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Subject: Humanity's Quick Start Guide to Terraforming Mars rss

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Cedric Chong
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1. There's only one thing I don't like about Terraforming Mars, and it's not the player mat.



Let me get straight to the point.

Based on the basic game, I rate Terraforming Mars a 3 out of 10.

Including the Draft variant, different starting Corporations, and Corporate Era cards, I rate Terraforming Mars a 6.5 out of 10.

Including the Draft variant, different starting Corporations, and no Corporate Era cards, I rate Terraforming Mars a 7.5 out of 10.

Playing with 2 or 3, minus 0.5 to the score.

Playing with 4 or 5, add 0.5 to the score.

Playing solo, 7.5 out of 10.



There's only one thing I don't like about Terraforming Mars, and it's not the player mat.













2. Humanity's Quick Start Guide to Terraforming Mars


















This Quick Start Guide is meant as an introduction to the game of Terraforming Mars. You can think of it as a guide to pass to your friends to read before going to game night. It will be great if the game is played with at least one experienced player who knows how to handle exceptions and special rules.

[PDF] Humanity's Quick Start Guide to Terraforming Mars


Humanity's Quick Start Guide to Terraforming Mars
By Cedric Chong (maxixe)
Originally published on BGG

Game design: Jacob Fryxelius
© 2016 FryxGames
© 2016 Stronghold Games








3. The actual review


Terraforming Mars
1 Highly accessible.
2 Educational.
3 Interesting integration of mechanics.
4 Tension.
5 Tells a rich story.
6 Game duration is too long.







The Good

Highly accessible.

Terraforming Mars setups in 2.5 minutes. Take down in 5 minutes. This is an accomplishment in design for a medium weight game.

The rules are streamlined and game is easy to teach. There are sufficient player aid printed on cards and on the board. Players do not even need to memorize iconography. The designer has written down how to play each card in plain simple English. After one or two games, you will be able to understand the iconography instinctively.

Because of the above two reasons, Terraforming Mars is a highly accessible game.


Educational.

I love board games that act as an education vehicle. The last game that impressed me in this area was Freedom the Underground Railroad. In Terraforming Mars, I can see the designer drew inspirations from various sources, which include science as well as popular fiction. While science is not my strengths, after playing Terraforming Mars, I can see myself sharing some basics with my non-gamer peers about the challenges and conditions necessary to terraform Mars. I sound smarter by quoting specific statistics! 9 percent ocean surface, 8 degree Celsius, 16 percent Oxygen.





Interesting integration of mechanics.

Terraforming Mars is essentially a card-driven, engine building game. However, a few things set it apart.

Most of the combos are driven by the blue cards in the game. It can make for a gratifying game experience when various blue cards come together over the course of the game.

On the other hand, there are the red cards and the green cards. They are more as a one time effect. Red cards are turned over after played. Green cards have no more effect except to contribute their tags for future cards being played. The combo potential from these cards is not that high. But they help to propel the other aspect of this game forward. The resource production (on player mat) and interaction with the board.

Cards can interact with the board directly. Cards can also affect the player mat, which in turn, interact with the board. There are also cards which do not interact with the board at all, and just act as a micro-engine which scores Victory Points at the end of the game.

In a way, this reminds me of Dominion and Trains. Dominion is a purely card-driven deck-building game. Trains came along and added a board aspect to it.

Terraforming Mars could have been a purely card-driven engine building game. Instead, it has a board with map of Mars where players can populate with tiles like Ocean, Greenery, Cities, and even special sites.

The hand of cards, the player mat and the board come together to interact in a variety of ways which lead to multiple paths to play the game. I.e. multiple paths to victory.





Tension.

The most fun I have while playing Terraforming Mars is not in the realization of combos, but in moments when I managed to claim a spot on the board before someone else does.

The tension is fun. There is a minor moment of triumph when I managed to secure a favorable spot before someone else.

For example, capturing Awards or Milestones before someone else does. Placing that City adjacent to three Greenery tiles. Doing a double action to build a City/Greenery tile and claim the corresponding Award. Doing a double action to step up Temperature or Oxygen to the level which gives a bonus.

The tension is akin to the feeling I get when playing a worker placement game. I want to get to that spot before someone else does!

This aspect of the game is the one I love the most.



Streamlined mechanics, yet tells a rich story.

