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Mission: Red Planet» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids rss

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Dan Poole
United States
Goldsboro
North Carolina
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There are very few games that I immediately love after a the first play. Most games in my top 10 are those were somewhat of an acquired taste. However, this one really grabbed me the first time I played......even as a two player game (we used a neutral 3rd semi-intelligent player and played as a 3-player game).

The Premise:
Each player tries to get his astronauts on spaceships, each of which are destined for 1 of the 10 territories on Mars. Players score by having the most astronauts in these territories at the end of rounds 5, 8, and 10 (final turn). Each player plays 1 of 9 characters each turn to aid his astronauts in their travels (or to hinder his opponents of course). One neat thing is that the game is set in the late 19th century, so everything has that H.G. Wells look to it,

Components:
A board depicting Mars, A Launch pad board, a bunch of cardboard rockets, Event and character cards, small wooden Astronaut disks, cardboard resource tokens both round and square, 20 cardboard destination tokens (2 for each territory), a turn marker, a first player marker, rules.

Game play:
This is deceptively simple. At the start of the turn a number of new spaceships are placed on the launch pad so that there is now a total of spaceships equal to the number of players (so in a 3 player game, 2 new spaceships are placed if only 1 is remaining on the launch pad).

Then each player secretly picks a character. Each character allows a number of astronauts (usually 1 or 2) to be placed. Each character also has a special power (see below). The player with the 1st player card calls out the characters starting with 1. Each player presents his character and executes the action when called. Different players may play same characters in a single turn. If a ship becomes filled with astronauts, during all of this, it launches. After all players go, the character cards are discarded out of the game (they may be brought back only using the recruiter see below).

Next, all ships that launched will arrive at their destinations. Simply place all astronauts from that ship into that designated territory. If this is an new territory, place a resource counter in the zone. Discard the spaceships.

If it is round 5, 8 or 10, scoring occurs. If not, go to the next round. The player who played last becomes the new 1st player......that simple!!

Character Abilities:
Most characters allow placement of 1 or 2 astronauts in addition to their special abilities listed below:
1. Recruiter: get all used character cards back.
2. Explorer: make 3 movements on Mars (1 astronaut 3 spaces, 3 astronauts 1 space etc).
3. Scientist: Draw an Event card.
4. Secret Agent: Prematurely launch a spaceship that is not yet completely filled.
5. Saboteur: Destroy an unlaunched spaceship.
6. Femme Fatale: change one astronaut in a ship or on Mars to 1 of your own color.
7. Travel Agent: Place 3 astronauts on a ship.
8. Soldier: Destroy 1 astronaut in a peripheral territory.
9. Pilot: change the destination of any launched or unlaunched spaceship.

Event Cards:
These are obtained through play of the scientist. You also get 1 bonus card at the beginning of the game.
There are 2 types of Event Cards::
1. Bonus Cards. These give some sort of bonus. Most are mission cards, meaning if you fulfill the criteria on the card, you get extra VP’s at the game end. These are kept secret until the end.
2. Discovery cards. These are looked at by the drawing player and placed face-down in 1 of the 8 peripheral zones. These will either help or hinder scoring of that zone.

Scoring:
At the end of round 5, 8, and 10 scoring occurs. The player with the most astronauts in each area get 1 (round 5), 2 (round 8), or 3 (round 10) scoring markers. These scoring markers will be the same value as the resource marker that was already in the territory (value 1-3). Remember, Discovery cards may alter the scoring. Players also get VP’s for fulfilling missions on their Bonus cards. Also, the player with the most ice (this is the value 1 resource) gets 9 points. That’s the game in a nutshell.

My overall Impressions:

Theme: 9 I love any theme related to space/sci-fi. This is extra cool, given the 19th century graphics.

Mechanics: 8.5 This is a cross between El Grande (area control) and Citadels (Character Card selection). I really think the mechanics are elegant and the game flows smoothly with little down time for analysis-paralysis.

Strategy: 7.5 While this isn’t a major brain burner, lots of destination planning is required to get your little astronauts in all the right places. Playing the right card at the right time is very crucial.

Rule Book 7 There are a couple sentences that are a little ambiguous, but otherwise, most the rules are clear.

Asthetics: 7.0 This could have been better. Most of the components are decent. The box looks a little rough (although the artwork is really nice). The insert is all crinkled. It could have been compartmentalized a little better; the pieces don’t fit as well as I would like. The boards were a little warped.

Overall Fun Factor: 9
I really connected with this game. Right now I would put it in my top 10 though a year from now, I can’t say how I will feel. Game play is simple and smooth. It can be played with 2-players using a 3rd neutral semi-intelligent player (I made some simple rules regarding the play of his cards). As mentioned above, I would describe this as a space game that is a cross between El Grande and Citadels. If you like either of these games, check this one out as well.
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Matthew Watson
Scotland
Edinburgh
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This is the first time this game has shown up on my radar. Nice review; it sounds like my kind of game too.
 
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david karasick
United States
Gladwyne
Pennsylvania
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Can you play without that 3rd semi-intelligent player?......If not, how do you handle his play turns?
 
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Dan Poole
United States
Goldsboro
North Carolina
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Unfortunately, this game is not conducive to 2-players. By adding a 3rd neutral player, it introduces more astronauts which consequently makes it more difficult to control the territories. I took an algorithmic approach to "dirk" so he makes fairly logical moves without either player having a say-so over what he does. It's really easy and doesn't make things that much more difficult. In the 2-player games I have played, he never does very well, but it certainly makes it more tense for the 2 "real" players. Sometimes "dirk" does some dastardly little moves. If anybody cares, I can post my 3rd Neutral Player Rules. I might post them anyways, for I would be interested in anybody's criticism and suggestions for improvements.

And thanks guys for the nice comments
 
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Giles Pritchard
Australia
Shepparton
Victoria
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I'd love to have a copy of the 3 player rules! Great review by the by!

Cheers!

Giles.
 
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david karasick
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Gladwyne
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just played with 3 and it works well. I'd like to get your dummy 3rd player rules so I can play with 2...............thanx, skeletodoc
 
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Dan Poole
United States
Goldsboro
North Carolina
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I uploaded a file containing 2-player rules that I mentioned earlier; it is still pending. Any suggestions would be welcome
 
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david karasick
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Gladwyne
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How about each player owns two color astronauts and you play like a 4 player game but add your 2 colors together for area control. Like Citadel, you get 2 not one card to play alternating turns but for 2 different colors. I haven't tried it but it might work...............I'll let you know soon.
 
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Steve Bernhardt
United States
saratoga springs
Utah
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Good review, Dan.

I picked this up based on your recommendation and was not disappointed. Pretty fun, fast game overall. It feels pretty chaotic, but so does Citadels your first few times, then things start clicking.
 
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Darrell Pavitt
United Kingdom
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skeletodoc wrote:
How about each player owns two color astronauts and you play like a 4 player game but add your 2 colors together for area control. Like Citadel, you get 2 not one card to play alternating turns but for 2 different colors. I haven't tried it but it might work...............I'll let you know soon.


I prefer the alternative approach: Play 2 colours each, but keep their scores separate. Only your lowest score counts for winning at the end. Choose cards normally for each colour, but randomise who goes first (so that you can't rely on two-card combinations with your two cards).
 
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