How To Play: On Mars – Setup, rule summary and strategy

Quick Summary

On Mars is a captivating board game that will transport you to the Red Planet, challenging you to successfully colonize and dominate this harsh environment. With its immersive theming, deep gameplay mechanics, and vast strategic possibilities, the game offers a thrilling and rewarding experience. Here's a quick summary of key points:

On Mars combines resource management, building construction, mission completion, exploration, area control, and strategic technology tree progression, creating a multifaceted and engaging strategic challenge. The game's rules are intuitive and well-structured, allowing new players to quickly grasp the gameplay while still offering depth for seasoned strategists.

Strategic decision-making is at the core of On Mars, with players constantly evaluating the best course of action to achieve victory. Developing efficient resource management strategies, constructing buildings strategically, completing missions, mastering area control, and skillfully progressing through the technology tree are all essential to securing dominance on Mars.

The stunning artwork and thematic design of On Mars truly immerse players in the interplanetary adventure, enhancing the overall experience. The game also offers high replayability, as each playthrough presents unique challenges and opportunities.

Whether you're a fan of strategic gameplay, immersive theming, or simply looking for a thrilling gaming experience, On Mars delivers on all fronts. So gather your resources, plan your colony, and embark on a heroic mission to conquer one of the most enigmatic planets in our solar system.


Welcome to the comprehensive On Mars strategy guide! In this guide, we will dive deep into the intricacies of this captivating board game, providing you with an outline of the game rules and the best strategies for securing victory on the Red Planet. Prepare to embark on a thrilling journey of colonization, resource management, and strategic decision-making as you strive to establish your dominance on Mars.

On Mars is a game that combines immersive theming, intricate gameplay mechanics, and strategic depth. Designed by acclaimed designer Vital Lacerda, it is a testament to his ability to create captivating and challenging experiences. Throughout this guide, we will explore each aspect of the game, from resource management to building construction, mission completion, exploration, area control, and technology tree progression.

We will guide you through the essential strategies necessary to master the game and achieve victory. Whether you are a seasoned strategist seeking new insights or a newcomer looking to sharpen your skills, this guide will provide you with the knowledge and tactics to dominate the Red Planet. Get ready to explore the mysteries of Mars and leave your mark on the surface of this untamed world!

What’s in the box

  • 1 Game board
  • 4 Colony boards
  • 160+ Resource tokens
  • 44 Building tiles
  • 30 Blueprint tiles
  • 48 Mission cards
  • 48 Technology cards
  • 16 Discovery tiles
  • 60 Astronaut meeples
  • 24 Mission tokens
  • 20 Scoring markers
  • 20 Disc markers
  • 4 Player markers
  • 12 Satellite Markers
  • 4 Robotics cards
  • 1 Round marker
  • 3 Progress markers
  • 1 First Player marker
  • 4 Warning tiles
  • Rulebook

How To Play On Mars: Rules Summary

1. Setup

  1. Place the game board in the center of the play area and give each player a colony board.
  2. Place the resource tokens, building tiles, blueprint tiles, mission cards, and technology cards within reach.
  3. Shuffle the mission and technology cards separately, and then place them face-down as their respective decks.
  4. Set aside the mission tokens, scoring markers, and disc markers to be used later.

2. Game Rounds and Phases

  1. The game is played over a series of rounds, with each round consisting of a First Commander Phase followed by a Pioneer Phase.
  2. In the First Commander Phase, the first player takes actions and resolves their effects.
  3. During the Pioneer Phase, the remaining players take turns in clockwise order, performing their actions and resolving their effects.

3. Taking Actions

  1. On their turn, players may perform one or more actions, such as acquiring resources, constructing buildings, completing missions, or exploring the planet.
  2. Each action requires spending the appropriate resources or discarding certain cards.
  3. Some actions may result in gaining points, technological advancements, or other benefits.

4. Building and Missions

  1. Players can construct buildings by placing building tiles on their colony boards, following the placement requirements and resource costs.
  2. Missions can be completed by meeting the specified requirements, earning players points and bonuses.

5. Technology Development

  1. Players can advance through the technology tree by spending resources and acquiring technology cards.
  2. Technologies provide various benefits, including enhancements to resource production, building abilities, and mission completion.
  3. Invest in technology upgrades carefully to align with your overall strategy and goals.

In On Mars, players aim to score the most victory points based on completed missions, constructed buildings, and other accomplishments. The game concludes after a set number of rounds.

By successfully managing resources, strategically constructing buildings, completing missions, and advancing through the technology tree, players can emerge victorious as masters of the Red Planet.

