UK games Expo has been and gone, there was a small number of game releases, one of which was Pocket Mars from Board&dice. People were excited about it at the show. We got our hands on it and give it a whirl.
The games hobby seems to have gone crazy for Mars themed games (the planet, not the choccy bar) lately and this jumps in on that theme in the small games in a small box for a small price market.
The contents are fairly simple a deck of cards and a handful of wooden cubes (astronauts) and round marker discs.
The game on display at UK Games Expo
The rules are fairly straightforward and well laid out and were pretty easy to follow, but the game is slightly more complex than you may expect. The game is all about settling your astronauts on Mars via the use of playing cards while helping to build the 5 buildings that are being built on the planet.
The game starts out with you having 4 cards in play. 2 in your hand and 2 in your ‘Prep Module’ which is face down on the table in front of you. On your turn you will execute one of 5 possible actions although you will mainly be using only two of them, which is playing a card from your hand or a card from your prep module. Then you refill back to 4 cards at the end of the turn.
Each card has 4 types of information on. First of all is the building that it can be added to if it is in your Prep module (or its colour). The next is the value of the building (a number) again which is only for when you play it from your Prep module. The third and fourth are two different boxes of text, one is for if you play the card from your hand, you get to do the text on the card and the last is if you play the card from your Prep module, again you do what it says on the card.
The game is about to start. We used the meteor to represent earth for the astronauts.
The neat thing is that the 2 different actions on the card are significantly different from each other. However once you put a card in the prep module, it stays there and the only way to get rid of it is by playing it out or finding an action to get it out of there.
One other action available is that you can send someone else’s Prep module card to the relevant building. However the owner gets the action on the card and you get the special action that is written on the building (which can be very handy at the right time). You will only use this if you have the wrong cards in your Prep module.
The draw deck is neat too. The project cards (the ones in your hand/prep module) have different colour backs showing which of the five buildings on Mars they can help to build, so you know a bit of information about the card you are drawing. The project deck is split into 3 draw decks, so you have a choice of which card you can draw as you can see the back of each of the top 3 cards.
This is a nice little game, works with 2, 3 or 4 players. With 4 it takes around half an hour a game and the scores are usually pretty close. The theme is there, although it is a little loose and could easily be about something else, but Mars is where it is right now.
It does have its flaws though. Firstly those three draw decks I mention above, they are really fiddly to reset when one deck exhausts. This happens a lot as there is only around 35 cards in the project deck. The smaller the numbers of players the less this happens, so a lot less with 2 than 4, but it does happen. The second is that some of the cards are super powerful, some are really terrible and getting the right card at the right time can make the difference. For a half hour game, it is not so much of a big deal to me, but I know there are people out there that will have issues with this. There is a chunk of luck involved due to this.
Overall a pretty good attempt and for £10 you can’t really go that wrong.
It appears that I have mis-read the rules and there is only one draw deck, not three. I need to investigate this further, any excuse to get some more plays in. Heaven knows where I got the 3 decks from then. I have been reading a lot of rulebooks lately, so I must have had something else stuck in the back of my mind when I was reading the rulebook.