1983 Milton Bradley Yahtzee Game Commercial

Tharsis was on sale on Steam for 67% off (still is, as of this morning), and I saw it being on sale and thought “what the heck?”

Holy cow, this is the most stressful game I’ve played in years. Here’s the conceit: you’re in charge of a team on a rocket mission to Mars and everything starts going horribly wrong. Like, Flight Control has had a meteor strike. The medical bay has experienced a blue screen of death. And the greenhouse is on fire. You’ve got a team of differently-skilled technicians who have a dice pool and need to go to each room and roll their dice pool to deal with the problem. Let’s say a meteor strike is worth 23 and a BSOD is only worth 11. You send your tech to the room and roll their dice.

Now, your pool is going to be anything from five dice to just the one. So you roll your dice and figure out what to do. (Oh, and each differently-skilled tech has different skills… some people get extra rolls, some people can heal themselves or others, other people can reduce the stress on the ship, others can devote dice to strengthening the hull.

MEANWHILE, each room that has a problem will have a negative effect on your roll. Let’s say that all 3s end up doing a point of damage to your tech. Maybe all 2s experience “stasis” (which is to say, they cannot be re-rolled). Maybe 1s experience “void” (which is to say, they get sucked out into the vacuum and you don’t get them, you don’t get to re-roll them, you don’t get nothing).

At the same time, you have “research projects”. Think spillover dice that you can add to research projects rather than to address the catastrophe. You rolled a 6, 6, 2, and 1? Just put the low ones into research and dump the sixes into the catastrophe. Research projects can be anything from “use one die in the research project to address 3 repair points of the catastrophe” to “use two dice to give +1 to the hull” to “use three dice to give everybody in the crew +1 to health” to “use six die in the research project to address 28 points of the catastrophe”

So roll your dice. Try to turn that catastrophe into something less catastrophic.

Oh, did I mention that next turn something else is going to break?

Just playing through the training missions were stressful. The very first one involves a situation where your tech wakes up alone on the ship and has to survive for five weeks (five turns). I failed to do this four or five times before I figured it out. Then on the second training mission, I had a full team but no hull repair… so I had to figure out how to determine what was a life-and-death problem and what was merely really important.

I was nerve-wracked by the time I made it through the training missions and only *THEN* did the real game start.

I’ve seen situations where I rolled three dice and was begging “please add up to seven, please add up to seven, please add up to seven” and they didn’t… I’ve seen situations where I rolled two dice needing them to add up to eleven and I happened to have rolled boxcars. The chance part is fun, the strategy part is fun, the storyline will stress you out.

And, get this, you can get it for less than five bucks before the steam sale ends. If you like dice games, you should, seriously, check this out.

So… what are you playing?

(Picture is HG Wells playing a war game from Illustrated London News (25 January 1913))

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Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to

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10 thoughts on “Saturday!

  1. I’m routinely losing in Stellaris, but I think I’m finally figuring it out.

    The last time, I only lost because I didn’t realize how flamingly stupidly the AI went about war. (Although given it crushed me, is it really stupid?). I foolishly created several fleets located at nodal points in my empire, so I could send a full third of my fleet to any attacked system swiftly.

    Which was useless when a massive fleet, comprising (as best I can tell) the entirety of another empire’s warships savaged a system. I could have dispatched it (or at least wounded it so badly they’d have backed off) had my entire fleet been concentrated. Instead, I suffered defeat as it ate a full third of my forces.

    I then ran into mistake number 2, which was not realizing their FTL drive was faster than mine. I sent half my remaining forces raiding their undefended territories. I did significant damage, until said massive fleet of death caught up, when I was unable to run.

    Still! I learned how to build defense stations and star fortresses, create sectors, and genetically alter my own population. Still less of a learning curve than EVE.


    • In Stellaris’s current state doomstacking (putting all your warships into a single fleet) is the optimum. Version 2.0 is going to implement a number of changes to fix this, but in the meanwhile you’re better off putting all your eggs in one basket.


  2. My computer croaked.. video card problem I believe which is reparable but the machine is also like 5 years old or more and I really need newer hardward in general. Difficulty is I LOATHE windows 10 with the fire of a thousand stars. I’m pondering if I could hire some nerd to build me a new computer and just plop the old gigantic hard drive from the former machine into it. Then I have windows 7, all my files and settings etc… right? Would that work? I feel like it should work.

    I know that in theory desktops are easy as pie to build but I have a very old school twitchyness towards the entrails of the sacred box around which so much of my discretionary and creative time is focused.

    And not having a working desktop is like having an arm missing.


    • I’m pondering if I could hire some nerd to build me a new computer and just plop the old gigantic hard drive from the former machine into it. Then I have windows 7, all my files and settings etc… right? Would that work? I feel like it should work.

      I’m interested in the answer to that. Just idle curiosity, though, since I’ve gotten to where I don’t have a Windows box any more…

      I seem to recall that at one point MS had set things up so that when the OS was installed it took note of all the various serial numbers (processor’s serial number, Ethernet MAC address, etc) and if too many of them changed at once, the OS refused to run. I’ve read stories about people trying what you’re talking about and getting into various sorts of device driver hell. Hopefully we’re past all of the UEFI boot incompatibility issues…


      • Yeah, it probably won’t work. Besides the licensing issues noted above, you’ll run into all sorts of architectural changes on the hardware level that your old OS won’t know how to deal with. Perhaps your nerd is a better nerd than I am and will be able to overcome them all, but your best bet might be to start from scratch, build a new PC from the ground up, and have your nerd migrate everything over. You should even be able to get your hands on a licensed copy of 7 if you’re that committed to avoiding 10.


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