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Subject: The Perfect Board Game : It just doesn’t get any better rss

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Jason Reimann
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Mission: Red Planet » Forums » Reviews
The Perfect Board Game : It just doesn’t get any better
Mission Red Planet is a masterpiece. I don’t know why this game didn’t make more noise than it did. As modern board games go this one is perfect. I’m not saying it’s the best game ever or that everyone will like it or that every aspect of it is the top of its game. I’m saying its perfect in the sense that it is complete and that it does right in every aspect that makes a game a modern board game.





COMPONENTS
Apart from the sh*t box it’s beautiful. Everything is well illustrated, colorful and drenched in theme. Again it may not have components from a game like Cleopatra and the Society of Architects or Arkahm Horror. However it doesn’t need components like Cleopatra and the Society of Architects, in fact if the components were better they would probably subtract from the game. To illustrate imagine the spaceships were 3D models that you loaded the astronauts on. Cool at first but after a while you’d get tired of loading them on. The cardboard chits that are 2D look great and work well. Again the components form meets their function perfectly in the game. Perfect

 


THEME
You’re colonizing Mars, while this may not tickle everyone’s fancy the theme is lightened up by the fact that everything is done in turn of the century Juiles Vern stlye in a way that non sci fi people will still like and get a kick out of. (who doesn’t like a bull dog in a space suite) The two boards that disconnect Mars from Earth, the different characters that you select from that change spaceships destinations, blow stuff up, cause allegiances to change, and forge ahead exploring Mars just feel cool. The fact that the zones have the real scientific names and that the Mars board looks like Mars helps. Bottom line is that the theme fits the mechanics perfectly as you feel like you are sending men to explore mars. Some people in my game group complained saying that you don’t feel like you are colonizing Mars and to that I say at no point does the game claim that you are colonizing mars, no, the game is in sending men to mars and the perils that lie in that. If you think the game doesn’t convey that, you need to feel more what you’re doing while you’re playing not just thinking about it. The theme is conveyed in this game, Perfectly.


 


GAMEPLAY/STRATEGY/MECHANICS
This is a light Euro game that has mechanics we’ve seen before and done better on other games but are put together here perfectly (getting tired of that word yet?). The thing that I like about this game is that no two games are alike and you can approach the game differently each time. In fact you need to because a big part of the game is adapting to the way other people play the game and the secret missions you get. For example I may choose to try and win the game by aggressively playing the scientist and winning though bonus points. I might go for the Ice bonus and risk losing because Ice is only worth one point. The game has enough variables that merit multiple plays and can leave you thinking what you want to do next time. The area control along with the variable player/turn order works perfectly here.

TIME/INVESTMENT
One thing that makes a modern board game is the investment to return factor. For example, Monopoly you invest 5+ hours for an enjoyment factor 1 on a scale of one to ten. You put a lot into it and get little out. A game like aforementioned Arkham Horror you invest 3-5 hours in set up, play, and take down and get an enjoyment factor of 8-9. My investment to return scenario isn’t that great but I hope you get the point. Mission Red Planet may not be the most “fun” in board gamming but it’s investment to return factor is perfect. You invest a little more than an hour and get an enjoyment factor of 6-8. As sometimes the game has this randomness that can get frustrating, but it doesn’t leave you with the feeling of “I put three, or sometimes five hours in that just to have it come down one dice roll”. Here you get the perfect bang for your buck.



CRITICISM
You may be wondering why I’m I criticizing a game I’m hailing to be perfect? Well, I don’t have any criticism for the game itself but for the result of what happens to a board game because of its very nature. There is randomness in the game, there’s no dice in the game but you do get random missions, land on mars and get random resources, you get random space ships that fly off. You may play the game with the best of your ability and be beaten not by your opponent but by the game itself. This is frustrating but not that it makes the game a bad game. It helps going into the game knowing this could happen. This randomness is part of the game just like many board games; the designers did many things to help combat this. I guess my only criticism with this board game is that it’s a board game and as being such has some problems that are adherent in most if not all board games.


