Enter Lodraxis – planet rich in the material, “AUR”. This material is only found on this planet and worth lots of money, the only catch is that the planet is unstable and will eventually unravel itself. And there are alien organisms bent on eating the material and space pirates waiting to grab you, steal your riches, and jettison you into space. Did we mention that you’re racing against another rival corporation to bring back the most AUR alive? Mother Lode is a deliberately paced board game on the iPad that features a dynamic playing board as two corporations race for dominance.
The action takes place on a hexagon shaped board with four safe zones on each corner and the planet in the center. Each player sets up the board by placing each one of their miners on a land tile. Once these have been placed they each alternate between positioning two escape pods on the edge of the planet. The game begins and each player takes their turn in four phases. To begin, the player is given an opportunity to play an action tile. As the planet comes apart, players get to keep some of the revealed tiles and play them during this phase. Then the player is given three move actions to divide between the miners under their control. These actions can be allotted however the player chooses: they can move three miners one space or move one miner three spaces.
Once the move actions are finished, each miner on fertile ground will mine for AUR. Successful miners will receive a golden diamond on them and unsuccessful miners will get nothing. Each piece of land will only yield one diamond of AUR, and will be rendered useless after it has been mined. The third stage charges characters with choosing an outlying piece of Lodraxis to remove. This is added into the player’s inventory, where the player can save and use later in the game, and another random piece is removed.
Finally, a spin wheel appears for the player to flick. Depending on where it lands, the player will gain between one and three move actions with one of the games non-player characters. These NPC’s include the Space Squid (which destroys occupied escape pods), the AUR Worms (who attack miners and consume the AUR they are carrying), and Pirates (who capture miners inside or outside escape pods, and steal their AUR). After this phase of brief control, all of the NPC’s move one space in a random direction, and the next player begins their turn.
There are twelve different land tiles that can be recovered, ranging from revealing new escape pods and enemy NPC’s, or wormholes, earthquakes, and instant inter-planetary explosions. The result is a constantly changing battlefield in which the tides can turn with you or against you in one turn.
The presentation for Mother Lode is colorful and lively. The characters pop with their dramatic colors. Animation is kept to a minimum, which fits the pacing and type of game Mother Lode wants to be. Sound effects are kept to a minimum, with music strangely absent. While the board changes are dramatic and the stakes are high, this is a thoughtful, slowly paced strategy game that deserves your attention.