Some megagames, you check the cast list and the character you’ve been given is a resounding meh. You often don’t know who they are or why they’re important, because you haven’t got any of the briefing material yet.
And then sometimes… sometimes you’re the Governor of Mars.
Crisis in Elysium
The setting is the early 22nd Century. Mars is home to 2.5 million people. 2 million of them live in its capital city Elysium, a group of three sealed habdomes with a population density similar to Manhattan. The population includes the first major generation of native Martians born on the planet, who are just hitting their 20s and 30s.
Earth has changed, and is now dominated by four superpowers. They are the United States of North America (USNA), the Federated States of India (FSI), the Greater Chinese Republic (GCR), and the European Union (EU). All four have large stakes in the development of Mars, and input to the new civilisation is carefully balanced.
If that weren’t enough conflict for you, get ready for a pile more. Mars is far from peaceful. Five, count ‘em, five radical organisations are vying for political power and sway over some of life’s most pressing issues in space. Would we continue to terraform the planet? Would we continue to allow immigration from Earth? What is the status of the Martian Colonial Authority (MCA)? Is political reform necessary and what does it look like? And, perhaps the most important, should Mars be independent from Earth?
Radical-wise, we have Red Mars, the Space IRA who want to limit immigration and terraforming to keep the planet in it’s natural state. Green Mars, the hippies who believe that Mars can become a new and better Earth, with terraforming and independence. One Humanity, who believe we are all humans and better off together, and willing to destroy those who say otherwise. The Church or the True Martians, a cult who believe the native Martian race lies slumbering beneath the surface. And the Utopians, a ragtag bunch with opinions as varying as the stars in the sky.
And into this mix, I was thrown. I had no real strong feelings over terraforming or immigration, or even political reform, although that may put my job into jeopardy. I didn’t even particularly want to stay Governor, though that would be nice if I managed to do my job well. And my job, the way I saw it? To bring peace to Mars. As quickly and as truly as possible.
The Martian Colonial Authority
I’m the Governor of Mars!
Posted by BeckyBecky Blogs on Saturday, 2 September 2017
My first job of the day was to size up my team mates. As Governor, I’m head of the Martian Colonial Authority. Also on my team were the Mayor of Elysium, plus the Elysium City Police Department comprising a Chief of Police and three regional operatives, one for each Dome. Since I would be sequestered off in the Council of Mars for most of the game, my eyes and ears in the main game room were to be those of the Mayor of Elysium.
I knew from the briefing that many had a negative view of the MCA, caused in large part by the shoddy reputation of the corrupt EPCD. To keep this in check, I issued strict instructions for my police: surveillance only. No taking any aggressive actions unless we have absolute proof that the raid targets were guilty of terrorism. I doled out most of our starting capital to them. But naturally, I kept back a sizeable portion for myself… just in case.
Before I knew it, the game had started, and I was heading into the Council Chamber…
The Council of Mars
My main task throughout the day was to sit on the Council of Mars. I began the game as Chair of the Council. This is more than a figurehead position. This council was the only means of changing the laws and practices of the planet. And I was the only person with the power to call a vote on any matter.
All four of the Earthly superpowers have seats on the Council of Mars. The Council also included independent Martian politicians, plus the Speaker of the House and yours truly. It was very apparent from the briefing material that each of the politicians had a leaning towards a certain radical faction, although how strong a leaning was yet to be determined.
Meanwhile, I knew that the rest of the council believe that, as an appointed Governor, I was merely a puppet for the Earth governments. I was determined to prove them wrong, and to do my best.
Sussing Out The Competition
At the first council session, it became immediately obvious who the “trouble” would be. Matt was one of the independent politicians who I suspected had dealings with the Church. He leapt into the conversation with a suggestion to set up an Independent Police Complaints Commission, or IPCC. Since part of my briefing was to rein in the EPCD, and to cut out the corruption, I was totally in favour of this, although in most of the votes I abstained as a matter of course. The vote passed, and I used the opportunity to lobby for increased funding for the police. Unfortunately the required sum of 20 Support was far far out of our budget.
Meanwhile, there was the small matter of a terrorist attack. Just before the game started, the largest spaceport on the planet had been bombed. No faction had claimed responsibility for it yet. We agreed unilaterally that an investigation into the bombing was necessary. And the USNA cheerfully volunteered to be responsible for repair.
Council sessions were tiring to run. With 11 different opinions diverging all over the place, it was difficult to keep everyone satisfied that they were being heard, while keeping the planet organised. Players would happily debate their pet causes to death, leaving little time for the actual running of the thing.
Police Out Of Control
I left the council to the news that my police force had already gone rogue. They’d tortured a Red Mars prisoner to death, apparently.
