Review: Mars Open: Tabletop Golf

IMG_1450

Length As long as players want it to be

Release Date 2018

Designer: Dennis Hoyle
Artist: Harris Fagotto, Katie Khau
Publisher: Bellwether Games
Category: Dexterity
Players: 1-8
Price: $46.99 Amazon.com

Mars Open: Tabletop Golf is a highly-enjoyable dexterity/flicking game for all ages. Using a minimal ruleset and requiring a surprising amount of physical skill, this game is an excellent offering from small publisher Bellwether Games.

Review

Colonizing Mars has been a hot theme of board games over the last couple of years. Games like First Martians and Terraforming Mars have married real-science themes to complex, strategic gameplay. But what about the lighter side of Martian colonization? What do the Martian settlers do after a long day’s work?

They golf, of course!

Mars Open: Tabletop Golf is a new dexterity title from Bellwether Games. In this wacky golfing simulation, up to eight players take turns flicking specially-folded paper “golf balls” toward a target, while avoiding obstacles like sand traps and space-golf carts.

The game’s rules are basically those of real Earth-golf: each flick of the ball counts as a stroke, and players aim to have the lowest score after a number of rounds. It’s so simple that I can sum up how to play in a single GIF. Observe:

That’s it. Flick the ball, land it in the hole. It’s super simple, but Mars Open does so much with so little. There is a unbelievable amount of skill required in flicking the ball accurately. Its unique shape means that it travels in unexpected ways; it’s almost like paper football, but with a more erratic locomotion. First-time players will likely spend twenty minutes just randomly flicking a ball around to get used to its physics.

Then come the trick shots. Players can experiment with flicking at an angle, lightly anchoring a corner of the ball for more control, or doing a “chip shot,” where they use two fingers to launch the ball up, while keeping the back of their hand firmly planted on the table. Again, I cannot overstate the level of skill required.

The rules include setups for over fifty unique holes, but players will undoubtedly want to make their own. This customization is a huge part of the fun, and the only limitation is players’ imagination.

Mars Open: Tabletop Golf is an excellent dexterity game. I really dig its stylized look. The cardboard components are all high quality, featuring delightfully whimsical illustrations. At first, I wondered how well the ball cards would hold up to repeated flicking and abuse, but I was pleased to find them quite durable.

The golf ball’s unpredictable movement really fits the theme; if people were actually golfing on Mars, their line drives would not travel the same way they would in earth gravity. Whether intentional or not, this thematic integration does Mars Open a great service.

I realize that it’s difficult to do this game justice with only pictures and words. Clearly, the experience of Mars Open lies completely with its flicking action, so this is the kind of game you just have to try for yourself. I can personally attest that it is a ton of fun. Even my game group’s resident heavy-euro-loving curmudgeon had a great time with it, and that’s really saying something. I highly recommend giving this one a try, even if dexterity games aren’t your thing. There is a ton of fun in this box.

A review copy was provided by Bellwether Games.

The Bottom Line

Mars Open is astoundingly fun. The dexterity element has a tight learning curve, but players will keep coming back for more.

 

9.3