I attack the darkness
Had a chance to play the French version of Bruno Faidutti’s newest game Mission: Red Planet. Now as most of us know Faidutti can be somewhat chaotic, so we shall see.
The components were not bad. The art was cool. I like the whole steam punk genre’ and is one that hasn’t gotten a whole lot of use in the board gaming world. What really stood out was the circular game board of mars. Now that’s different. The game comes with the board of Mars, which has 10 areas; a board of the launch pad that has one to five launches areas (loading and launching). This board also has the turn track 1-10 showing the scoring turns of 5/8/10. There are 34 rockets 3 for each area 3/4/5 and 4 blank rockets. And finally each player has a set of 9 character cards, and 22 astronaut meeples.
The game is played in 10 turns. In each turn the launch pad is filled with a number of rockets equal to the number of players. Each player chooses simultaneously one character card from the 9 available. Then like Citadels each number is called off 1 through 9 and each character is played. If more than one player chooses a same character it is played in clockwise order from the starting player. The rockets are immediately launched as soon as it has the number of equal astronauts as stated on it. The player actions are as follows:
1. Headhunter: He places one astronaut onto one rocket on the launch pad. His special power is to get back all played character cards played back into your hand.
2. Explorer: He places one astronaut onto one rocket on the launch pad. His special power is to make up to three moves from areas on mars to other adjacent areas. He has up to three movement points to move “his” meeples.
3. Scientist: He places 2 astronauts on 2 “different” rockets on the pad. His special power is to look at one of the discovery cards that are on the map, OR draw an event card.
4. Spy: He places 2 astronauts on 2 different rockets on the pad. His special power is he can choose to launch and rocket that has not been completely filled.
5. Saboteur: He places on astronauts on a rocket of his choice. His special power is he may choose any not launched rocket, and blow it up. BOOM!
6. Vamp: She places one astronaut onto a rocket of her choice. Her power is she may swap out another player’s astronaut from mars or a shuttle where that player already has presence with one of his own.
7. Tour Guide: He may place 3 astronauts on “one” rocket. If there are no rockets with enough space, that player instead loses a turn.
8. Military: He may place 2 astronauts onto one rocket, but only if there is space. His special power is he may kill an astronaut of any player that is on the outer zones of mars.
9. Pilot: He may place 2 astronauts onto one or two shuttles of his choice. His power is he can change the destination of a lunched or unlaunced rocket to a destination of his choice.
The trick I’ve noticed for the latter characters is the getting in “before” the rockets already launch. But they are more powerful. A nice balance. So after each player takes his actions the rockets that have launched are dumped into the areas that are stated in the destination. Then the player that played the highest character gets the first player token. If it’s not a scoring action then the next turn continues, and the empty pads are filled (up to the numbers of players).
On turns 5/8/10 scoring happens. When an astronaut is placed on mars for the first time, a “?” tile is revealed. It can be an iceium (1) or a Pinkite (2) or Brownonium (3). This will be what that area produces for the remainder of the game. The 5th round one scoring marker is place. In the 8th, 2, and the last 3. The player that has majority of astronauts in a region gets “all” of the markers. If there is a tie for first they split the markers, leaving any remainders behind. If there is not enough to make an equal split, they get nada. In the last scoring round any exploration cards placed on the outer areas are revealed first, which can effect what happens in the final scoring round. i.e. “This region is not scored” or “Switch the resource marker with a new hidden one” and so on. Players who have event cards may also score extra for having the requirements stated on them. i.e. “+1 point for a presence in each area on mars” or “+8 for majority in Pinkite” or “+6 points for having a presence in this group of regions” and so on. The last scoring is the person that has the most iceium get a bonus of 9 points. Each of the chits is worth what is stated on them. The winner is the one with the highest points.
Initial play impressions. I was of course stomped in the first playing of this game. I’m under the impression that the more players the better. This makes for more competitions in the different areas. Being a majority game, if some players are not being attacked as much, then they tend to sweep large amount of points.
Looking back I think it might be good play to spend most of the early rounds getting as many astronauts on the board first before doing any of the other special actions. I think playing the 2-3 astronauts at least till after the first scoring round. Something I will have to try next time.
The game plays fairly fast. With open scoring, some may tend to over analyze things, but not too badly. The game play is “very” tight. You have to make very precise decisions to be successful. And that is a good thing. Definitely a game that will reward experience. Playing the higher level characters are powerful but risky, as rockets are launched quickly. It is most definitely not as chaotic as most of Bruno’s titles, and it’s a lot of fun. The play is very reminiscent of Citadels, but adds new flavor and ideas to the mix. I enjoyed it, a solid area majority game.
I heard a rumor that the next game board will be square, which is a shame, as I really like the circular board. Overall and excellent game. So this along with Diamant is now my new favorite Faidutti’s.