Naturally the ECPD denied it. Keen to believe that I hadn’t already been screwed over, my statements to the press made it clear that we’d be looking into this, and that as soon as we were able to we would release proof that these claims were unfounded. I genuinely meant it!
Keeping Things Under Control
Our second council meeting brought up one of these key issues that I felt sure we would never get a proper consensus on: immigration. Currently, we were allowing 5000 people to immigrate from Earth a month. The proposition was to reduce it to 2000. As expected, the vote was tight, though narrowly defeated. I suggested, to keep a handle on the big issues, that we would alternate discussing terraforming and immigration each turn.
Meanwhile, the FSI was causing trouble. It appeared they’d been making aggressive actions in the Western Heights dome. I knew that if any of the Gov factions took over MCA-controlled wards, we’d never get them back under our control, so I was keen to stop expansion by both Rad and Gov factions alike. A motion was passed, with my support for once, that they should withdraw their troops.
Finally, we agreed to begin a fund to increase the police, with the Gov factions, plus the MCA, putting up half the necessary Support. A carefully worded motion was passed to keep the money in reserve for now. I have to say, wording the motions was one of my favourite parts of the job!
Those Pesky Police
Yes more bad news awaited me. Now, it appeared that the police had fired on peaceful Green Mars protesters outside the Parliament building.
A bit more digging let me to discover that it was in fact Ares Security, hired by my police, that had done the shooting. And since we knew that Ares were also working with Radical factions, it wasn’t difficult to conclude that they’d simply paid Ares more, to ruin our reputation.
Sadly, I was told all this by the totally corrupt police member in my faction, which I wouldn’t discover until after the game. But it shaped the next few turns for me.
Power to the Police
My first action in the third council meeting was to get the IPCC properly up and running. It turned out that while we had some lovely stationery, they weren’t doing much. We elected three politicians to the committee and set them the task of investigating both the prison death and the Ares shooting.
The unreliability of Ares gave me the opportunity to push for that final bit of funding for the police. With the increased numbers, I pointed out, we wouldn’t have to resort to using mercs that were easily paid off by the rads. To my surprise, the money was gathered and the motion passed.
FSI had withdrawn their units, thankfully, so I didn’t have to dole out any more judgement there. Instead, we heard a report from a group of Chinese scientists. They’d discovered “native Martian microbes”, and wanted us to halt terraforming until more could be discovered about them – over the course of the next 5 years or longer!
Rather than vote on halting terraforming completely, I held a vote that it should be reduced by one level, pending more information. The motion passed easily.
Finally, we heard some economic reports that the constant protesting was bringing the city to a halt. They asked us to consider banning protests. Naturally, this caused massive amounts of uproar. Opinions in the room ranged from “that completely violates the Human Rights Act” to “maybe we should ask them to register their protests in advance” to “sounds great!”. Unfortunately I accidentally on purpose let them discuss it for too long! We ran out of time for a vote.
Attack on Parliament (Or Not)
Things had been getting more dangerous out on Mars. At the start of Council 4, I decided it was time to talk more frankly about protecting ourselves, so that Mars could continue to function… Then Control stepped in and told us we were covered in rubble.
Initially they told us that the Parliament building had been blown up, although apparently it was the police building instead. But it made it very very easy to pass the resolution that we needed a Green Zone around the Parliament, and to get it paid for by the terrified politicians.
The various Gov groups brought forward multiple concerns about aggressive actions by other Govs. Various people demanded that they be forced to stand down, lower their rules of engagement, etc. I let them debate it out for a little while. Then we proposed a solution the sensible course of action would be to allow all Govs to create a Green Zone around their embassies, self-funded of course.
Finally, the question of political reform came up again. This was the one area I didn’t want to get into, as you may have spotted. I let the debate go on for a long time, with the EU being particularly in favour of allowing other political parties to form, rather than only allowing candidates to stand to get onto the Council. I wondered aloud what that would even mean. What effect would it actually have? I ruled that it wouldn’t be an actually significant change, but if he came back with a proper motion with a proper result, I’d bring it to the table (intending to do no such thing, of course).
Council of Mars
Posted by BeckyBecky Blogs on Saturday, 2 September 2017
Barely minutes into the fifth council meeting, it happened, as I knew it would. Matt threw down 10 Support, calling a vote to elect a new Chair of the Council. I’d kept back the five Support necessary to challenge him. Sadly he’d spent a lot of time talking to all of the Govs and many politicians, so I had only a handful of supporters left in the room.
This was probably the worst meeting of the game for me. I had few real opinions, just a desire to bring Mars peace. With my power chopped off at the knees, how was I going to do that?
Matt almost immediately called a vote on allowing political parties to form. I stubbornly abstained to show my impartiality… not that it would have mattered. He also resigned from the IPCC, which had discovered that the Red Mars in captivity had actually committed suicide (not that anyone really believed that, not even me any more).
