A few years ago, I started a challenge to myself: let’s clear out that Steam catalog. I’ve purchased over 1200 games on Steam and cutting through that makes me feel like I can actually put value into that spent money. Well I decided it was time to do this again, and this time I’m starting with Tharsis: the video game that wants to be a boardgame (and actually might end up as one).
Coming into Tharsis, you will find a few game modes. The primary story mode and several challenges. There are five unlockable characters and a handful of achievements. In total, you can probably put 10-20 hours into the game to complete EVERYTHING. The controls between story and challenge modes are the same although the challenge modes have restricted resources available for you to exploit. The game is broken into four distinct rounds: action, damage, decision and upkeep and this all takes place upon a soon-to-be-derelict space ship. The action round it spent assigning your four characters to a variety of system malfunctions, trying to keep the ship from falling apart. The damage round applies any unsolved issues to the ship. The decision round has you dealing with the effects of stress on your crew, and refreshing their actions via food. This round is particularly hard, as you’re often forced to make difficult decisions. Lastly the refresh round puts new ship issues out for you to deal with next round.
Each of the nine characters has their own unique mechanic, helping you mitigate the issues you come across. The rooms you assign characters to have their own ability as well, so if you find yourself getting ahead you can assign your actions to using the room rather than beating a challenge. Going through a room with problems damages your characters, so it’s unlikely you’ll use these actions as often. It’s this round based gameplay that makes Tharsis feel like it’s a board game and as a board game player, that’s awesome. The developers have expressed interest in making a real world board game, but I feel it would need to be an adaptation as solo board games are a niche of a niche of a niche product.
In the end I really enjoyed Tharsis and it’s small size and lax system requirements means this game will probably end up on my Windows tablet for some more play when I can find the time!
Time spent: 6 hours, beat main storyline and around a third of the challenges.