Something really is there. Somewhere buried deep beneath the sand. They made fools of us back at home and they called us many other unflattering names as well. But now, when I stand on the brink of the abyss with our machines, looking down and deeper, all of those voices are only a faint whisper in the distance. Buzz, which I can only laugh in mind, because we will be the ones, who will bring groundbreaking evidence back. Yet, there is a threat. Several other researchers have embarked in our footsteps. Our advance was useless, because we just helped them locating the site. Now they know, where to look for it and race begins..
And because Mars is all red to orange, we are welcomed by like-colored box. When we dig beneath lid with strange mining machine, a hermetically sealed base is waiting for us. On the ground, there lie sixteen round colored tokens (four of each color), twelve evenly spaced cubes of facilities and ten tokens of luck.
The most important thing for all those players and miners will be sixty square cardboard pieces. Twelve of them show equipment (three types for each player, with increasing power in the top line), while remaining tiles will be result of careful explorationg and digging. Their front is filled with color picture and icons in the corners – value in points, weight for transport and any bonus. On the other hand, rear side always shows one to four arrows, depending on how hard it is to extract that particular location.
Now back side will be the first thing, players will see of all these tiles. They are mixed and spread on the table in packages of three to form a square four by four. The difficulty of extraction of the topmost piece is determined by luck, so players will always have different disposition. Each of opponents takes one station token of his color and places it on any of the sixteen available positions. Remaining three stations are placed in front of every player, as well as equipment tiles marked with colored cube on level one.
Players have always available exactly three action points per turn, that can be divided arbitrarily among a menu of actions, with each activity allowed to be even repeated. First in line is of course digging. When player starts to do this, he can uncover the earth at a particular location (with his station). But he must have a sufficient level of technology – digging difficulty determines, what level of drilling equipment is needed.
Although it sounds counterintuitive, stations are mobile. They therefore can be moved for an action at any time and change their positions either in horizontal or vertical direction. In the event, that any position has already been fully extracted, it can be skipped. When a player kicks the catch, he will certainly want to take it for himself. But here, he must fulfill other requirement – he must be able to carry that object. Only then can player put the board in front of him as seized prey.
In addition to moving, lifting and carrying, players can also improve their technology and thus becoming more competitive compared to others. It is also a way for a player to add more stations to the board. Some extracted tiles even bring some extra actions.
Each tile has a point value of luck, which rivals do not show to each other. By the time they reach specified number of extracted tokens (depending on the number of players in the game), the contest ends. Player with the highest score is the winner.
Dig Mars is a simple tactical game, in which chance plays a role only in the initial deployment. From then on, everything depends on planning of players and their skills to turn their actions into points. There is (as it is usual for such games) too few of them for the players to do all, that is necessary. They carefully select and have to set priorities. Players do not know real value of the tile until they really get it out from the ground, but digging difficulty is a good guide. Bonus actions are also pleasant find, which further make some tiles into valuable trophies.
The most important role in the whole game is hidden in technology levels, without which you can not move forwards. But to upgrade them, player must sacrifice his action, which he could otherwise benefit somewhere else. Also, the movement is very important and station should be moved, that its always in advantageous position.
Ease of play also turns into pleasantly fast game. It’s such relish, that is over after thirty minutes. The atmosphere is not somehow stunning, but it is all about relaxation and playing it just for fun. It is also the main point of this otherwise serious sci-fi theme.
Different point targets for each player number guarantees a similar game time every time. The fewer opponents there are, the emptier map gets and with two adversaries, there is bigger emphasis on planning. Three players provide still quite easygoing version, while maximum number of four already contains lots of battles for position.
What makes Mars Dig really interesting is possibility to cooperate, when digging. Other players can join forces not only of several their own stations, but also agree with some opponents. Such works are then rewarded and shared fairly. Sometimes it pays off, when you are in need to catch up with remaining opponents or trying to dig good and otherwise unreachably deep position. Feeling coming from cooperating with enemies, but still lending a helping hand, is an excellent option, that players love to use from time to time as part of their tactics.
Processing is simple and functional. Although there are no graphic extravagancies, all objects do exactly, what you would expect them to do. Simple wooden cubes complement the pleasant appearance, which is well illustrates landscape of an alien planet.
Dig Mars is nice, although not exceptional game, that has an interesting topic and simple mechanisms. It is guaranteed to entertain, serves as pleasant relaxation, in which the players get interesting options as well as chance to cooperate and share points earned. Most of the time, everybody will play in their sandbox. There is enough place to do so on Mars indeed. At least for now.
Dig Mars is easy game, which can work very well as a time filler between more challenging games. It's fun, fast, yet flexible enough to take-off due to the random disposition. In order to benefit players and their transport, they must modernize their own technology on timely basis. Rivals can also collaborate and share income. This opens up possibilities for a nice game with multiple players, which is better, than when the map is too empty with two. Fortunately, it still retains lots of tactical fun for such short game. Dig Mars takes us to the red planet, lands us there, but we will surely not die by thirst for entertainment.