The Govs continued to be at each others’ throats, so a vote was passed to try to keep them in check. Unfortunately, Matt was much less good at phrasing motions than me 😉 . While the intention was to reduce all rules of engagement to level 2, most of the Govs didn’t actually realise that…
Finally, it was decided that Ares needed to be dealt with. I’d been against them ever since I was (falsely) told that they’d been paid off by Red Mars. Step one was to make their business transactions transparent.
It was very apparent that the Gov military restriction hadn’t worked as intended, as FSI came into the sixth meeting calling for USNA blood. It appeared that the USNA had attacked their base, in retaliation for being restricted access to the tunnels between domes. FSI called for USNA to be convicted of a war crime, but enough of the council were skeptical that it didn’t reach the crucial super-majority.
Second time lucky! Matt successfully passed a motion to set up a Security Council who would make sure they stayed in line, and hopefully to combat the Rad threat a little better. Their first edict was that all Govs should reduce to rules of engagement level 2. Their second, that Govs could only take military action with agreement of the council. And finally, that Govs couldn’t work with Ares Security. It seemed the investigation into their accounts raised some flags.
As I knew, the first relapse in political reform led to another. This turn, two Radical factions were granted observer status on the Council: Green Mars and the Church of the True Martians. I’d managed to argue them down from even considering full status, but this was still a blow.
Not the only blow I’d be delivered that council…
Right at the end of the council session, a rebellious looking fellow strolled in. Dressed in yellow, and shouting Free Mars, there was no question that he was a Utopian. He levelled his gun at my head and shot me.
As you can see in this video, I was stunned at first… and then kind of thrilled. I don’t think I’ve ever been killed in a megagame before! Someone thought me a worthy enough opponent that I couldn’t be left alive, Chair of the Council or not!
During my death time, when I could only speak to players to say “I’m dead”, I discovered who ordered my death. It was the EU, but I had no idea why! I’d been arguing against political reform, sure, but those motions had been passing easily now that Matt was actually bringing them to vote! Why was I such a threat?
And naturally, when I came back to life as my eager new successor, I had no recollection of this knowledge. I had to stonewall it from my mind for the remainder of the game, and track down more likely suspects.
It’s All Matt’s Fault
Reborn as an excitable new Governor who continued not to care much about immigration or terraforming, but who was much less beholden to peace, I took my place back at the council.
So I died and I'm really pleased about that
Posted by BeckyBecky Blogs on Saturday, 2 September 2017
Not everyone did, however. The Security Council found that of the four Govs, only one had reduce their rules of engagement level. The USNA failed to turn up to defend their actions (apparently there was some pretty messed up shit going down in their faction). GCR announced defiantly that the Council held no real power on Mars any more and stormed out. And the FSI stood their ground, claiming that they needed to keep level 3 “to protect themselves from the USNA”… despite the fact that defensive actions were possible under level 2.
It got worse. News came in that there was a WMD on Mars itself.
And the city was falling apart. My quick recce into the main room showed that two wards had already completely collapsed from damage, and there were five more areas damaged. The council managed to raise some funds to repair the damaged wards, but there was nothing to be done to save the collapsed ones.
Obviously this was all the fault of the new Chair. None of this, including her own assassination, would ever have happened on my predecessor’s watch.
Things were starting to feel frantic in council meeting eight. We managed to persuade the USNA and GCR to come back to the council. The GCR sat there stubbornly, waiting for their topic to be broached and refusing to engage in the rest of the conversation.
Meanwhile, the USNA were taken to task. In the last turn, they’d detonated a large bomb at the rail station. The FSI was indignant that if we’d found them guilty of a war crime earlier, this might have never happened. No worries, they were convicted this time. But it was too late – both the rogue commander who’d detonated the bomb, and his commander, had already died. Although some within the council called for the USNA Council Rep to be punished, very few of us wanted to punish an unrelated party. They were sanctioned, but no one was executed.
GCR spoke up. They wanted to know why the air and water had been turned off to their base by the MCA. Had we??? I dashed into the main room and spoke to the ECPD Core Commander. Unfortunately, this was the traitor. I told him to turn them back on, but didn’t have time to question him too deeply on why he’d turned them off in the first place, nor to ask ECPD Chief Jamie to interrogate him. If I had, perhaps we’d have found our mole…
I arrived back at the council to find out that turning off air and water would now be considered a war crime. I really really really hoped he wouldn’t do it again…
The Radical Problem
The final discussion in that council meeting was around trying to find a diplomatic solution to the question of the Radicals. It seemed that Red Mars, Green Mars and the Utopians had set up a political party called the Independent Mars Party (IMP), and were open to discussion. I didn’t believe it, personally. If they wanted to talk peacefully, why were they still attacking us?
