Here in the south, the story of our Nation’s space exploration can be seen all along the long corridor from Texas to Florida. Johnson Space Center, and its wonderful youth camps, museum and rocket center, in Texas documents America’s love affair with space even today; Stennis Space Center, which shoulders Louisiana and lower Mississippi recalls the role that New Orleans played in the success of the Space Shuttle; Huntsville, affectionately known as Rocket City, plays up the image of Americans as adventurers pushing the limits of rocket technology; and of course, Kennedy Space Center in Florida is the culmination of fifty plus years of America’s obsession with winning the Space Race.
We have made our upper atmosphere a nearby laboratory, built telescopes to the stars, and explored the nooks and crannies of our lunar neighbor. But there is one nearby body that beckons Mankind to explore — The Red Planet.
Imagine a gumbo made of Steampunk, Mars exploration, Amerithrash “dudes on a map” and chaotic excitement, and European card and resource driven strategy. What is that wonderful smell emanating from the gumbo pot? Why it is Mission: Red Planet (second edition), of course!
Designed by the Board Game Brunos, Bruno Cathala and Bruno Faidutti, Mission Red Planet, Second Edition (2015), is a reimagining of their earlier release. By all accounts, the new edition is tighter, with better components, and a more streamlined experience. The game accommodates two to six players, although I think four to six players is the sweet spot, and plays in about 90 minutes.
If you have played Citadels (CITADELS!!!!!!!), and your game group finds that its card driven play lacks a little excitement, then Spice it up! with this area control and hand management blast fest.
If you are familiar with the mechanics of Libertalia, the run away hit by Paolo Mori, then the basic concepts of Mission Red Planet will be easy for you. In Mission, you control a team of specialists aiming to extract needed materials from Mars in the hopes of successfully colonizing the planet. Your team will have secret missions through random card draws that can increase your victory point total if you play your specialists right. Your goal will be to launch your astronauts on waiting rockets to Mars, while playing cards to create havoc on your opponents. There is limited space on each rocket, and you are never really sure when the rockets will blast off, so there is a lot of randomness and chaos balanced intricately with strategic decisions on when to put your specialists in play.
The components are top-notch. There seems to be oodles of fun little astronaut miniatures, all in various bright colors. The board and card art are all full of steampunk references, and the turn “clock” might be the best turn based mechanism I have ever seen. It really looks like something out of a Jules Verne novel, and adds to the flavor of the game. The components really help carry the theme.
Some games are all about brain burning strategy, and some games have “fun” written all over them. Mission Red Planet reminds me a little of Robo Rally, in that the blast off mechanic, limited space, and gotcha style of playing specialists all create hilarious moments when one of the teams’ well-laid plans backfires by the play of a card. This is definitely a game where it helps to have a good sense of humor.
I love Libertalia, but I admit that it is a challenging game to explain to new players. The fact that there are so many different cards, and an intricate puzzle of timing on the actions, makes it tough to introduce to my friends that are new to the hobby. I have not yet broken out Mission Red Planet with inexperienced board gamers, but the rainbow colors, smaller hand size, and easy to understand mechanics lends me to believe this will be much easier to teach.
So, if your game group loves a well seasoned blend of light-hearted backstabbers, chaos, and a healthy dose of strategy all mixed together, then blast off to your friendly local game store and get you some Mission Red Planet. This is a game that any group would love, from family gamers to casual players to your regular game night. There is something in this game for each group. I give this three out of five cayenne peppers!
Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!