It's a damned good sight that you can't easily copyright a game mechanic. Every single time a designer comes up with some cool mechanic or innovative ruleset you can rest assured that some jobber will come along, steal it outright, refine it and then release it to much fanfare.
Don't believe me? Then how 'bout Thunderstone from Dominion? Stone Age trumping Pillars of the Earth? Kingsburg begetting Alien Frontiers? Battlestar Galactica springing from the loins of Shadows Over Camelot? Cash n' Guns improving on Bang!? Defenders of the Realm giving a less icky theme to Pandemic? Dixit and Cards Against Humanity curb-stomping Apples to Apples into oblivion? Space Alert nicking the programming feature from RoboRally and then adding so much more? Upwords making Scrabble more...um...vertical?
And so it is with Martian Dice and Zombie Dice. See if this explanation rings any bells:
Your mission, Martians, is to swoop down on the pathetic denizens of the primitive planet Earth and scoop up as many of the inhabitants as you can manage. We are interested in samples of the Chicken, Cow, and Human populations so that we can determine which of them is actually in charge. The Earthlings might manage to put up a feeble defense, but surely nothing that a small taste of your Death Rays can't handle. Make Mars proud – be the first Martian to fill your abduction quota!
In Martian Dice you will roll 13 custom dice in an effort to set aside ("abduct") Humans, Chickens, and Cows. With each roll you must first set aside any Tanks, representing the human military coming to fend off your alien invasion. Then you may choose one type of die to set aside as well - one of the earthlings to abduct, or Death Rays to combat the military. At the end of your turn, if you have at least as many Death Rays as Tanks, then you may abduct the earthlings you've been setting aside. You can't pick any type of Earthling twice in one turn, but if you manage to abduct at least one of each you'll score a bonus!
Wanna know the full truth behind this alien conspiracy? Then look no further then the full online game rules.
I started reasonably strong in Game One by scoring an average of four points in the first three rounds. Mike got shut out on his first throw of the dice but successfully pushed his luck in the second round by taking home eight big points. Andrew lagged behind me by a point at the end of the third turn.
We all hit a stretch of abysmal luck around mid-game. Andrew managed to rustle up three points, I earned two and Mike could only score a single, measly abduction.
Everybody's luck improved in the home stretch except for mine. While I could only conjure up four more abductions for a grand total of 18, Andrew set the bar pretty high by scoring five points in each of the last three rounds! His final total of 29 looked to be insurmountable until Mike came along and scored eight points in one go! Unfortunately, his next two scores were only "1" and then "0", so Andrew was left with the win.
Final Scores: Andrew...29 Mike...22 Me...18
Game Two saw us generating points a lot faster then Game One, suggesting either better luck or the successful navigation of an honest-to-goodness learning curve. I thought that I was doing pretty good for myself with fourteen points in three rounds, but then Mike had to come along and score twenty-one in the same increment of time, including nine points in a single round via a successful set collection! This time it was Andrew's turn to struggle. Although he managed to pick up eight points in single round his other two turns were a bust.
After Mike started to press his luck a bit too far his dice went cold. Although he wiped out twice in a row I was unable to capitalize on this, securing only two abductions over a similar amount of rounds. Andrew, meanwhile, began the laborious process of clawing his way back, netting a respectable four and then five points in quick succession.
After adjusting the horseshoe jammed firmly up his rectum, Mike finished the game off with two stellar turns, including the highest single-round score of the game (ten points!). Regardless of the daunting task ahead of me, I grabbed the dice and went to work. Unfortunately, "going to work" translated into a pathetic two point round and then a big fat hairy goose egg. Andrew was similarly hosed by Lady Luck, crapping out in his first toss and then scoring only two points in his final bid to beat Mike's insane score.
In the end I was left cursing Andrew's ability to warp game reality to his will since the little wiener managed to beat my own score by one point.
Final Scores: Mike...33 (!!!) Andrew 19 Me...18
So, does Martian Dice make Zombie Dice obsolete? Well, to be brutally honest: yes! Even though there's the same count of dice included with both games (thirteen), Martian Dice generates more variables and strategy just by adding additional faces. In Zombie Dice you can only get Brains, Shotgun Blasts or Escapes but in Martian Dice you can get Humans, Cows, Chickens, Death Rays and Tanks. These added factors virtually demand more interesting choices from players.
The constant threat posed by the Tanks also makes for an interesting dynamic. If you only throw a coupla Tanks on your first toss, then it's very tempting to bank one requirement and then re-roll everything else. If you get a lot of Tanks right off the bat, then it's probably wise to start setting aside Death Rays right away before you risking anything else. It gets really interesting when you roll a lot of Tanks and, say, six or seven Chickens. At face value, it might make sense to bank that poultry surplus but you'll find yourself with considerably less dice to defend yourself with for the rest of the turn.
I also like how you can score bonus points for "being the first alien on the block to collect 'em all". On a couple of occasions, Mike had the good fortune of abducting a full house: I.E. a Human, a Cow and a Chicken. The extra points that you can earn for pulling this off is a compulsive temptation even under the constant threat of a Tank blitzkrieg. All of this makes for a "press your luck" game that truly lives up to its name!
Given the option to play Zombie Dice or Martian Dice I'd have to go with the latter. It definitely gives players more options and a chance to apply a modicum of strategy against the admittedly frequent occurrence of blind luck. After casting that mittful of dice, the choices you make are not always patently obvious.
On the flip-side, I also can't justify rating Martian Dice higher then Zombie Dice on the d6 scale. It just not innovative nor detailed enough for me to put it on par with some other "5"-score games.
So here's my compromise: Martian Dice scores four pips outta six with a healthy tilt up!
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