In fact, around that very moment, Red Mars attacked the USNA base, while the Utopians caused the ward it was in to collapse completely.
The Green Mars representative, was asked to give his opinion, which I objected to in the strongest possible terms. IMO, once you give someone an opening once, it’s far easier for them to speak up a second and a third time. And especially since the Mars Parliament building was currently controlled by Green Mars… I didn’t feel terribly safe speaking up against them.
The decision we came to, although we ran out of time to vote, was to have off-world talks with the IMP leaders.
The Phobos Talks
The next council session was brief, and ratified the talks as well as deciding which four politicians would be going along. I was chosen as one of them, and immediately tried to get the Chief of the ECPD along too, so I could arrest them the second they made a threat. Matt vetoed that plan.
At the last minute, the head of One Humanity was invited as well. If we were going to sort the terrorists out, we needed to speak to all of them.
The meeting went round in circles. I told them unilaterally that until the terrorist attacks stopped, for a good long time, we wouldn’t even consider giving them a single seat on the Council. The leader of Red Mars demanded a seat if they stopped for just 3 weeks. I was determined that threatening us wouldn’t make us give in. Matt tried to be more reasonable, and offered them a seat if they stopped the bombing for three months. We also circled around the number of seats – one seat between them, a seat for each Rad faction, etc.
They asked how we’d keep the Govs from attacking them. We pointed to the successful conviction for war crimes, and our security council (while not going into detail about how not-very-successful it was).
We strongly questioned why Green Mars continued to stand with the rest of IMP, considering they’d been the most peaceable during the game. But the group held together.
The parties left, agreeing to a one turn ceasefire. Further discussions would continue next turn – assuming they held to the ceasefire.
What’s Even Going On?
This is when things start to get weird.
All of the Domes’ tunnels were closed off, restricting access through them, and the Utopians set off a chemical weapon in there. Apparently this happened before the ceasefire was agreed to. And apparently reps from IMP even convicted the “rogue operative” of war crimes an executed him. Never mind that war crime convictions were strictly a Council of Mars thing…
I also spotted on the news that the MCA had been dissolved, and the ECPD had been taken EU control. This was 100% news to me, and I believe I called it “bullshit” when questioned by the press. You can see the full press archive here.
But no, the ceasefire didn’t hold. Red Mars attacked the GCR base almost immediately. In response, I went around criticising Matt’s leadership, and managed to get 5 people on-board with me taking over as chair, on a platform that Matt was being too trusting in the word of the Radicals.
At the start of the tenth council meeting, the Chair heard the news that the ceasefire hadn’t held. He literally head-desked. I saw this as my opportunity to strike.
Although 5 plus me would have been enough to win out at the council, clearly one went go back on his promise mid-meeting. Our final meeting was so manic that I didn’t even have time to work out who.
After supporting my bid, which would have led to the removal of Green Mars from being a Council Observer, FSI proposed that the Green Mars observer should be granted a full council seat. The rep in the room claimed that Green Mars didn’t stand with the rest of IMP. There was one problem – their leader was currently sitting waiting for us on Phobos, with the other two faction leaders. I pointed out that either he was lying, in which case he shouldn’t get a seat, or he didn’t properly represent the Green Mars faction… in which case, what would we gain by having him on the council. The room agreed with me, and the motion failed.
We still had the faction leaders waiting for us on Mars. Showing no hard feelings, Matt beckoned to me and muttered a suggestion in my ear. I was right on it.
We headed to Phobos: ECPD Chief Jamie, Matt and myself. Upon arrival, we immediately arrested the three heads of the factions. It was glorious.
…and More Failure!
Less glorious was our return to the Council Chamber. We told the rest of the Council what had happened, and as we left the building to tell the Press the good news, an alarm began to go off. We ran back indoors and sought shelter under a desk. Ares Security, whose profits had suffered since we stopped working with them, had got their revenge, chemical weapon style.
The game ended before we could determine whether we’d survived or not.
Honestly, anyone who wanted peace on Mars was on a hiding to nothing. I don’t see how resolving the tension is even vaguely possible, without immense numbers of Gov units coming to the planet to crack down on the Rads. Which would probably lead to that Gov having complete control over Mars, which the other Govs wouldn’t like. Leading to war on Earth.
So the next time you share this meme:
Consider that chances are, space isn’t any better.
As a game, however, it was fantastic. Being on the council was crazy fun, and I’m super impressed by how many different mutually-exclusive points of view Alex Beck managed to cram into his first ever megagame. Here’s to the Second Crisis in Elysium!
My next megagame is Still Not Over By Christmas, a Cold War game on 23rd September in Sheffield where I’ll be on the Control team, and my next London megagame is Red Dawn, a game about the Russian Revolution on 21st October.