Earth invaded by aliens in ‘Venus Needs Men’
By MICHAEL ERB
The Parkersburg News and Sentinel
PARKERSBURG — It is the last days of humanity and the entire Solar System is moving against Earth.
Pluto wants to destroy us. Mars needs our brains. Titan wants to control us. Ganymede wants us as food. And Venus?
Venus needs men.
‘‘Venus Needs Men,’’ a 2-6 player board game by Synelix Games, harkens back to the days of cheesy, 1950s black-and-white sci-fi movies when aliens were just as likely to be attractive women in bikinis as horrible monsters and everything was ‘‘atomic.’’
In the game players take on the role of one of five alien races bent on destroying or dominating the last vestiges of humanity. A player can also play the remnants of Earth trying to hide the planet’s dwindling population in a secret underground bunker.
Each race has its own benefits and stumbling blocks. The robots of Pluto are the most devastating race, purely focused on destruction, but they also hail from the planet furthest from Earth, so it takes them longer to get into the game and bring in reinforcements. Venus can abduct twice the amount of human population each turn, but has fewer ships. Earth starts off with no ships, but can research and upgrade technology at a faster pace than the other races, and starts the game, well, on Earth.
Earlier I mentioned abducting population. Humans are represented by colored tokens, like miniature poker chips, and are stacked in various areas of the game board (a map of the world and surrounding planets) to represent the amount of population living there. Players land ships in these areas, and are able to extract/destroy/capture a number of chits equal to the number of ships they are using. The game mainly revolves around grabbing as many chits (population) as quickly as possible, and the length of the game can be scaled by simply setting a lower or higher number of population markers needed to win.
Speaking of ships, each group starts off with a limited number of ships, and can only create more if they aren’t already at their maximum number. For example, I said earlier Pluto is a destructive force in the game. That planet starts off with five ships, but has to move its ships several spaces in order to reach Earth. Once there, Pluto’s player would have to wait for a ship to be destroyed before building another one, and that new ship would have to make the long trek back to Earth.
Ships also can attack other ships, and there are times you may want to spend a turn crippling another race rather than stealing population. Since you only get one action per turn (move, capture population or attack), each decision plays an important role in your game strategy.
Races can develop and use technology. Technology cards simulate devices that allow you to break the rules of the game, like making your ships move faster, or to counteract other races’ abilities. They also can improve your ability to attack or to defend against attacks.
For me the high point of the game was the Zap! cards, the equivalent of universal whammies. Zap! cards represent hidden abilities or random events that can help you or harm your opponent. Each group gets a limited number of Zap! cards for the duration of the game, and there is no way to replenish cards once they are gone, so correct timing becomes an important part of play.
One of my only complaints with the game actually stemmed from the Zap! cards: I want more of them! By the end of a six-player game you have pretty much seen every card. I didn’t have a problem with having a limited number you could use throughout the game, but I would love to see more of them to add a bit more unpredictability and surprise to each game. Plus the cards themselves are humorous and do a lot to add to the feel of the game, so more cards would be a welcome addition.
Synelix is a small, independent games company and they did a great job with ‘‘Venus.’’ The pieces and the board have a very retro-feel, which perfectly suits the theme of the game, and the components are durable and attractive.
I really enjoy this game. Though it ultimately is a race game to see who can bag the most pieces the quickest, the theme, special abilities, technology development and Zap! cards do a lot to increase its replay value and to get players more involved. I’ve always loved those old, campy sci-fi movies and I feel this game does a lot to bring home that feel and enjoyment.
To purchase ‘‘Venus Needs Men’’ and for more information on Synelix Games, visit www.synelix.com.
Also, be sure to check out my Web log at http://merb101.livejournal.com/ with more information on this and other games, a list of upcoming reviews and additional articles on gaming.
Contact Michael Erb at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Edit: A review copy of the game was provided for this article.