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Nevermore Games: Mars Needs Mechanics – Review

March 15, 2016

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Publisher Nevermore Games
Genre Economic
Number of Players 2 – 4
Play Time 45 minutes
Initial Review Date 3/14/16
Last Updated 3/14/16

Mars needs mechanics is a steam punk themed game where you buy and sell goods. Buying goods cheap and selling them for profit is the main point of the game. There is a mechanic where you can use the things you purchase in order to build an invention. While this isn’t a trivial part of the game it’s not really the focus.

Setup

Each player is given a set of colored tokens, two scrap cards and 30 cogs (the in game currency). A central board is used to track the current commodity prices of the seven types of goods in the game. In addition to the price tracker at the bottom a set of seven disks are placed along the top of the board. The position of these disks determines if that particular item will increase or decrease in price.

The invention cards are then shuffled and four are dealt out, representing the inventions available in this game. The remaining cards are set aside and are not used.

Finally, a deck of cards representing the commodities in the game are shuffled and eight are dealt out to create the market.

Basic Game Play

Player Turns

Each turn is actually quite simple and straight forward.

  1. Buy a card from the market for it’s listed price in cogs or Pass.
  2. (optional) Build an invention or Dismantle an invention.

The first part is as it says, you pick up a card and pay it’s value in cogs or choose to pass. The round ends either when everyone passes or there are no more cards to purchase. When you purchase a card it’s corresponding disk is placed in the forward-most position along the top of the central board. If it is already in the forward-most position then it doesn’t move.

The second part is as indicated optional. You can build one of the four inventions by placing the corresponding components face up in front of you from your hand of cards.  You then place one of your colored markers on the invention card to show that it is the invention you’ve built. Alternatively you can dismantle an invention by simply picking up the placed cards and putting them back into your hand and retrieving your marker from the invention.  You can only have one invention built at a time so you will have to dismantle anything you’ve built before you can build the new one.

End of the Round

Once the market is empty or everyone has consecutively passed, the round ends. At this point the token order is reviewed. The first three items increase in price and the last three decrease in price. Then players can sell their commodities (if they want to). However, players have to sell in sets. A set must have 3 or more of the same item. Scrap cards can be used to complete sets but are otherwise worth zero. So, two gears (worth 7 each) and a single piece of scrap can be sold for a total of 14 cogs.

Once everyone is done selling cards are drawn to bring the market back up to 8, the start player token passes to the next player and then the new round begins.

Scoring

The player with the most money wins. There are a few ways to break ties if needed.

Conclusion

The game is deceptive in several ways. To start with, the description on the box would lead you to believe that you’ll be competing with other players to build increasingly complex inventions and that the player who has the least amount of parts left over wins. Instead the game feels more like buying and selling stocks.

Once you accept that this is a purely economic game, you are thrown for another loop. The game is almost backwards in terms of how you would expect prices to rise and fall. Selling a good has zero impact on the price of that good. Goods that are rare (and therefore unavailable for purchase) get cheaper over time, while goods that are plentiful and bought all the time will become more expensive.

Timing becomes critical in this game since the last three goods purchased will be the ones that go up in price and the ones you grab first will actually lose value. So, it ends up becoming a game of chicken where you hold off on buying the items you really want, so you can ensure that they will increase in value after you buy them.

If you like games where you buy and sell things you will really enjoy this game. The strategy curve ball it throws at you makes an otherwise simple game interesting and makes it stand out from other economic games.

On the other hand if the idea of buying and selling things doesn’t appeal to you I would avoid this game. The steam punk theme is just  a decoration for a game that has little to do with building steampunk Rube Goldberg machines.


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