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First Martians: Adventures on the Red Planet» Forums » Reviews

Subject: First Impressions of First Martians rss

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Creaking Shelves
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This is just a first impression. I got chance to try a demo of the almost finished product at the UK Games Expo. We didn't get chance to play a full game, but it at least let me get a feel for where it seems they are going with it! Hope you find these thoughts useful!

With that out of the way...




First Martians: Adventures on the Red Planet is this year’s big release from Portal Games. A challenging game of survival on the surface of the Mars. If you are familiar with the award winning Robinson Crusoe, you’ll understand the basics here as First Martians reimplements many of its mechanics. It’s a cooperative game with a number of scenarios to experience. The core innovative mechanic lay in the action selection, where you may spend all your actions doing a job well, guaranteeing success, or rush two jobs and risk failure, or worse, an adventure.

In Robinson, these adventures could be anything from a minor injury to a savage tiger attack, but they are all bad. Worse, the corresponding event would often have a persistent effect, and be shuffled into a deck you draw from each turn. Eventually that card will come back again to bite you if you didn’t prepare for it! It’s a magnificent mechanism that has you rueing your former choices and really gives the game a sense of story. First Martians changes it in two main ways.



The first and most obvious is the app. First Martians will require you to download an app to play it. This tracks various things like the mission objectives and the event “deck” as it would have been. Which means that now when you roll a die and end up on an “adventure” the app will tell you what happened, but it can add any new event effects into its system without you knowing. That hissing sound you heard when out in the rover will come back to bite you, but you won’t know ahead of time how. This adds a unique degree of tension.

The bigger change though is one of tone. This isn’t a cursed island you are on, it’s Mars. An all together more lonely and psychologically draining place. This makes `adventures' the wrong word. You’ll instead trigger minor system malfunctions. The lights will stop working in the med lab. You’ll take a longer drive back to base and see… Nothing. This is a mental battle not a physical one. Your characters will take far less damage but your group will instead be constantly trying to manage stress levels. And this game puts you in their shoes.



Rather than Robinson’s shipwrecked scenario with the need to build things, you arrive on Mars with a near perfect habitation system, the best that NASA can buy. Which means things can only get worse. The bank of green cubes on the right of the board is your status display that will inevitably flicker and fail to red as the game goes on. You have plenty of food, power and oxygen on the track at the top, but system failures sap these backups and they are never coming back. Robinson is a gaming of building to success (even when you fail). In First Martians, you face death by a thousand cuts.

This is some powerful stuff. The app leaves you feeling at the will of an outside force. Its your only means of contact with the designer, staring at their messages on its screen, like the limited messages from Earth beamed to a computer terminal on Mars. The board’s status display, while I felt a bit like I needed a degree in engineering to understand how it all fit together, is exactly what you would expect to see. The crew huddled around it as the lights slowly go out. First Martians is set to be a haunting sci-fi epic. I’m definitely looking forward to getting my hands on it!


This article was originally posted over on my blog www.creakingshelves.com Check it out for more reviews and board game articles!
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Frank Calcagno
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Thanks for your impressions. How was the app experience? Was it enjoyable?

(Were you able to sneak out with the rule book, quickly PDF it and return it without anyone noticing?????arrrh)
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Creaking Shelves
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Antares Rangers wrote:
Thanks for your impressions. How was the app experience? Was it enjoyable?


I liked the app! As I said, the way it handles events are great. They are still working on it from what I understood. I didn't get enough time to study it in detail though. I'd say it doesn't revolutionise your experience (vs Robinson) but is a nice twist.

Antares Rangers wrote:
(Were you able to sneak out with the rule book, quickly PDF it and return it without anyone noticing?????arrrh)


Sadly there was no rule book on hand! Just the demo team. I suppose I could have attempted to kidnap one to extract the rules, but in the end I decided I was better off playing more games
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Abdulla AlKendi
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Thanks for your first impressions, now I am even more impatient

Do you think the game plays well with any number of players?
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Gerritjan Roubos
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Number one on my wishlist.
Thanks for the impression.cool
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Ryan Olden
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Do you imagine the App working well on a phone or would a bigger tablet display be preferable?
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Creaking Shelves
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alkendi wrote:
Thanks for your first impressions, now I am even more impatient

Do you think the game plays well with any number of players?


Only tried it with 4. You no longer have to worry about finding food, instead, the group's stress levels will increase slower with fewer players. There's definitely things in there to deal with different player counts.
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Creaking Shelves
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warerare wrote:
Do you imagine the App working well on a phone or would a bigger tablet display be preferable?


We were using one of the demo guys' smart phone and it worked just fine.
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Creaking Shelves
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Roubosga wrote:
Number one on my wishlist.
Thanks for the impression.cool


Thanks!
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Guillaume Pages
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I was able to play the game for an hour at the UK Expo as well.

I must say that the app was not at all an inconvenience. It is used for adventures, and a few other events, but players around the table really do focus on the table and the board. There is no sense that the app is intrusive, unlike the altest companion apps from FFG and Descent or Mansion of Madness, where the app tells you how to operate the board. Players are very much in control of the board.

I had problems getting into the theme, but to be completely honest, I had problems getting into the theme when I played Robinson Crusoe, because there was so much to track (I was playing with experienced players).

If players like the Robinson Crusoe game, then, this is a very good copy, that feels a little thematically different. Mechanically, it may be advertised as "different enough", but I felt it was very similar.

I was hoping for great things of First Martians, thinking that the theme would help me get into the heavily mechanical game that is Robinson Crusoe, but unfortunately, I will not be purchasing First Martians. I did not enjoy Robinson Crusoe, and I did not enjoy First Martians either.

C'est la vie.


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Court
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Thank you @guigtexas for writing a measured response. Even though you didn't enjoy the experiences offered by this or RC, you spoke objectively about the experience with the app & board separate from whether you enjoyed the overall game.
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guigtexas wrote:
I must say that the app was not at all an inconvenience. It is used for adventures, and a few other events, but players around the table really do focus on the table and the board. There is no sense that the app is intrusive, unlike the altest companion apps from FFG and Descent or Mansion of Madness, where the app tells you how to operate the board. Players are very much in control of the board.
That sounds rather encouraging!

I'm not a fan of using apps in board games, but my only experience is with FFG games.

Given that I'm a big fan of Robinson Crusoe, this means my biggest worry is out of the way, yay!
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