An impressive feat of Terraforming Mars is how it managed to streamline setup and rules in a simplified way. Yet, the simplified mechanics is able to tell a variety of "stories".

It allows me to immerse in the theme with cards like "Search for Life". It tickles my imagination with cards that bring pets to Mars, or setting up areas for nature reserve, or exploding asteroids, or farming, or colonizing nearby moons.

When I play the game fast, I am mainly playing the mechanics. But I find when I slow down a little to read the flavour text, a rich aroma of theme oozes out. The pictures on the cards helped as well. For example, the picture of the puppy. Wow, that is sufficient to stimulate my imagination. It tells me that we are nearing the final stages of terraforming, and as cities fill the planet, humans are bringing their pets to live with them.






The Bad

Game duration is too long.

There's only one thing I don't like about Terraforming Mars, and it's not the player mat. It's the game duration.

Solo games are alright. In my experience, it plays between 30 minutes to 50 minutes.

2 and 3 player games are long. Depending on which variants I add, it plays between 2 to 3 hours.

4 and 5 player games are slightly better. It is possible to play from slightly under 2 hours to 2.5 hours.


Of course, a lot of it depends on how Analysis-Paralysis prone the players are.

Because every single card is unique, first time players who are not yet familiar with the iconography can take a long time reading through the text of every single card.


I also find the end game trigger problematic.

Thematically it is great to set end game trigger as it is. I.e. when all 3 Global Parameters reached their goals.

In instances where all players actively contribute to all 3 Global Parameters, that is great.

However, as not all actions advance Global Parameters, it is very possible for players to drag out the game duration. I have had games where one Global Parameter is hardly touched 5-6 rounds into the game. Worst experience was with Temperature. Most of the Ocean Tiles and Oxygen were completed, but Temperature could still be only 30% done.


There was another game where two Global Parameters were maxed, and the third were one step away. No player could advance it, we ran out of resources for the round. As a result, we had to play an additional round. The board were quite maxed out at that point. Many of the resources became useless. The leaders were already apparent. Because we could not advance that last Global Parameters, the game dragged on for one more round. By that time, none of us truly cared what happened. We played sub-optimally in that last round just to try to end the game.



For me and many of my gaming buddies, a game's duration is very important.

Everyone has their own personal commitments and board gaming time is pretty limited. We have new games every week fighting for table time. Even some of our most beloved games do not get played months in a row. While Terraforming Mars is an excellent game, which we like, we seem to unanimously agree we would prefer to play 1.5 or 2 other heavier games in the time it takes us to play 1 game of Terraforming Mars.


I recognize that this point applies because of the lifestyle I have. For me (and us), I need to maximize a game's weight, the utils it provides, with the amount of time it takes to play the game. A somewhat abstracted concept of fun per unit time. Terraforming Mars is a fun medium-weight Euro. The only flaw, for me, is that Terraforming Mars tends to overstay its welcome. It doesn't know when to stop. Almost every game, I wished it ended 1 or 2 rounds earlier.


I recognize that for many potential readers of this post on BGG, a game's duration may not be that important for you. If that's the case, good for you. This point I am sharing obviously doesn't apply for you.





Game is too tactical and not strategic.

In the basic game, it is almost impossible to have long term strategic planning.

Most of what I can do is dependent on my hand of cards. Aside from the initial hand of 10 cards, I draw only 4 cards each round. I can derive a plan to go for specific strategy based on early card draws, but randomness can create a painful experience if I am not able to draw those cards later on.

For example, I had two cards that played off Space Events. However, from Mid-game onwards, I kept drawing only green and blue, and no red (Event cards).

I had 2 Science Tag. During Research Phase, I drew a good card that needed 3 Science Tags. I bought it. However, for the rest of the game, I was not able to draw any more cards with Science Tags. Thus I wasted that 3 MegaCredits.

I saw a nice combo around Animal/ Microbes/ Plant, bought and played that card, but was not able to draw more.

Late game, after all of the Global Parameters were past the halfway mark, I drew cards which "expired".



The small number of card draw aggravates this problem of randomness.

This makes the base game of Terraforming Mars tactical and not strategic. I am not able to build the engine I foresee that I could build if I am not able to draw the cards I needed. Every round, I would be trying to maximize what I have to the best of my ability and nothing is certain. I may have the best card combo in mind, but may not be able to execute it.

Except for a few Blue cards, there is no way to draw more cards. How do I get those Blue cards? Yes, I need luck to draw them.

