OK, so I want to build some really atmospheric terrain for my Martian games; but what?
First I will have to work out what "My Mars" looks like.
Canal zones are the fertile areas 20-50 miles each side of the Grand Canals. This is where you will find agriculture, cultivated woodland (and what do "trees" look like?), villages, roads and minor canals. There will be marshy areas where canals have deteriorated or as the result of a high flow of water. The Grand Canals will be too big to represent on a gaming table except as a bank on one table edge.
You will also find permanent field defenses in the Canal Zones. Warfare on My Mars is channeled along the canals as these provide the only way to supply an army. Avenues of approach are therefore very predictable and trench works often develop an air of permanence.
Some of the Grand Canals silted up a long time ago. Where they still retain some water flow, they will only be recognizable in an otherwise flat plain by the greenery that springs up in the flow season. Most other features will have weathered away before living memory.
The upland zones are the old "dry land" areas that lie outside the canal zones and which are now home to nomadic Hill Martians, and also to some barbaric Giant Martians.
The hills are now mostly dry, weathered and rounded. The lower areas of hills often have collections of large rounded rocks that have broken away form the higher ground. Rare areas containing harder rocks may have formed mesas, rising sharply from the surrounding terrain.
Watercourses have long-since dried up and been filled with dust, but these can also act as underground cisterns for what little rain does fall, or for the run-off from nearby canals. These will often be the only areas that offer year-round grazing and so are often the locus for warfare amongst the nomadic tribes of the area. Such areas tend not to be especially lush, but are more areas of scrubland, consisting of hardy grasses, sparse woodland and thorn bush.
Some Hill Martian tribes have been strong enough to control fertile areas and build permanent settlements, with some local agriculture, but most rely on nomadism for protection and survival.
Some mountainous areas do still exist, but do not support a great deal of life.
The desert zones are the areas of the old seabeds that lie at a distance from the great canals. This terrain is the home of the Giant Martians who adapted long ago to the arid, dusty conditions.
The deserts tend to be flat and featureless, and water flow from distant canals will only feed groundwater deep underground, occasionally rising to form the oases that allow life to exist at all. Such oases are often found at the foot of rocky outcrops - the remains of undersea ridges. Some oases are permanent, but many are seasonal or require frequent maintenance to remove silt.
Mars is the "red planet". I don't see it as a pillar box red, but terrain should definitely bear a red or pink tinge. I need to find the right shades of sand and flock for this, which will have to be the subject of a later post.
Some plant life will have to be red (Wells' red weed, for example). I have also decided that any woody growth tends towards red rather than brown, but leafy growth will still be predominantly green (with red veins maybe) as I don't want to have to posit an alternative to chlorophyll!
(Typos corrected periodically after posting)