Reflections: Of Men and Martians (March)

VDG’s latest game, ‘Of Men & Martians’, made its debut over the long Easter weekend. All 4 shows sold out and 36 players took on the roles of Councillors, the elected leaders of Mars in 2070. Spoilers ahead!


There were 9 out-of-this-world roles to choose, for example:

• Generalissimo, a career soldier obsessed with military junta rule.
• Buildertron 9000, An AI who did not need to breathe but was ironically responsible for the colony’s air supply.
• Cosmic Pope, a religious leader who offers Thoughts and Prayers after each planetary tragedy.


At the start of each game, Councillors would share their dreams for Mars. Players from all walks of life spoke about their aspirations for an ideal society. Many of these speeches were riveting and tinged with emotional honesty. Councillors called for more rights for the downtrodden. They cautioned against repeating the mistakes of Earth – and vowed to turn the page in the next chapter of human civilization.


As the game progressed, the <redacted>insurgency emerged from the shadows. Its sinister propaganda called for Martians to cast off their loyalties to old colonial Earth. A small group of Separatist players carried out acts of sabotage to sow the seeds of revolution. There was even rumours of a dreaded native parasite lurking within the Council of Nine.


Each year, our novice politicians had to build consensus to start new projects. Should the government build a geothermal power plant? Should they control hearts and minds by creating a Ministry of Propaganda? Should they start terraforming Mars by nuking the polar ice caps? Should we create a more enlightened society by giving all Martians a university education? With 18 different choices every year, the Council had to hammer out immediate and long term priorities. Councillors were constantly grappling with a barrage of ever-escalating crisis. In the guise of NPCs, Gamemasters improvised scenes with the players.


Project and Crisis discussions were rowdy and fun-filled affairs. There was civil debate and discourse about issues (which can be rare in Singapore). Players proposed many ingenious solutions to problems that are relevant to our world. Some policies were both hilarious, and downright dodgy:

• “<redacted> are furious about humble meal rations and demand protein. Let’s give them potatoes that taste like fried chicken.”
• “There are people who are agitating for equal rights for <redacted>. We should do a soft approach. Let’s round them up, identify these people in a database and place them in special camps to limit the spread of <redacted>.”
• “The workers refuse to go back to work. As First Speaker of the Labour Union, I recommend replacing them with robots.”


Here are other interesting statistics from last weekend’s games.
• Martian parasites won 4 out of 6 games. Loyalists won twice! Separatists were always close to winning but could not stop the parasite from destroying Mars when resources dwindled.
• The Cosmic Pope was the Martian parasite twice in 6 very different games. Hmm.
• Despite their numbers, Loyalists usually lose ground after spending most of their influences to purge suspected Separatists.
• Fascist Dictatorships are the most popular system of government! Capitalist Democracy is a close second and trailing third is the Socialist Republic.
• 9 players were denounced as traitors and purged from the colony over the last 4 games. 1 player was accidentally purged.


On behalf of Joanne & Shawn, I would like to thank all collaborators, playtesters, patrons and players.

‘Of Man and Martians’ will return in May 2018, when Buildertron 9000 has corrected the signalling faults.


Raihan Harun