Posted Tuesday, 27-Oct-2015
A compilation of reviews for the tile-laying deck-building board game Super Motherload.
After the discovery of an infinite source of precious minerals that could simultaneously solve the earth’s energy crisis and its over-population problem hidden within Mars’ crust, you must lead the first drilling expedition of the Solarus Corporation to the red planet.
Inspired by the flash game Motherload and its sequel Super Motherload for the PC, PS3 and PS4; Super Motherload is a 2012 Sci-Fi deck builder and tile placement game designed by Gavan Brown ( Don’t Push Your Luck, JAB: Real-Time Boxing) and Matt Tolman (Sails to Steam, Undermining) and published by Roxley Games ( Sails to Steam, Santorini).
A game of moderate length for 2-4 players, Super Motherload is a deck-building and resource management game. The game has players gaining wealth through gem excavation and then using that wealth to upgrade their pods and equipment in order to extract gems more efficiently. If you’re skilled enough to be the player with the most points once the final artifact is discovered you’ll be hailed as the greatest driller in Mars.
A deckbuilding game at its core, each player is given a deck of cards consisting of blue, yellow, red and rainbow (wild) cards in order to represents the pilots in your pod. The foundation of the game rests on “drilling” or “bombing” for gems in order to trade them in for victory-points.
With drilling, players match-up colored cards in their hands (the number of cards you match is how many spaces you may drill that turn in order to collect gems.) Drilling is represented on the game board by placing rectangular black pieces over the game tiles. Jesse from Boards and Bees explained drilling restrictions in his article:
These tiles must connect edge-to-edge with another tunnel tile, or with the surface. The tiles you place must be in a continuous straight line. After they have been placed, collect minerals and bonuses from the covered up spaces. Rock cannot be drilled, and steel plates only can be if the drill color matches the steel plate border.
“Bombing” on the other hand was explained by Geek Dad writer Jonathan H. Liu:
“Spend a bomb token, and play a red pilot card. Red pilot cards have a little bomb pattern on the lower left side–you place tunnel tokens to match that shape (in any orientation), and collect anything those tokens cover.”
Each of these actions will allow you to discard pilot cards thus earning you victory-points.
Liu provides additional details regarding the game’s pilot-card system in his review on Geek Dad noting “Most of the pilot cards also have “buy bonuses” indicated by the icon at the bottom center. You may get an extra action, or get to put the card directly into your hand, or even clone a mineral tile on one of your other stacks.”
Super Motherload is far from being a game of simple color matching. The game will call on player’s spatial reasoning and resource management skills as well. Players must contend with the game’s drilling path constraints, use their resources effectively, and earn as many points as they can before Mars’ final artifact is discovered.
Super Motherload is going to be a huge hit for anyone who was a fan of the Motherload flash game or its PlayStation and PC sequels. While not a direct carbon copy of the game, it carries enough over to give the board game version the same feel but with a few unique twists to make it worthwhile as a board game.
Even if you’re not a fan of the Motherload series or haven’t heard of it, don’t run away just yet. Super Motherload is also a great game for players who are looking for an easily understood resource management and deck builder with lots of player interactivity and a surprising amount of strategy.
Jonathan Liu echoed the sentiment that Super Motherload could please those who haven’t played the PC game, “There’s a lot going on in the game, but it feels well-integrated. Regardless of whether you’ve played the videogame, if you want a new spin on deck-building, you might like Super Motherload.”
Hilary Goldstein of Dog and Thimble cautions players looking for a game where optimized deck-building is the most important strategic consideration: “The use of the board mixed with deck building is clever, but there’s little if any emphasis on optimizing your deck. You just want to buy and buy and buy as many cards as you can. They all help.”
That being said, Super Motherload is a good choice for players looking for a light game that takes a bit of time to play, enjoys resource management strategy games and has good spatial reasoning skills. Plus the unique combination of the board and card aspects of the game make Super Motherload worth checking out all on its own.
Super Motherload received generally positive reviews, with the unimportance of deck building to be one of the primary complaints.
Futile Position writer Michael commented: “it is – at its core – a deck building game, although it is not an engine building game. In fact, at least in my first play, the deck building is really one of the less interesting parts of the game.”
Hilary Goldstein from Dog and Thimble enjoyed the gameplay even if she wasn’t pleased with the game’s lack of deck building strategy:
“I had just as easy a time using the starter cards (with a single drill icon) as the most expensive cards. That’s hardly the mark of a great deck builder. Then again, Super Motherload isn’t just about building a deck. As long as you aren’t going into it expecting the next Dominion or Marvel Legendary, you’ll probably be satisfied.”
Jonathan H. Liu from Geek Dad had no issues with the game’s deckbuilding system, “I really enjoy Super Motherload and most of the people I’ve played it with have been keen to play it again. I certainly think I’ll need several more plays to nail down strategies, and I like the fact that each deck is slightly different, so there may not be a one-size-fits-all path to winning.”
While it may not be the best choice for players looking for a deep, complex deck builder or a heavily involved resource management game, the game’s combination of different mechanics makes it worth taking a look at. It’ll feel especially right for anyone looking for a light game that take a bit of time to play and has a knack for spatial reasoning.
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