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POCKET MARS: 
Game designed by Michal Jagodzinski   Art designed by Jaroslaw Wajs   Published by BOARD & DICE

This is a 15-30 minute card game for 2-4 players aged 10 and above that you can find this impressive game on the internet for a great price of under £9.00.

The box holds a deck of cards: 35 Projects (5 types of 7); 5 Building; 4 Spaceships; 4 Reference and 1 Start Player, plus 28 Colonist and 4 Energy Markers

  

The rules are covered by 10 small pages with a multitude of illustrations and examples. They are written clearly and easy to comprehend by using sub-headings and numerical points pertaining to the illustrations on the same or opposite pages. The idea of the game is to effectively relocate colonists onto Mars. Each player has a Spaceship card and the Colonists (wooden cubes) that match it by colour - the space in front of each player is their personal area where they position their Spaceship with one of their Colonists; the others are placed in a common pool, appropriately called Earth. Colonists are taken from Earth to the Spaceship and then on to Mars to Build. There are five Building cards that remain constantly in play and it is on these that players earn a lot of Victory Points as well as getting the Bonuses depicted on the Building, thus it is important to know when to land a Colonist on which Building as often you need the Bonus from one and the VPs from another and of course you cannot do both so you have to make a choice.

  

To move the Colonists the Project cards are required and their use is probably the most prominent and important part of the game play. These cards have two possible Actions which are triggered when they are played from the hand (the Action associated with the top half of the lower portion of the card) or from the table in front of the player (cards here are known as the prep-module because they have been previously chosen and positioned) - the Action associated with the bottom half of the lower portion of the card. The actual top half of these cards has a technical style diagram and a 0-7 value, these values only being in play when the card is played from the hand.

At the beginning of each player's Turn they may only have 4 cards, 2 in front and 2 in hand. A Player's Turn is the completion of one of the five possible options: Play a Project card from hand, from their Prep Module, from any other player's Prep Module (yes, you may play other player's cards and this is where I say that because by this point we are enjoying the game so much we often forget this possibility and are trying to make the best of our own cards and not thinking clearly) or take a single Colonist from Earth (to their Spaceship) or final option, gain one energy (marked on their Spaceship). The game ends when one player has all 7 of their Colonists on Buildings on Mars and then there is a VP count up so although placing your Colonists stops the game it doesn't necessarily mean you win.

  

The five Buildings of Mars are colour coded in the same colours as the cards which means, if you haven't guessed it by now, that to land a Colonist on a Building you need to have played a Project card of that colour. Ecosystem (Green), Science (Purple), Water (Blue), Energy (Orange) and Construction (Black); Black Project cards always have a value of Zero and you cannot Build Black Buildings on Mars. When you play Project cards onto a Building you generally need to beat that Building's value to begin with and then as play continues you need to beat the value of the previously played card on that Building. If you do defeat the previous value then you can use the Bonus of the Building but you still get to use Action on the associated part of the card; all of this is eloquently described in the rules and rule examples. The cards, other than Black, all are valued differently and each has a different (top half) illustration of white-lined blueprint-style plans.

POCKET MARS requires a fairly deep though not necessarily large pocket in your coat/jacket to carry it in, or better still whatever bag (rucksack, briefcase, man-bag, handbag etc) you usually take with you, it also does not require a large playing area, a regular card table will suffice. It is a game I am always happy to play and to carry with me when I am off to play games at a friends. This is because although the game mechanics are simple and easy to pick up and explain and yet each game plays somewhat differently due to each players own choices. Okay there is a little luck, cards being shuffled and dealt but it is rare that winning the game depends on luck or even player error; it is more by skill and manipulating the cards you are dealt, much in the way that Poker is down to the players not necessarily the deal.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015