Thankfully, the Draft Variant solves this problem.



Draft variant is mandatory.

The draft variant is a good thing. It makes the game significantly better.

Without drafting, I rate Terraforming Mars a 3 out of 10.
With drafting, I rate Terraforming Mars between 6.5 to 7.5 out of 10.

Drafting reduces the problem of access to low number of cards by allowing all players to screen through not 4, but potentially up to 10 cards every round (depending on number of players).

This is a big deal.

Taking a 5-player game as an example, where it typically ends in 6 rounds (without Corporate Era cards), we get to have 5 Research Phase (first one is skipped). That means the difference between not drafting and drafting is screening through a total of 20 cards or 50 cards in a game.


Drafting also increases indirect player interaction. By spending a few moment to scan each player’s core strategy, I can attempt to deny cards which can be potentially useful to my opponents. The good thing is I don't even need to pay for them later. I can just discard those cards.

Scanning through all cards allow me to prepare for those nasty effects that can be played. For example, if I see a minus 3 Plants card, and I passed it down, I'd try to deplete my Plant resource as one of the first actions I perform in the round.


Drafting is fun and an essential, almost mandatory variant, for me. It completely addresses the previous issue I raised with it being too tactical and not strategic. The problem is Drafting increases game duration, which is the core problem I have with this game.






Corporate Era cards are great, but it makes a long game unbearably longer.

The other variant we tried is Corporate Era. Corporate Era is a great variant. It has seemingly powerful engine-building cards. Adding Corporate Era cards to the draw deck makes the early game significantly more fun.

The problem is, adding Corporate Era increases the game duration too much. We found that we would spend the first 4 to 5 rounds of the game furiously building our own little engines. Hardly anything was done to advance the 3 Global Parameters.

As a result, the first 60% of the game was fun. The game duration got dragged out way too long. It made the last 40% exhausting.


The Undecided? (Random thoughts on the game)

Mixing Production with VP.

This is an interesting design decision. To add VP (the Terraforming Rating) to the MegaCredits Production each round.


In many Euros, there is a clear separation of Production/Engine and VPs. Actions either improves your Production/Engine, or converts your produced resources into VPs. It is quite seldom to see VPs coming back to improve your Production/Engine. In a way, it's like a loop. Production increases Resources, Resources increase VPs, VPs increase Production.

Terraforming Mars decides to mix VP into MegaCredits Production. At first glance, I feel something wasn't right. By making your VP into your Production, wouldn't that reinforce the problem of run-away leader?

As an example, an early two VP (TR) lead could mean 2 extra MegaCredits a round. But over 3 to 4 rounds, this can lead to the ability to play one more card than everyone else. That in turn, could help push the VP (TR) even further.

In 2 or 3 player games, where the average number of rounds are more, I find the player who manage to get an early VP (TR) lead tend to run-away by late game.


I wonder why the designer made this choice?

I can think of two reasons.

The first reason is linked to the end-game trigger. The game won't end until the 3 Global Parameters are maxed. By giving VPs, the game encourages players to advance Global Parameters.

However, if VPs are not tied to Production, there is no incentive to advance Global Parameters early. And we see this design issue in many games. With no benefits to capture VPs early, players typically focus on building Production/Engine in the early game, and start a rush to score VPs in the late game.

Many games resolve this issue of players rushing for VPs only at the end of the game. One way is to make scoring VPs cheaper if players do it earlier. An example is Istanbul. In many of the tiles, the earlier a player buys something there, the cheaper it is. In one specific tile, it is cheaper to buy the red gem (VP) earlier.

In Terraforming Mars, the game makes VPs part of MegaCredits Production to motivate players to advance Global Parameters early. The earlier a player advance Global Parameters, the more return on investment the player will get.


Okay.

There seems to be a balance in terms of game design over there.


As I look at the game's multiple paths to victory, this seems to give more advantage to actions which gives TR increase now, as opposed to actions which gives VP at the end of the game.


This is the second reason I can think of. To create a differentiation between final VP and current TR. For example, there are cards that raises TR. There are cards that gives final VP. The Awards and the Milestones also gives final VPs. By adding TR into MegaCredits Production, the game differentiates TR and final VP, creating slightly higher value for TR.



