Game: Terraforming Mars
Publisher: Stronghold Games
Designer: Jacob Fryxelius
I've been interested in Terraforming Mars since Stronghold Games started the hype over 12 months ago, but when the first print run sold out I let it slip to the back of my mind, hoping to play it at a cafe or convention before paying the price for the second print run. Fortunately I did get my chance to play at a convention earlier this year - we enjoyed it and I decided to buy it, just as the second print run sold out. After scouring online sites, one appeared to get a restock and I hit buy straight away - really happy to get my hands on a copy!
It's hard to put your finger on exactly what type of game Terraforming Mars is. It's a medium-weight euro-game with very thematic actions and goals which all work towards a common end game condition of Terraforming Mars. It combines hand management, resource management and tile placement into a very smooth and satisfying game.
|The board at the end of a two-player game|
There are 6 resources in the game - you can use cards and actions to increase your production of different resources, or sometimes add a couple of resources to your supply, but it's hard to concentrate on increasing all 6. Typically it's good to pick a strategy and focus on a few different resources; money, ore, titanium, plants, energy or heat. Combining energy and heat is the way to focus on increasing the temperature, but once the temperature is at the maximum, a high heat production might be useless to you, a high plant production will always be useful to add forest tiles to the board and increase the oxygen level.
Card play and strong card combinations are the main mechanism to build your engine, but tile placement on the board can also be an important part of most strategies - although I have seen people do very well in the game with very few tiles on the board. There are small bonuses depending on where you place your tile which might inform where you build, but once you've started to place tiles, you need to remain connected. More importantly, there are end game points for forests you own as well as for cities you own that are surrounded with forests.
If you like strategy euro-games with a low level of player interaction, but a strong theme, then Terraforming Mars is definitely a game you should take a look at. I can see that it might be too solitaire for some players, but for us this works fine and the few cards in the deck that do cause an attack often come as a surprise and seem a little unfair because of their rarity in the deck.
We don't play many long games any more, but at the moment I'd happily play Terraforming Mars almost any day of the week. I'm even very tempted to play it solo - something I never do, but I just want to get it to the table more often. If I'm offered a game today, I'll probably play it, even though I usually only want to play new to me games at a big group board game day. Time flies by for me when playing Terraforming Mars and I am loving trying different strategies, seeing different cards and hopefully improving as I play more.
For the Yellow Meeple, Terraforming Mars gets a 9/10, really only let down by its component quality and complete lack of effort with artwork, which you can only get away with these days when you've designed a truly incredible and elegant game like this one.