Game review by
Franklin Rinaldi, Common Sense Media
Tharsis Game Poster Image
Challenging, complex survival dice game is hard but fun.

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Kids say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Educational Value

Kids can learn to plan, prioritize, and use critical decision-making. They'll also need to manage their time effectively -- the stress and hunger will grow, and their available dice will decline if not properly managed. Players also will have to manage the damage the ship takes to ensure they can progress another week and survive. Players will fail frequently, but each failure is a learning experience. Tharsis is an unforgiving game of strategy and luck; most missions will fail, but those who learn to persevere will relish the challenge.

Positive Messages

Survival in space is extremely difficult but satisfying and requires patience, planing, ingenuity.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Players act as mission commander but frequently have to make hard decisions that eliminate crew members for possible survival of others.

Ease of Play

Gameplay is simple; understanding the complexity of the strategy is extremely difficult.


Though no violence is shown, it's implied with the inclusion of cannibalism as a feature of survival. Dice also turn red, drip blood upon rolling when crew are stressed, near death.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Tharsis is a downloadable turn-based space strategy game with dice. Players are put in control of a mission to Mars that's struck by a micro-meteoroid storm, damaging the ship. Managing the disasters, stress of the crew, food shortages, and potential cannibalism, all in the name of survival, makes this game intense. Each decision is about mitigating problems, keeping the crew alive, and making it just one more week closer to Mars. Understanding the modules, class abilities, research, event management, and a whole lot of luck will determine your mission success rate. Tharsis is very unforgiving, and players will fail more often than they win.

User Reviews

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Teen, 16 years old Written byLucan1010 February 8, 2016

Excellent Virtual Dice Game is Difficult but Fun

Violence: Constant sense of peril and foreboding doom in game-play and story, characters can and will die from accidents, and be prepared to lose many, many tim... Continue reading

What's it about?

THARSIS puts you on a journey to Mars; it's humanity's first manned mission to the red planet. Along the way, you're caught in a micro-meteoroid storm that severely damages the ship and kills two crew members. Space is unforgiving and unpredictable. With limited resources in a now fragile vessel, you must guide your crew of four through the disasters plaguing you, managing food shortages and the stress of the crew while also deciphering the cryptic signals and warnings being transmitted from Mars. Though the trip may have been doomed from the start, you are committed, so even if you must resort to cannibalism, you will aim to complete the mission.

Is it any good?

This isn't a game for those who want to take the easy path, because there isn't one. It's very unforgiving, and though on the surface it may appear that it's luck-based, it really is a game of strategy. In this turn-based system, you have to survive 10 weeks (turns) where you roll the dice to seal your fate. Tharsis is tough -- there are no bones made about that. The odds of winning are very low, and you'll fail many, many times before you really understand how to play. Many gamers won't make it through the steep learning curve and all the hurdles it throws at you.

But if you're persistent, it becomes evident that Tharsis is much deeper than it originally seems. The complexity in the strategy among crew, modules, events, and research take it to a level all its own. And though lady luck does play a factor, learning how to use luck to your benefit is what makes this game so addictive to those who enjoy the challenge. Tharsis is definitely not for everyone, but those who enjoy sci-fi, survival horror, tabletop, and dice-rolling all in one are going to love it. The rare times you win will feel like you've won the lottery and scaled Mt. Everest at the same time.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the balance of risk versus reward. How do you know if ramifications of major decisions will have a larger effect than what is immediately obvious?

  • Discuss persistence. How does failure help teach someone how to succeed? How can mistakes show you the best ways to make decisions and choices that positively solve problems?

Game details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love space adventures

Themes & Topics

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