In an age where humans (or at least the super-rich) have started turning their attention to Mars, Big Potato Games are leading the charge. Well, that’s not entirely accurate, but they have brought the Red Planet down to Earth in the form of their release Zillionaires on Mars.
This high-stakes bidding game sees players battle it out to buy up four properties in a row on the Martian surface (this is reduced to three in five-player games). So, grab your Zillions and let the intergalactic bidding war begin.
It's Not Rocket Science
Set up is simple; the property cards are shuffled and placed face down next to the board. Then, each player takes the tokens of their chosen colour and a cool 49 Zillion dollars. Then, play can get going. The first player turns over a property card and if there’s a landmark on it then players can bid, starting with the minimum shown on the card. Going round the circle players can either raise the bid or fold.
When someone wins the landmark, they can place one of their coloured tokens on the lot and then the cycle starts up again. Shuffled into the property cards are Payday cards. These let players bring in a little extra cash; the more properties they own the more cash they can bring in. Play continues until someone has four properties in a row, either vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. It’s a bit like Connect Four, but flatter and… more Martian.
Life On Mars
As gameplay gets into gear it can feel a little slow. As the whole board is open no one wants to splurge too much cash right off the bat for any old property. However, once the first few properties have been bought the game really gets going.
With every round the stakes get higher as more and more properties get snapped up, leaving players fewer and fewer paths to victory. For this reason, Zillionaires falls a little flat at two players. It lacks the aggression and competition that higher player count games offer. However, with four or five people gameplay is considerably livelier, with players seeing who has the deepest pockets.
While Zillionaires is at its heart a light game, there is some strategy to its gameplay. As players conceal their Zillions, they can choose when to run an opponent up, making them spend Zillions more than they need to. They can also choose when to bluff, although this can be risky if other players catch them out and they can’t cough up.
Save The (Red) Planet
Something that deserves special mention in this review is that Zillionaires is an entirely plastic-free game. The box is held with stickers rather than shrink and the insert is sculped from reconstituted cardboard instead of flimsy, ocean-clogging plastic. While the eco-friendly elements of this insert deserve praise, its layout does not. The grooves that hold the cash during gameplay aren’t deep enough to store it when you pack up, and so you just end up shoving everything in and hoping for the best.
It feels a little silly that the thought going into layout reached only as far as designing a dedicated space for the gavel, For Sale sign, and cards. That being said, this relatively minor issue is a fair price to pay for the environmentally friendly packaging for which Big Potato are well-known.
Zillionaire’s components are great fun; the gavel is fun (if not a little unnecessary) and the Monopoly-esque Zillion-dollar notes are lovely to handle. The property cards are each decorated with fantastic visual artwork, each depicting a new and fanciful attraction, such as the Planet of the Grapes vineyard.
Reach For The Stars
Zillionaires on Mars is a quick, fun, and simple bidding game that brings the fun of both Connect Four and Monopoly to intergalactic real estate. While this game certainly doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it is a great game to play with friends or family, especially when you trick them into paying through the nose for a property you don’t even want.