From the creative mind of Jacob Fryxelius comes the thematically Brilliant Euro-Game “Terraforming Mars”. Terraforming Mars was released in 2016 and has maintained its position at number 11 on BoardGameGeeks list of most popular games. Obviously as a board game enthusiast I took notice of this game and waited patiently for an opportunity to play it. Sadly I never quite scrounged up the funds in order to purchase the game and lost faith. A week or so after my departure from Terraforming Mars purgatory I stumbled across a Mod on the steam workshop for Table Top Simulator. For those of you not familiar with Table Top Sim. It is a virtual board game experience that allows you to download games for free from an astonishingly large library of fan made mods on the steam workshop. I believe that Table Top Sim. is a great outlet to try new games that you may to usually have access to. In this light it is brilliant as a discovery tool, and nothing more. I say this because there are developers that release DLC for Table Top Sim. which are their self funded games just radically reduced in price. So I believe if you like a game you should buy either the physical copy or the DLC to support the artists you admire. I’ve spoken my piece you take from it what you will let us continue on to the main event.
Sitting at a nice 1-5 players Terraforming Mars can be played either solo or with four other people. At its finest point is just a resources collecting and spending game try and get more points than your adversaries and win. It’s an idea most table top veterans and playground fairing children alike are very familiar with. What sets games apart is their theme and interlocking mechanics which I feel Terraforming Mars does phenomenally well. Terraforming Mars puts you at the head of a multi million dollar corporation attempting to use its assets to make the red planet inhabitable. This is done through raising the oxygen level, creating oceans and raising the temperature; A big feat for a very rich company. How do you achieve such a big task you might ask? As simply as methodically hurling meteorites into the planet and flooding the valleys through the universal actions and cards called projects. Projects are payed for at the beginning of each round selected from four cards given you. They can do everything from build a scientific research outpost to awakening a long dormant volcano. Some very plainly just grant you an additional victory point or two. All projects help you in some way, some pushing you into one specific play style more than others. For example there is a card that you can activate once per round to grant you vast amounts of heat. So depending on how early you draw this card you may either base your whole method of play around it or it could be completely useless to you.
Each player starts with their own unique corporation which has special abilities that make each player stand out in different areas of play. For example the second time I played I had a corp. that gave me the ability to pay three mega credits in order to advance my Terraforming level by one step. Something I have yet to mention is the importance your Terraforming Level. Your Terraforming Level (or TR for short) is a visual representation of how much you have contributed to Mars re-modeling. TR also is the basis by which you are awarded currency at the start of every round as well as end game points. Every players TR starts at 20 and works there way up from there one step at a time raising it every time a card tells them to do so or they cultivate a forest, ocean, raise the temp. or oxygen. The Main currency of “MegaCredits” is used to purchase most everything but you can use accumulated energy, steel, plant matter, and heat in some circumstances.
There is very little player interaction, only every occurring when someone happens to build in another players path. The only other times you will be given the opportunity to mess with an opponent is when a card tells you to do so. Usually doing so through actions tell you to remove another players resource by X amount. Other than whats already been stated there is no mechanic that allows you to directly interfere with other players. As you play there are certain goals you can attempt to achieve that will grant you additional end game points. Things like having the most cities on the board or the most cards with the scientist tag.
The end Game is reached when the planets temperature is stable, the air is breathable and there is plenty of water. Once end game is triggered the round finishes as it normally would then every player tallies up their score being a mix of your TR any victory points on cards and any cities that lie on the edge of forests. At first glance its an awful lot to take in lots of rules and bits. Once you sit down and play through it everything will begin to make sense.
Final thoughts: The games theme shines brilliantly through everything you do from the art work on the cards and the map. Monitoring the current state of the planet and helping it develop to a habitable state feels so smooth and immerses you instantly. I look forward to playing this game many times in the future. Eventually I will win…