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Onward to Venus: A board game of planetary conquest and exploration
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Onward to Venus is set in the retro sci-fi world where planets and moons are waiting to be settled and exploited, although the local inhabitants might kick up a fuss. Luckily for the Earthling civilizers, there is a range of highly useful ray-guns to convince the natives to behave themselves. - photo by Ryan Morgenegg
Based on the Doctor Grordbort graphic novels, the board game Onward to Venus is a game about colonizing the solar system by building a powerful army and seizing exciting opportunities at the right time. Build factories and mines to dominate planets; hunt exotic, big game around the solar system; solve planetary crisis or take advantage of planetary tensions to win victory points.

The board in Onward to Venus is not a board at all. There are eight planets (cardboard circles) spread out across the table from Mercury to the Kuiper Belt. Over three turns, two to five players take actions back and forth trying to capture tokens and establish a presence on the planets.

Players begin with 12 pounds (money), two cards, a factory on Earth, four infantry and two spaceships. Each turn, random tiles are drawn from a nice cloth bag and placed on each planet. The tiles represent opportunities available on the planet.

Planetary factory tiles can easily be conquered and provide players with the ability to produce units and score points at game end. Big Game tiles are also easy to capture and offer a victory point at the end of the game.

A crisis, tension or mine token has a combat value on it that must be overcome, but each one offers different rewards when it is defeated. To defeat one of these tiles, a player must bring in sufficient military strength and a little luck by rolling some dice. If crisis tiles go unresolved, they can create widespread planetary crises that affect the game in big ways such as causing a robot rebellion, an alien invasion or an attack by the moon men. Each planet has its own crises, and they provide fun, random events that add flavor.

Most of the random planet counters allow players to draw new cards. Cards represent a huge number of ways players can break the rules such as adding power to an attack (watch out for the Pomson 6,000), taking extra turns or moving units again.

Eventually all of a players units get activated and a player must pass by taking a pass cube. When the final pass cube is taken, the round is over. After the third and final round, points are awarded at each planet based on the strength of the players presence there and also for crises and big game tokens.

Onward to Venus plays quickly and gives a strong feeling of planetary conflict and control. Drawing the planet tokens each round is suspenseful and the potential for a crisis to spin out of control adds some randomness and excitement. I think gamers will enjoy this well-designed and originally themed game. But one word of caution, dont underestimate the power of the cards.