I find myself wishing there is a clear separation of VP (TR) and MegaCredits Production. For example, the player mat can have all players start with a MegaCredits Production of 20, instead of 0. Have other ways to motivate players to advance Global Parameters early. For example, by lowering costs of advancing Global Parameters, or giving more benefits, or granting early advancements more VPs (say 2 or 3 instead of 1VP).

I'm not sure how well this will work. My thoughts are based on a very small number of game plays as compared to probably hundreds of play tests this game had. So I won't be surprised if I got this wrong.





End Game Condition does not trigger reliably within a set amount of time.


This point was discussed in earlier sections. While it is thematically sound to have the end game triggered by completion of the 3 Global Parameters, in practice, I often wish the game ended 1 or 2 rounds earlier. In a few cases, two Global Parameters were maxed out early, while one Global Parameter still had a long way to go.

Some BGG users suggested on other threads to add a Round limit to the game. For example, if the end game doesn't trigger by X rounds, the game will still end. Thematically, it may be Earth will run out of resources by 10 (or any number) generations. So 10 generations is all we have to play this game.

I like this suggestion. Obviously, I have not play tested this. Since my only complain of this game is the game duration, any variant that reduces the game duration gets a thumbs up from me.

In fact, I may even go as far as to modify the end game trigger. Instead of having all 3 Global Parameters maxed out, as long as 2 out of 3 Global Parameters were maxed out, it triggers end of game.



What about the player mat?

Doesn't bother me at all.

Initially I thought it would be a problem. Out of the games I played, I moved the player mat exactly once, causing some cubes to be shifted. And I knocked some Production cubes out of place once.

Yes, it could have been better if the spots are recessed like those of Scythe or Clash of Cultures. But as it is, it works.








The Sweet Spot

After a few tries, I finally found the sweet spot of Terraforming Mars, for me.

I love the game when playing solo, or playing at player count of 4 or 5. I will probably avoid playing this game with player count of 2 or 3.

I will always play the game with Drafting.

I will avoid playing the game with Corporate Era.

Corporations doesn't seem to matter for me. Many of my friends like it. I'm fine playing with Beginner Corporations or with variable Corporations.

Regardless of other variables, always start with 1 Production on each of the six resource.


With Drafting, it solves the biggest complaint I have of Terraforming Mars. Randomness and the lack of card draw.

When playing solo, 4-player or 5-player, without Corporate Era cards, and starting with 1 Production, the game plays so much faster to make this medium-weight game end at a bearable time frame.


As a side note, instead of Drafting, I really wish someone can come up with another variant that allows players to screen through more cards without increasing game duration! A game duration of 90 minutes for this game would be perfect. For me.
















4. Final thoughts
An excellent medium-weight Euro, marred by one flaw


There are many things I love about Terraforming Mars. Quick setup time, streamlined play, educational, thematic.

There's only one thing I don't like about Terraforming Mars, and it's not the player mat. It's the game duration.

If a game's duration doesn't bother you, I whole-heartedly recommend Terraforming Mars.














[PDF] Humanity's Quick Start Guide to Terraforming Mars


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Jerome Nowak

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You didnt like that you taught and explained it poorly? Hmm. Cool beans.
 
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Sam Carroll
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jnowak415 wrote:
You didnt like that you taught and explained it poorly? Hmm. Cool beans.


That's not what he said at all! He did include some entertaining exchanges illustrating his poor word choices etc. while teaching the game, but the "one thing" that he disliked was the game's length.

maxixe wrote:
There's only one thing I don't like about Terraforming Mars, and it's not the player mat. It's the game duration.
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Thomas Robb
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WOW

That might be the most comprehensive discussion/review I have ever seen!

Wow!
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J. Atkinson
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Great review! I enjoyed your criticisms about the game, and I will duly take note of them before buying it on my next purchase go around. Really excited about the game either way.
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Jacob Walker
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maxixe wrote:
However, as not all actions advance Global Parameters, it is very possible for players to drag out the game duration. I have had games where one Global Parameter is hardly touched 5-6 rounds into the game. Worst experience was with Temperature. Most of the Ocean Tiles and Oxygen were completed, but Temperature could still be only 30% done.


This strikes me as abnormal. The two cheapest standard projects (ignoring the one that makes you money) either directly increase the temperature (and early on might increase your heat production as well) or generate a resource which will eventually be redeemable for a temperature increase. In my experience with the game, temperature almost always climbs pretty quickly, with water close behind, and oxygen last. There are always exceptions, but I'd say this is the rough order of most games, and in almost every game, temperature should make a lot of early progress, even if it doesn't finish first (since it is the longest track).

maxixe wrote:
2 and 3 player games are long. Depending on which variants I add, it plays between 2 to 3 hours.

