Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Mars 2.0

After having been talked up for sometime, the sleeper hit of Mission Red Planet which has proven somewhat tricky to get your hands on in the past, has finally returned to shelves with the second edition tweak and reprint that FFG has just released. Did they tweak it and break it ? Improve it ? Or is it the good old Mission Red Planet we know and love.

To answer all those questions, this week Ewan had it fresh off the presses and ready to play in all it's cute chibi astronaut glory. Here's what he had to say about that.

Tonight Tim, Sam, Andy, Rich, Simon, and I put on our space helmets to head to Mars for riches in the second edition of Mission Red Planet.
Mission Red Planet reprint in all its glory

Mission Red Planet has been played a few times in the past at Nobog but I believe this may be the first time that the second edition has been played. I won’t go too much in depth into the rules/gameplay, as previous Noblogs have covered the first edition ( Ed. actually I'm not sure the basic premise ever has made it into a NoBlog.. google search says no ! ) .

However there are some differences with the newer edition. First off there are several cosmetic differences, including some cool astronauts for each player (now plays up to 6 players) as well as the board being circular and feeling a little smaller. Secondly the new addition of Phobos, a moon orbiting Mars, which is an extra zone to send your astronauts too and potentially use (in conjunction with the soldier card) to stage a Mars invasion. Finally the addition of action cards, which can really have an impact on the final phases of scoring.

Mars begins to fill up with eager astronauts
Playing with 6 certainly makes Mars now feel crowded but as everyone plays pretty much simultaneously each round it didn’t add too much to the overall game time, I think we took about 90 min to play after a rules explanation. The crowded board certainly added to the theme as the competition for resources was fierce and the slight change to the rules of counting down rather than up during character resolution made the game feel more thematic.

Phobos is an interesting addition an adding some addition strategies to the game. When you send astronauts there they are pretty much stuck there; however with the change to the soldier card you can move up to 3 to any area on Mars. This makes timing the soldier card even more important if you want to fully utilise him. The action cards have the potential to be a game changer and are brutal. Andy was able to play one entitled space zombies (yes even in a steam punk universe there are zombies) and bring all his dead astronauts back and put them anywhere on Mars; pipping me for control on a key area.

An unexplored Mars ready to be discovered - first turn MRP
Overall the new additions to Mission Red Planet have made this more than a simple reprint and have added a lot to the original game. For those that own the original though I don’t know whether this warrants buying the new edition (unless you want the new astronaut meeples) and it will depend on what you feel about the new rules. For me I really like the new additions and it makes Mission Red Planet feel new again with in a familiar setting. In terms of what went on in our game Tim ran away with the win due to some nice placements of discovery cards, netting him a lot of ice to win the global mission. Definitely worth a play for those who have either played the original or for new players.  

Six players at 90 minutes is a great play time. The board looked like utter chaos at the end - I didn't play it, but I would quibble that the game board is now far too busy - more players, bigger pieces, small board - to my eye it made it a good deal tougher to instantly appraise who was where in what numbers and what needed to be done to massage control. A minor quibble though. The astronauts look kick ass. I think I would possibly be tempted myself to custom print a bigger board for it. In any case, cool stuff, I wanna give this a go to see how the changes stack up.
Ten - hut. MRP Astronauts on parade.

Last weeks inaugural play at NoBoG of the print and play version of Secret Hitler took the house by storm ( and I failed to get a game of it ), so this week I printed out a second set of it just to make very damn sure that I would get to play it.

Which turned out to be wise as both copies ended up in use.

Secret Hitler. Time to out those whose fashion sense is far too
into sharp outfits with black, red and skull motifs.
Liable to be fascists or Dennis the Menace.
My first time playing Secret Hitler I found the game was indeed pretty damn good, and for all its simplified Resistance setup - and is there really enough to think about here, still has enough gas in game to get the usual pointy fingers and accusations going around a table, but dare I say it in more streamlined fashion. The game also feels very inclusive - the roles very quickly zip around the table, and having to exclude players who were previously part of the legislative roles forces play into a wider circle. Some very funny play, including an increasingly obvious Fascist of Lewis, Richard IV real time editing hitler moustaches onto suspects via some cell phone trickery, some discussion about when choosing who to kill whether you could kill yourself in some very apt Hitler suicide type thing and Sam blatantly acting like a Fascist in the first round - vote me, vote me, I'll kill who you like.. possibly the most needy Fascist play ever - but actually turning out to NOT be a fascist, followed by a much more trustworthy and calm game where he turned out in fact to be Hitler and got elected as Chancellor. Dammit. Plus I'm not sure I'll even believe Hal is anything but a liberal when playing Secret Hitler. I just can't see him as a Fascist. Ever. We finished on a five player game of Secret Hitler - and the consensus around the table was that five just doesn't work too well - I think six may be the actual workable minimum number for this game.

