I admit it. I was completely sucked into Onward to Venus by its astoundingly good artwork and the satire.
I'm sick of colonization games, and in this one you get to do area control while being reminded that you're a jerk for doing it. Genius.
I've read comments on this game about how swingy and random it is, and I get that, but it's not been so much — at least so far — that it throws the game. The cards in the game offset that if you play them right.
So here's my review, which originally appeared on News for Shoppers, where I wrote it:
Onward to Venus is game of conquest by designer Martin Wallace. It's set in Greg Broadmore's Dr. Grordbort's universe, and features stunning art from Broadmore, Peter Dennis and Warren Mahy. It's published by Treefrog Games, Stardog, Esdevium Games, and Asmodee.
Two to five people can play, and it takes an hour and a half to two hours. The game retails for $49.99 but can be bought at several online retailers for about $35.
How it works:
Eight planets and moons are set out on the table in a line (except for Earth's moon, which is below the Earth). Players draw tiles out of a bag and place a designated number of them on each planets. Those tiles can be factories or mines. They can also let players draw cards, raise the crisis level on a planet, or create tension between players.
Cards give players extra fire power, money, and all kinds of abilities.
Players use infantry, tanks, and spaceships to take over factories and mines on the planets. To attack a planet or an opponent, players roll dice and see if they have enough firepower to win.
Their factories and mines produce money at the end of each of the three rounds. The player who gets the most money on each planet gets the most points for that planet, with second and third place getting some points as well. The player with the most points wins.
Why you might want Onward to Venus:
The art in this game is unsurpassed in board games. The planets are beautiful; the characters and weapons on the cards are funny; Dr. Grordbort's world comes to life.
Which leads us to the theme of the game. If you're not familiar with Dr. Grordbort's (and I wasn't), it's a satirical look at European colonization, but those Victorian-era powers are in space. With ray guns.
The rule book is the main place where the theme of the game is integrated, but one look at the Goliathon-300 Moon Hater Death-Ray card, with its whopping five firepower, and you'll be ready to do some blasting.
The game plays very well with any number of players. With two, you'll feel more like you're exploring. With five, you'll feel the need to block other players and move fast.
Why you might not want Onward to Venus:
If you don't like the theme, chances are you won't like the game.
Pure strategy won't win the game. There are dice rolls and the luck of the cards you draw, plus those you start with, which vary depending on which country you're playing.
There isn't a lot of battle between players, and while the threat of crises seems powerful, they don't happen very often.
Occasionally the rule book is a bit confusing, but it's nothing Earth-shaking. (Pun intended.)
This game probably isn't good for people new to strategy games, but it's not terribly hard, either.
There are lots of cards, but many of them repeat, so you can wind up with a hand that's not very useful.
I really like Onward to Venus.
The theme and artwork drew me in immediately, but the gameplay kept me there. I was able to make plenty of meaningful choices.
I don't mind randomness in games, so that doesn't bother me.
Would this game be as good with a different theme? I don't think so.
But I love playing with it.
Full disclosure: Asmodee Editions gave me a review copy of Onward to Venus. I was not required to write a positive review. These are my opinions.