Welcome to the Moon is a roll & write, or more precisely a draw & write game for 1-6 players by Benoit Turpin and Alexis Allard with artwork by Anne Heidsieck. It's a reimplementation of the Welcome To... city building draw & write game, which Blue Cocker Games first published in 2018.
Welcome to the Moon features a range of eight scenarios charting the course of the human race's exodus from Earth and their attempt to find a new home. These scenarios can be played individually in any order or as part of a progressive narrative campaign with additional features being added as you go. This provides a huge amount of content in what is a very small, if very heavy box (heavy because it contains six copies of the dry-wipe laminated player boards for each scenario).
There is a basic format which each scenario follows, with additional rules, mechanics and scoring methods that vary depending on the scenario itself. Each player takes the player board that corresponds to the scenario being played. The main deck of playing cards is shuffled and split into three equal face-down piles in the middle of the table. Three mission cards are drawn from the six available for each scenario and placed face up in full view of all players. Then you are ready to play!
The central deck of cards is the engine behind all of the choices you have to make. Each round, the top card will be drawn and played face up in front of its parent stack. Each of these cards has a number (1-15) on the back and a symbol on the front. So each round you will be presented with three numbers and three symbols. For example, 14/Energy, 3/Astronaut and 11/Water.
Each player then chooses a number/symbol paring and applies it to their board. Writing down the number on the relevant space, according to the rules of the scenario and, if possible, taking the action derived from the symbol. This review would be very very long indeed if I were to list all of the various actions, as they vary in each of the eight scenarios so the best way to illustrate is to use a single scenario as an example.
Scenario #2 sees humanity travelling from Earth to the Moon, gathering food and water along the way. You will need to fill in the 40 odd steps on your route with numbers in ascending order. This is complicated by you only having access to numbers 1-15 on the cards, using the 'energy' action to get breaks/stop-overs. This will allow you you split up your long route into a number of smaller sections, with the ascending numbers starting anew after each break. This makes it much easier to fill in all the numbers but it also makes scoring points significantly more difficult. You see, along the way there are a number of space stations that you will need to use the 'robot' action to reach followed by the 'plant' action to score points. The caveat being that you can only use the 'plant' action if you write a number in a section that is linked to the station in question. The more you chop up your route into smaller sections, the fewer spaces and chances you have to use the 'plant' action with the correct number.
'Water' actions give you points as long as you put the number in a 'water' space. This seems simple, and it is. But it becomes maddeningly difficult when you need to balance getting the right number in the right place against using the right action at the right time in order to avoid running out of space to put in higher numbers. The 'planning' and 'astronaut' actions give you limited bonus 'wild' actions over time, allowing you to use any action with any number. These are extremely useful and will often allow you to score big, or advance further.
The winner is the player who ends up with the most points: points in this scenario being derived from space stations, water collection and the variable mission cards. For example, one mission card awards points for being the first to put numbers next to four sequential water spaces.
This scenario is very simple on the face of it. After all, it's not rocket science! Yet 15 minutes into the game we found ourselves staring fiercely at our player boards, muttering under our breath as we tried to work out what number and action we should use. As the end of the game approached, this intensified even further to the point where a misplay on my part all but locked me out of further progress whilst my opponent raced ahead to victory.
Welcome to the Moon is a tricky game to review as it is essentially eight games rolled into one, with a campaign added on top for good measure! It is strongly reminiscent of Wolfgang Warsch's Ganz Schon Clever (aka That's Pretty Clever!), the classic roll & write from Schmidt Spiele, albeit with a slower pace and more planning elements added in. The mix of scenarios allows for a truly enormous level of replayabilty, not to mention the campaign and solo player options.
The game's clean and simple core incorporates a wealth of clever, thoughtful embellishments and mechanics that I have only begun to scratch the surface of. With scenarios ranging from very simple to brain-burningly tricky, Welcome to the Moon really does have something to offer everyone.
I think you will struggle to find better value in a game. Six-player games are relatively hard to come by. Six-player games that work as well as a big family game as they do as an intense, one vs one showdown are almost non-existent. I will definitely be adding Welcome to the Moon to my collection and eagerly look forward to playing each of the remaining scenarios before starting on the grand campaign. An excellent, elegant little game that exceeded my expectations in every regard. An auto-include in any collection!
(Review by Toby Hicks)