Terraforming Mars – Review

Theme

A few hundred years from now, mankind will take on the daunting task of terraforming Mars. The driving force behind this mission is the World Government sponsoring mega corporations to undergo the difficult work of raising the temperature, oxygen level and ocean coverage on the planet. But underneath this facade of good intentions lies the greed that entices these corporations to take part.

Mechanics

In Terraforming Mars, players take on the role of one of these mega corporations working together to terraform the planet by raising the three necessities for human habitation – temperature, oxygen and water. This, however, is where the cooperation ends.

Each round of the game is broken into several phases, beginning by purchasing projects – represented by the cards. These projects include all the different options available to the corporations, from building cities and research stations, or introducing plant and animal life, to harnessing the power of a volcano or sending an asteroid crashing into your opponents. The cards all have a cost associated with playing them, but they also have a standard cost to acquire them. Each round players draw four cards and have the option to either buy them into their hand, or discard them.

In the second phase, players take turns performing one or two actions from the following: playing a card, using a standard project (on the board), convert plants into greenery tiles or heat into temperature, or using the action on a previously played card. Play continues around the table in rounds until all players have passed.

Finally the game round ends with the production phase where all players will produce goods on their player boards. These levels will increase or decrease as the players utilize different cards and actions.

Play continues going through these phases until all three of the terraforming requirements are met. The overall object of the game is to gain the most victory points and while you are working together with the other players to meet the primary goals, you will want to ensure that you are always one step ahead.

Impressions

Terraforming Mars has an incredible amount of variation to it. For starters, all 200+ cards are unique. In addition to this, at the start of the game players receive two corporation cards to choose from, and they all have different benefits which will change your overall strategy during gameplay.

The other great thing about the game is that victory points can be gained in several ways. Either from cards played, or when participating in raising the terraforming parameters. There are also Milestones and Awards that can be funded throughout the game, awarding bonus points at the end. The Milestones are simply claimed by the first person to reach the – you guessed it – milestone objective. However, the Awards are funded by a player, but not necessarily won by that player. At the end of the game whoever meets the Awards objective – regardless of who funded it – earns the bonus points.

The way that the action phases allow for a player to take either one or two actions per turn is a great way to bust out a “big move” surprising opponents. With the wide variety of actions available, you always have numerous options each turn, and are only limited by the resources available.

Components

While the game board, resource cubes and cards are all excellent, the player mats really fall short here. The mats are a simple, thin card, yet they host abundant information. Players keep all of their resources on these mats, and also track their production levels. As the mats are not double layered, the tracking cubes can very easily get bumped leading to anxious moments whenever someone gets up from the table.

There also isn’t much of an insert for the game, just an open area to place all the components in bags into. There is a cut out section for the board to sit nicely though so that is a plus. The Broken Token organizer however looks beautiful however, and solves all my concerns regarding components. Definitely something you should look into if you share my concerns.

Art

The game board is beautiful – as are the cards. The cards vary between real photos and artistic depiction and while each on their own is very nice, a little consistency would be less jarring.

Conclusions

Everytime I play this game, I enjoy it more and more. Playing with a different number of players along with the variety of choice available in the game makes each gameplay different and fun. With the upcoming release of the Hellas and Elysium expansion I can only imagine that the extra maps will do nothing but increase the enjoyment of the game.

Overall, Terraforming Mars is a wonderful and engaging experience. I recommend it for any gamer’s collection!

Written by: Devetos

I'm a student living and working in Toronto. I have many hobbies including cooking, reading, swimming and writing, but board gaming has always been my passion. I'm thrilled to be writing reviews for games and sharing my experience with all of you!

51 Comments Added

Join Discussion
  1. Gunder April 21, 2017 | Reply

    I needed some insight on why people love Terraforming Mars, I got it. Thanks

    • Devetos April 22, 2017 | Reply

      Absolutely – It is a really fantastic game!

  2. Ashley April 21, 2017 | Reply

    Want to get my hands on this elusive game!

    • Devetos April 22, 2017 | Reply

      Aha, I think a lot of people still do!

  3. Umut C April 22, 2017 | Reply

    Thanks for the review. I am a sucker for sci-fi themes and this definitely looks like a game I should get.