CONCLUSION

This game is a gem, it makes a great filler, starter, or is a great game to pull out when you feel like playing a board game but don’t have the time. I’m not saying this is the greatest game of all time, it’s not, I do however think that it perfectly embodies what defines a modern board game and it is a shame that more people don’t have this in their collection. I highly recommend this game and would like to say to its designers; thank you for such a wonderful game that I’ll be playing for years.

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Daniel Danzer
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I am with you - it is perfectly "round", and it manages to be what it wants to be in a great way. The only thing I am missing, are Astronauts instead of incredibly small wooden disks.

It`s a matter of money, but they could be really small, no problem.

But Astronauts. No disks.
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Andrew Simpson
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Nice review.

I really like playing this game, however our group has discussed it and believe that there are a couple of things that can really unbalance the game.

We've had a couple of games where someone with little chance of winning has picked up a random bonus card in the last turn and ended up winning by a point.

The size of the bonus cards rewards and the range of reward from taking the scientist action is too big. We've discussed ways of dealing with this.

One suggestion was to separate the bonus cards from the discovery cards.
At the beginning of the game, shuffle the discovery cards and randomly assign them face down to the board. Then change the scientist action to 'Take a bonus card or examine 2 discovery cards'. This reduces the range of bonus card rewards available when taking a bonus card.

Secondly, if the bonus cards are still believed to be to strong, assign a research cost of 1 or 2 resources (penalties against the final score) when you take the scientist card.
This means you have to make an investment to take a bonus card which makes it much more unlikely that people will just randomly take bonus cards near the end of the game in the hope of a big pay off.

There's probably lots of other ways to mitigate this one problem in an otherwise great game.
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Brett Hudoba
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Good review--this is one of my favorite unsung titles of late.

I find it is easy to teach as new players tend to pick up on the rules very quickly, and the only time the action ever bogs down is if people agonize over their role selection during any given turn. I agree that the theme is actually pretty well incorporated with the mechanics, too. Shouldn't there be more steampunk-style games available?

It is hard to claim that there is much randomness in the game, though, because that factor only applies to the bonus card each player gets at the beginning and additional ones they might earn later; after that, it's all about your tactics and how you adjust to what other players are doing. Any poor luck that occurs is not due to a die roll, but rather bad timing on your part if you fail to anticipate what other players may do with their actions.

My single complaint is that it is the ONLY game in my entire collection in which I actually threw away the box insert, as it was completely useless in function and I found it nigh impossible to fit all the components inside said box and still expect to put the lid on.

Otherwise, a fun, solid game. thumbsup

 
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Jason Reimann
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Quote:
We've had a couple of games where someone with little chance of winning has picked up a random bonus card in the last turn and ended up winning by a point.


I have had this happen to me too. Like I put in my review, the one thing that softens the blow is that you didn't pour all night into the game to have one action cause you to lose or another person to win.

BTW I love your suggestions and I'm going to give them a try.

also in response to the other post I don't know why but one of the things that drew me to this game was the little wooden disks. Don't ask me why but I love putting them on the spaceships and then Mars. I think it stems from playing old war computer games where your armies were just ittle blips
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Brett Hudoba
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LRayZor wrote:

We've had a couple of games where someone with little chance of winning has picked up a random bonus card in the last turn and ended up winning by a point.

The size of the bonus cards rewards and the range of reward from taking the scientist action is too big. We've discussed ways of dealing with this.

One suggestion was to separate the bonus cards from the discovery cards.
At the beginning of the game, shuffle the discovery cards and randomly assign them face down to the board. Then change the scientist action to 'Take a bonus card or examine 2 discovery cards'. This reduces the range of bonus card rewards available when taking a bonus card.

Secondly, if the bonus cards are still believed to be to strong, assign a research cost of 1 or 2 resources (penalties against the final score) when you take the scientist card.
This means you have to make an investment to take a bonus card which makes it much more unlikely that people will just randomly take bonus cards near the end of the game in the hope of a big pay off.

There's probably lots of other ways to mitigate this one problem in an otherwise great game.


Um, I don't quite understand, here.

The thing with the Scientist is that there is no GUARANTEE you are getting a Bonus card when you choose to draw an Event card--it could be a Discovery instead, and that's the chance you take. Separating the cards into piles, preassigning the Discovery cards to zones, and ENSURING a Bonus card draw changes the game entirely. In an average game, every zone should NOT have a Discovery card assigned to it, and not everyone will have more than one Bonus card.

