Published on November 15th, 2014 | by Colin0
Cardcore Gamer: They’re Back, ack! ack! ack!
Mars Attacks! Officially this time! Join me as I unbox Mantic Games’ new (and silly) miniatures game!
Way back here I reviewed Flying Frog Productions’ Invasion From Outer Space, a game inspired by the 1960s Topps trading card series Mars Attacks (also the inspiration for the 1996 Tim Burton film). This year, Mantic Games buddied up with Topps to produce an officially licensed miniatures combat game, cleverly entitled Mars Attacks: The Miniatures Game.
The box for Mars Attacks is thankfully quite slim, yet crammed full of figures, scenery and cardboard – you certainly get some bang (or Zzaapp!) for your buck. Sadly the first thing you encounter is also my least favourite…
Oh, do I despise these things. This is a (admittedly very nice quality) paper poster, on which your battles will be fought. Being folded up in the box, however, means that the bloody thing will never lay flat and that your scenery and figures will wobble about and fall over. Add to that the relative ease with which paper gets creased, scuffed and torn and you’re really not looking at much longevity for this essential piece of the game. ‘Proper’ game mats are available separately for about £15, but still, urgh…
The rule book, by contrast, is gloriously glossy and super-high-quality, with vibrant art and pretty much all the information you require. Sadly there are issues with defining terms and sticking to them, as well as a lack of a single reference point for model stats. It’s not a long read as the game’s rules are a heavily streamlined version of the already-easy Deadzone system but still packs in character bios and 10 playable scenarios. Not bad, if a little unfinished. Ok, ok, time for the toys!
Another refinement, clearly lessons have been learned. The modular scenery pieces are again very similar to those in Deadzone, but pre-coloured, with a far better fit and much more stable. The clips aren’t as much of a pain to connect, though they are still a little flimsy and need pushing out from the opposite side, rather than pulling. That said, you can be up and going in no time; Everything has been removed from the sprue so you don’t need any modelling tools, or know-how. I took a bit of time to remove the ugly sprue stubs though.
The minis in this game are playing pieces, rather than wargame-style figures; the trade-off of pre-assembly and durable, coloured plastics is that the detail can lack a little definition, especially on the hero miniatures. The army men and Martians have multiple sculpts and look superb and yes, they even provided some fiddly, flimsy vac-formed helmet domes.
The larger miniatures for the game are a separate purchase, so the base set makes do with card standees. This isn’t a problem to me from an aesthetic point of view, but it is obvious that they fluffed the design, as a bag of clip bases was included to replace the slot-in stands. The other problem is that the rules seem to assume that these pieces are figures, though don’t really explain what they are; tokens? Miniatures? Who knows! The card is shiny and decent quality, but half of my tokens (the other sheet) were mis-cut. Good luck randomising those :(
The card system is very neat, using a single deck of dual purpose cards, usable by either player. Events also crop up to add mayhem and blazing cows to the game. Neat! The Support Cards allow you to play and then power up larger attacks, such as heat rays, or air strikes, which is a very cool idea.
This really is a looker, the simple colours and dynamic pieces make Mars Attacks grab anyone standing close enough and demand that they play it. Over all, the core box is great quality and very good value. Mantic are definitely aiming for the board game audience over their usual wargamer market and it has paid off big time. With Mars Attacks, the love for the source material shines through – it’s infectious silliness and wanton carnage is fully embraced – this is definitely no cynical, licensed cash-in. Mantic have always fallen a little short for me in the style and ‘fluff’ department, crafting solid game systems, with fairly uninteresting miniatures and lore, but this time all I can say is ARM THE SAUCERS! ACTIVATE THE ROBOTS! THE INVASION BEGINS IN FIVE EARTH MINUTES! ACK! ACK! ACK! ATTACK!