If you’ve ever felt like the challenging risk and resource management of FTL was too easy, then maybe you should give Tharsis a try. Tharsis is a game about survival. The only thing that you have to do as the captain of the starship Iktomi is guide your vessel to Mars successfully. Although the mechanics of Tharsis will not make that so simple.
Tharsis is a turn-based space strategy game. With dice. And cannibalism.You are in control of humanity’s first manned mission to Mars, just as it’s struck by a meteor. You must guide your crew through disasters, food shortages, and the indifference of space — Do not expect survivors.
Tharsis makes use of a variety of RNG mechanics to challenge the player. The player must use the resources available to them along with their own brainpower to overcome said challenges. The core gameplay for Tharsis revolves around rolling dice. The player must then use the outcomes of those rolls to satisfy a variety of events. The game also throws “Hazards” into the mix that will prevent the player from using all their abilities at some points.
The Iktomi has a set number of modules, crew and abilities. The game forces the player to manage their crew’s dice, health, and stress alongside the ship itself. And with the sheer volume of random negative events that are thrown at the player, odds are good that you won’t do well your first time around.
The player starts with their ship being damaged from a predetermined set of issues. My test games saw damage to the ship’s Support module from meteorite strikes, as well as damage to the dehumidifier in the Greenhouse module. Both events have a set dice value that must be satisfied in order for the negative effects not to trigger. The player can maneuver their crew around the ship rolling to fix damage, gather food and supplies, or position crew in problem areas in preparation for the next turn. At the end of each turn, the player can choose from a pair of random events that act as both a boon and peril for the next turn as well. The final bit of preparation for turns is choosing how to replenish dice via food. As you can guess, the act of managing risk is paramount in your success in Tharsis.
The seemingly simple mechanic of rolling dice makes for some surprisingly deep and engaging gameplay. Make a series of poor decisions in managing your dice or other resources, and the game will swiftly punish you for it. Every time you use a crew member for a task, they lose a die from their starting pool. Fortunately, all crew members can never drop below one die in their pool. Unless of course you “accidentally” kill them. So the biggest problems in the game revolve around managing your crew abilities and utilization.
Overall, Tharsis is a game that challenges the problem-solving capability of the player, while also pushing their moral limits with how they manage the ethical decisions that come up. What’s more important to you; survival or morality? tharsis can help you find out.