We’re on Mars and we’re drilling for precious minerals and gems!
Note: Roxley Games sent us a copy of Super Motherload so that we could write this unbiased review
An infinite source of rare and previous minerals has been discovered deep below the surface of Mars. You and your opponents have been selected to lead the first drilling expedition in search of the precious goods…over the course of the game you will drill below the surface and reinvest the goods you find into improving your drilling capabilities, scoring points along the way. Once you reach the bottom, the player with the most points will win the game!
How the game works
The game is based around deck building, where you start with your own deck of basic cards and throughout the game purchase more powerful cards to add to it. As the game goes on your deck of cards improves and allows you to do more with your turn. In Super Motherload, all of the cards you buy also award you with points at the end of the game.
So, you start off with a basic deck of cards. What do you use them for? Well, you’re on Mars and you’re drilling down from the surface to mine precious stones, minerals and artifacts so the cards you play allow you to drill deeper to claim more resources.
On your turn you can do 2 actions (including doing the same thing twice) from the following:
Draw 2 cards – this is pretty much the only way of drawing cards into your hand as you don’t automatically do it as part of your turn.
Play cards to drill for resources – there are three main colours and a wild colour in the game, play any number of matching colour cards to drill down that number of spaces (some cards count for 2 spaces), gaining all resources, artifacts and bombs that you cover up. Naturally you have to drill adjacent to spaces already excavated!
Bomb – You can play a bomb card from your hand if you have any bomb tokens in your supply, this works in a similar way to drilling but you tend to blow up more spaces than you can drill, and there are some rocks you can only bomb your way through.
You place any gems you mine onto one of the cards available to purchase. At the start you have 4 stacks of 4 colours (the three colours and wild) that you can purchase, they get more expensive and have greater rewards the deeper down the stack you go. Once you’ve placed enough gems on a card, you gain it into your deck. These purchased cards not only give points at the end but can give bonus actions that will assist you throughout the rest of the game.
In addition to points scored from cards, you’ll also be completing minor and major achievements as the game goes on. Minor achievements reward all sorts of things (e.g. “drill 4 spaces in one drill action” or “purchase one card from each colour stack”) and the major achievements reward you for having certain sets of coloured cards (e.g. 3 reds and 3 yellows). Scoring these as you go through the game are vital if you are to win, and you can adjust your gameplan to pick these up.
As you drill deeper, new boards are added to the bottom and old boards are removed. Whoever reveals the board gets to choose which side is used, potentially giving them an advantage if favourable spaces are reachable straight away. The game ends when the final artifact space is drilled on the depth 4 board.
I had a blast playing it (no pun intended). We love the chunkier deck builders of Dominion and Clank! and whilst this is certainly simpler in its rules, there’s still plenty to it.
Firstly I love the artwork, especially on the box. It’s very evocative and gets you into the theme right away. I’ve seen some reviews that are less kind about the card illustrations but I really like that too! The components are all really well made too.
It’s an interesting change to the deck builders we are used to in that you have your own stacks of cards to buy from, rather than a shared market accessible to all. This reduces the player interaction slightly as there’s no competition for a certain valuable card. Instead there is competition on the board, where you’re careful not to allow your opponent to grab the best spots, making your drilling decisions very interesting. “On the one hand I really need to earn a bomb token and some platinum, but on the other that would mean Jess could grab a diamond worth a hefty $12”, that sort of thing.
The actual deck building element of the game is considerably simpler than other games with the mechanic, as at any one time you can only buy one of four cards (the ones on top of their stacks), and they all do relatively similar things. A feature of other deck building games is that often the high point scoring cards have rubbish (or no) abilities to go with them so whilst high-reward they also clog up your deck. In Super Motherload this is never an issue for you to consider as all the cards offer rewards and the more expensive ones give big points and stronger actions.
There’s a bit of luck involved as with any deck building game, if I draw 4 cards and they’re all blue I can drill 4 spaces, but if Jess draws 4 cards and she gets 1 yellow, 1 red, 1 blue and 1 wild she can only drill 2 spaces. Obviously this encourages you to build a better deck so that your cards have more drill symbols on, but if it happens to you a lot it’s easy to get frustrated!
Despite it being relatively simple we still had so much fun playing it. It was really simple to learn (also thanks to a very well written rulebook), and it didn’t take anything like the 60-75 minutes to play. The games we’ve played have flowed really well and whilst there aren’t as many tricky decisions to make about how to build your deck, the tricky decisions are all about where and when to drill, which both Jess and I really enjoyed.
The gameplay, including the minor and major achievements and the really cool space theme make this a perfect game to introduce younger or newer gamers to deck building. Overall it’s was a really fun experience and I’m certain we’ll be introducing it to our various gaming groups in the weeks to come.
Get this game
Check this game out on Board Game Geek