4 and 5 player games are slightly better. It is possible to play from slightly under 2 hours to 2.5 hours.


This is another curious thing, but I think your analysis is more or less spot on here. With more players, its hard to avoid terraforming actions, and the game tends to move a little bit faster. With fewer players, and especially with two, it's easier for all the players to ignore terraforming actions, and focus on economy and point-scoring cards. This will make the game drag. Ignoring thematic reasons, i think this is part of why the game links your score with income. It encourages players to terraform early so they can get a boon for the rest of the game.

I would say my play times seem to mirror yours, but I have always played with the corporate era expansion.

Edit: Forgot to say, great review!
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Paul Newsham
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It's interesting that the two main issues raised here are game length and randomness of cards, when just yesterday I was reading a review that said the randomness can be overcome with the Standard Projects, and that many of the Standard Projects push the game towards completion.

Could it be the case that the thing making the game go long is that all players are waiting for that last piece of their engine to drop into place thanks to the cards, when the leader could just force through a win by pushing the game to end?
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Julien Robert
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Nicely done, very useful
I can't imagine the amount of time you spent on this.
Have some GG for the effort
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Cedric Chong
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thomasrobb wrote:

WOW

That might be the most comprehensive discussion/review I have ever seen!

Wow!


Thanks Thomas. I don't write many reviews. Just 2 or 3 a year for games that I love or find interesting. If you like this, you may like to check out some of the other reviews I wrote.

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jgatkinsn wrote:
Great review! I enjoyed your criticisms about the game, and I will duly take note of them before buying it on my next purchase go around. Really excited about the game either way.


Thanks J. Just to clarify, they are not criticisms. Just sharing thoughts I have about the game after playing


eagleeye42 wrote:
maxixe wrote:
However, as not all actions advance Global Parameters, it is very possible for players to drag out the game duration. I have had games where one Global Parameter is hardly touched 5-6 rounds into the game. Worst experience was with Temperature. Most of the Ocean Tiles and Oxygen were completed, but Temperature could still be only 30% done.


This strikes me as abnormal. The two cheapest standard projects (ignoring the one that makes you money) either directly increase the temperature (and early on might increase your heat production as well) or generate a resource which will eventually be redeemable for a temperature increase. In my experience with the game, temperature almost always climbs pretty quickly, with water close behind, and oxygen last. There are always exceptions, but I'd say this is the rough order of most games, and in almost every game, temperature should make a lot of early progress, even if it doesn't finish first (since it is the longest track).

maxixe wrote:
2 and 3 player games are long. Depending on which variants I add, it plays between 2 to 3 hours.

4 and 5 player games are slightly better. It is possible to play from slightly under 2 hours to 2.5 hours.


This is another curious thing, but I think your analysis is more or less spot on here. With more players, its hard to avoid terraforming actions, and the game tends to move a little bit faster. With fewer players, and especially with two, it's easier for all the players to ignore terraforming actions, and focus on economy and point-scoring cards. This will make the game drag. Ignoring thematic reasons, i think this is part of why the game links your score with income. It encourages players to terraform early so they can get a boon for the rest of the game.

I would say my play times seem to mirror yours, but I have always played with the corporate era expansion.

Edit: Forgot to say, great review!


Thanks for your kind words, Jacob.

In my games, when there is a laggard, Temperature seem to be always the one. We almost always play with different starting corporations, and somehow, that Corporation which can use heat as MegaCredits was always chosen. That player then had no motivation to spend heat on advancing temperature, reducing one player's contribution.

In my games there are always a lot of Greenery Tiles. These advances Oxygen rapidly. Greenery Tiles score 1 VP. Can get bonus resource when placing, advance Oxygen, which adds 1 TR. And if placed next to City, adds one more end game VP. Ocean, having only 9, got used up relatively quickly as well.


Yes, as noted in other threads, this is probably the only Euro I can think of where having more players reduces game duration. This is probably because each additional player adds to the overall resources available in the game (Production Phase and cards). With more resources available, and more competition for spots (you can't take your time), the game ends faster.



Tarnop wrote:
It's interesting that the two main issues raised here are game length and randomness of cards, when just yesterday I was reading a review that said the randomness can be overcome with the Standard Projects, and that many of the Standard Projects push the game towards completion.

