Stalking the Martian Beast Rails

Click to enlarge. Barrakesh is near the bottom right side of the image.

As I wind down my edits on the second Paizo Pathfinder novel I’m looking forward to playing a new board game that arrived Tuesday. Regular visitors may recall I was selling off most of my board wargames after discovering Fields of Glory. I’ve put a little of the trade-in money towards purchases of inexpensive Fields of Glory expansions, and am stockpiling the rest for a new laptop… but I also picked up a copy of Martian Rails.

It might be that the family is becoming addicted to crayon rail games. All I know is that we’ve enjoyed Iron Dragon for years, and Martian Rails, set on a mostly retro-future Mars, looked like it would be the same kind of fun. The designer behind it (M. Robert Stribula) really did his Martian research and pretty much made my day when one of the first cities I spotted on the map was Barrakesh, from the wonderful Martian stories of Leigh Brackett. One of the event cards references the lost city of Sinharat, likewise from Brackett.

The rest of the map is sprinkled with references from other science fiction, fact, and popular imagination. There are canals, naturally, and cities named after astronomers famed for sighting them. There are multiple references to Bradbury and Burroughs (including types of trains named after John Carter and Dejah Thoris), pyramid mines needing Turbinium (from Total Recall), and a city named Isher (famed for its rayguns — a tip of the hat if you get that reference). Martian cities require shipments of all kinds of goods, among them Roddenberries, Bachelor Chow, and Soylent Red.

The map manages to work in features from hard science fiction and the space opera imaginings of what we all really want Mars to be like, so there are a few jungles lying along the canals that stretch across the globe.

Anyway, I look forward to the weekend so I can match wits with the family and maybe a friend or two… although I’m pretty sure my wife will win. She’s frighteningly good at these sorts of  organizational games.

If you’re interested in learning more, you can read reviews of the game on Boardgame Geek, including a video review that shows some of the contents. A little Internet shopping at game stores will get you to more inexpensive copies than you’ll spot at your usual first stops.

 

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