It’s amazing how deck building has taken over the gaming world. Dominion really introduced the mechanic as we know it and all sorts of games have built upon it. Many games use deck building as its primary mechanic, often with players placing cards in a tableau or otherwise playing them out on their turn. More recently we’ve seen designers attempt to have deck building interact with other mechanics. Trains, for example, is a rail building game with a map that uses deck building as its primary mechanic.
I’m often a purist when it comes to mechanics and really enjoy games that do one thing and do it really well. With a couple of notable exceptions, mixing deck building with other mechanics hasn’t often sat well with me. I would rather stick with the simplicity of Dominion over other more complicated deck builders.
Along comes Super Motherload.
At its core Super Motherload is a deck building game. Each player starts with a base deck that they draw from and throughout the game you will purchase more cards that are added to your deck.
What makes Super Motherload so brilliant is its simplicity:
- Playing cards allows you to drill into the ground and collect treasure.
- Treasures allow you to purchase more cards that are more efficient at drilling.
- Purchased cards earn you victory points at the end of the game.
Get stuff to drill stuff to get stuff. That’s it! There’s a little more to the game but it really is that straightforward. Here’s why it works for me:
+ Drilling on the central board is easy to understand and highly satisfying. Everything on the map is easily identifiable and you feel awesome when you pull off a big turn.
+ The shared board also leads to tough decisions. You may only drill from existing tunnel systems; the further you go the easier access you are giving your opponents. There is some great tension in getting what you want versus setting up other players.
+ Unlike most deck builders, players are purchasing cards from their own individual stockpiles. This means your purchases are not impacted by other players; you always have access to the cards you want. Instead of fighting over cards you are fighting over resources on the board. I love this decision as it really makes the game board the central focus.
+ Along with earning points from your purchased cards you’ll also earn points for completing achievements on your turn. There are always three minor achievements available at any time and three major that are available for the entire game. This adds a nice level of replay value as you never know which achievements will be available each game.
+ There are four different factions, each with varying starting and purchase decks. This adds even more replay value as each faction plays a little different than the rest. The core gameplay is already solid and this just pushed it over the top for me.
+ I love the art style and graphic design. Everything is easy to see and read, the rules are clear and the art is wacky and fun.
– If I were to have any complaints it’s that the game can be subject to Analysis Paralysis. Digging on the central board can be tough as you often have a lot of options on where to dig. Usually it is easy to determine which dig is the best value for you but becomes more challenging when you factor in how that may set up other players. Figuring out how to most efficiently earn the various achievements also adds another level of brain crunching. I love when a game this simple gives you a lot to think about, but AP-prone players can easily over-analyze their turns.
Super Motherload really took me by surprise. It strikes a perfect balance between simplicity of mechanics, depth of play and replay value. I highly recommend giving it a look!