Tag Archives: Mars Colony

Kelly Perkins

Tazio recently emailed me with a wonderful account of his recent Mars Colony game. As part of his email he also included a sketch of Kelly Perkins. Now, obviously I decided on a very stark, photographic, direction for the artwork in the Mars Colony book. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a soft spot for well-done illustration. Take a look:

Kelly Perkins

“Pssst… Saving the Colony isn’t Actually the Point”

I just found this short comment about Mars Colony, by the user SevenSidedDie. I think it’s worth sharing here:

Mars Colony doesn’t have a reward cycle. You either save the colony, leave a false saviour, or leave in shame. Only your character’s fiction changes — status, emotions, personal relationships — none of which is reflected in the mechanics.

Arguably this is the point of the game. The mechanics are about the successes, failures, and moral compromises the saviour can make trying to save the Colony. The mechanics stay away from how the saviour might be changed by their struggle, leaving it up to the players to answer how their actions and moral compromises trying to save Mars Colony should change them.

SevenSidedDie’s conclusion is accurate. I tried to design a game that emphasized the personal struggle of a very public figure. People often tell me that they wish Fear Cards or Kelly’s Sympathy had a direct mechanical affect on the core conflict mechanic. But that wasn’t my design goal. The point of Fear Cards and Personal Scenes isn’t to feed into Progress Scenes. Rather it’s the other way around. Progress Scenes are meant to feed into Personal Scenes. Conflict and Deception are meant to inspire the use of future Fear Cards. In other words, a Progress Scene creates tension that the players are then able to explore on a personal level via the rest of the game’s mechanics.

Sight for Sore Eyes Charity Bundle

Elizabeth Shoemaker has very generously put together a charity bundle of RPGs in an effort to raise money for her friend Karla. Karla is a young mother who was recently diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa. Long story short, Karla is going to be blind by the time she reaches her 40s or, if she’s lucky, her 50s. You can find out more about Karla at the Two Scooters Press website.

All proceeds from the the charity bundle will go to Karla, and it’s a very nice bundle indeed. You can get six games for $10. The games include:

  • Mars Colony, by Tim Koppang (that’s me)
  • Polaris, by Ben Lehman
  • Remember Tomorrow, by Gregor Hutton
  • Murderland, by Elizabeth Shoemaker
  • Perfect, Unrevised, by Joe McDaldno — along with all the reference sheets
  • Geasa, by Jonathan Lavalee
  • And a special, bundle-only Apocalypse World character class: THE HOARDER, by D. Vincent Baker

Please consider making a donation. Any one of the games listed above sells for around $10 on its own. You can get them all for that same price, and help a worthy cause while you’re at it.

Deception Cards

I received a wonderful email from a Mars Colony customer in Italy by the name of Tazio. He had given the game a try with great success. However, his concern was that there was no way to keep track of the lies that Kelly was telling throughout the story. As he put it, there was no sense that Kelly was “actually creating a new skeleton in his closet, which could be discovered and turned up.” To fix this problem, Tazio created a simple solution. Every time Kelly chose the route of deception, the players would take a new index card and record whatever lie, or “skeleton,” Kelly had created in the scene. As Tazio put it:

This had the side effect of creating truly edgy situations, as the skeletons became de facto flags just like the fear cards.

I thought the idea was a good one, and wanted to share it with all of you. I especially like how, if a Scandal occurs later on in the game, these Deception Cards would provide a reminder of exactly the sort of things that Kelly had done in the past to create such a furor. They might also help to inspire the Governor, for example, to create certain related types of opposition in future scenes.

Election Day Sale!

The U.S. mid-term elections are fast approaching. I encourage everyone to go out and vote next Tuesday, November 2, 2010.

In honor of the political system that has given us all so much, I’m offering $2 off your next order of Mars Colony (pdf or book) or Hero’s Banner (pdf only). All you have to do is post, tweet, or otherwise tell me what politician, living or dead, you’d most like to play Mars Colony with. Send me your response (or a link to your response) along with you PayPal payment, and I’ll refund your order by $2.

Sale ends midnight, November 2.

Mars Colony Debut

After the whirlwind that is Gen Con, I usually like to take bit of time to simply fulfill orders, email customers directly, and generally play some of the other games I picked up. Well, I’ve done that, and then some. Now it’s time to take stock of what’s actually happened.