Could it be the case that the thing making the game go long is that all players are waiting for that last piece of their engine to drop into place thanks to the cards, when the leader could just force through a win by pushing the game to end?


Just to clarify, my issue with randomness and lack of capability to build engine strategically in the long term, is resolved by Drafting. So the only issue I have with the game is long game duration.

Yes, Standard Projects are great for the "desperate" moves to claim that Award (3 Greenery / 3 Cities) or to claim a favorable spot on the map before someone else does.

Maybe my group and I had not fully realized the value of MegaCredits. We tend to view Standard Projects as more costly alternatives. Using Plants for Greenery, Energy and Heat for Temperature, and cards for all 3 seem to be the cheaper alternative.

The issue that Standard Projects cannot solve is to enable combos. Many of the game's most interesting and rewarding combos comes from the blue cards. Standard Projects can't help here.

As noted in my review, I find building combos off blue cards extremely satisfying. I have had games where I managed to get a few blue cards to combo off each other such that I gain 4 free VPs every round. No MegaCredits needed. Just actions, which we know after playing this game, is free. The amount of VPs derived from blue cards combos seem to be higher than the VPs derived from Standard Projects, per unit MegaCredits spent. Hence the preference for focusing on cards.

YoshiFR wrote:
Nicely done, very useful
I can't imagine the amount of time you spent on this.
Have some GG for the effort


Thanks Julien. Glad you like this and find bits useful. I appreciate your comment.

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Matt Smith
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A very comprehensive review of my new favorite medium strategy euro. Well done!

I don't have much TM multi-player experience yet (played mostly solo), but I haven't found the length of my multiplayer plays to be out of line with the other games you mentioned (Terra Mystica and Tzolkin). I don't think I've ever finished a game of Tzolkin in less than 2 hours. In my one 5-player game of TM we had 3 new players and 2 experienced. We played the full game (Corporate Era, Corporation cards, 0 starting production, no drafting) and finished in 2.5 hours, including final scoring. Considering the three new players and an occasional interruption (we were playing at a large monthly meetup), I think we could easily get this game down to 2 hours. For as meaty and cool as this game is, that is a very acceptable duration in my book.

In fact, I would go so far as to say I would not expect a medium-weight euro like this to clock in at 90 minutes. If that were to happen, it would be at the expense of being able to both build and run a cool engine for a few rounds. I'm not as big a fan of games that force the game to end just when I've built my engine. That is like building a really cool car and then never driving it. yuk

I also didn't have a problem with the basic rule of draw 4 cards each round, but I can see drafting being much more strategic. But I wouldn't want to play that way unless everyone at the table was experienced with the game; not because it would extend the game, but because it could disrupt the flow of the game.
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Jeff Noel
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Wow! Great guide!

I agree that seeing 4 cards per Research phase is too few. After my first game, I never played multiplayer without drafting again. As for variants to avoid drafting, why not just have everyone draw a larger number of cards during Research?

When I first read the rules, the fact that TR equates to income and points also gave me pause. I don't think it really snowballs though. If players aren't raising their TR early in the game, they're playing cards that are probably building their engine in other ways that are more efficient in terms of resource accumulation.

I think the fact that the three global parameters don't max out at the same time is a feature, not a problem. It gives you incentive to avoid specializing your corporation in the same way as other players. Though there is still the issue of the game-pace being very player-dependent. Sometimes, everyone has something they'd rather be doing instead of ending the game, which can be an issue if the leader isn't confident that they're actually leading.

maxixe wrote:

In my games, when there is a laggard, Temperature seem to be always the one. We almost always play with different starting corporations, and somehow, that Corporation which can use heat as MegaCredits was always chosen. That player then had no motivation to spend heat on advancing temperature, reducing one player's contribution.


I think there's something of a newbie-trap aspect to Helion's "heat into MegaCredits" ability. While the added flexibility can be quite useful (especially if temperature maxes out first), I think spending heat for temperature raises is more efficient, on average, than spending it as money.
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Örjan Almén
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Oh, what a review!

I love the way you present it and your playing guide is amazing!
I tend to disagree with you on your length issue but of course people do feel different on these things. I enjoy playing it so much that the time really doesn't matter. I rather play with the corporate era cards as they add in a lot more on the engine building part.

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Patrick Hillier
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Great write up.

