Mission Red Planet has players attempt to gain control of one of 10 designated zones of the Red Planet by launching their astronauts into space via a series of steam powered spaceships. Mission Red Planet is designed by Bruno Faidutti, the creator of Citadels – a highly popular card game that uses a development and role choice mechanic. Playing through Mission Red Planet, you see some of the same role choices, but with the introduction of area control to the game and it is a very much under-rated light to medium strategy board game.
Appearance: Mission Red Planet’s artwork is very steampunk, with characters all drawn from that genre. The only real artwork in the game is in the character cards which are great to look at and the main game board which is mostly functional. I definitely like the artwork, but there’s not much of it – and the tokens and astronauts are your standard Euro fare. Overall, the game’s functional to good in this category. I will say the use of the external board for placing cards requires you to have a lot of table space though.
Rules / Ease of Learning: Mission Red Planet’s rules are actually very simple and quite clearly covered. The game lasts a total of 10 turns with 3 scoring rounds on turns 5, 8 and 10. Players attempt to have the most astronauts in one of the 10 locations on the board, with additional goal cards providing bonus points as well. To get their astronauts onto Mars, players have to fill up the spaceships awaiting launch. Each spaceship has a unique capacity for astronauts and a destination on Mars, so choosing the right spaceship to board is very important.
At the beginning of each turn players choose one of their nine (9) characters to play. Play order for the turn is in order of the characters in-play as each character is numbered 1 to 9. This part of the game seems very familiar to players of Citadels, though in Mission Red Planet, every player has their own identical set of character cards.
The characters all have special abilities, ranging from the Soldier who allows you to add two astronauts to a spaceship and kill another astronaut on Mars to the Travel Agent who sends three (3) astronauts onto a spaceship.
Additional minor rules also deal with scoring, discovery cards (which can alter how the board is played) and the special abilities of the characters. Overall, it took me 5 minutes to quickly explain the game to my group and then we were off.
Gameplay: The first time we played Mission Red Planet, we had to replay it a second time, so you can guess how much we liked it. It’s a fast playing game, but strategies slowly become clear after a game or two. We are all fans of the role choice selection mechanic, so we all enjoyed the choices we had while trying figure out which spaceships to populate and which areas to control.
Mission Red Planet’s use of spaceships that populate area’s is particularly interesting. The spaceships only launch when they are full (normally) so you have to plan ahead to get your astronauts to the right location on time, while making sure you don’t launch with too many of the other player’s astronauts. In addition, characters like the Pilot and the Saboteur make putting too many astronauts on one spaceship dangerous. On the other hand, because players can only regain cards once they play the Recruiter card, tracking what cards have been played is an effective tactic.
Conclusion: Mission Red Planet is one of those solid games that just did not get as much buzz as it should have last year. It’s a good, solid game that I would not hesitate to pull out with gamers and non-gamers alike.