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Mission: Red Planet» Forums » Sessions

Subject: First game: Still scratching our heads rss

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Matt Smith
United States
Troy
Michigan
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My wife Denise and I got together with Bob and Jen for an evening of games. I had just received my copy of M:RP on Thursday and was itching to play it. It seemed like just the type of game that our little group enjoys. However, as you'll read below, we all came away not really knowing what to make of this game.

Setup
I had set up the game before our guests arrived; it took longer to set up than I expected, even though I had pre-punched everything. After about 10-15 minutes of explanation, we were ready to begin. Four starting spaceships were selected, with one of them being manually controlled (no preset destination). Their capacities were: 5, 5, 4, 4. We randomly determined that Bob would start. He placed the starting astronauts and we got going.

On the initial deal of three Event cards, I had three Bonus cards to choose from. I chose the Ultra-Secret Mission, where I would get +5 points for each zone on Mars that only contained my astronauts. Not having played the game before, it seemed like it wouldn't be too hard to get 10 points from this card. Was I wrong.

Game Play
I really struggled with which character to use on the first turn. Many of the characters abilities aren't really useful on the first turn, like the Soldier and Pilot, but you can place two astronauts with them. The Travel Agent seems like a logical choice, because you can place three astronauts on one ship, but it's risky because of how late he goes in the order.

It turned out that Denise and I both played the Secret Agent on the first turn, while Bob and Jen both played the Travel Agent. Denise and I each put an astronaut on the "5" ship where we already had one guy, then launched it, and put our other guy on a "4" ship, reducing the remaining capacity of those ships to 2. This ended up causing both Bob and Jen to lose their turn. Denise and I didn't plan this, nor could we have foreseen it, it just happened.

Several Ice Resource Tokens came out early, and with many of the subsequent spaceships going back to those same zones, we weren't too excited about what resources were available. In hindsight, we probably should have used our Explorers more to explore new zones, instead of trying to maintain the lead in Ice zones.

During the first few turns, I focused too much on trying to make my Ultra-Secret Mission happen. Around turn 4, I realized I should instead be positioning myself to get the most points in round 5 (the first scoring round). I got lucky and landed in a new zone on turn 5 and picked a Celerium token, which netted me my only 3 points for that round.

Over the next few turns, we tried to get the majority in the few Sylvanite and Celerium zones. By turn 8, it was clear that Bob had somehow gained the lead in several zones. We could see this developing, but with only three actions from the first to the second scoring turns, we couldn't do much about it. Once turn 8 was scored, Bob had a sizeable lead. With only two turns left, there was not enough time to challenge his lead, and he ended up winning fairly comfortably.

Final Scores
Bob: 43
Jen: 37
Matt: 29
Denise: 21

I was able to achieve my Ultra-Secret Mission in only one zone, and that happened on the final turn. On turn nine I had redirected a ship away from an empty zone, then used the Secret Agent on turn ten to send another ship there before anyone else could put an astronaut on it. Bob and Jen also achieved their Bonus points, but Denise did not. She had the Sylvanite bonus, but could only get one Sylvanite token the entire game.

Four Discovery cards were placed during the game:
- A Pretty Rock (x2)
- Sylvanite Vein
- Depleted Deposit

Afterthoughts
We really struggled with what character to pick on each round. There didn't seem to be much opportunity to plan ahead. Also, since it was hard to remember exactly which characters each player had already used, it was hard to know what they could do. For example, it was turn 8, and I had a ship almost ready to go that would have given me a strong lead in a Celerium zone. However, before I could place my last astronaut with the Femme Fatale, Jen used the Saboteur to blow up that ship. That was a big blow to my "strategy". In hindsight, I should have used the Explorer, which would have filled the ship before the Saboteur would have gone.

We thought there would be more opportunity to move astronauts around on Mars, but there is only one character that can do that. With only ten turns, your astronauts are most likely going to stay where they land. In future games, I'm going to think of the Explorer, Femme Fatale and Soldier as a group that can all affect the balance of power on Mars. Timely use of these characters near the scoring rounds should help gain more points.

We each used our Recruiter only once; me at the mid-point of the game, the others in later turns.

The Bottom Line
When the game was over, we all agreed on the following:
- Ten turns seemed too short. There were too many things we felt we need to do and not nearly enough actions to do them.
- Trying to plan ahead is nearly fruitless. Things change quickly in this game, so you have to be prepared to go with the flow.
- You really have to keep track of how well your opponents are doing, or this game can get away from you quickly.

Having said all that, we still enjoyed our first play of M:RP. It will definitely take a few more plays to understand how to play this game better, and determine if there are strategies available, or if it just requires turn-by-turn tactical play. Time will tell if it becomes a regular on our game table.
 
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