Date: 29th September 2006
Game played: Mission: Red Planet ( Asmodee ) BGG Id: 18258

Although there were five of us tonight, John was busy on the phone for the first half of the evening so four of us tried the brand new Asmodee game, Mission: Red Planet by Bruno Faidutti and Bruno Cathala. And what an excellent game it is too.

The game is about sending astronauts to Mars and exploring the various regions for precious resources. Whoever is the most prolific explorer in each region at the end of rounds 5, 8 and 10 score victory points, more points being available as the game progresses. The mechanics are sort of a Citadels meets El Grande combination, which works extremely well. Each player chooses which of their 9 characters to utilise on a turn and once used, the character cannot be repeated until you pick the weakest character, the Recruiter, to bring all your characters back into your hand. Once everyone has chosen, each character gets actioned in a set order (as in Citadels) and this is where the fun really sets in, trying to work out what others are playing as earlier characters can impact on whether a later character can carry out its action or limit its effectiveness. The actions determine how many astronauts you are able to load onto a rocket that turn and give another effect to help you or hinder others. Once everyone has taken an action, full rockets are moved to a set region of Mars and the Astronauts deposited there. At the end of rounds 5, 8 and 10, whoever has the most astronauts in each region gets to collect the resources (victory points available there). After the tenth round, certain bonus points are awarded for fulfilling secret missions or making certain discoveries in the outer regions of Mars and then, whoever has amassed the most points wins.

This is a really interesting game with players faced with lots of gut-wrenching decisions, trying to take into account what others are doing. It really did have us engrossed throughout the game. Turn order matters more than at first seems apparent and timing when to use the Recruiter is an important aspect. Being our first play, none of us quite appreciated how things would develop and I’m sure a second game would see us all building on what we learnt from the first game. After the second scoring, it was interesting to note that three players were tied on 15 points with the fourth on just 6 but having an almost insurpassable lead for the 9 bonus points for most ice crystals. As it was, the Utopia region was critical in the final stage and Mark K engineered a majority, which was supplemented by a very useful Discovery tile to add to his points.

Mission: Red Planet is one of the best games we’ve played in 2006 (Nige was certain it was his favourite by far and promptly ordered a copy). It took us about 90 minutes but the first few turns were slow as we were getting to grips with the various character abilities: 60 minutes is probably not far of the mark once everyone knows how to play. The only thing that irritated me was the box insert was designed to hold the contents in place before all the bits were punched out and had absolutely no use for storing the various pieces once the game had been played. A very silly flaw that I would never have expected to have been overlooked. Still, that one niggle aside, a beautifully engineered design that we will certainly be playing again soon.

Mark K
Mark G

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