Tharsis: Developing a Strategy

Alex Neuse

Alex Neuse's picture

The unforgiving nature and unpredictability of space, the frailty of human emotion, dwindling resources, and the fragility of a spaceship that has been dealt a death blow by an unfortunate accident; this is what you have to overcome in Tharsis.

Your only resources are your wits and a handful of six-sided dice.

On the surface, Tharsis might look like space-Yahtzee (which by the way, sounds amazing), but once you get past the knee-jerk assumption that because there're dice involved, Tharsis is just a game of chance, you'll discover deep strategies that will assist you on your mysterious trip to the Red Planet.

Since I wasn't directly involved on the development side of Tharsis, I thought I'd share some of the strategies that I've developed as a player, which have helped me to excel at the game.

Be warned, every decision you make in Tharsis has massive repercussions, and you often have to be planning several turns ahead. 

Tharsis is a game about how well you manage resources that are out of your control. When your dice settle, that's what you have to work with, so think carefully before you commit to a plan--if things go south, what options will you have? How you use your resources, and which risks you choose to take, is entirely up to you; developing a solid strategy will ensure your success at the mission. 

Kind of like real life, really, if you want to get all existential...

So, here are five tips utilizing strategies that I've developed which have helped to keep me in the game...

  • Manage your Stress
    • The Side Project Phase is an amazing resource that should not be ignored. You can get wonderful perks from having your crew perform beneficial side projects. But they'll only suggest their best options when they're low on stress. So a strategy that I use is to regularly use stress-reducing research cards--especially once someone is over 50% stress.
  • Take a Hit now and then
    • One thing I've seen a lot of first-time players do is try to solve every event on the turn in which it occurs. Just keep in mind that the mission is solely to make it to Mars--you don't have to have a healthy crew or ship to succeed. As such, sometimes I will prioritize resource gathering over Crew Health or Ship Integrity.
  • Keep some Low-Risk Events in your Back Pocket
    • This can bite you in the ass if you're not careful, but one of my favorite tactics is to keep something easy to fix on the verge of completion and let it sit for a few turns. As everything starts spiraling out of control, if you've got some easily-solvable events just waiting for you, it could be what allows you to scrape by by the skin of your teeth.
  • Load up your Ship Integrity Early
    • Since there are more (and harder) events towards the latter half of the journey, I use the more calm first half of the game to get my ship in, well, ship-shape.
  • Don't be Afraid to Eat Allison
    • Unless you're vying for a high score, cannibalism is a great solution to a lot of problems. When considering whether to cannibalize, I consider the Max Health hit and weigh the likelihood of whether I'll need that top Health slot anyway. If not, dinner's served.

I'm sure you'll develop strategies of your own as well. The above list is just the tip of the iceberg, and are strategies that work for me. So remember, Tharsis is a game about respecting and managing the luck of the dice, not succumbing to it. Once you accept luck, the real strategy begins.

I kind of look at Tharsis as a parallel to the pinball-is-a-game-of-chance debate of the early-mid 1900s so wonderfully explored in the Special When Lit documentary. 

Tharsis, like pinball, is only a game of chance if you're unwilling to learn its strategies. 


Submitted by Dr. Civilization on Sun, 01/17/2016 - 12:07pm

~Dr. Civilization

I fell that although you are right on most accounts, there is a few holes in your strategy. 

Although keeping some less dangerous events running so you can get your food and assists (also stress is important), my strategy is to

get rid of events asap

have the person with 3 rolls get food whenever you have the chance

take care of stress in one of 2 ways: 

   Get assists so that the injuries, voids, and stasis effects won't get them stressed OR whenever at the stress room, take care of it as a top priority

However much you might say "oh i need this food card", or "oh, this 2 dice for me is great", research should be SAVED!!! The disaster relief may be hard to get, but is well worth it to have in case of an emergency. 

Thats all for now, but I will have more tips and tricks possibly coming out soon. 


P.S. My win rate is 33.33%

Submitted by Tolkien on Sun, 01/17/2016 - 5:23pm

I just wanted to thank you people for the great game. It is extremely refreshing to play Tharsis, and I am so happy that it exists. I have never made an account explicitly to give a developer feedback, but I am driven to for this game  As someone who has not beaten it once in an entire day playing, bravo.

If I were to add any criticism, it would be the icon for the game on the PS4's dashboard, the bloodied die. I would much prefer the pretty artwork used in the store over what is currently on display. Maybe you will reconsider or change it if you have any updates or dlc! Thank you!

JoeF's picture
Submitted by JoeF on Mon, 01/18/2016 - 2:10am

Hi I also LOVE Tharsis,

Got hocked right away and played 50 Missions straight completing the last one,, Finally a success and guess what I'm already playing again the next day, got the Navigator and Captain unlocked! Great stuff and very compelling game.

I really look forward to Mission content and whatever expansion you might be brigning out, I also like the Graphics alot with bloody dice and the death of the Crew is cool (I would like a scream when someone dies or see some crazy animation of the death, but that is just me wishing for even more, also if the dead Austronauts could be piled up in the Med Bay and then disappear if eaten would also be very cool addon).. good job guys and the videos on Steam about the inspiration are top notch! Thanks for such a interesting game (I also loved King og Tokyo). Krgs Joseph

Submitted by ThermoNuc on Mon, 01/18/2016 - 5:26am

Dear Devs.

Thanks for this awesome game. I bought it yesterday and have already played arround 60rounds (of 20 I made it to Mars). Also got 1 copy for a friend and am suggesting it to people who I think will enjoy it. While there are a lot of people saying that your game is too much RNG dependent and not very well thought I disagree completelly. Dont mind some kids who are expecting to be spoonfed wins in games and keep rolling the good stuff.

I was wondering if there is any date for the release of "Missions" and what can we expect from them.


Submitted by umphreysfan on Wed, 01/20/2016 - 10:06pm

Help me!!   I have logged 25 hours but I guess it updated and now the game won't launch.  I receive a msg about reporting the crash folder info to the game developers, but don't know how to contact. So I am here.  Please help me!  I have tried uninstalling and reinstalling to no avail, and have "checked game integrity" in steam with no affect either.  How do I fix this problem?  Thanks for your help!  Love the game!


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