Old School Mexica
Hal brought along something of an old school classic in the form of Mexica which at this point is nearly 15 years old, one of a trio of games in the so called "Mask Trilogy" - Mexica, Tikal and Java. Mexica has recently had a reprint and a facelift with more detailed and fancier buildings and overhauled board art. An old school relaxed Euro ( as all the games in the Mask Trilogy are ), Mexica features players constructing buildings around the board in order to gain dominance in a particular district. Districts themselves are not set and are created from players building discrete islands surrounded by canals, meaning no two games will ever quite work out in the same way.

The new (resin?) building / pyramid pieces look great, and the game is quite the eye candy piece - although it has to be said that ALL of the Mask games were pretty nice to look at.

Ich bin ein Hamburgum. I am a donut as Kennedy once said.
Also keeping it Euro and somewhat old school as ever was Stu and Tom and this week Stu was offering Hamburgum (2007) up for play. I've not played this but it looks Eurotastic - and I think is one of the handful of games to have the whole action rondel thing going on ( a wheel of actions ) - of which I remember from the much fancied Navegador (2010).

Lewis tempted fate by playing Cauldron again, and the beast that is Betrayal at House in the Hill seems to be stirring once more and beginning to pop up or be requested with some regularity. I still maintain someone(s) needs to sit down and create a whole new story book for the game to extend past the 50 included. People like Luke have now played Betrayal so often they've done every single story, and a lot of those more than once ( which tells you something about how popular that game is with some people )

No Champions of Midgard this week ( gasp ), but we did have some Lords of Waterdeep instead.

Blood Rage, Ragnarok and the end of the world.
Oblivion. Which came as a relief if I'm honest.
And lastly Blood Rage also made it back to table, and a largely new player base got to go through its Viking delights with Pete teaching and then monster feedback engine-ing through the game ( he blasted to an enormous 200+ point victory by the end ). This is the second time I've played Blood Rage - I didn't like it the first time, I made something of a laundry list of outright mechanical flaws and noted a number of game design decisions that were personally unfun and eye rolling to me but gave it the benefit of the doubt - and this second time around I have to say it just underscored those issues to me and removed the benefit of the doubt to outright no thanks. Made worse this time around by my effective player elimination two thirds through the game. Ragnarok couldn't come quickly enough for me.

Lovely miniatures though.

A few shots for the gallery. Thanks go to Tim this week, who was snapping away with a fancy new phone to get you most of the shots of Mission Red Planet that you see. For me, I had time to snap extra shots of Blood Rage. It's not like I was doing anything else ...

Blood Rage - I had time to titivate with the camera

If this is the kind of game the Vikings play, I can see why they are all Blood Ragey. They're probably not enjoying Eric M Langs unique sense of questionable game design either.

Betrayal at House on the Hill. More stories required.

More Mission Red Planet

Pandemic. Contagion lurked in the corner with Voitek and Monika.


Elliot Symonds said...

Superstars like Eric should always be challenged by Bork. Looks like I missed a good one. Looking forward to being there tonight. Well written sir (and Ewan).

flamingJoe said...

there are actually a load of extra haunts on BGG although quite a few of them are fairly pap

Minitrue said...

I'll have to check out the extra Betrayal stories - I'd think it would be pretty straight forward to crowd source a bunch of stuff and bind it together to create a couple of new booklets for the game. Easiest expansion ever. I'm kinda surprised they've not properly done an expansion for it, given that it's one of the most common games out there according to the geek.

Also. Yeah. Eric. After Blood Rage this week I went back and re-assessed what I knew of his games, checked which ones I had played, those I owned, and what I thought - and tbh I am having my doubts. I know his name gets a mention on games he is attached to, but I am really not seeing it. Chaos in the Old World is a nice game - but also has some serious flaws, although in that case it's something you can work with... mostly... but you can get the dreaded "newbie ruined this game" effect with it, which is a fairly heavy burden for a newbie to carry for a game ( that'd be one of them there design flaws... expecting newbies to understand the games unique bits of unbalanced asymmetry and dealing with it accordingly ). Other than that - for me, he is meh. So. Bit of a re-assessment for me. Things like Arcadia Quest - which is cool - but rules, mechanically, it's.... well, being kind, it's by the numbers. Being cruel it's phoned in with some really blah mechanics and others that simply suffice. If I start looking around at other "named" designers, he doesn't compare well. All due respect and kudos to him for his game work, but for me personally - and also I think objectively in a decent mechanics kind of way - he doesn't inspire.