Mars Colony sold well for a small press release at the Con. Of those people who have played the game, I am nothing but happy. The rules seem to be communicating how to play the game well. And although sci-fi and politics is not the hottest genre in the gaming market, Mars Colony has certainly connected with a particular subset.

Thanks to the sales genius of Gregor Hutton (3:16, Remember Tomorrow, etc.), I received a very nice plug from Robin Laws:

Tim C. Koppang’s Mars Colony, found at the Design Matters booth, is a tiny package of great ambition. In this two player game, the attempts of a colonial governor to right the many crises besetting a troubled Martian settlement provide a framework for the participants’ feelings about government and personal failure. The game brings the author’s interior life to the game table in a way few others have attempted.

There have also been some very nice actual play threads popping up on Story Games. For example, this is from Bret Gillian’s actual play thread, “Find a doctor, Roberts!”:

Key scenes:

  • Kelly Perkins hiring a hitman to kill Council-member Stuart, who was one of the people to stand up against Kelly Perkins’s universal healthcare plan. He was actually one of the key individuals indirectly fostering anti-government terrorism. After his death, terrorist attacks subsided and there were rumors that he was supporting them more directly.

  • After initially passing a limp compromise bill that was never really intended to kick in, a gravity normalizer malfunction causes mass injuries in one of the domes revealing that healthcare is still a problem. The gravity normalizer malfunction, by the way, was caused by a new experimental wire created by a graduate physics student that was supposed to correct the problems in the old normalizers. The public blames Perkins.

Another interesting tidbit that I did not expect is the high ratio of international sales to U.S. sales. I’ve sold books and PDFs to people on almost every continent! Mars Colony seems to be doing especially well in Europe. Either Gregor has been pumping my game more than I know, or there is some sort of pent up demand for sci-fi overseas. Either way, I’ll take it!

Thanks to everyone who has purchased, played, and/or enjoyed Mars Colony so far. I hope the word gets out to everyone else who might enjoy political sci-fi and story-telling.

Mars Colony is at the Printer!

Yesterday I sent the final PDFs for Mars Colony to the printer! I think the game and the book turned out wonderfully. Now I begin the anxious process of waiting for the proof. Color is very important to the cover, and so I’m a bit worried that something will get lost in the translation from screen to print. I’ll just have to wait and see.

For anyone interested, the book will be 50 pages long. There will be eight full color photographs included, all taken during the NASA Mars rover and orbiter missions. The book dimensions are on the smaller size, but not too small. It will be a 6″ x 6″ square. My hope is that it will look bold and a bit stark. I’m really excited to see the final product.

Design Matters

Well, it’s official. I will be releasing Mars Colony this summer, and exhibiting it at Gen Con 2010. I am very excited to be at the Design Matters booth, along with fellow designers, Nathan D. Paoletta, Kevin Allen Jr., Gregor Hutton, Epidiah Ravachol, Elizabeth Shoemaker, Shreyas Sampat, Daniel Solis, Clint Krause, Cassie Krause, and Joe Prince. What a line-up!

Work on Mars Colony continues. I’ve received some great playtest feedback and now need to integrate all of the changes into a near final draft. This will involve yet more playtesting by me to make sure that I haven’t strayed too far from my original vision. From there, it’ll be off to layout, proofing, and the printer. As I’ve said before, all artwork for the game will be taken from NASA’s public doman (full color!) image galleries.

Speaking of NASA, it appears as if the Spirit rover has finally begun to give up the ghost after six years of operation. It’s struggling with broken wheels, dust covered solar panels, and an upcoming Martian winter. May it wake from hibernation when the sun returns.

Martian Landscapes

One of my favorite website is the Big Picture. It’s run by the Boston Globe and features photojournalistic series on a range of topics. One of the best parts about the blog is its dedication to large-scale photography. Rather than the small snapshots you see accompanying most newspaper articles online, the Big Pictures goes full-screen large. I love it.

And so you can imagine my excitement when I found one of their most recent entries on Martian landscapes. Do not be surprised if some of these photos make it into the print edition of Mars Colony. Because the images were produced by NASA, they are all in the public domain. If you are interested in Martian photography, I also recommend browsing the image archives at NASA’s website.