Friday, 7 July 2017

Red Dust Rebellion - A Mars COIN game.

Well, I've been busy working on a new project, a Boardgame design. 

What's the game you ask?

Tentatively, it is called "
Red Dust Rebellion", (but that name is not carved in stone,) and it's a Counter Insurgency game based on the COIN engine designed by Volko Ruhnke. This same game engine has been used to create games in insurgencies like Afghanistan (A distant plain), Vietnam (Fire in the Lake) and the US war of independence (Liberty of death)

What sets this game apart from the others is that it is not a historic insurgency, but a Science Fiction one. In a familiar, yet relatively unexplored realm for Board games.

There are many games about colonizing mars, but very few about what happens later. The almost inevitable anti-colonial uprising against a foreign power that would come with the creation of a unique and distinct Martian culture. 

We have seen it in films and fiction, Red Mars, Total Recall, Red Faction, Babylon 5 and numerous other stories have been told about Mars struggling for independence. It has been many Sci-fi writers "go to" setting for stories about the struggle of independence, terrorism, national identity and neo-colonialism. 

In short, it is a very rich setting than has a lot of resonance for people. And a setting where we can tell a modern insurrection story with a twist, while examining some concepts involved in future war.

Also, the unique distances of Mars, the compact population centers and and massive wastes present unique opportunities for game play that a historic scenario does not. 

The factions

Like most COIN games, this conflict revolves around 4 competing factions with their own unique winning condition. Each player has one "friendlier" faction than the others, although the alliances are more out of mutual benefit than any real desire to work together. 

Please note, all art is placeholder art and just what I am using in the prototype. 

Mars Provisional Government

The Mars provisional Government wants to run Mars as a part of Earth and can best be compared to your traditional colonial government put in place by an Imperial power. 

The Government faction wants the population of Mars to support their policy platform of "Mars and Terra, one people, two planets". 

The Government has access to large military and police forces, as well as elite forces sent from Earth Government. 

Their path to victory requires keeping the Earth Government happy so that the Provisional Government can effectively rule without great intervention from Earth. 

The Megacorporations

One constant in nearly all near future science fiction is the presence and power of massive corporations.

From Weyland Yutani in Aliens to Protogen in the Expanse. The Corporations are great bad guys and no story about a Mars Revolution would be complete without them. 

The CORP's want control of area, they don't care if the population is supportive or opposed, as long as there are boots on the ground and the people are working. 

Profits drive this faction. Replacing troops and personnel cost money, so the CORP player is happy to hold the gains made by the Government, but less happy to take charge of offensives. 

Free Mars

Mars is for Martians! Free mars represents the length and breadth of martians who want a Mars ruled by Martians. 

This includes extreme terrorist groups and softer political groups. They also represent the various labor unions and guilds on mars. 

Free Mars wants popular support of the Martian populace and this brings them into headlong conflict with the Provisional Government. 

Corporate PR and spin can also undermine Free Mars and the Corporations want to control the Martian "means of production"

But with the vast trackless wastes of Mars, it is virtually impossible for the corporations and Government to get everyone. 

The Reclaimer Church

The Reclaimers represent a divergent set of beliefs and ideas unique to Mars. 

The Reclaimers want to return Mars to a more natural state, halt terraforming and adapt humanity to mars. 

They represent a combination of "frankenstein" science, dogmatic faith and extreme environmentalism. 

The Reclaimers are the end result of me brainstorming what a really extreme group of terrorists could look like 200 years from now. 

Their path to victory is unique. They only want to build infrastructure out in the wastes, to dig deep into the planet and become unmovable. 

They also have a terrifying and board altering ability that allows them to damage domes and create refugees. 

The Board

Again, this is tentative art. I'm actually using a hand drawn board using markers and A1 paper for playtesting, and this board doesn't have the Phobos, Far side of Mars and Earth locations. 

If you have played COIN games you will immediately notice there are more cities than normal. This is because the vast majority of the Martian population lives in domes, and the gap between "civilized" and "wild" areas on mars is astronomical. 

It also presents a problem to the Counter Insurgency forces as you can't "airstrike" a dome without catastrophic effects to the civilian population. 

The concentration of population forces Red Mars, MPG and CORP players into a fight in the center of the board. But the Reclaimers cannot be ignored as they build up in the wastes. 

Next Steps

Well, that's up to GMT really. This game was one I designed for myself, as an exercise in making a game and doing something fun. If it never sees publication, so be it, but I would love to see it out there sometime in the future.

Does the idea seem good to people out there, anyone think this is a good concept for a game?


  1. Looks interesting. If no commercial release you should make up files for PnP.

    1. I certainly will do that. I've also been looking at seeing if i can import stuff into Tabletop simulator.

    2. I would like to help out on setting up a TTS mod. If you're interested in that, let me know: BGG username miriku, or

  2. Sounds awesome - would love to give this a shot. I could also imagine this as a game set in the Dune universe

    1. Dune would make for an interesting COIN game. But the license for Dune is very expensive from what I have heard, which is why FFG reskinned the Dune boardgame to "rex" in their Twilight Imperium setting.

      The Reclaimers, and their "be strong in the wastes" abilities are drawn a little from the Fremen though.

  3. Looks fantastic, would love to give this a spin, if you ever set it up as a PnP that would be most excellent!

    1. If it doesn't get a formal publication. I will likely do a P&P version.

  4. This is awesome! I hope you do get this published in the future. :) If not I'll be sure to do a PnP of it.

  5. This seems great. Is a departure for the COIN series to be ahistorical, but I love the concept. I loved the KSR mars books and I like the idea of incorporating some of the politics of that world to animate the theme and context.

    I would definitely be interested in printing and playing if you get to that point. Or play testing.


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