Fifty sixth session - Reef, forest, moon and mars

St. Ives Tabletop

14th June 2023

The 11 players chose games set in a wide variety of locations this week. From the tableau building Ecosystem: Coral Reef, and the competitive forest replanting of Renature, to the filling of a rocket set for the Moon or terraforming the surface of Mars, with a side helping of gods and railways. Also possibly for the first time every game played this session had been played at a previous session, no new games!

This week we started with some fast paced greek god inspired number fun, a simple game Zeus on the Loose. Take turns playing down one card, either a number or a special god card onto the pile in the centre, aka Mount Olympus. Add your card value on to the current total, if the total ends in a 0, or the god card says so, steal the little Zeus figurine. If you make the total 100 or higher then the player in possession of Zeus wins the round. The god cards change control of Zeus, add, subtract, invert or reset the total so you have to be cunning to end the game in control of Zeus. The game plays over lots of short rounds with the aim to win four times and collect all the letters of Zeus. In our game three of the four players were on three wins each before one player clinched that final round.

Terraforming Mars

Then one table setup Terraforming Mars back for its sixth play at the club. A slow start to making the red planet liveable saw oxygen and temperature still at their starting levels as late as generation 6, with the new and experienced players all concentrating on building engines and fiddling with microbes. Strategies diverged after that, with one corporation deciding it was time to plant something, another starting a game long process of blitzing the surface with asteroids, while the other two continued to count microbes. End game saw the engine builders make a late charge for terraform rating, but Interplanetary Cinematics (pushing for unlikely B Corp status) had by then covered enough of the planet with greenery to just pip the asteroid fancier for the win. Please see the session 5 blog for more explanation of this popular game.

Ecosystem: CoralReef

Whilst the Terraforming was being started the others moved onto another shorter game Ecosystem: Coral Reef, a third play for this variant though the original Ecosystem has been out at 16 sessions now.


Renature was an easy choice to try again, back from session 45. This is an area control domino laying game. Each turn is quite simple, place a domino with animal icons on the board following standard domino matching rules then plant in the adjacent bare area. Placing plants scores based on plant size and what is already in the area. Completing areas by surrounding them with dominoes scores for anyone with a stake in the area and gives the person who completed it a secret point score token with values in proportion to the area size. The game ends when the dominoes have run out and you lose points by having any plants remaining un-planted. The competitive element is the area control and using neutral coloured plants to skew the control count in your favour. Players whose colour has the most or second most plants score, except any ties are cancelled out, so it is possible to add neutral plants to cancel out the top scorer and make your small stake in the area score. A very pretty game but with quite a cut-throat scoring mechanic.

Mini Rails

The final table chose Mini Rails for some train based stock market influencing gaming. This was previously seen in session 34 and is a deceptively simple game with just 12 actions per player, two per round, one to buy stock and one to lay track. Laying track influences the stock price of that colour positively or negatively. At the end of the game you only score for stock in colours you have a stake and that colour is in the stock scoring line. So decisions are critical, try to make a certain colour score, boost your stocks in a colour or influence the price of a colour to increase your stock total or reduce the price of another players colour. In the end all three players had the same total stock score, but Sophie had the best individual stock colour score and was the victor.

Welcome to the Moon

When this was finished the table switched to Welcome to the Moon. This is a flip and write game, where all players have the same options throughout the game but it is the one who can make the best use of them that will win. In this case players select one of three pairs of cards, one half sets the row in the rocket that can be filled and the other is a number, numbers must be placed in ascending order in that row. When a compartment is filled a bonus is triggered that could be beneficial or a penalty for other players. It is possible to chain the bonuses together to complete multiple compartments, so as the rocket starts filling the progress to blast off accelerates. Then as this game finished at the same time as Renature the tables merged for a six player replay. There are eight different scenarios in the box using variations on this basic mechanic so in future sessions we may progress to colonising the Moon or coping with space viruses.

The next session is 28th June, join us for more games, biscuits and air con at the St Ives Corn exchange. As always please bring your own games to share or suggest games you would like to try in advance and we will try and accommodate. Contact us via discord, twitter or email for more information.