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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!