Mission: Red Planet – Review

Theme

Lately it seems that games built around the theme of colonizing Mars are the new hotness within the tabletop scene. Terraforming Mars arrived in 2016 with high praise, while Ignacy Trzewiczek’s First Martians has the board game community frothing at the mouth for this spiritual successor of Robinson Crusoe to hit the shelves sometime this year. Both of the mentioned titles lean toward the heavier side of gaming mechanics, however if you fancy yourself playing something a little more whimsical and lighthearted, may I present to you Mission: Red Planet, brought to you by the dynamic duo of game designers: Bruno Cathala and Bruno Faidutti.

Mechanics

Mission: Red Planet is a game that brings both simultaneous action selection and area control mechanics together into one enjoyable gaming experience. Each player possesses the same hand of cards, numbered 1 through 9, which represent a different character. Turn order is based on the card selected, beginning with anyone who picked the number 9 card and counting down to 1 (get it? It’s a launch countdown) until everyone has revealed their cards.

Every character card will allow you to first place one or several astronauts onto docked rocket ships headed to Mars, but it’s what you get to do afterwards that things start becoming interesting, as the characters have their own unique abilities that will aid your course to victory and also steer your opponent to a miserable defeat. One of my favourite characters in the game is the Saboteur, as he simply lets you destroy any docked ship, which can really throw a wrench in your opponent’s plans. A fair warning to any players who do not enjoy “take that” mechanics, Mission: Red Planet sprinkles plenty of player interaction (or should I say interference?) into the game.

When a docked ship has reached its maximum capacity of passengers, it lifts off, setting a course to Mars; this is where the area control portion of the game comes into effect. Players will then place their astronauts on the area of the circular board that matches the ship’s destination and discover one of the three resources that they will be vying for control over. At certain intervals during the game, discovered areas will produce their respective resources, and the player with the most astronauts in the area will receive that resource, which amounts to points for end of game scoring. Some characters also grant unique methods of scoring points by drawing from a deck of Discovery Cards. At the end of the game, all of the resources and Discovery Cards are scored and the player with the highest total amount of points is declared the winner!

One thing to note in this game is that careful hand management is extremely important, because once a character card is played, it remains discarded unless a player reveals the Recruiter, which returns all discarded cards to that person’s hand. But since Mission: Red Planet lasts for only 10 rounds, you’ll want to save the Recruiter for a time when you have exhausted as many of the other characters before taking them back. A significant part of where the fun is had in this game is getting into your opponent’s head and guessing what they might play next in order to know which of your characters will ensure your plans are best executed for you to stay ahead!

Components

While I’ve never played the first edition of Mission: Red Planet, my understanding is that the production quality of the second printing is light years better than the original. I love how each player’s pieces are cute miniature astronauts and the artwork in this game is spectacular. The characters are beautifully illustrated in a steampunk sci-fi setting, which is also carried forward to other elements in the game such as the round tracker and rocket ship cards. I also find that the quirky art direction in Mission: Red Planet helps to lighten the nature of the game’s “take that” style, making the overall experience of playing this game quite pleasant.

Conclusion

More experienced board gamers might draw comparisons between Mission: Red Planet and another game that was released several years before this called Citadels. Citadels has the near identical mechanic of simultaneous action selection in the form of character cards and variable player order as Mission: Red Planet; it also happens to be designed by Bruno Faidutti. I myself quite enjoy playing both these games, but for some people the act of counting down for all ten rounds of Mission: Red Planet and waiting for people to complete their actions can feel repetitive and drawn out. This is particularly evident when playing the game at its maximum player count of 6 people, which in that case there would certainly be a lengthier downtime in between turns and the game then suffers from overstaying its welcome.

Mission: Red Planet is also not an easy teach for newer gamers because it introduces two different kinds of gameplay, making explaining the rules rather tricky. All that aside, if you are looking to enjoy a casual science fiction game and have a smaller group present, then Mission: Red Planet remains a solid recommendation for you to at least try before you buy.

