Onward to Venus is set in the retro sci-fi world created by Greg Broadmore. In this alternative reality space travel exists in an end-of-the-nineteenth century setting. There are planets and moons all waiting to be settled and exploited, although the local inhabitants might kick up a fuss. Fortunately for the Earthling civilisers there is a range of highly useful ray-guns, created by Doctor Grordbort, to convince the natives to behave themselves. Foremost exponent of the benefits of the good Doctor’s weaponry would be Lord Cockswain, recognised by all as the Earth’s best human.
Each player takes on the role of one of the major Earth-based empires, which are Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia and the United States of America. The aim of the game is to gain influence over the planets and moons of the Solar System by building factories and digging mines.
Rather than having a single board to play on you have eight planets/moons, represented by large board circles, which you lay out in a line on the table.
The game is played over three periods. At the start of each period a number of tiles are drawn randomly and placed on the various planets and moons. Players then take it in turn to perform actions, one at a time. Players continue to perform actions until all of the cubes from the ‘Pass’ card have been claimed.
Most actions involve claiming a tile. Tiles come in all sorts of types, allowing you to build factories, dig mines, take cards, shoot interesting creatures, take money and attack other players. One other type of tile may lead to a crisis situation developing. Tiles are split into two general types, those that can simply be claimed by moving something on to the surface of the planet/moon, and those that have to be fought for. The latter will involve the rolling of dice to determine how many combat points you need to dedicate to the battle.
There are three types of military units in the game, which are infantry, spaceships and AFVs (i.e. tanks). Infantry are cheap, making them expendable. Spaceships are costly but can fly around the Solar System, taking infantry with them if required. AFVs are good in combat but are stuck on the planet/moon that they have been constructed on. Players can build military units as an action.
Military units are placed in orbit around the planet/moon they have been constructed on. While in orbit they can be moved. If a unit is used to claim a tile or committed to battle then it is moved down to the surface of the planet/moon where that action takes place. Once on the surface a unit cannot be involved in any more actions. Thus, the more units you have the more actions you can perform. All units are moved back into orbit at the beginning of each new turn.
Cards play a big part in the game. You get them by claiming tiles with cards marked on them. Cards are drawn randomly from the deck, so you have no idea what you are going to get. Most cards will help you in combat. Others will aid you in some shape or form. In all cases cards are one-use only, so you discard the card after playing it. There are no bad cards, just some are more useful than others. You can get by without them but on the whole it’s better to have some in hand just in case. A good player will shape his or her strategy around the cards they have. Although you do not know what you are going to draw neither do other players, allowing you to spring a cunning strategic move that will catch them unawares.
End of turn
At the end of each turn a check is made to see if any crises occur. At the start of the turn one or more Crisis tiles may have been drawn, thus giving players notice of impending trouble. Crisis tiles can be dealt with, it just usually takes a lot of military force to do so. During the Crisis Check phase dice are rolled to see if the situation worsens. The nature of a crisis depends on which planet or moon the Crisis tiles are on. A crisis on Earth will mean a robot revolution, while one on Mars will result in an invasion of Earth. Further out towards the edge of the Solar System it is also possible that aliens from another Galaxy turn up to create havoc.
After three turns the game ends and players score points depending on how much influence they have on each planet/moon, which is measured by the number of factories and mines they have on each one.
The game can be played by two, three, four or five players and should take around ninety minutes to complete.