Blog Review: Mars Attacks The Dice Game

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Mars Attacks The Dice Game from Steve Jackson Games is a small box 2-6 player dice game based in the Mars Attack Universe from the 1980’s. There’s been a recent revival of the movie setting, first from the miniatures game and now through this wonderful dice mechanic. Steve Jackson Games is no stranger to dice games as they’ve previously released the timeless Zombie Dice and more recently Chupacabra: Survive the Night. This game, however, takes a step past their save, score, and pass style with the ability to save scores on location cards as players fight to have their martians control the most victory points value from location at the end of the game.

How it Works:

At the beginning of the game, the difficulty location is placed on the table and the locations are dealt into four face down piles above it. The top card of each location is flipped face-up. These are the locations that the players will be fighting for when the game begins. Each player receives a stack of tokens of one color which are used to track their progress on the face-up locations.

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During a turn, players first choose which location they are attempting to capture, then roll the entire collection of dice, which have three sides: ray guns, martians, and nukes. The ray guns are used on the majority of the locations as you capture the cities cards by…OK, I’ll say it, by killing the humans there. Martians are used to capture monuments which plays homage to the campiness of the movie; the martians want to see cool attractions while invading Earth. The nuke side is akin to shotgun blasts in Zombie Dice. When a nuke side is rolled, the die is placed on the side of the cards, bottom up, covering the nuke symbols on each card. If all the nuke symbols are covered, you have nuked out and your turn is over. If you haven’t nuked out, you may continue the attack, which means you pick up all the MARTIANS and re-roll the dice, ray guns and nukes are locked.

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When you have finished rolling, you count the symbols on the card matching the location you chose and place your scoring marker on the number of faces showing. So for example if you are attempting to capture Memphis and you rolled three ray guns, you place your colored marker on the 3 space on the card. If you have met the highest number on the card, you have captured that location and take it into your victory pile, flipping up the top card of that stack to reveal a new location. Play continues until one stack of locations is empty and the player with the most victory points wins.  Simple, right?

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What I Think: 

While save and score dice games can feel pretty solitary and get boring rather quickly, the added location mechanic of Mars Attacks absolutely makes this game. By scoring over multiple turns and “holding” locations it forces players to pay attention to the rolls of fellow players and keeps some friendly banter around the table while also adding a strategic element to the game in choosing locations with reasonable score lines or by trying to edge out other players in those troublesome monument locations.

The varying location types also means that many games play completely different. Sometimes you’ll see mostly cities and the games becomes a race for ray guns, often times locations will be the hot spot for capture as martian dice lock when their rolled so it’s a one roll and score turn. There are ever nuke locations which only score the number of nuked results you have rolled which leaves you in the dangerous place of re-rolling martians for nukes but trying not to roll too many so you don’t nuke out. The starting card also has two sides, one with two nuke slots and the other with one which gives differing difficulties to the game. You wouldn’t believe the difference one absent nuke space leaves.

Some locations even contain special rules which become a player’s special ability when that location is claimed, like changing a die face or re-rolling if you nuke out on your first roll. These special locations are game changing and highly sought after as a capture point.

I absolutely love this game as a warm-up game for the night, the extra element of multiple turn scoring adds so many levels to the game, a place where so many dice games fall short. The components are well put together, the art feels like the original cards and movie looks, and the play of the game is light, fun, and interactive. I highly suggest giving this one a look.

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