Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Thursday 8 October 2020

Thoughts from The Yellow Meeple:- Magic Maze on Mars

Game: Magic Maze on Mars

Publisher: Sit Down Games

Designer: Kasper Lapp

Year: 2019

Magic Maze was a really revolutionary cooperative game for us. Long before the mind, Magic Maze was a game that asked you to work together as a team without talking to each other. The best chance of communication you were given was the passive aggressive, "do something" pawn which you could slam on the table in front of your friends. Magic Maze is a game that we've played countless times. It's tutorial-sytle rulebook means that every time we introduce it to a new audience we can start with the easy missions and the game essentially teaches itself. What's amazing is that we don't get bored of that first mission either - Magic Maze isn't a game you can get really good at and carry the team - it really levels the playing field.

After a couple of expansions to Magic Maze, which we've not fully explored, Sit Down Games have now taken the concept to space with their new, standalone game, Magic Maze on Mars. We're definitely excited for more Magic Maze content, but we were intrigued to see what has been changed in the new game and see if we needed to add it to our shelves.

In Magic Maze on Mars, each player takes control of two or more colours - at two players you'll have three colours each. That colour is your responsibility. Need to generate a blue resource? That's down to you. Move along a blue path? That's you too. Open a blue door? Also you. Create a new blue road? You guessed it... The thing is, you're also responsible for yellow and green and keeping track of all three colours can be very confusing. Plus, your team-mates around the table are forbidden from talking to you to point out the fact that you really, really need to generate a yellow resource! 



Your collective goal is to deliver resources to build the bases indicated on the board and then get the astronauts into those bases. You start with just one tile in the centre of the table and to extend the map you'll need to take resources to the gates and open up new tiles. Much like the original game of Magic Maze, this game is real time and if the timer ever runs out of sand you'll lose the game. There are certain locations on the map that allow you to flip the timer and earn more time. The game does not start easy and you can certainly lose, even in early scenarios. Again, like in Magic Maze, the rulebook contains a number of scenarios that gradually increase the complexity by adding in trash and space monsters.

Magic Maze on Mars is particularly good for new players. In the first scenario, you're actually allowed to talk, meaning that you can talk about any rules people might want clarifying and discuss strategy to really get a feel for how the game works. After that you'll be working in silence with only a big wooden pawn to indicate when you want something to be done. There is a board that is designed to provide an indication of what specifically you would like someone to do, but we found the symbols on that board to be really unintuitive so we very rarely bothered, expect for when flipping the sand timer was becoming a critical problem!

While owning a colour might sound more intuitive than owning a cardinal direction, like you do in Magic Maze, in reality I found it much harder. The game's complexity increases quite rapidly and things can get very out of control if you draw tiles in a certain order. As your board begins to fill with trash, you're not just trying to move the green token to the base that you need to build, you're trying to manipulate other tokens that you just need to get out of the way - sometimes it feels like there's just nowhere to put all of the trash tokens! Magic Maze on Mars definitely creates a tougher puzzle to solve than its predecessor, with logic being a new factor that you need to try and agree on silently around the table.

If I came across Magic Maze on Mars and I had never played the original Magic Maze, I would be really impressed. It certainly has that same magic of being an impressive and unique cooperative experience. However, as someone who plays Magic Maze a fair bit, Magic Maze on Mars was less impressive for me. The gameplay felt less intuitive and at two players I really struggled to spot my turn to move. I was also a little underwhelmed by the lack of content - we played all of the scenarios in two sittings and even though there was further opportunity to mix and match, I felt like I'd 'finished' the game. If you're new to magic maze, then perhaps the space theme and nice meeples might grab people more than magical characters in a shopping mall, but if you're looking for content then Magic Maze on Mars might not be the best choice. For the Yellow Meeple, it's a 6/10.

Magic Maze on Mars was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk

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