Tharsis: Developing a Strategy
The unforgiving nature and unpredictability of space, the frailty of human emotion, dwindling resources, and the fragility of a spaceship that has been dealt a death blow by an unfortunate accident; this is what you have to overcome in Tharsis.
Your only resources are your wits and a handful of six-sided dice.
On the surface, Tharsis might look like space-Yahtzee (which by the way, sounds amazing), but once you get past the knee-jerk assumption that because there're dice involved, Tharsis is just a game of chance, you'll discover deep strategies that will assist you on your mysterious trip to the Red Planet.
Since I wasn't directly involved on the development side of Tharsis, I thought I'd share some of the strategies that I've developed as a player, which have helped me to excel at the game.
Be warned, every decision you make in Tharsis has massive repercussions, and you often have to be planning several turns ahead.
Tharsis is a game about how well you manage resources that are out of your control. When your dice settle, that's what you have to work with, so think carefully before you commit to a plan--if things go south, what options will you have? How you use your resources, and which risks you choose to take, is entirely up to you; developing a solid strategy will ensure your success at the mission.
Kind of like real life, really, if you want to get all existential...
So, here are five tips utilizing strategies that I've developed which have helped to keep me in the game...
- Manage your Stress
- The Side Project Phase is an amazing resource that should not be ignored. You can get wonderful perks from having your crew perform beneficial side projects. But they'll only suggest their best options when they're low on stress. So a strategy that I use is to regularly use stress-reducing research cards--especially once someone is over 50% stress.
- Take a Hit now and then
- One thing I've seen a lot of first-time players do is try to solve every event on the turn in which it occurs. Just keep in mind that the mission is solely to make it to Mars--you don't have to have a healthy crew or ship to succeed. As such, sometimes I will prioritize resource gathering over Crew Health or Ship Integrity.
- Keep some Low-Risk Events in your Back Pocket
- This can bite you in the ass if you're not careful, but one of my favorite tactics is to keep something easy to fix on the verge of completion and let it sit for a few turns. As everything starts spiraling out of control, if you've got some easily-solvable events just waiting for you, it could be what allows you to scrape by by the skin of your teeth.
- Load up your Ship Integrity Early
- Since there are more (and harder) events towards the latter half of the journey, I use the more calm first half of the game to get my ship in, well, ship-shape.
- Don't be Afraid to Eat Allison
- Unless you're vying for a high score, cannibalism is a great solution to a lot of problems. When considering whether to cannibalize, I consider the Max Health hit and weigh the likelihood of whether I'll need that top Health slot anyway. If not, dinner's served.
I'm sure you'll develop strategies of your own as well. The above list is just the tip of the iceberg, and are strategies that work for me. So remember, Tharsis is a game about respecting and managing the luck of the dice, not succumbing to it. Once you accept luck, the real strategy begins.
I kind of look at Tharsis as a parallel to the pinball-is-a-game-of-chance debate of the early-mid 1900s so wonderfully explored in the Special When Lit documentary.
Tharsis, like pinball, is only a game of chance if you're unwilling to learn its strategies.