I'm a bit concerned about the time of the draft. I had been considering drawing 6-8 cards per generation but still limiting to four purchases. This would allow some more choice and variety but play faster. Thoughts?
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Matt Smith
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jeff0 wrote:
Wow! Great guide!

I agree that seeing 4 cards per Research phase is too few. After my first game, I never played multiplayer without drafting again. As for variants to avoid drafting, why not just have everyone draw a larger number of cards during Research?

When I first read the rules, the fact that TR equates to income and points also gave me pause. I don't think it really snowballs though. If players aren't raising their TR early in the game, they're playing cards that are probably building their engine in other ways that are more efficient in terms of resource accumulation.

I agree with you; in my experience, raising TR early doesn't necessarily snowball. In our last game, the player with the Corporation that can pay 3 MC to raise TR if he already raised TR that generation used it every generation to stay way ahead of the rest of us on the TR track. He came in 4th or 5th place at the end. And because he was ahead on the TR track during the game he was viewed as a target for the plant-destroying event cards.

jeff0 wrote:
I think the fact that the three global parameters don't max out at the same time is a feature, not a problem. It gives you incentive to avoid specializing your corporation in the same way as other players. Though there is still the issue of the game-pace being very player-dependent. Sometimes, everyone has something they'd rather be doing instead of ending the game, which can be an issue if the leader isn't confident that they're actually leading.

maxixe wrote:

In my games, when there is a laggard, Temperature seem to be always the one. We almost always play with different starting corporations, and somehow, that Corporation which can use heat as MegaCredits was always chosen. That player then had no motivation to spend heat on advancing temperature, reducing one player's contribution.


I think there's something of a newbie-trap aspect to Helion's "heat into MegaCredits" ability. While the added flexibility can be quite useful (especially if temperature maxes out first), I think spending heat for temperature raises is more efficient, on average, than spending it as money.

I played Helion in my last game. I usually converted Heat to MC each Generation so I could afford to play more blue cards early. That allowed me to generate more points from those cards over the course of the game. I also had a card that allowed me to spend 1 Heat to draw a card, so my Heat was dedicated to building my engine. I won the game by 1 point, so I wouldn't consider spending Heat for MC as a "newbie trap". It all depends on what the other players are doing and what cards you draw. The Miners Guild player was spamming the temperature like crazy, and I had Adaptation Technology, so I didn't need to worry about raising Temp to play any of my cards. At that point, getting MC and a card each generation seemed a much better use of my Heat.
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Matt Smith
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phillier937 wrote:
Great write up.

I'm a bit concerned about the time of the draft. I had been considering drawing 6-8 cards per generation but still limiting to four purchases. This would allow some more choice and variety but play faster. Thoughts?

Drawing more than 4 cards each Research phase would result in players spending more time evaluating the drawn cards to determine which to purchase. There is already a lot of calculating going on during this phase, even with just 4 drawn cards. Drawing more cards could tip an AP-prone player (like me) over the cliff. However, if you're okay with that phase of the game taking longer, I don't see any other game balance issues with drawing more cards. I don't think you'd even need to limit the number of cards that can be purchased, because it's rare for players to purchase more than 3 cards in a generation, in my experience. Just my two cents.
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Enoch Fryxelius
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mvettemagred wrote:
phillier937 wrote:
Great write up.

I'm a bit concerned about the time of the draft. I had been considering drawing 6-8 cards per generation but still limiting to four purchases. This would allow some more choice and variety but play faster. Thoughts?

Drawing more than 4 cards each Research phase would result in players spending more time evaluating the drawn cards to determine which to purchase. There is already a lot of calculating going on during this phase, even with just 4 drawn cards. Drawing more cards could tip an AP-prone player (like me) over the cliff. However, if you're okay with that phase of the game taking longer, I don't see any other game balance issues with drawing more cards. I don't think you'd even need to limit the number of cards that can be purchased, because it's rare for players to purchase more than 3 cards in a generation, in my experience. Just my two cents.


ABSOLUTELY AMAZING REVIEW!!! This graphic go-through is the best I've ever seen! What surprises me though is that this review has a really positive tone (apart from the game lenghth issue!), but still rates basic game at 3! That's the only thing I don't get. Still I cannot do anything but applaud and recommend this post. Great work!

