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Surviving Mars: Guide to Health and Morale

There will be challenges to overcome. Execute your strategy and improve your colony’s chances of survival while unlocking the mysteries of this alien world. Are you ready? Mars is waiting for you.


High and Low Stats

  • A stat is high if it is 70 or higher
  • A stat is low if it is 29 or lower

These are game constants and are used to determine what color a stat displays as and whether bonuses or penalties are applied. For example Whiner trait causes sanity penalties at low comfort, that means comfort less than 30.

Other Surviving Mars Guides:

Breakthroughs, Events and Traits

For the most part I’m not going to be mentioning the effects from Breakthroughs and Events, for they are many and often aren’t encountered in any given game. Also I won’t mention all colonist traits, but I try to mention the more important for gameplay ones.


Health Bonuses

  • +5 Health for resting at night.
  • Visiting a medical building awards a large bonus, but does not work when colonists are starving, freezing, dehydrated or asphyxiating.
  • Visiting Open Air Gym or Tai-Chi Garden awards a very large bonus and status effects do not prevent the health being awarded.

Health Penalties

  • -10 for Heavy Workload
  • If Oxygen, Water or Power is missing for an unbroken duration of about 1 sol (it’s slightly randomized), a randomized health penalty is applied which can sometimes be very large, oxygen deprivation can even be over 100 health damage, instantly killing full health colonists.
  • If a colonist fails to eat a meal they become starving and lose about 2 health per hour until they eat.

High and Low Health

  • A colonist at high health gets a +5 morale bonus.
  • A colonist with middle health seeks the Medical Checks service if they don’t have anything better to do.
  • A colonist at low health suffers a -10 morale penalty and is unable to work unless they have the Fit trait, they aggressively seek the Medical Checks service.

A colonist will not intentionally seek services that award health other than Medical Checks.

When a colonist reaches 0 health they drop dead and are ejected from the building they are currently in onto the sidewalk. Death is an incurable condition except via the Phoenix Project breakthrough.

Health in Practise

Health is really quite obvious and you hardly ever need to pay attention to it. If you’ve taken care of sanity then health is also taken care of.

Even though Heavy Workload applies a -10 comfort penalty, this does not result in losing the +5 morale/performance bonus for high health. This is because a colonist will go to work, they’ll be flogged to make them work harder and after the shift is over lose 10 health. Now that they have middle health they seek medical care and get healed back over 70 ready to work the next shift at High Health.

There are only a few traits that affect health. Survivor reduces health losses during management disasters, Party Animals gain extra health when exercising at Gym for some reason, it might be a bug. Chronic Condition loses 8 health per sol.

How to keep colonists alive during prolonged disasters
Plan A should be to not run out of life support or provide uninterruptible life support, for example a single hydroponics running Algae provides 1 oxygen to its dome, even if it is disabled.

Plan B is to pulse life support. a colonist needs to have been missing life support for ~24 hours before they suffer a health penalty. Even a brief pulse of life support once per sol will entirely prevent that health penalty. So if you know you ARE going to run out, and there are still several sols to go, switch off tanks/batteries, then switch back on briefly once per sol. Colonists sanity will still get tanked, and some will commit suicide if not religious, but it means no-one will die of low health.

Plan C is what I call Survival of the Fittest and the Last Resort of the Desperate. Provide an ample number of Open Air Gyms and disable any service that provides Social, such as Diners. Colonists who like Exercise or Social will go to the Gym and regenerate large amounts of health, this should cause them to live a lot longer than their more sedentary companions. In fact exercising can very nearly counteract the health penalty from Starving, and Party Animals and Survivors can survive indefinitely without food provided they are working out every day. Since asphyxiation can instantly kill colonists Exercise is less effective against low oxygen.

This colonist refuses to go quietly into the night!


Morale is different to the other three traits in that it is calculated entirely on the basis of the current status of the colonist with no reference to past events.

Colonist’s base morale is somewhat randomized.

Morale Bonuses

  • +5 each for High Health, Comfort and Sanity
  • +10 for being Religious, an additional +10 for each Saint in the Dome.
  • +10 for being a Nerd if a technology has recently been researched (non-stacking)

Morale Penalties

  • -10 each for Low Health, Comfort and Sanity

High and Low Morale

  • Colonists gain a work performance benefit or penalty equal to Morale – 50.

Renegade creation happens on a dome basis rather than an individual colonist basis and is determined by the average morale of the non-child, non-renegade residents living in the dome. The renegade creation threshold is 65 morale.

Every sol, progress towards the next renegade accumulates equal to

  • 65 – average_morale

(morale higher than 65 reverses progress). Once the accumulated progress equals 231 the colonist with the lowest morale is picked to become a Renegade. If the Rebel Yell game rule is active then the dome is treated as having an average morale of 55 even if it is higher, but this only applies if the dome has more than 15 population and only when fewer than 20% of the population beyond the 15th are renegades, otherwise the non-Rebel Yell rule applies.

A dome with a morale of 64 would take 231 sols to generate a renegade, a dome with a morale of 50 would take 16 sols.

Morale In Practise

Given that Morale is a sum of other factors there is no real way to directly manipulate morale, other than promoting the Religious and Nerd traits when picking applicants and assigning traits to schools. These traits both give +10 morale which is quite a nice bonus especially for wrong-spec workers.

The average worker with proper specialization has a performance of 100, and the +10 performance bonus is a +10% increase in productivity. The average wrong-spec has a performance of 50, and the +10 performance bonus is a +20% increase in productivity. Hence these morale bonuses are extra valuable when colonists are doing wrong-spec work.

The Enthusiast trait awards a +20 performance bonus when at High Morale. In practise the Enthusiast trait is not very useful, unless a colonist rolls particularly high base morale they are unlikely to reach 70 morale unless they are also Religious and a Nerd or being blessed by a saint, or you get lucky with morale-boosting Breakthroughs. Feel free to teach it in schools together with Nerd and Religious.


Low morale causes renegadism and other than avoiding low morale in the first place you have three main ways of dealing with them:

  • Assign them to their own dome via filters and either cut off the life support or don’t provide the dome with food.
  • Ignore them, they still work, just at reduced efficiency, and usually only cause minor economic damage (but keep them out of domes with genuinely expensive stuff), eventually they grow old and die. Security Stations don’t really seem worthwhile, why suffer the guaranteed loss of the output of 6 workers, when renegades usually only cause minor harm.
  • Assign them to their own dome via filters and provide it with life support. After a while an event may cause the dome to declare independence. Leave it for a while and it’ll rejoin you and the renegades are cured.


Provide a Diner, Grocer and Infirmary per 50 population. This keeps people in middle to high comfort, keeps them healthy and is cheap.

Use Heavy Workload and Nightshift liberally to increase building performance and productivity but be aware you need to keep a close eye on medical capacity if you are stacking these abusive work practises, and turn these practises off during Dust Storms and Cold Waves.

When life support is missing, colonists suffer sanity damage immediately but won’t suffer it again until the next sol, on the other hand health damage requires around 24 hours of uninterrupted absence of life support. Use this knowledge for evil.

Open Air Gyms can stave off death by starvation indefinitely for colonists who like Exercise and Social and not much else. This is not typically useful but is hilarious.

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Written by Blake Walsh

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