The year is 1888 and multiple powerful resources have been found on the Red Planet. Your mining corporation must get to the Red Planet and mine these resources quicker than the others.
Style of Game: Family, Strategy
Play Time: 45 to 90 minutes
Theme: Mining on Mars
Number of Players: 2-6
Main Mechanics: Area Control, Hand Management, Simultaneous Action Selection
THEME AND MECHANISMS:
There is a very nice thematic feel to this game. From the area control meshing with the game's background story, to counting down from 9 to 1 like the space ships are about to launch. The components also do a nice job of promoting the theme. Nothing is abstracted more than necessary and you feel that as you are playing. Very enjoyable!
The board should be constructed and placed in the middle of the table with the Phobos moon board and the Space Memorial board placed near the board. One resource token should also be placed on Phobos and each location on Mars.
The point tokens are placed near the board, the launchpad should be constructed, and the event cards should be placed near the board.
Give each player their 9 character cards and their 22 astronauts.
One astronaut from each player should be placed randomly on each ship in the launchpad. The player whose astronaut is in the left most dock is the first player.
Play will then take place over a series of rounds with scoring taking place between certain rounds. Each round of the game is comprised of 6 phases. During these phases players will be choosing a card from their 9 character cards, resolving the effects of the character cards, launching ships. There are upkeep phases during each round as well.
Players will resolve their chosen character cards in descending order so the announcement of each number simulates a countdown. During this process each player will resolve the effects of their card when it is called.
Each round players will likely be placing astronauts on ships that are currently docked.
When a docked ship is filled with the corresponding number of astronauts on the card or if a character card launches the ship prematurely then the card is moved toward Mars as shown above. After all character cards have been resolved the astronauts on the launched ships will land and be placed on the location on the ship card.
Play will continue like this with the first player move clockwise around the table until the round tracker indicates a scoring phase.
The scoring phases are indicated by the spaces on the track that are 1 Dot (after round 5), 2 Dots, and 3 Dots. Each of these scoring phases are performed the same way but the points available will increase. Players with the most astronauts in each location that is eligible to score points during the scoring phase will receive the points for the location. Ties split the points.
After all end of game scoring adjustments are made in the form of secret objectives and bonuses the player with the most points wins the game.
My assessment of board games is broken into three core areas: Depth of Strategy, Quality of Design, and Replayability.
There is plenty of strategy to go around in this game but it is flexible in the sense that you can really plan out your moves, or you can you perform the basic functions of the game and still appear competitive. You may not actually have a chance of winning but you will be able to achieve tasks. The game allows for different depths of strategy for different types of groups very well. Playing with two levels of skills in this game will result in a lop-sided affair though because there isn't much luck in the game and what luck there is can be mitigated.
Each character card's ability is very useful and can be used to impact the game. They sometimes seem to present their effectiveness in certain phases of the game's progression but that isn't always the case. Your individual decisions may go against the grain if you are in a situation where you need to alter some game conditions. Everything you do in this game can be costly in a competitive playing field so you need to have an idea of where you are going to focus your efforts. Sometimes it appears as though you should spread out and try to get all the points you can but if you get stretched too thin in this game you will end up with very few points because while points are not all that scarce, your astronauts and your means of getting those points are. This may seem weird but since it is area control if you have five astronauts in one location but they don't win you any points and you only have 8 total astronauts on the other locations on the board your means to score points are limited. Especially in higher player counts.
Depth of Strategy:
3.5 = There are multiple viable strategies available that are thought-provoking and competitive.
Replayability in the design of this game is pretty good in this game. I could see a routine developing over time in regard to playing Character Cards, but each player will have a secret mission at the beginning of the game that helps vary how they will approach the game. The randomness of the which ships (locations) are placed in the dock helps make the game random enough each play that you will have to customize your approach to each iteration. Where this game loses a little of its replayability for me is that it can be a little AP prone and doesn't fit un-level playing fields. There are enough character cards, each with a useful enough benefit, to make players have to stop and think about each character card they play and all the ways each potential card can impact the current conditions. When I am in the mood for this level of analysis this is no problem. Sometimes it can be a little more than I am in the mood for though.
3.5 = A nice game to have for a variety of circumstances.
Area Control: Area control can be a take or leave it kind of mechanism for me but I really enjoy it in this game. The way the game approaches getting the astronauts to Mars thematically makes me enjoy the mechanism whether I am doing well or not. Once the astronauts are on Mars and Phobos, the way players can move them and kill them makes for strategic fun and engagement. This is a great handling of area control in my opinion.
Simultaneous Action Selection: This is not an innovative take on action selection but it is handled in a way that adds some flavor to the process and adds a little to the gameplay, making it a nice aspect of the mechanism. The importance of the overall mechanism is very significant because each character card can really contribute to your strategy. I have my favorites but I don't dislike any of the characters (when I am using them anyway, some can really be annoying when they hurt you). There is just a beautiful blend of benefits in the character cards.
Hand Management: This ties so tightly into the action selection that it is almost one mechanism but it deserves to be mentioned alone because it is vital that you play you character cards in an order that really maximizes your completion of tasks. This is true with most hand management mechanisms, it is just worth mentioning that it is done well in this game.
Quality of Design:
4 = A good design that will engage players for several plays.
Mission: Red Planet does a nice job of bringing the theme to life. This is normally a nice addition but I think in this case it something that take this game to another level. The mechanisms are solid and could easily be used for another theme but the way the designers put some small icing on the cake with some of the mechanisms and component functionality make this game a very nice game to look at and play. This is the kind of game you not only want to play but you want to show to people. You definitely get your money's worth of table presence with this game.
As for the gameplay, I think it is flexible enough to reach multiple types of groups and do a solid job feeding their interests. Families will enjoy this game because of its ability to offer a fun and challenging task without requiring you to short-circuit while trying to find the best move, but gamers will enjoy this game because it does offer a deeper element of strategy if you dig deeper into the way cards will work together and how the secret mission cards and event cards will impact the game. Again, there is a chance for some AP in this game so beware!
If you are looking for a game that will challenge the skill level of multiple players in your groups this is a possibility but I think better players will typically win this game after the initial play. So beware of the possibility of lop-sided play as you play this game more. If your group is on a pretty level playing field, this is going to be a nice fit for your group, other than maybe the deepest strategists out there.
Overall Rating -
I will play this game in most circumstances, really only avoiding it if the group just isn't right.
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- Last edited Sun Sep 18, 2016 4:31 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Fri Sep 16, 2016 8:03 pm