Know Your Enemy – Martians vs Zombies

IFOS logo

Most people I know who tried (or want to try) Invasion From Outer Space are those who are currently playing Last Night On Earth, and they always want to know the difference between how the Martians behave compared to Zombies. One time, I played with a veteran LNOE player and he underestimated the Martians badly, resulting to him losing after only a few turns. Since he’s dealt with Zombies before, he thought the Martians would be similar.

I’ve been reading about IFOS and I’ve seen a lot of complaints about how unbalanced the game is in favor of the Martians. While I admit that it’s harder to play as the Heroes and it’s much easier controlling the Martians at the beginning, when you start playing the game more often the game balances out. To help other IFOS players win more using the Humans, and to promote this game to LNOE players who are considering crossing over, I decided to write a series of articles that will deal with strategizing, and the first will be about the Martians. It’s easiest to compare the Martians with Zombies, so that’s what I’ll do.

martian 2


In some aspects, Martians move like Zombies and differently in others. The similarities are:

  • Martians can only move 1 square at a time in any direction, like Zombies.
  • Martians cannot move out of any square with a Hero, just like Zombies.

But the differences in their movement means you have to tackle the Martians differently:

  • Martians cannot walk through walls like the Zombies can.
  • Martians cannot move through doors diagonally, just like the Heroes (Zombies ignore the walls so doors don’t matter).
  • Martians do not have the Hunger that compels Zombies to move adjacent to or into a square occupied by the Hero.
  • Only 3 Martians can occupy one square at any given time (they can’t enter a square with too many Martians even in the middle of movement).

Despite moving at the same pace as Zombies, Martians have more trouble chasing after a Hero if walls and buildings are concerned so Heroes can use the buildings on a map as chokepoints or bottlenecks to limit the Martian movement. On the flipside, Martians don’t have the Hunger weakness, so the Heroes can’t bait them as easily as Zombies – if the Martian player realizes that something fishy is going on, he can easily pull his forces back and regroup.

IFOS poster tiki tiki tak

Health and Respawning

Martians and Zombies are quite different in these two aspects. In terms of health:

  • Martians usually die once they’re wounded; Zombies die when they’re hit by guns or when they lose to a doubles roll in a Fight.

So it’s easier to kill the Martians and reduce their numbers – that’s good right? Well, not exactly. Martians and Zombies respawn differently too:

  • Martians can respawn without balancing their numbers across the available Landing Sites but there can only be up to 3 Martians in the square of the Landing Site after respawning; Zombies have to be balanced across their Spawning Pits.
  • The Martians have the ability to move their Landing Sites at the cost of 1 Command Point; Zombies spawn from the printed Spawning Pits and can’t move them without the help of card effects (although I’m not sure if there are any cards that would help them do this).
  • The Martians can pay 2 Command Points to summon immediate reinforcements – that’s spawning a random amount of Martians before their Move and Attack phases; Zombies need to draw into certain Zombie cards in order to respawn outside of their normal respawn phase.
  • When determining if Martians can respawn at the end of the Martian Turn, they roll against the number of squares occupied by Martians; Zombies roll against the number of Zombies on the board.

So what does this mean for our Heroes? First of all, it makes the Martian players a little more unpredictable. By the time Heroes act, they already know where the Zombies are and can plan accordingly – after all, the Zombie player can’t have new Zombies until after they’ve completed most of their turn. But the Martians can decide to summon reinforcements and have these newly summoned Martians attack right after, so the Heroes can’t let their guard down.

Also, that advantage that Martians can be killed easily? Well, the Martians can easily respawn any/all the Martians killed on their next turn at a more convenient or strategic location. Let’s say you killed a Martian at the NW corner of the board. The Martian player can summon that Martian at another location of his choice – combined with the movable Landing Spaces and the lack of a balanced spawning requirement makes this more of an advantage for the Martian player. And if you’re playing a scenario where the number of Martians killed doesn’t matter, then killed Martians don’t really hurt the Martian player – his Martians are expendable and are easily replaced.


