Martian Canals

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Martian Canals
Designed by Dennis D Duquette
A placement and capture game of Martian stone circles and pyramids.
:Players Players: 2 - 12
:Time Length: Long?
:Complexity Complexity: Low
Trios per color: 5 for up to 5 players, 10 for 6 to 10 players
Number of colors: one per player
Pyramid trios:
Monochr. stashes: one per player
Five-color sets: 5 for up to 5 players, 10 for 6 to 10 players
- - - - - - Other equipment - - - - - -
A 91 board, 5 Gaming Stones per player in that player's color, 3 Fudge Dice
Setup time: Less than 1 minute to 5 minutes
Playing time: 45 minutes
0.75 Hr
- 90 minutes
1.5 Hr
Strategy depth: Medium
Random chance: Medium
Game mechanics: Placement, Capture
Theme: Martian
BGG Link:
Status: complete? (v1.0), Year released: 2987


We all know how violent, nasty and brutish are the denizens of Terra without Martian influence. Since we shall be invading Terra in only a few thousands of years, the time has come to begin planning to Areoform that planet. You, the representatives of the various cultural factions, will each try to win your hive the right to control the Terran Areoforming Project. You will compete mostly with your skill at human husbandry, directing the Terrans in large scale construction projects.
You see on your instrument board the phase space of 91 trainable human groups with access to materials for building stone circles and pyramids. The phase space rows partition the humans into their 13 basic types, while the column's number denotes how tractable the humans along that column are to our influence. One of the many perversities of Terra is that the more tractable a group of humans is to martian influence, the less building ability they have. Therefore, most building will be done by humans in the middle columns.
When you have persuaded humans of a certain tractability to build a structure for your faction, you will decide among the remaining human types that do not then have any martian structure. The humans may build your faction a structure of any available technology, or of a new technology by a faction that has the lesser technologies to support the innovation, in accordance with our pyramidal support traditions. They may not build a sixth structure of any type for any faction.
Of course, our stone circles and pyramids will produce canals of energy that even the humans will sense, probably calling them ley lines or some such. When the humans build you a structure at one end of an unbroken orthogonal or diagonal line of martian structures with your color at the other end, a canal of energy along the line will flow. Humans feeling the canal's energy will naturally wish to support your faction more than the faction for which they originally built their structures, and change the color of their existing structures to show their new allegiance. Any new structure that starts more than one canal influences the humans along each canal. (Well done!) Remember how naturally touchy and violent the humans are, however. They will destroy any Martian structure that does not support their new favored faction if they haven't the materials to change its color.
As structures get surrounded, they may not supply sufficient energy for their demand, and may shrink. One at a time, you may choose one structure that is more than half surrounded to attack. A piece with larger neighbors is more likely to decay.
The ablest of you, as demonstrated by first having 3 Queen Pyramids dedicated to your own faction, shall be acclaimed The Wisest Human Husbandry Wizard.


  • Give each player 1 Stash, and 5 Gaming Stones that all players can agree "match" that player's color. For these pyramids, you may need 5 Treehouse Sets for up to 5 players, 10 Treehouse Sets for 6 to 10 players, plus a gray or pink stash or both for 11 or 12 players.
91 Board Piecepack
  • Place a 7 by 13 board in the middle of the table. Each square on the board should fit the larger of a large standing pyramid or the largest stone. The 7 columns should be marked or thought of as -3 to 3. Some options:
    • Use the One Page 91 Board or the Two Page 91 Board (for the latter, overlap the pages to make one 91 squares board of 7 by 13). Red columns are negative while green are positive.
    • Lay out 8 Piecepack tiles, face down, in 2 columns by 4 rows, separating adjacent tiles by half a tile width. This makes the play squares on the tiles and in the spaces between the tiles and the border around the tiles, 7 by 13, as in the image to the right.
    • Lay out 91 Fluxx cards face down in a 7 by 13 rectangle to form the board.
  • Randomly draw one stone to determine the first player, or determine the first player by another method upon which everyone can agree. Give the first player the dice. If you do not have 3 Fudge Dice, roll d4-d4 instead, with two colors of d4s. Extreme results are less likely and the game is better with 3dF, though.

Each Turn

  • Placement

Roll the dice to determine the column where you have convinced your humans to construct a new structure in your faction's color. If you rolled a column without empty fields, skip the placement phase of your turn. You place a stone or pyramid from your stash in an empty space in the column you rolled. You may place from your stash a stone circle, a pyramid of any size that is already on the board, or a pyramid one size larger than your largest pyramid, if you qualify. To qualify a larger pyramid, the new pyramid would be outnumbered in your color by the next size down, which would be outnumbered by smaller sizes and finally the Pawns would be outnumbered by stones. That is, a Pawn may be introduced by a player with two stones, a Drone by a player with two Pawns and three stones and a Queen by a player with two Drones, three Pawns and four stones. These are minimums: A player may place the first Drone with three Pawns and all five stones in their color on the board.

  • Canals

When you place at the end of an unbroken diagonal, row or column line with your color at the other end, replace intervening stones and pyramids with ones from your own stash. A stone can only be replaced with another stone, while a pyramid can only be replaced with a pyramid of the same size. Any intervening piece with no match in your stash is simply removed from the board. All removed or replaced pieces are returned to their owner's stash.

  • Decay

You may now attack one piece of any color that is more than half surrounded. A corner piece with two or more neighbors, an edge piece with three or more neighbors or an interior piece with five or more neighbors may be attacked. Roll the dice, add the Pip count of the neighbors of the attacked piece (regardless of color: all neighboring pieces strain the available energy), and subtract the Pip count of the attacked piece. Any positive result means the attacked piece decays. A decaying pyramid should be replaced with the next smaller size pyramid of the same color, while a decaying Pawn should be replaced by a stone circle. A decaying stone circle is removed. If the owner of a decaying piece does not have the next smaller size available, decay more than one size, or remove the attacked piece entirely if no smaller pieces at all are available.


Be the first with 3 Queen pyramids in play in your color. If you win with 4 Queen pyramids of your color, this is an impressive victory. Your faction will immediately win permission to hatch a new member of the Queen caste, and begin a new hive. If you win with all 5 pyramids of your color, you have achieved a truly amazing victory. Your faction may now take over one hive of your choice from any other faction. Draathastra! (Martian for High 5, but of course with 3.)

This work is distributed by Dennis D Duquette under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Inspired by Mage Stones, the out of print boardgame by the now defunct TSR.