth Coalition government. She (or he) has been sent to Mars amidst much fanfare and acclaim to get the colony back on track. The second player is the Governor and basically plays everyone else, most especially the staff of four Organizations: the Mayor’s Office, the Colony Council, News Network Corp, and the Earth Coalition. Together they tell the story of Kelly Perkins’ attempt – possibly successful, possibly not – to save the Mars Colony from a variety of problems such as radiation, funding, sanitation, social unrest, and the like.

Structurally the game works starts with a collaborative setup period that establishes some facts about Perkins’ private life, the various Martial political parties, what they stand for, who belongs to them, and the exact problems the colony faces. The Savior begins play by narrating a vignette that establishes Kelly Perkins background, qualifications, and relationship with the Earth Coalition. The game then takes place in up to nine Savior Progress Scenes, depending on whether or not Perkins has been forcibly removed. There are also Personal Scenes in the Savior establishes facts about Perkins’ private life, and Governor Oppositional Scenes which set the stage for her actions. Each Progress Scene is further broken down into five steps marked A-E.

Perkins begins the game with nine Admiration markers that are placed in a circle on a Character Worksheet (it’s included in the back of the book). The Savior spends the game attempting to prevent them from being moved to the circle marked Contempt, occasionally by moving them to another circle marked Deception. Together, these three circles represent Kelly’s reputation with the Martian public. At it simplest, Mars Colony represents the Savior’s attempts to avoid having five markers moved to Perkins’ Contempt circle. (Okay, okay: it’s not really that simple. But indulge me.) If she can do that, Perkins makes it to the end of the game without being forcibly removed from office.

In conclusion, Mars Colony is an excellent example of a two player, collaborative, GM-less storytelling game. Additionally, I liked the ultra-minimalist layout and presentation of the book, which manages to make a combination of text and public domain NASA images of Mars look interesting and attractive. I’m going to play this game. You should too.

-Jason Walters, The Warehouse Guy

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