Mission I.S.S. was one of the games that was kindly donated to us at Gen Con for the purpose of a review. After hearing the synopsis of the game, I was worried that it might be very overly complicated. What I found was a disappointment in the other direction, an under complicated resource management game that left me feeling a bit unsatisfied, but may be very good for a younger audience or less avid gamers.
MISS is a card game based around getting modules launched and attached to the international space station, in a good ol’ fashion space race among nations. Each module in your deck of five requires a given amount of fuel and money to launch into space. Each turn you draw one card and play one card. The card you play can either be an action card, which often screws with your opponents, or you can place a fuel card or money card down on your spaceship to use for launching your module. Once you have drawn your card, but before you play your card, you have the option of trading a single card in your hand with your opponents.
The trade aspect of the game got me excited because I love that feature of Settlers of Catan, however this feature rarely got used. Fuel came in only two denominations: 1 fuel and 2 fuel. Money comes in two denominations too: 5 million and 10 million. This allowed you to trade fuel for money or vice versa, but was usually completely unnecessary. The game would have been far more interesting if there had been different kinds of fuel, or if money was more scarce. But as the deck stood, this had little to no affect on the game.
And those are all the basic rules. You could sit down and play with only minor references to the rules now… except wait… the rules are awful. They aren’t long, they aren’t worded poorly, they are just randomly thrown on the page without much rhyme or reason. In trying to figure out how minor phases were suppose to go, such as how do you decide which module you are launching first, we had to flip back and forth and decipher among multiple statements how this was actually suppose to happen. It’s not that the information wasn’t listed, just that bits of it were listed in different places. The rules really need some polish.
The other piece to the game that, in my opinion, needs some polish is the art on a few cards. The fuel cards clearly have either one or two fuel capsules illustrated, you can obviously see from the other side of the table how much fuel your opponent has played. However, with the money cards, the illustration on the 5 million and 10 million are exactly the same, with only some text at the bottom of the card differentiating. This left me continually asking “How much money do you have over there?”. Given that this would be such an easy thing to fix and really does affect the game play, I would love to see the designer modify it in future additions. One other nark about money? On the modules you can also clearly see from the other side of the table, how much fuel is required. However, the amount of money required is written in green on a gray background, making it extremely hard to see from a distance. Why? Why do that? Come on! Other than those two complaints the art really wasn’t all that bad, shocker coming from me, right? Actually I liked how all the modules looked different, rather than using cookie cutter art for each country. Kudos there.
So in the end, my group of gamer friends and I have agreed that this would be a very good game for a younger audience. My youngest brother, who is 10, would do really well with this game. It is not too complicated for his mind to wrap around. Of course, that’s assuming someone gave him a demo of the game, rather than having to learn it from those awful instructions. For a bunch of seasoned gamers, who are use to games that require a more strategic challenge, it was far too simplistic.
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