If everyone is racing to make use of their Scientists to sift through the deck for the best Bonus cards, then I can't imagine that being a very efficient game as you will fall short in other areas as the other players load up their influence in other zones and earn points the real way. Not only that, but if you are trying to get lucky at the end of a game by HOPING to draw a Bonus card that you MIGHT qualify for, why aren't you instead using your Explorer, Femme Fatale, or Soldier to shift the balance of power to your favor in a 2- or 3-point zone?

There just isn't enough time in the game to use the Scientist to the degree in which you describe and still hope to perform very well, as that would assume you're also burning the Recruiter to get the card back into your hand each time.

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Jason Reimann
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Poll
Which Character do you find yourself playing the most?
  Most Moderately Least
1) Recruiter
2) Explorer
3) Scientist
4) Secret Agent
5) Saboteur
6) Fem Fatal
7) Travel Agent
8) Soldier
9) Pilot
      32 answers
Poll created by reimannj2000
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Brett Hudoba
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reimannj2000 wrote:
Poll
Which Character do you find yourself playing the most?
  Most Moderately Least
1) Recruiter
2) Explorer
3) Scientist
4) Secret Agent
5) Saboteur
6) Fem Fatal
7) Travel Agent
8) Soldier
9) Pilot
      32 answers
Poll created by reimannj2000


I'm not sure that's a fair question in terms of the game mechanics.

People might have their favorites, but EVERY character has their strengths and advantages at particular times more than others, and optimally selecting them with the right timing and reaction to other players' strategies is part of the challenge of the game. Considering there are nine characters and only ten turns to the game, purposefully attempting to play ANY character more than twice (which would assume the use of multiple Recruiters) to me seems a serious sacrifice of efficiency.

Maybe I'm in the minority in that I like to try and utilize the full range of the characters as much as possible when I play; I'd be curious to know how well anybody who regularly plays only two or three specific characters (outside of the requisite Recruiter) actually performs.
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Jason Reimann
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chindent wrote:
reimannj2000 wrote:


I'm not sure that's a fair question in terms of the game mechanics.


I tend to play the Recruiter at least once meaning that I'm going to play another character again. In my experience the repeat character has been the Pilot, the Explorer, the Fem Fetal, or the Scientist.

The fact that the Recruiter exists shows that you are going to play a character more once. If you play a character more than twice you obviously play the Recruiter more than once. While it's true the game only has 10 rounds you don't always play every character. I've also found that I don't play the Saboteur much as he generally is only good if you think someone is going to play the travel agent. I think I would play him more if I could blow up any spaceships not just grounded ones. But then he might end up being too strong. Maybe if he was number two instead of five?
 
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John W
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While I appreciate attention to a good Faidutti game, it is far from perfect.

From what I've seen, the major problems with the gameplay are:

* It is massively susceptible to disproportionate struggles on the surface. Meaning, the winner is likely the person who avoided the most conflict (and just had other players duke it out with each other).
And this conflict isn't easily avoidable or changeable : someone's 1st turn can suddenly lead them to a lock-down drag-out fight with someone else for that Martian territory for the rest of the game (while the player who is unmolested has more free actions to buff their position or exploit uncontested areas).

* It is too difficult to change focus/strategy once the initial encounters happen on the planet.
It simply costs too much (an entire precious turn) to redirect astronauts on the surface. These mechanics make it so battles, once joined, either stay contested or the loser expends precious resources to leave the engagement (inefficient).
I haven't felt much strategic flexibility in Red Planet once a few rounds have passed.
As I say, I think the leaders can pretty accurately be predicted by Round 3.
I think that's a failing in a game. But I still like it. It's just not perfect by any means.

The nice thing is (as you say), the game doesn't take that long.
 
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Jason Reimann
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reapersaurus wrote:
the winner is likely the person who avoided the most conflict

As I say, I think the leaders can pretty accurately be predicted by Round 3.


