Game Buzz: Mars Needs Mechanics

Now, let us delve into the world of steampunk:

image by BGG user Bryan Fischer
image by BGG user Bryan Fischer

Mars Needs Mechanics is a new game from designer Ben Rosset that is being published by Nevermore Games.  It’s a 2-4 player game that takes 45 minutes to play.  The theme is that the British Royal Academy of Space Exploration is trying to reach Mars by the end of the year (1873).  You are competing for the position of Royal Astronautical Engineer.  This game was successfully Kickstarted last October, and is now being delivered to backers.

The game comes with a board, 7 value markers, 7 component tokens, 8 scrap metal cards, a first player marker, 56 component cards, 50 cogs (values 1-5-10), 12 player markers, and 10 mechanism blueprints.  Each player begins with two scrap metal cards, 30 cogs, and three component cards.  Choose some mechanisms to begin work on (generally 4-5 with a starting set of X-Ray Goggles, Aether Drive, Rocket Booster, and Difference Engine recommended for your first game).  Eight component cards are laid out to form the market, component tokens are laid out randomly on the order line, and value tokens are all placed on value 5 for their respective type.

MNM is played over a series of rounds, and each round consists of successive player turn.  On your turn, you must take a Primary Action, and then may take Optional Actions.  The Primary action is either to purchase a component or pass.  To purchase, you just take a component card and pay for it in cogs.  You can’t go into debt or borrow.  You’ll also move the corresponding component token from its place on the order line to the front.  If you pass, you just can’t buy anything this turn, but you can still take Optional Actions.

Optional Actions are to build and/or break down mechanisms.  To build, put the necessary component cards on the table and mark the mechanism with a marker (you can only build the mechanisms chosen during setup).  To break down, take the components back and remove your marker.  More than one player can have the same mechanism built at a time, but you can only have one mechanism built at a time.  You can build/break down a mechanism at any point during your turn, but you can’t build/break down the same mechanism in a turn.  Mechanisms give you special abilities, but since you can only have one at a time, you’ll need to break them down to take advantage of others.

The round is over when all component cards are purchased, or when all contestants consecutively pass.  At this point, the value of the last three components in the order line are all decreased by one, while the first three are all increased by one.  You may then sell sets of components (3 or more) for their combined value (scrap can be substituted to get your set up to three, but has a value of zero).  You can’t break down mechanisms for more components at this point, so make sure you do it in the round if you need to.  Component cards are restocked up to eight.

The game ends when there are no component cards left in the deck when you begin to restock the market, or if no contestants purchase components for two consecutive rounds.  The player with the most cogs wins.

Mars Needs Mechanics seems like a pretty easy game to understand.  It’s basically set collection with some stock manipulation going on – components will be changing in price, and you’ll want to sell for more than you bought.  It seems like it will play very fast, and it looks like the mechanisms will add some good variety to the mix.  The art looks good, and I would imagine that this is going to be a good family game (the age range is listed as 8+, which sounds about right to me just from looking at the rules).

So, now this game is higher on my interest list.  It seems accessible, easy to learn, and may provide a gateway into more complex stock games.  I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for it.  Thanks for reading!

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