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In the 2400s, mankind begins to terraform the planet Mars. Giant corporations, sponsored by the World Government on Earth, initiate huge projects to raise the temperature, the oxygen level, and the ocean coverage until the environment is habitable. In Terraforming Mars, you play one of those corporations and work together in the terraforming process, but compete for getting victory points that are awarded not only for your contribution to the terraforming, but also for advancing human infrastructure throughout the solar system, and doing other commendable things.

Players acquire unique project cards (from over two hundred different ones) by buying them to their hand. The projects (cards) can represent anything from introducing plant life or animals, hurling asteroids at the surface, building cities, to mining the moons of Jupiter and establish greenhouse gas industries to heat up the atmosphere. The cards can give you immediate bonuses, as well as increasing your production of different resources. Many cards also have requirements and they become playable when the temperature, oxygen, or ocean coverage increases enough. Buying cards is costly, so there is a balance between buying cards (3 megacredits per card) and actually playing them (which can cost anything between 0 to 41 megacredits, depending on the project). Standard Projects are always available to complement your cards.

Your basic income, as well as your basic score, is based on your Terraform Rating (starting at 20), which increases every time you raise one of the three global parameters. However, your income is complemented with your production, and you also get VPs from many other sources.

When the three global parameters (temperature, oxygen, ocean) have all reached their goal, the terraforming is complete, and the game ends after that generation. Count your Terraform Rating and other VPs to determine the winning corporation!

User Reviews (4)

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Gamer - Level 4
18 of 19 gamers found this helpful
“Great, but you gotte get to know it”

Terraforming Mars is a treat once you manage to learn it. An epic task, worthy of your time for sure, but monumental to learn

Gameplay and replay:

The game is played over several rounds where everyone takes turns using their various resources earned at the end of each round to fulfill contracts, alter Mars’ topography into a hospitable planet, preform tasks, or install cities. You build an engine with your actions allowing you to do further actions in subsequent turns until the game ends by getting the right amount of water in the surface, oxygen on the atmosphere, and global temperature. Points are scored for making these 3 things happen, fulfilling certain contracts, installing cities surrounded by greenery, and getting achievements and trophies

Each game get a little better as you better understand the rules. Which brings me to

The bad:

Love the game, hate the poorly written rulebook. Unclear syntax, awkward sentence structure, and a lack, at times of clear examples makes for a confusing out of the box learning experience. Not overly fond of the player mats or box insert which falls apart almost as soon as you return the game to the box while the player mats suffer from things getting jostled around on surface where the necessary information is too easily

Overall bad box, rulebook, and player mats aside, the game itself is a well put together experience that you will love once you manage to muddle through the poor rulebook

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7 of 7 gamers found this helpful
“Wow. Just Wow.”

Play Count –
Terraforming Mars qualifies for the Play Count pip in my opinion because of its depth, access to expansions, and the varied ways to win. Maybe this won’t be a game that you want to play all the time, but I think it is one that you will keep on your shelf forever and find something new every time you play it.

The Freshness –
Now this one was interesting for me. As far as mechanics go it is a pretty simple blend of resource management, tile placement, and engine building, however the part that was really fresh was the theme. I can’t say it sounded like the most intriguing topic, but once i got into it I was amazed at the depth surrounding the theme. This is a game that you could seriously play in college to educate people on the theories surrounding how we might actually cultivate life on mars! Commitment to theme on that scale earns it this pip.

Accessibility –
I was unsure whether or not to give this pip for a while, but I decided to go ahead and award it. There are complexities to this game that may drive people insane, however it is really simple once you have a game under your belt. Even if it is your first time playing I think you will be able to compete in a reasonable manner. The rules have an alternate setup for first time players to make it faster and easier to see the end goal which I thought was brilliant.

Theme –
This is one that I touched on a little bit earlier, but I thought it deserved its own point. I don’t think I have ever seen a game commit to a theme as strongly as terraforming mars. At least not one of this play depth.

Depth –
There is a lot of this game to go around. The expansions (though I haven’t played yet) have good reviews and seem to be a real boost to the game’s depth if you want that, and the core game itself just offers a lot of meat to get into. The first game we played we really didn’t see animals and microbes pup up much until the very end (probably by brilliant design) and I can’t wait to try it out again to see the full scope of possibilities.

NOTE: There is one clear reason why I didn’t give this 6 pips. The components felt cheaper than I would have liked. The board felt a little light and a little warped (due to the lighter material) and the artwork when illustrated was beautiful, but there were a lot of cards that just had photography on them. The mixture of these was just a little jarring to me and I wish there was a version that had all unified artwork.

Terraforming Mars was introduced to me through our Best Board Game Still in Print Bracket on Instagram. Feel free to join us on Instagram as we crown more winners in different categories.

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“Love it - Especially with expansions”

I absolutely love Terraforming Mars. It’s one of those games that gets board games to be more popular.

That being said, I think expansions make the game much better still, especially the Prelude expansion. I wrote a detailed article on why Prelude is the best Terraforming Mars expansion, but to summarize shortly:

In Prelude you get interesting and powerful abilities right at the start of the game. So it’s like getting a beginner’s boost. This is super helpful and it makes the game much better, because it shortens the game. Specifically, it takes out the least epic part of the game (the beginning in which you can’t do a lot yet).

So yeah, that’s my 2 cents on Terraforming Mars and the Prelude expansion!

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7 of 12 gamers found this helpful

Played it once
The 90 minutes advertised are a big lie. It took us 2 1/2 hours, 5 players.

Initial appeal:
every card is beautiful, the components are pretty. The idea of terraforming mars is great, and you can actually terraform, ehm, mars.

the passing through of cards feels interactive. You do some deck building based on the preferences of your corporation, enough randomization to ensure replayability. The plastic grid holding the tokens, the owner had bought from bgg, was good but too big for the current scoring cards. But nevertheless, the tactile experience was nice.
We never actually got to terraforming mars, mars in the end had just 2 cities and one on phobos or deimos or whatever. Some of the cards are very aggressive (for a euro game at least).

Would i buy it? never.

It is too expensive and how much will you play it? 10 times? of which 6 times solo? There are better solo games out there that take up less time. Not many people nowadays have such amounts of time to play. Also you need a bigger table than we have atm.


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