Written by: Ryan Chan

My passion for board games started in 2014 when I first visited a board game cafe and walked out with Castle Panic that same day. Since then, my love for tabletop gaming hasn't stopped and my collection continues to grow. When I'm not playing board games you can find me scaling the walls of a climbing gym or walking around with my camera in hand.

37 Comments Added

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  1. Sandra Watts June 9, 2017 | Reply

    This looks like a pretty cool game. I am sure the kids would enjoy.

    • Ryan June 12, 2017 | Reply

      It certainly is a lot of fun and if your kids are more experienced playing board games, this will be a great addition to the collection!

  2. Sparks June 11, 2017 | Reply

    Nice to hear your thoughts on this. It had intrigued me previously but I had not dug that much in to it. Hearing your points makes me hesitant and I will definitely be looking for a better fit for those I have to game with. Thank you for the help in avoiding a game that I would be less than happy with in the long run.

    • Ryan June 12, 2017 | Reply

      Glad that the review helped you to make an informed decision! This game does require some patience and a more experienced group to make this one enjoyable, but when you do gather the right people this game can be a blast!

  3. JurassicMatt June 11, 2017 | Reply

    Nice review. I’m a fan of the Cathala/Faidutti joint games, and this one has been on my watch list for a little while.

    • Ryan June 26, 2017 | Reply

      Thanks! I hope you’ll have an opportunity to try it out soon. Let me know what you think of it 🙂

    • Ryan July 4, 2017 | Reply

      Glad you found it useful! Hope that you’ll find my other reviews similarly helpful 🙂

  4. Michael Koch June 30, 2017 | Reply

    I like the way that you talk about what kinds of players the game would be good for and also the way that you compare it to another game that we might already know.

    • Ryan July 4, 2017 | Reply

      Thanks Michael! I do my best to keep the type of gamer in mind when providing my opinion on games! 😀

  5. Kyle July 2, 2017 | Reply

    This is a blast! Pun intended. Very easy to learn but with enough strategy to keep you entertained.

    • Ryan July 4, 2017 | Reply

      Agreed! It’s a tense game throughout and you’re never really sure who’s in the lead at any given point!

  6. Umut C July 4, 2017 | Reply

    I love Mission: Red Planet. Quick, but so fun.

  7. Ryan July 4, 2017 | Reply

    I usually see this rated higher, glad to see =

  8. Jared Heifetz July 5, 2017 | Reply

    Seems alright but I feel there are now a bunch of games that are similar

  9. snordboard July 5, 2017 | Reply

    Mission Red Planet usually has favorable ratings. I would probably rate it 7 or 7.5, good family weight gateway game that is good even at higher player counts and has a good role selection mechanic.

  10. Adam July 8, 2017 | Reply

    Games with Mars are always kind of neat.

  11. Patrick Moore July 11, 2017 | Reply

    My girlfriend, niece and nephews love this game. Simple to learn, but certainly a lot going for it. It’s a great game to own for folks who want a light area control game.

  12. KHamilton July 15, 2017 | Reply

    As I enjoy Citadels, I will have to give this one a try.

  13. Gunder July 15, 2017 | Reply

    Ill wait to play this one before I pull a trigger.

  14. Paul M July 15, 2017 | Reply

    I hear nothing but raving about the game so good to hear some negatives. I like the mechanics, but I can probably do without because I have to play with a lot of new gamers most of the time.

  15. Owlbear July 17, 2017 | Reply

    I’ve been dying to try this one, now even more so!

  16. DRAKO July 18, 2017 | Reply

    I wanna play this game!

  17. James July 21, 2017 | Reply

    I have Citadels and it didn’t really stick with my group. I’m going to have to give it another try but maybe the theme of this one will draw more people in.

  18. Amber s July 29, 2017 | Reply

    Tried this game at my local game store!

  19. DJHAAK July 31, 2017 | Reply

    Hopefully I’ll be able to try this out.

  20. Rick July 31, 2017 | Reply

    Looks pretty fun. I’m a big fan of Citadel’s and this appears to be along the same lines

  21. brody August 3, 2017 | Reply

    haven’t played this one yet

  22. maltebrigge August 19, 2017 | Reply

    Heard about this game, the review increases my interest.

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