The late, great singer-songwriter David Bowie once penned a song about Zillionaires on Mars, only for his record label to insist on changing the lyrics and song title to Life on Mars. Okay, that may not be a hunky-dory account of how one of Bowie’s masterpieces came about, but it makes for a unbelievable introduction to Big Potato Games’ board game: Zillionaires on Mars.
The reignited space race of Musk, Branson and Bezos, is so last century. In Zillionaires on Mars, the rich and famous have exhausted planet Earth and now Mars is the latest playground for the opulent few. Want to find out what it’s like in an ivory tower on Mars? Well, keep reading for the Board Game Review…
Setup is a doddle, shuffle the property cards, give each player $49 zillion and the chips of their chosen colour.
The aim of the game is to purchase four adjacent landmarks in a row, horizontally, vertically or diagonally. In a five player game you only need three in a row.
One player starts the game by flipping over a Property Card, if there is a landmark on the card, bidding commences. Starting with at least the minimum bid displayed on the card, players take it in turns to raise the stakes or fold. If a player folds, they cannot rejoin the bidding.
When a player wins a landmark they place one of their coloured sold chips on the relevant space. Play then continues around like this. Throughout the game Payday cards appear which gives players an additional $7 zillion for every sold chip they have on the board. With the extra income you get extra muscles to flex in the bidding arena! The central square, known as Olympus Mons, works slightly differently, as it can be purchased by the same or different players throughout the game, but the rules cover this nicely.
What it’s like
Zillionaires on Mars is quick to pick up and play. There is even a video accessed via a QR code on the box that gets you playing in no time!
The gameplay starts slow, but ramps up once people have got zillions in front of them and property on the board. Auctions are interactive and while there may be some downtime while two players battle with bids, you are still invested, trying to tell the bluffs from the bids for future reference.
Turns and play are a little repetitive, but this is largely a party game that will take around 30 minutes so it won’t outstay its welcome at the table.
The rules make the fact you should keep your money hidden very clear. This is so that you can shill or bluff other players to pay more for cards they want. Even bidding more cash than you have. Although this is a dangerous practice if you are caught without the finances to follow it up. Bluffing makes the game different and exciting as you squeeze a few more zillion out of an opponent, or leave them paying too much for a card because you decided to not let them run you up!
Zillionaires on Mars does therefore offer a little bit of strategy. Players have to consider when it is right to pay too much or duck out of the bidding even if they really want that property. When and how much to bid for property you don’t want is a similar quandary. All this while balancing the impact of a Pay Day card makes you feel like you are making decisions. The game can go a little flat if you let yourself run out of money but that is all part of the tactics and the importance of keeping your cash supply secret!
It lacks a little at two players, and certainly feels like three or four players is where it shines best.
The rulebook and accompanying video are great. They contain a beautifully edited amount of information succinctly delivered. I also always commend Big Potato Games for going plastic free. So instead of shrink wrap you find stickers sealing the box, instead of baggies you find paper wrappers holding cards together. However, the insert of this game is among the worst.
The egg-box material is great in terms of the planet, but the way it is designed is not great. Let me elaborate… about half the insert is okay, with a place for the cards, gavel, for sale board and money. Then there is one large well to hold all the player tokens. One well for five players’ tokens! You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realise that does not add up. You therefore find yourself reaching for the plastic baggies the company is trying to eradicate. Then there are four slots for the money to sit during play. The money cannot be stored in these grooves as it sticks up to high. I think this could’ve had a bit more design to offer a better overall solution.
The gavel is fun, but largely superfluous as you will forget to bang it over half the time. The For Sale sign, money and tokens are all okay. I feel like the blue and green tokens are a bit too close to each other in colour which may hinder some people.
Where the components excel are in the cards. The artwork has a futuristic retro feel about them, which sounds like an oxymoron, but I think when you see them you’ll know what I mean. Think the Jetsons, if you’re old enough! The vignettes are accompanied with some funny, punny property names, such as Elon’s Musk Perfume Store and the women’s clothing store: Cardigans of the Galaxy. Property Card creators, I salute you!
Final thoughts on Zillionaires on Mars
Zillionaires on Mars is certainly in the light spectrum of games. The bluffing and bidding strategy during the auction adds a lot of fun. It certainly borders the party game genre, but only plays up to five, so in that ‘game after dinner with another couple that aren’t particularly into board games’ niche, this is an entertaining option that won’t give you indigestion.
This board game is a light, easy to learn bit of fun. I would certainly play it with friends that don’t know they like board games yet on those two merits alone. Zillionaires on Mars provides that dash of exciting amusement that could lure neophytes into the board game hobby! It plays well in the family environment, but you might see some bullish bidding from younger players, before they sit languishing bankrupt, they’ll soon learn, or end up with more tokens on the board and dominating pay days! For more seasoned gamers it is also plenty of fun as a lighter filler.
As for this review, it is now going, going… gone!
Number of players: 2 to 5
Board Game Review Recommended Age: 8+
Publisher’s Recommended Age: 8+
Playing Time: 35 minutes
Setting Up and Take Down Time: 2 minutes
Publisher: Big Potato Games
You could describe this board game as the love child of Connect Four and the TV show Bargain Hunt. Zillionaires on Mars is plenty of fun as it combines bluffing and the auction mechanic in a very entertaining way. It is also very good for newcomers as it is simple to learn and the concepts of getting four-in-a-row will feel familiar.
Artwork and Components
Value for Money
- Easy to pick up and play
- Punny names on cards
- Bidding and bluffing is entertaining
- Good for those new to the hobby
- Token storage in the box insert
- Not so good at two players
- Gameplay could get repetitive
Need more games?
If you already own Zillionaires on Mars and enjoy it, or are looking for other inspiration, you might also like these similar games:
- High Society
- OK Play
- Hit the Silk!
Buy Zillionaires on Mars
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