    • Devetos April 23, 2017 | Reply

      Thanks! Yes it is definitely a great one for any board game collection.

  4. NShip April 23, 2017 | Reply

    This game is on my short list of must-buys. Thanks for the review.

    • Devetos April 23, 2017 | Reply

      You’re welcome! Thank you for checking it out!

  5. Mark W April 23, 2017 | Reply

    Seems like the consensus is that it’s worth overlooking some of the component problems for such a great game.

    • Devetos May 6, 2017 | Reply

      Absolutely. The game itself is really great, and there are component upgrades available for additional purchase – like the broken token insert and acrylic tiles that really add to it

  6. Patrick.sgn April 25, 2017 | Reply

    Thanks for the excellent review! I need to give this game a try soon since it has received so many love from the gaming community. Thx for sharing with us

    • Devetos May 6, 2017 | Reply

      Thanks! It really is a wonderful game. Let me know your thoughts once you have a chance to try it!

  7. Ruben Maia April 27, 2017 | Reply

    I guess i’ll wait a few years to get this one at a nicer price.

    • Devetos May 6, 2017 | Reply

      Aha, absolutely. I am sure you would be able to find a used copy in good condition somewhere though if you are looking for a cheaper option

  8. James April 27, 2017 | Reply

    I’ve really wanted to play this!!

    • Devetos May 6, 2017 | Reply

      I really recommend it. A lot of great elements to this game and it has earned a permanent spot in my collection for sure!

  9. Eric Lee April 28, 2017 | Reply

    Fine review! I agree that you need some sort of tray/overlay component to assist with the main tray. Other than that, this game is so great. I’ll be in for that expansion too when it hits shelves later this year.

    • Devetos May 6, 2017 | Reply

      I have my pre-order in for the expansion and can’t wait for it to come out. Ya, with the broken token trays it really improves the components

  10. Jared Heifetz April 30, 2017 | Reply

    Everyone seems to be talking about this game. Glad to read a good review on it 🙂

    • Devetos May 6, 2017 | Reply

      Thanks! Yes it has certainly been a buzz of conversation – for good reason though!

    • Devetos May 6, 2017 | Reply

      Thanks Martin! Have you had a chance to play it?

  11. Jaime Veloso May 6, 2017 | Reply

    This is one of the games I’m most interested on right now!

    • Devetos May 6, 2017 | Reply

      For sure! I was lucky to get a copy when it first released so I have had it for a while now. Have you had a chance to play?

  12. Rick May May 7, 2017 | Reply

    Very cool looking game! It’s on my list to buy now ☺

  13. Ashley May 9, 2017 | Reply

    Want to get my hands on this and hope to play as my friend have one locally! But I want to own a copy!

  14. KHamilton May 9, 2017 | Reply

    I am a fan of this game. I have only played it twice; I think I will have to play a few more times before I really get a good engine going.

    • Devetos July 3, 2017 | Reply

      For sure, I find with this one though that depending on the corporation you get at the start of the game, your strategy and focus can be different each time

  15. Jeremy S May 11, 2017 | Reply

    I wanted to play this one already and then I read your review… now I think I need to go to my FLGS tonight 🙂

  16. Bryce May 11, 2017 | Reply

    Great review, can’t wait to get my hands on this!

  17. Amanda W May 17, 2017 | Reply

    All great comments! Thank you for the info!

    • Devetos July 3, 2017 | Reply

      I would say its a bit on the longer side but can vary quite a bit. If both players know how to play and are focused on completing the three objectives, you could play a game in under an hour. However, as many actions in the game don’t directly contribute to the objectives for end game condition, the game can go on for a while. Very fun though and even in a 1.5-2 hour game it doesn’t feel like it drags

  18. Dane Trimble May 31, 2017 | Reply

    Thanks for the great review, makes me want to go out an buy it (even more)!

  19. DJHAAK May 31, 2017 | Reply

    I’m so curious to play this game.

  20. Bart June 5, 2017 | Reply

    Love this game, thanks for the review

  21. Issar June 29, 2017 | Reply

    Nicer review looking forward to see your next one.

  22. Adam July 25, 2017 | Reply

    Thanks for the review!

  23. soulraise August 4, 2017 | Reply

    Great summary of mechanics/content. helps make an educated buy (or not 😉 ) Thanks!

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