Best On Mars Strategies

Mastering Resource Management for Victory

Resource management plays a pivotal role in determining the success of your mission in On Mars. Strategically allocating and utilizing your resources will give you the edge you need to come out on top. Here are some essential strategies to keep in mind:

1. Efficient Resource Allocation

  1. Prioritize resource acquisition based on the immediate needs of your colony.
  2. Balance the production of different resources to avoid bottlenecks.
  3. Utilize buildings and technologies that generate additional resources.

2. Storage Optimization

  1. Optimize storage capacity by investing in upgraded warehouse buildings.
  2. Prioritize resource utilization to avoid wastage and overcrowded storage.
  3. Plan ahead to ensure sufficient storage space for future demands.

3. Trading and Collaboration

  1. Engage in strategic trading with fellow players to acquire scarce resources.
  2. Consider collaboration to share resources and increase collective efficiency.
  3. Don’t underestimate the impact of diplomatic negotiations when it comes to managing resources.

4. Investment in Infrastructure

  1. Invest in efficient resource production buildings and upgrades for long-term sustainability.
  2. Strategically position your buildings to optimize resource proximity.
  3. Consider construction projects that reduce overall resource consumption and increase production efficiency.

By mastering resource management, you can lay a solid foundation for success on Mars. Being efficient, optimizing storage, utilizing trading opportunities, and investing in infrastructure will give you a competitive advantage and lead you closer to victory.

Building Strategies for Dominance

Mastering the art of strategic building placement and construction is essential for achieving victory in On Mars. Deploying your buildings wisely and leveraging their unique abilities will give you a competitive edge. Here are some key strategies to consider:

1. Balanced Building Selection

  1. Choose a mix of buildings that complement each other and fulfill different objectives.
  2. Keep in mind the synergy between buildings to maximize their effectiveness.
  3. Focus on long-term benefits when selecting buildings, considering how they will synergize with your overall strategy.

2. Strategic Placement

  1. Strategically position buildings to optimize resource flow and minimize travel distances.
  2. Consider the proximity of other players’ buildings to exploit collaboration opportunities or hinder their progress.
  3. Take advantage of the available terrain and building restrictions to leverage placement advantages.

3. Sequence and Timing

  1. Prioritize buildings based on their immediate benefits and their ability to contribute to your long-term goals.
  2. Sequencing your building construction can provide cascading benefits or synergistic effects.
  3. Strategically time your building construction to counter or take advantage of opponents’ actions.

4. Building Upgrades

  1. Focus on upgrading key buildings to enhance their abilities and gain an advantage.
  2. Consider the technology tree and its potential upgrades to determine the most optimal buildings to invest in.
  3. Don’t overlook the importance of well-timed and strategic building upgrades in achieving dominance.

By employing smart building strategies, you can establish a formidable presence on Mars and position yourself for victory. Carefully selecting buildings, optimizing their placement, and leveraging upgrades will provide the competitive advantage you need to come out on top.

The Path to Victory: Mission Completion Tactics

Completing missions is a crucial aspect of achieving victory in On Mars. Mastering the tactics for mission fulfillment will propel your progress. Here are some important strategies to keep in mind:

1. Prioritize Mission Selection

  1. Consider the rewards and requirements of each mission before committing.
  2. Prioritize missions that align with your colony’s strengths and resources.
  3. Focus on missions that offer long-term benefits or significant point rewards.

2. Synergistic Mission Combos

  1. Look for opportunities to complete missions that have overlapping requirements.
  2. Seek out missions that can be accomplished more efficiently when completed together.
  3. Plan and strategize mission completion to optimize your actions and conserve resources.

3. Timing and Efficiency

  1. Strategically time your mission completions to gain an advantage over opponents.
  2. Consider the benefits of completing missions early versus waiting for optimal conditions or collaboration opportunities.
  3. Optimize your actions to complete multiple missions in a single turn where possible.

4. Balanced Risk-taking

  1. Assess the risks associated with each mission and weigh them against potential rewards.
  2. Consider the short-term benefits versus long-term strategies when deciding which missions to pursue.
  3. Smartly balance challenging and high-reward missions with easier but lower-point options.

By employing smart tactics for mission completion, you can stay on track for victory in On Mars. Prioritizing missions, creating synergistic combinations, strategizing timing and efficiency, and maintaining a balanced approach to risk-taking will pave the way to success in your colonization efforts.