What you described above is more like a strategy than a problem with the game. I've found the winner is the one who correctly picked his battles

I think you are way off base in regards to being able to predicted (a winner) by Round 3. I've found that many times the winner is a person you least thought to be winning at the end of the game.

Again I think the games shortcomings stems from the fact that it is a board game. I think that the tools that Faidutti gave the players helps them combat these shortcomings. Its true that it is hard to change strategies in the middle of play but not impossible. A good player that plays intuitively could clench a win after changing strategies. I feel that the point of no return is more like round 7. I don't think I could predict the winner but I can normally tell if I'm going to win or not.
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Brett Hudoba
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Quote:
I tend to play the Recruiter at least once meaning that I'm going to play another character again. In my experience the repeat character has been the Pilot, the Explorer, the Fem Fetal, or the Scientist.

The fact that the Recruiter exists shows that you are going to play a character more once. If you play a character more than twice you obviously play the Recruiter more than once. While it's true the game only has 10 rounds you don't always play every character. I've also found that I don't play the Saboteur much as he generally is only good if you think someone is going to play the travel agent. I think I would play him more if I could blow up any spaceships not just grounded ones. But then he might end up being too strong. Maybe if he was number two instead of five?

Well, yes, there is no "tending" to play the Recruiter--you HAVE to at some point, even if you reserve it until Turn 9 (which I've foolishly done before). I do agree in that the Explorer is one of the stronger repeat plays as adjusting your astronauts' positions on Mars is crucial to the end game.

Also, in my experience, the Saboteur often comes out early to hamper other players establishing their initial positions, and yes, it would be too strong if you could hit already-launched ships. I think the number position is just right, though, because you ideally want to trash any grounded, POPULATED ships to punish other players (beyond simply limiting the options for anyone with the Travel Agent). What fun is it to blow up an empty one?

Quote:
What you described above is more like a strategy than a problem with the game. I've found the winner is the one who correctly picked his battles.

You hit that nail right on the head. I continually get drawn into spreading out and competing for too many territories that I hope to win by just a narrow margin, and then by Turn 10 end up getting barely edged out and defeated on almost all fronts.

And if anyone really overloads an area, you just have to let it go and focus efforts elsewhere. Likely that's the only territory they'll ultimately get if the other players are really paying attention. Then again, even forcing a tie or two can break any apparent runaway leader's final score.

BTW, I'm really enjoying this discussion today. thumbsup
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Charles Bruni
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Quote:
am with you - it is perfectly "round", and it manages to be what it wants to be in a great way. The only thing I am missing, are Astronauts instead of incredibly small wooden disks.

It`s a matter of money, but they could be really small, no problem.

But Astronauts. No disks.


I do absolutely agree with this game being simply great. I even managed to get non-gamers to enjoy it (a lot). They still ask every once in a while "are you going to bring it along?"

But I am actually replying to due to the 'astronaut'-size issue. That for one is a thing I can actually live with (I am still looking for adequate replacement )

The major downside it the cardboard material used. The box: sturdy high gloss print - yummy! Contents: thick pieces, sturdy board ... but wait.
the longer this game is in use the more the pieces are falling apart. I am not talking about wear - the board is warping and so are the pieces making the rockets & counters fall apart into the sheets of cardboard which they are made of.

For this kind of game I would gladly pay an extra buck for quality material and ... 'real' astronauts (how about the ones used in Space trucker ... naw not retro enough)

Maybe someday not to long someone will pick up the idea of 'vintage' reprints of boardgames - such as the deluxe version of Caylus. OK double the price is one thing but have you seen the board and the pieces?!
 
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Joe Niezelski
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I agree with the above posters. The low component quality is easily the worst part of this game.
 
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Jamey Philipp
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I was looking at getting this game (it is on sale at my FLGS) and pulled off at the last minute.

Reading this has changed my mind however! I will purchase later today!
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Charles Bruni
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Superhawk2300 wrote:
I was looking at getting this game (it is on sale at my FLGS) and pulled off at the last minute.

... bad decision

Superhawk2300 wrote:
Reading this has changed my mind however! I will purchase later today!

... good decision
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Michael Kandrac
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"Fem fetal?" Is there an unborn baby girl in this game?

Gg
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