IFOS poster 2


Finally, we get to the combat aspect of the game, another area where Martians and Zombies are really different from each other and where the Martian Pack Tactics really stand out. The differences:

  • Martians can attack Heroes via Fighting and/or Ray Guns; Zombies can only attack Heroes via Fighting.
  • When shooting their Ray Guns, Martians can attack into their own space, or at adjacent spaces (essentially a range of 1). Martians conduct Ray Gun attacks by rolling 1D6 per Martian and “hit” on each result of 5+ but a full Martian Pack (3 Martians) “hit” on each result of 4+.
    • Heroes still have a chance to Dodge these hits by making their Agility roll.
    • Martians can shoot through adjacent walls in the same way that Heroes can.

Let’s stop here and discuss Ray Gun Attacks first before we move on to Fights. The Martian Ray Gun attack offers an advantage over the Zombie offense just by the fact that they can attack a Hero twice in the same turn (they get to Fight after Ray Gun Attacks). While the Ray Gun Attack is easily dodged (at worst, without card effects, a Hero can dodge a Ray Gun Attack with a 1D6 roll of 4+), it is still a powerful aspect of the Martian offense because it is an attack that suffers no retaliation, just like the LNOE Heroes with their ranged gun attacks.

And a full Martian Pack can easily score 3 hits (three D6 rolls of 4+) in one Ray Gun Attack – imagine being the Hero and having to roll 3 times, needing a 3+ (the average Agility roll needed by IFOS Heroes) on each roll. Now, imagine controlling a Hero that’s surrounded by 3 full Martian Packs – that’s 9D6 of Ray Gun attacks. Imagine that 50% of the attacks “hit” your Hero – you now have to roll 5 straight times, needing a 3+ on every roll with each roll 1 or 2 resulting in a wound.

And we’re not done yet – don’t forget, these Martians can also Fight.

  • Martians fight as a Pack – all 3 Martians fight Heroes at the same time and roll 1 Fight die per Martian in a fight; Zombies fight individually and only roll 1 Fight die in fights. Against Heroes, Zombies are at a disadvantage since most Heroes roll 2 Fight dice (they have better chances of getting the higher roll). A single Martian suffers a similar disadvantage, but two Martians fight on equal terms with most Heroes, and three Martians have a 1 Fight die advantage.
  • Martians tie on ties and the Fight is resolved without anyone getting wounded; Zombies win on ties.
  • Upon losing a Fight, the Hero gets to wound one of the Martians in the pack (resulting in death for the poor Martian) which results in making the Martian Pack weaker; Zombies are only killed if the Hero wins the fight with a doubles roll, otherwise they are only fended off.
  • Martian Packs have to fight each Hero in the space they’re occupying and in cases where there are multiple Heroes to fight, the Human Player decides which order the Heroes are fought; Zombies pair off against Heroes and resolve the fights separately.

The manner in which Martians and Zombies fight are quite different and it’s really not immediately clear as to which manner is more advantageous. On one hand, Martian Packs get to roll more Fight dice depending on the situation. On the other hand, Zombies win on ties. That’s a big advantage right there.

And if a full Martian pack loses its first fight against multiple Heroes, they suffer the big disadvantage of having to fight other Heroes without getting the benefit of being a full Martian Pack – they roll one less Fight dice per loss. Meanwhile, a losing Zombie still has a big chance of surviving the Fight and staying reanimated to fight another Fight. I’d say that when it comes to Fights, full Martian Packs have a slightly better chances of winning, but losses can be more devastating to them.

IFOS poster 3

Those are all the differences that I can come up with between Martians and Zombies without bringing up their respective cards and sticking only to the base sets, but these should cover a lot and help future Human Hero players determine how to deal with these pesky invaders.


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Filed under Board Games, Flying Frog Productions

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