Dear friends and fans of Indie Board & Card Games! Valued Readers!
It is my pleasure to announce and introduce you to another AP Games prototype! This time it is not your regular Wizard-Duelling, spell-casting and monster-summoning fantasy game as you all know I am capable of doing. 😀
Let me quote from the game box of the Mission: Alien Planet (or just “M.A.P.”) prototype:
“You are part of a crew of 4 scientists, so called “Xenologists”, who just landed on a recently discovererd, alien planet revolving around the nearby star Tau Ceti. The exotic, new planet you are about to explore is teeming with fantastic lifeforms and your mission is to collect data about as many of them as possible. As you explore the strange and hazardous terrain of the planet, peril and danger awaits your team. Will you be able to collect the required number of Victory Points by acquiring data on alien species before being wiped out?”
So M.A.P. is a game about exploration, about alien creature hunting and about survival, which utilizes a number of components such as decks of cards, a small game board, as well as dice amongst other things. The goal of the game, as stated above, is to collect a certain number of Victory Points (the exact number is not yet determined but it will be variable in the end – the higher the target VP total you choose at the outset of the game, the harder the game will be to beat) by acquiring data on as many different alien life forms as possible. There are different ways of collecting data and thus VP, but first, let me show you an image of the prototype game board:
You can see there is a lot going on on the above game board. Let me explain the most important things:
You have a “Victory Points Meter” on the right edge of the board. Here you’d place a small D6 to keep track of your current VP count. Once again, it has still to be determined how many VP have to be collected in a standard (or easy/hard) game. On the bottom you’ll find the Distance Marker, which will help you keep track of how far you venture into the exotic wilds from your starting point, your Base, which you find in the central hex on the planet on the above board. This is a cooperative game, that can, for those who are inclined to do so, be played solo as well, and your team of Xenologists (you will always have 4 of them, even in a 2 or 3 player game – in which case (a) player(s) control(s) more than one Xenologist) will always start out on the central Base Hex.
Here is a picture of a Xenologist card (all 4 are identical except for their color and have 4 Base Stats which are kept track of by means of accordingly colored D6s):
The base has 20 points worth of Resources (the number in the grey orb) and 40 points of Power (as in Energy – the number in the blue orb). These are kept track of by means of a black D20 and two blue D20 respectively and you’ll be using your Resources to repair your Xenologist’s Armor etc and replenish their Power or the Power of the Items they use.
Speaking of Items: Before you venture out into the unknown Terrain of the alien planet, it would be wise to equip your Xenologists properly first. As you can see above, there are 4 “slots” for Items, which are small rectangular cards that can be “docked” onto your Xenologists. There is a huge variety of Items available, each doing something differenet, so you do not have to equip each of your Xenologist with the same set of Items, but rather “build” a team with all kinds of useful equipment, which will increase your odds of collecting alien creature data – and surviving whilst doing so. Your Xenologists have 3 Shields (in green) and 3 Armor (in black/grey) on the most basic level. If both are depleted, attacks of hostile alien lifeforms will drain their Health (in red). Once the Health of a Xenologist drops to zero or below, they are out of the game. Besides these 3 stats, each Xenologist carries with them a supply of 6 Energy (in blue) by default. Energy is used for various purposes and can be recharged at the Base, where Shields and Armor can be replenished too (at the cost of Energy/Resources) and Health can be fully replenished (at no cost whatsoever).
Here’s what a fully equipped Xenologist may look like:
Now on to the different types of Terrain and how you explore the strange, new world orbiting far-off Tau Ceti.
Please take another look at the game board I showed you above: You will see that, surrounding the base, you have various types of terrain, represented by sliced-in-half hexes. Each kind of terrain (there are 8 different types of terrain) is represented by a smaller or larger deck of cards. The actual exploration works like this:
You move your meeple (representing your team of Xenologists) onto a “half-hex” adjacent to your base and advance the distance meter by 1. Then you draw (a) card(s) from the corresponding Terrain Deck. The Terrain Deck contains various alien species (Carnivores, which attack “on sight” and Herbivores, which ignore you unless disturbed in some way) as well as hazardous or sometimes even beneficial Terrain Events that may have certain environmental effects on your team or the game as a whole.
Each Terrain Deck contains an unique combination of various alien species indigenous to the terrain type as well as different, terrain-specific or also generic Events. Here sample Species from all Terrain Types:
At this point I would like to extend a hearty thank you to my friend Tobi from Germany for kindly sharing the awesome creature artwork with me!!
The “hazard level” varies from terrain type to terrain type. This means when on a Prairie or a Forest you will face less environmental dangers than when exploring hazardous or volcanic wastelands. HOWEVER, the higher the risk the higher the reward, as the alien species you’ll find in more dangerous environments will be more valuable in terms of Victory Points.
For instance, let’s have a look at the cards the Tundra Deck contains (in the game there are duplicates mind you):
The card in the upper left hand corner is the card back of the Tundra Deck, whereas the other top row cards are the different Species you can and will encounter in the Tundra environment. The bottom cards are the different Tundra Events.
In this introductory article I will not go into great detail as to how the actual data collecting will be done. Only so much:
Each species has a VP-Value (the number in the gold-surrounded green orb in the top right corner of the card) as well as an Agility value (the one with the greenish glow) as well as a Health value (the number in the red square) as well as a text box. When you encounter an Alien Species it will attack you, or rather start acting, if it is a Carnivore and if it is a Herbivore, it will do nothing unless you attack it. In any case, you have 3 options when encountering a creature: You can either just PROBE it, which will grant you 1 VP if the species is the first of its kind you probed, OR you can try to KILL it, whereby you get half of their printed VP (rounded up) if it is the first of its kind you killed OR you can try to CATCH it (using a special kind of item) for which you get to add its entire VP-value to your total, if it is the first of its kind you captured. Large parts of fighting and catching alien species is handled through dice rolls.For instance, the behavioral pattern of any species is determined by dice rolls.
Take a look at this sample species:
As you can see, upon rolling a D6, Deinolupus will try to flee on a 1 – 2, will attack one of your crew members for 2 damage on a 3 – 5 or even for 4 damage upon rolling a 6.
As you move around the map of the alien planet you should return to the Base every now and then or when need be, to replenish health and energy, repair your armor and maybe to switch items. Also, any data acquired through probing, killing and/or catching will be added to your Victory Points total only when you return it to your Base.
And that is all I can tell you about M.A.P. as of now!
All I can say is that I am thrilled to get it tested, get some of the still more or less vague rules nailed down properly and think it has potential, combining co-op gameplay, clever team-building and resource management, the catching and collecting aspect which has made video games like Pokémon for instance popular, the survival aspect and the option to play solo even, as well as a healthy but not-too-dominant dose of luck.
I will keep you updated on the progress of the game – however, please keep in mind that this is only one of oh so many side-projects I tend to have all the times!
So thank you for your interest – I hope you had a good read! Please feel free to drop me some feedback down in the comments! Would love to hear your opinion on the new prototype!