MISSION to MARS 2049 is designed by Dagnis Skurbe and you can find the official website at www.mars2049.com. It's publishing, by black n white games, was funded through the IndieGoGo crowdfunding website (www.indiegogo.com).
Mission to Mars 2049 is a 2-4 player game that takes between 45 minutes to nearly 2 hours to play for players who are nine years and older.
Mars is known as the red planet and both the box and the board of this game present you with the right visual atmosphere to emphasise this. The box is of classic square design and of heavy card so that it is sturdy, ready for long term use, as are the cards and counters. The rules are in a full colour glossy; 20 pages of A5. 8 of which are Covers, FAQs, Honourable Mentions and information about the Planet Mars and the Story of the game.
As you may have guessed from its title, Mission to Mars 2049 is set in the year 2049 which is 25 years after the first humans landed on Mars and set up home. The colonists have discovered that water is available deep beneath the surface and have traced the best position for setting up an H20 extraction station is basically the North Pole of Mars, the centre of the Martian Polar Ice-Cap. The components have therefore been designed to represent the Resources and Bases required for continual life on Mars. Each player has a number of tokens in their chosen colour to represrent their Bases. Bases are important as each Resource Station has to be in supply from a Base. Resource Stations are also Tokens (counters) and these all look the same with the exception that they have a small star in the player ID colour which shows their ownership. Continuing through the counters there are Laboratories that allow you to trade resources at a 4 to 1 cost which can be brought down to 3 to 1 and even 2 to 1. Unlike Settlers of Catan, for example, the trade is literally 4 resources to one and not four of the same kind to one.
Resources come into the game by way of cards, Blue for Air, Green for Food and Red for Minerals, each card being one resource. For multiple resources there are our friends the tokens again, in 3s and 8s. It is worth noting that Resource cards can be stolen but Resource Tokens cannot. There are three other types of cards; Road cards, which are basically just that "roads" with no special abilities or actions and then there are Mission cards. When you buy a Mission card you can buy either a Lightning black-backed card which is deemed as Aggressive and may be additionally advantageous to you and to other players or a grey-backed Peace sign card which are non-aggressive cards and are always good for you. There are different costs for everything you can buy including each type of Mission card.
Players begin the game with an exact number of components and have to play their first base on the designated point on the edge of the map depending on the number of players. The map, showing the surface of Mars, is overlaid with a spider-web and it is on the intersections of this "web" that Bases and Stations are built. Around their first Base each player positions one of each of the Resource Stations which leaves two adjacent points, one of which being where the next Base must be placed. When you place a new Base you open up more intersections on which to build Resource Stations. Each player also begins the game with one, and only one, Road section. This is to bridge the gap between the Ice-Cap where you will lay your H2O Station and your last Base. The game is won by the first player to build their H2O Station on the Polar Ice-Cap.
Like the majority of resource management games you need to use/spend resources to Build Bases and Stations. You might obtain more resources at the start of each player's turn if the Special Die rolls to a stop face up on a side showing either Air, Food or Mineral. You receive one resource card for each of that type of Resource Station you own. The other three sides of the Special Die show a Masked Man, a Bandit which allows the roller to steal a Resource card from another player - you choose the player but the Resource card is drawn randomly. Then there is a Diamond which represents Discovery and allows you to take one Resource card of any type or one Road card from the bank, and finally there is the X which means you miss your turn. However if you roll Miss a Turn twice in a row you gain a resource card of your choice from the bank, though you still miss the turn. To Build you need Resources, we've established that already, and the Building Cost Sheet visually explains the cost for each Building. Every player has their own Building Costs Sheet but as they are all the same three of the four in the box are redundant.
The game came out early in 2016 and was on sale and display at the Spiel Fair in Essen in October. It plays exactly as it should according to the rules and the two page FAQ (which is weirdly described as "Optional") covers anything likely to come up that isn't readily available in the appropriate section of the rules. Overall, having played it with a number of different players we couldn't think of anything to add or change and still keep the game on its official heading. It relies on you being able to collect the correct and required Resources and to spend and build at the most fortunate times. It is a race to the Ice-Cap and only the player who gets the least bad luck on the die rolls and uses their resources in the best possible way will win.
Backwards to the Future:
It is unusual to find a game of this older genre as new on the market as this manner of mechanic and gameplay was more in favour some fifteen to twenty years back. It is as if the designer looked at the games available today and saw many quite similar productions and decided to go back to as near to the grass roots as possible without re-inventing Monopoly. Mission to Mars would be great to include if you are planning a retro game session or if you wish to introduce non-gamers to a basic resource management and building experience.