Now that you have the back story of Mercury, let's talk about how it's played. At it's most basic level, Mercury is a path creation game. You select, rotate and play square tiles from your hand onto the end of the previous tile (think dominoes with easier matching). Basic tiles look like this:
The orange is your burn path, which you match to create a single continuous line. Your ship is always at the furthest point on that path. This orange path is also the path that the Hunter will be following to track you. Every time you play a tile your ship moves forward along the path, then the Hunter moves forward one tile as well. You continue drawing and playing random tiles in an effort to reach the final tile, AI Nirvana.
Sounds too easy? Let me fix that. Along with these basic tiles, there are many other tiles what will help or hinder you. Evil tiles like the Enemy Outpost will cause the Hunter to move forward an extra space when the he/she (Hunter sex has yet to be determined) lands on it.
Helpful tiles like the Thrusters allow players to use an extra tile in the same turn:
All together there are 17 different tile types, not counting the straight/turn variations. Early on, I struggled with finding a way to quickly explain and illustrate the uses of all the different tiles. To alleviate this I created a one page cheat sheet that shows usage examples of every tile in the game. So far tests have been positive, but I still need to test with more non-gamers to make sure. Bring on the holidays and bring on the family. No I haven't seen Apples to Apples, but I do have a new game for you to try...