The year is 2179, and Earth's future seems bleak. Years of pollution have tarnished the landscape, and the world's supplies of natural resources have dwindled to abysmal levels.The use of electric vehicles, solar technologies, and other energy-saving solutions have slowed the problem, but the long-term abuse on the planet by previous generations has been hard to reverse. Most Earthlings seem to have given up hope, yet a group of optimistic explorers are trekking to Mars, which some believe may turn around their fate.
In search of knowledge, these explorers hope that understanding the demise of alien populations can assist them with preventing or at least slowing the rapid deterioration of Earth. They'll need to replicate Martian technologies, translate their languages, and avoid gaining too much radiation along the way in order to end up with the most prestige and save Earth as they know it.
In Ruins of Mars, players compete to build out their arsenal of knowledge, attempting to understand the languages of ancient civilizations that colonized Mars and made it a hub of economic activity. The game is played around a board with five locations and eleven communal action tiles that are laid out at random underneath the board as evenly as possible.
On a turn, you choose one of the locations, optionally pay to shift an action tile from an adjacent location to the active one, take the action of the location — the effect of which will be based on the tiles below that space — optionally replicate alien tech by paying resources and adding it to your board for personal use, then reallocate the action tiles from the active site in a mancala-like fashion.
Over the course of the game, you learn the Martian languages and re-discover and study their technologies, which come in three levels and multiple classifications and which grant you special abilities. Along the way, you might pick up radiation from various actions, and you'll want to ditch that if possible so as not to lose points in the final scoring, which is mostly based on the tech you've assembled and your skill with languages.