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Warlords of Mars - Tabletop Gaming on the Red Planet


Warlords of Mars - tabletop gaming the red planet

There’s something about Mars. I mean, the planet, not the Roman god. Or… the candy bar company, either, I guess. We’ve romanticized the Red Planet for a long time, and placed upon it a lot of the hopes and fears we’ve had about outer space. Some of our most powerful popular cultural moments have come out of our interest in Mars – who can forget, for instance, Orson Wells’ famous “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast that convinced thousands there was an actual Martian invasion on the eastern seaboard of the United States?

Books, movies, comic books, TV shows – all sorts of media have been produced that look at Mars from a variety of angles as a living, breathing creation with some forms of thriving life upon it.

So, it also shouldn’t surprise you that tabletop gaming and wargames have taken notice of Mars as well. Heck, if you’re a Warhammer 40K gamer, then you’re absolutely aware that the Adeptus Mechanicus is heavily tied to the Red Planet. But there are other ways to try out Mars as a setting for your games.

(First, by the by, I might suggest that the Pilgrim City terrain and the double-sided Forest and Desert playmat available from GameMatsDotCom are a great place to start. But you don’t have to take my word for it.)

• Victorian Sci-Fi: So much of the adventure literature around Mars was written in the late 19th century, and so a lot of what you can do with a Martian setting fits very securely in the Steampunk world. What about a scenario where British and Prussian expeditionary troops attempting to colonize Mars wind up fighting not only each other, but some other alien menace?

• Barsoom: Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote a number of novels chronicling the adventures of John Carter and, later, his children on the surface of Mars – which the native population calls “Barsoom.” Rooted strongly in the serialized, science-fantasy tradition, the John Carter books featured high technology alongside swashbuckling action and helped pave the way for the likes of George Lucas and the blockbuster that is the Star Wars franchise. The books feature outlandishly stylized costumes, wild creatures (the Green Men of Mars are 14-feet tall, with four arms and insectoid features) and weird machines. Fortunately, there actually are minis companies out there that have produced “Barsoomian” minis that would make perfect skirmish forces for this kind of game.

• Invasion: Just like “War of the Worlds,” have Earthling forces fighting off an invasion of the cephalopod’s tripod machines. Miniature versions of Martian tripods are readily available from some companies out there, and rules sets (including one produced by the makers of the “In Her Majesty’s Name” skirmish game) for how to fight such a battle are available too.

About the author;

Peter Kuebeck is a writer, gamer and award-winning mini-painter living in the Midwest. He wages a constant battle against the ever-growing tide of unpainted minis in his basement, and occasionally GMs role-playing game sessions with friends. Catch his hobby shenanigans on Twitter at @popculturecube

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