Me and my brothers have great fun reading everything on these forums. Especially everybody playing one time or two and then come up with all these changes that would make the game sooo much better. (I'm sorry, I know I'm exaggerating here to make my point)

Drawing 4 cards is not just a random decision by the designers. We have play-tested extensively with different number of draws for the research phase (especially with 5 card draw) but the main problems with drawing more than 4 cards is:
1. Like Matt suggests, every new card beyond 4 significantly adds to the complexity and time for making decisions.
2. You also go through the draw deck too fast. We already think it's a problem that you often have to reshuffle the discard pile.
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brian giese
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Great review and layout. Personally I love the longer length of the game, but I can see that would not appeal to everyone.

the drafting adds a lot of FUN IMO, but also adds time.
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Wim van Gruisen
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Den Bosch
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maxixe wrote:
After a few tries, I finally found the sweet spot of Terraforming Mars, for me.

I love the game when playing solo [...]

I will always play the game with Drafting.

Errm ...

Great review, very handy instructions. Your PDF is easier to grasp than the official rules booklet. Thanks.
That said, I noticed that you didn't include the generations; the part that in phase 1 of each round, another generation passes, and that you have to move the third white cube (the one that isn't placed on temperature or oxygen level).


Re: your discussion of games duration, and how the game can last forever if players don't push the parameters forward: would an NPC corporation help? Something like the AI player in Snowdonia? That game is about building a track from the base to the top of the Snowdonia mountain. Players don't have to lay track, and that could potentially stall the game. But the designer has built an AI into the game that will produce track if the players don't.
So I wonder if we could build an AI player that raises temperature, oxygen levels, and ocean tiles, moving the game forward if the players don't. It may be as simple as: at the end of every round, draw and discard four cards. If there are at least two blue cards, place an ocean tile (there are twelve possible fields, so roll a d12 to determine the location - if you find a tile that's already covered, take the next higher one). If there are at least two red cards, raise the temperature by one. If there are at least two green cards, raise the oxygen level by one.

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Jeff Noel
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Fairmont
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Whymme wrote:

would an NPC corporation help?


There was some discussion of this already:

https://boardgamegeek.com/article/23859176#23859176


I like your suggestion of using card draws, but I think it would need to be modified to get the correct proportions of different types of parameter raises.
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Örjan Almén
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Karlstad
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Whymme wrote:
at the end of every round, draw and discard four cards. If there are at least two blue cards, place an ocean tile (there are twelve possible fields, so roll a d12 to determine the location - if you find a tile that's already covered, take the next higher one). If there are at least two red cards, raise the temperature by one. If there are at least two green cards, raise the oxygen level by one.


If you're going to try this, why not place the ocean tile according to the solo rules of placing the starting cities and greeneries? Then it's no need for a dice, just use the card cost of the last blue card. And also, don't draw 4 cards all the time, draw until you get two of the same that can be raised or placed.

Although I believe this is a bad idea all together as 1) there aren't so many red cards in the deck and temperature is the longest track. 2) many global parameter raising cards will probably be lost this way, especially without the corporate era cards.
 
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Wim van Gruisen
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I've played only one game of TM, and don't know the game well enough yet to know the card distribution and such. My remark was a reaction to the OP, based on how another game tackles this, rather than on an expansive experience with. TM. I picked colours according to what colour corresponded best (in my opinion) to each parameter. But if red cards are the rarest, then perhaps they fit better with the oceans.

I also didn't know that the solo game has rules for the placement of sea tiles.

As for drawing from the deck being a bad idea, what about drawing from the discard pile (after shuffling the top ten cards, to prevent a case where the last player who discards will steer what the AI corporation will do?

 
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Tim Moth
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"Based on the basic game, I rate Terraforming Mars a 3 out of 10."

Stopped reading right there. It is one of the most excellent tableau-builders, combined with a hard sci-fi, yet funnily presented theme and some spatial stuff.
Furthermore the game actually has several difficulty levels and the basic game is best for the first game. If it is too easy you can immediately progress to the higher difficulty variants for the second game.
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Florian Ruckeisen
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dende wrote:
Stopped reading right there.

Your loss. It's a really good review.
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Tim Moth
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Snapshot wrote:
dende wrote:
Stopped reading right there.

Your loss. It's a really good review.

A review which considers a game length of 2h as too high and, most ridiculous, considers the presence of several difficulty levels as a libaility instead of an asset is anything but.
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Chris Smith
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Nicely done. Really appreciate the effort put in here.
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