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Story Games Seattle Message Board What We Played › What We Played: "You can't explain that!" (Mars Colony)

What We Played: "You can't explain that!" (Mars Colony)

Ben R.
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 217
players: Caroline, Cheryl, Ben
Sept 15

We wanted to try a three-person version of Mars Colony. The idea was that instead of Savior (protagonist) + Governor (antagonist), we would add a second antagonist player to generate personal problems for the Savior. Basically breaking out Sympathy scenes from the Governor and giving them to the third player.

Our roles were Caroline (Savior), Ben (Governor), and Cheryl (Sympathy). For our parties we picked dominant Yellow (Tea Party), dominant Blue (Democrats), fringe Red (Republicans). Yep, powerful tea party and democrats, with the republicans eclipsed by the yellow rise. Caroline described General Kelly Perkins, a warrior-turned-diplomat of the last World War (Red party), whose crowning moment was getting all the sides to come together and lay down their arms, brokering the peace that ended the war.

Because she was a soldier, we intentionally picked non-violent health markers (education, nutrition and social unrest) to avoid the obvious "here comes General Perkins to conquer Mars." But as it turns out, you can't escape your fate.

Kelly kickstarts education like a boss, putting unemployed teachers to work, but then goes all Texas-Red on us and rewrites the text books to rule out evolution and Blue-leaning political science. In interviews to defend these choices she Bill O'Reilly-ups: "Mars circles the sun, the Earth circles the sun. You can't explain that! We can't breath outside the dome, but we can breath inside the dome. You can't explain that!" (not the actual quotes, but they were equally Fox News)

The dice loved drama in this game. Kelly got a lot of 1's, and usually at the worst possible time. Kelly lied about progress in both social unrest and nutrition and then it blew up in her face (double 1's) when she tried to manipulate the dissatisfied masses/militias into a protest march against the more powerful Blue & Yellow. The militias she stirred up realize they're being manipulated and go full aggro, marching on the landing field to destroy them and sever ties with Earth. The government is just as mad at her, blaming her for using the mobs against them (which she basically did). Kelly's Contempt is at four -- one more and she gets her butt kicked off Mars.

Caroline tries to salvage the situation and recreate the crowning moment of General Perkins' former glory, again stepping in as a warrior-diplomat and bringing all sides to the the table to stop the violence just as she did during the World War, but oh those pesky dice. We scream/cheer (and disrupt everyone else's games) as she roles double 1's. It's too late. No one trusts her. The landing field runs red with the blood of protesters, gunned down by the security forces. The powers-that-be use it as an excuse to clamp down and really suppress the people.

Kelly never makes it to scene 7. She gets the boot off Mars and retires in ignominy…

Other choice moments:

Kelly sent her attache Oliver to secretly coordinate with the militias, but when he's arrested she hangs him out to dry: "I can't believe you were involved with people like that!" (shocked -shocked!- to discover militias on Mars!) Speak into the microphone, General Perkins…

"There are no talking weasels in Polaris!" --oh wait, that was the next table over.

"What's your history?"
"Is that your new pickup line?"
Ben R.
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 218

So-so results on the three player variant. I don't think we did a good enough job of establishing what the Sympathy's job was. And since Sympathy has no mechanical effect you have to really drive home that it's about bringing out Kelly's personal side.

A better way to do it might be to not split sympathy and instead have two governors mostly pushing different issues (health markers). As we discussed after the game, that could be awesome because the governors would always have twice as many scenes as Kelly, so there would always be more trouble brewing than she had time to address. It could also let each Governor go for a slow burn, because we would know that Kelly could only deal with one at a time. We could also opt to switch to a Sympathy scene and give her a breather if the other Governor was already hammering away pretty hard.

All in all, if we tried it again I'd lean towards the double Governor option instead of splitting out Sympathy.

Another thing that came up (unrelated to three-players) was the usual issue of Fear cards not being very relevant. Next time I want to try writing Fear cards after issues (health markers) are picked, and specifically writing down fears about those issues. That way if you flip a Fear card, it's relevant to the issues you're dealing with in the game.
Olympia, WA
Post #: 30
Something Caroline and I talked about after this game was the possibility of using the Sympathy as a second form of Issues and everything. Much like the Governor handles Issues that affect the colony's society, the Sympathy could have two or three personal Issues that Kelly needs to address in addition to her work with the colony's government. So, for example, Kelly might be working on education, corruption in voting, and leaky air filters, while she's also dealing with an unplanned pregnancy and an estranged sibling. Kelly only frames progress scenes, and she must try to make progress on her personal issues just as she does in her social work. This would allow for a Kelly who is a champion of the people and brings peace to the colony... but within her private life, everything is in shambles. Deep stuff.

I dunno quite how it would all play out (perhaps Kelly would need more power or something), but it could be a fun twist.
sev (.
Seattle, WA
Post #: 15
I definitely found that as Sympathy I *wanted* a list like that. Caroline was a good sport and just made Kelly care about whatever issues I invented, but that's not something I feel like we can always count on.

The two-Governor solution seems easier to implement but codifying structure around the Sympathy feels like it'd lead to a more richly textured story.
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