Exploration and Area Control: Securing your Dominance

Exploration and area control are key elements in securing victory in On Mars. By effectively exploring and maneuvering to take control of key territories, you can gain a significant advantage over your opponents. Here are some essential strategies to master:

1. Strategic Exploration

  1. Focus on exploring new areas of the map strategically to gain access to valuable resources or advantageous positions.
  2. Consider the risks versus rewards when selecting exploration routes and uncovering new regions.
  3. Plan ahead and utilize scouting actions to gather information about unexplored areas to maximize your success.

2. Encroachment on Opponents

  1. Identify areas controlled by opponents and strategically encroach upon their territories.
  2. Establish your presence in key regions to limit their potential for expansion and gain control over significant resources.
  3. Keep a close eye on opponents’ moves and take advantage of any opportunities for area dominance.

3. Strategic Building Placement

  1. Select building placement locations strategically to establish control and influence over neighboring areas.
  2. Position your buildings in a way that creates barriers or hinders opponents’ expansion and resource access.
  3. Identify areas where specific building synergies can be leveraged for maximum control.

4. Diplomatic Negotiations

  1. Engage in diplomatic negotiations with opponents to establish alliances or neutralize potential threats.
  2. Strategically collaborate to mutually benefit from area control and resource availability.
  3. Balance cooperation and competition to maintain your dominance and secure your position in key territories.

By effectively exploring new regions, strategically encroaching on opponents, placing buildings strategically, and engaging in diplomatic negotiations, you can secure your dominance on Mars. Explore, conquer, and control to claim victory and establish your legacy on the red planet.

Progressing Strategically in the Technology Tree for Victory

Mastering the progression in the technology tree is a key aspect of achieving victory in On Mars. Strategically selecting technologies and efficiently progressing through the tree will give you a competitive advantage. Here are some essential strategies to consider:

1. Assessing the Technological Landscape

  1. Thoroughly analyze the available technologies and their potential benefits toward your overall strategy.
  2. Identify technologies that align with your colony’s needs and long-term goals.
  3. Prioritize technologies that enhance crucial aspects such as resource efficiency, building synergies, or mission completion.

2. Synergistic Technological Pathways

  1. Plan a clear path through the technology tree that maximizes synergistic effects between different technologies.
  2. Identify key technologies that open doors to multiple future upgrades and propel your progress.
  3. Focus on building a strategic foundation by establishing critical technologies early in the game.

3. Strategic Technology Timing

  1. Time your technology upgrades strategically to optimize their impact.
  2. Evaluate the actions of other players and strategically seize opportunities to gain technological superiority.
  3. Consider the right balance between aggressive early upgrades versus investing in a solid foundation for long-term benefits.

4. Reap the Rewards of Technology Upgrades

  1. Ensure that each technology upgrade aligns with your overall strategy and provides tangible advantages.
  2. Capitalize on upgraded technologies to unlock new abilities, bonuses, and strategic advantages.
  3. Continually assess the benefits and adapt your strategy based on the upgrades you acquire.

By progressing strategically in the technology tree, you can gain a significant advantage in On Mars. Assessing the landscape, planning synergistic pathways, timing upgrades strategically, and reaping the rewards of technology advancements will pave the way to victory by enhancing your overall strategy and improving your chances of success.

Conclusion: Unleash Your Strategic Prowess on Mars

Congratulations on reaching the end of our comprehensive strategy guide for On Mars! Armed with a deep understanding of the game’s rules and a range of winning strategies, you are now prepared to embark on a thrilling journey of colonization, resource management, and strategic decision-making on the Red Planet.

Throughout this guide, we have covered various essential aspects of the game, including resource management, building strategies, mission completion tactics, exploration and area control, as well as strategic technology tree progression. By mastering these elements and employing the suggested strategies, you can gain a competitive edge over your opponents and increase your chances of claiming victory on Mars.

Remember, successful colonization requires careful planning, strategic thinking, and adapting to the ever-changing conditions on the planet. Flexibility and adaptability are crucial traits as you navigate the challenges presented by your opponents and the harsh Martian environment.

Now it’s time to unleash your strategic prowess and leave your mark on the surface of Mars. Explore, construct, complete missions, and dominate the Red Planet. May your decisions be wise, your resource management impeccable, and your victories passionate!

Want to know what we think of On Mars? Read our detailed review of On Mars here

Jamie in his proper element: With all of his board games
Jamie Hopkins

With years of dice-rolling, card-flipping, and strategic planning under my belt, I've transformed my passion into expertise. I thrive on dissecting the mechanics and social dynamics of board games, sharing insights from countless game nights with friends. I dive deep into gameplay mechanics, while emphasizing the social joys of gaming. While I appreciate themes and visuals, it's the strategy and camaraderie that truly capture my heart.