Martin Hoefer
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The idea:
I work as a Sales Consultant so I am on the road quite a lot. One of my favourite things to do while in the car is listening to podcasts. Some time ago I ordered and played the fantastic Leaving Earth which renewed my long sleeping interest in space. So, one day I downloaded an episode from the German site "Raumzeit" which does regular podcasts on space. This one had a guest from the "Part Time Scientists" who will try to land two lunar rovers on the moon in early 2018. They take part in the Google Lunar XPrize - contest. 30 million $ for a team that manages to land a rover on the moon and drive 500 meters. When listening to that podcast I immediately had a game in mind - LUNAR ROVER!

The game:
So far I have only played three two-player-games with my son, so up to now this is for two players. Each player has three rovers that survey the environment, conduct experiments, collect samples and take pictures on the moon. For this they get victory points (1 point for each photograph-cube, 2 points for each sample-cube and three points for each (seismic) experiment-cube. The three rovers are the following:

Lunar Explorer:

The Lunar Explorer is the best Surveyor and has the best photographic equipment. He also has the most movement points. He can only carry four samples though.

Lunar Scientist:

The Lunar Scientist is a workhorse. He can collect up to four samples in a turn, can perform seismic experiments up to the worth of four and has a sample cargo of six. His surveying skills and his photographic abilities are mediocre though.

Lunar Cargo:

This rover really only has one big benefit: His large cargo. He can carry up to 12 samples and may also collect up to two samples a turn (not having to roll a die for this).

Each player starts on an empty moon tile. He then draws three additional moon tiles and lays them down around his starting tile. One tile will be drawn and is positioned in the middle of the table. Whenever a moon tile has symbols (Photo, Sample, Experiment) on it a corrsponding number of cubes of that colour are put on the tile. On each side of the tiles there is a number that shows movement costs to reach that tile. Here are some examples of moon tiles:

Empty tile with movement cost of 1 in each direction:

Mountain tile with four samples (four green cubes) and a movement cost of two in each direction:

A tile with some craters and lots of victory points . this one holds two sample cubes, one experiment cube and two photo cubes. The movement cost to adjacent tiles varies between one and two:

Your turn:
In the first round, only the Lunar Explorer is used, in the second turn the Lunar Explorer and the Lunar Scientist are in play and beginning from the third (of 12 rounds) all three rovers are being used. Both players have prepared their rover(s) to look like this:

Each rover has nine energy points which can be freely distributed on the different abilities of that rover. So let's say the Lunar Explorer wants to travel for four points, survey two adjacent tiles and collect a sample worth two the setup would look like this:

After both players have set up their rovers the starting player (each round the starting player changes) moves their rovers according to the planned actions. In the example above the Lunar Explorer could drive for two movement points, survey an adjacent tile (draw from tile deck), take another movement for two points, survey another adjacent tile and finally take a sample worth two points. Note that the Lunar Explorer can only use one of his sample actions without testing as there is a symbol of a die on his second sample action (look at the Lunar Explorer board above). So to successfully get the sample worth two points he has to roll one die.

The dice:

Red dice are for exploring (surveying). They each have two "x"-symbols on them, so there is a 1 in 3 chance of failure. The same is true for the other dice with the exception that these have an additional symbol of "+1" on them, so there is a chance of 1 in 6 that you gain another cube of that corresponding colour.

If two rovers are on the same tile they can combine their efforts to prevent rolling the dice or in order to roll less dice. This makes for some interesting decisions concerning risk-taking.

Collecting cubes (victory points):
Taking a photograph (blue cubes) is the most simple action that gives victory points. You just perform the action and gain the cubes immediately. They are worth one victory point each in the end.

Samples (green cubes) are worth two points each but they are harder to score as you have to bring them back to your starting tile in order to count. So in the example above, if the Lunar Explorer had successfully rolled the die he had then put two cubes in his cargo. He only has a cargo size of four but whenever he is on the same tile as another rover he could transfer his samples to the other one. This is where the Lunar Cargo gets interesting as he can carry up to twelve samples. He's slow though so you'll better get him back to your sarting tile in time!

The seismic experiment (yellow cubes) is a little complicated to explain (even more so as I am no native speaker ) so I hope you'll understand: Seismic experiments can only be conducted when at least two rovers are on different tiles with yellow cubes. They have to perform the experiment action simultaneously to be successful. If they succeed the yellow cubes can immediately be added to your victory points (they count three victory points each).

Mission cards (German):
In my last game I have experimented with mission cards to spice things up. These range from "Whoever has the most seismic experiment cubes at game end gains an additional five victory points." to more creative ones like "Whoever first moves onto the central tile gets 5 additional victory points." or "Take a photograph or a sample with all three rovers involved to gain an additional 5 victory points.". This seemed to work very well: I won that game against my son with a score of 86:81 although he had accomplished two missions while I only did one. I simply had conducted more seismic experiments to make up for that.

Examples of mission cards:

Well, that's really all there is to it... We have now completed three games and the twelve rounds take about one and a half hour to complete. Scores were very close each time. I lost two of the games and my son is very eager to play the game more so I am looking forward to refine and extend the game. We have thought of something like "Event Cards" which have to be drawn whenever you placce a tile with an event symbol on it. To get the event you have to successfilly perform a surveying action. Events can be good or bad (without too much impact) but should have a 4 to 1 "Good Ratio". Things like "Replace cubes on up to two adjacent tiles." or "Your next die-roll is an automatic success." spring to my mind. This will be the next thing I will try out. I have to do new tiles and cards though which is a time-consuming process...

Finally, here are some pictures of the game in action. Note the cute Lego rovers my son built. Aren't they cool? Any comments are welcome. Hope you enjoyed the read!

Game in play:

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Riccardo Previdi
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Re: [WIP] "LUNAR ROVER" - collect resources and perform experiments on the moon

OMG! That's soo cool... wow

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