Deckbuilding is a great board game mechanic in its own right, best seen in a game such as Dominion.
But increasingly game designers are using deckbuilding as not the core of the game, but as an element of broader game play.
And that brings us to Super Motherload by designers Gavan Brown and Matt Tolman. The duo have incorporated deckbuilding into Super Motherload, but you build your deck only as part of a broader game, where other elements are just as important as building a useful deck.
So what is Super Motherload about?
“The Solarus Corporation discovered an infinite source of rare and precious minerals deep in the red crust. Resources that will end the energy crisis on Earth and fuel the deep space expeditions planned as population swells beyond capacity.
You have been chosen to lead an elite crew of Pod pilots who will delve below the surface of Mars in Solarus Corporation’s first major drilling expedition. As a part of this maiden voyage, the corporation has agreed to let you reinvest any profit you earn back into training your Pod pilots, increasing their skills and efficiencies. Will you be remembered as the greatest Solarus Corporation employee in the galaxy?” detailed the story lead-in of the rulebook.
So to simplify things you control a drilling crew on a foreign planet digging for gems and artifacts and glory.
The gameplay basics suggest; “Super Motherload is a deck-building game. This means that you have your own deck of cards that you draw from each turn. Your deck initially consists of very basic cards, but over the course of the game you will add new and more powerful cards to it.”
Frankly I think they note deckbuilding first in large part because the mechanic has been popular in recent years, so board game fans are drawn to games incorporating it.
The deck you build of course does play a significant role in the game.
“You will use cards to Bomb and Drill minerals, and other bonuses, from the game board. You will then use the minerals you’ve collected as money to purchase better cards for your deck. Some cards give you an immediate bonus when purchased, while others give you bonuses when you use them to Drill.
Every card you purchase is worth Victory Points (VPs). You can also gain VPs from Achievement Cards that become available throughout the game. The player with the most VPs at the end of the game wins,” continues the rule book.
That the cards you purchase which go into your deck are worth victory points, the secondary element means players need to keep a focus on deckbuilding, which strategically sinking mine shafts on the game board.
The Drill Action is used to collect minerals and bonuses from the game board.
The cards you play allow you to place tunnel tiles which allow players to collect minerals and bonuses from the board.
The game comes with two-sided board sections which allows for greater re-playability.
In some cases drilling alone is not enough. You will need bomb actions to clear through certain sections, so some cards are important in terms of the special abilities.
The minerals collected have varying values which allow you to buy new crew cards which build your deck, and your abilities.
Along the way you can also complete certain things which match achievement cards you may collect which add victory points in final scoring.
Overall Super Motherload uses deckbuilding in a rather unique and interesting fashion.
The game also offers nice diversity from cred-to-crew which is a nice touch.
The in-game decisions are often not easy as a player will rarely be able to do everything they will wish to do on a turn, which in game terms is a good thing.
The game is loaded with ‘bits’ from tunnel pieces to gem and artifact chits, which does make the game a touch ‘fidgety’, although that may be my bias showing.
The game did earn a Canadian game design award in 2014, so that is solid praise for the game, and I certainly recommend deck builder fans give this one a close look.
Check it out at www.roxley.com.
Thanks to fellow gamers Jeff Chasse, Trevor Lyons and Adam Daniels for their help in running through this game for review.