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Terraforming Mars» Forums » Strategy

Subject: Love this game, but solo is crushing me! Help! rss

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Matt Price
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I'm not a solo gamer. I've tried, and I've not found a game that's drawn me in - until this one. I can't stop thinking about it!

I've gotten four solo games down now, and have made significant errors in each game, but I've not even come close to terraforming Mars by the end of the 14th generation. Here's how my games have gone:

Game 1, beginner corp, no corporate era cards (oops...), but the biggest mistake from this game was only taking 1-2 actions per generation (i.e., misreading the rules which state you take 1-2 actions per turn, and take multiple turns around the table until everyone passes. Apparently I'm in good company with that error!) I crashed and burned on this one. By the end of the 14th generation:
Temp: -18 (6/19 steps)
O2: 9/14
Oceans: 1/9
For a grand total of 16/42 terraforming steps, or 38% of the way done... Yikes!

The second game was also with the beginner corps, no corp era cards, but I played with as many actions per generation as I could do. I did a little better:
Temp: -12, 9/19
O2: 8/14
Oceans: 6/9
23/42 or 55% done

Third game was the same conditions as the second, but I did *worse* that the first game!
Temp: -14, 8/19
O2: 5/14%
Oceans: 2/9
15/42, only 36% done!

Finally, I learned that the solo rules are supposed to use the Corporate Era cards. I picked the United Nations Mars Initiative as my custom corp. I had my best game, but didn't even get two thirds of the way there...!
Temp: -6, 12/19
O2: 9/14
Oceans: 6/9
27/42, 64% done

Midway through this last game, I was quite annoyed with myself to see that I'd placed three greenspaces without raising the O2 levels! So I'm a bit worried that I'm just playing sloppy, and forgetting to increase things here and there as cards dictate. I reckon I might be a bit distracted (two young sons vying for my attention, if that ain't distracting...!) but that shouldn't account for missing a full third of terraforming steps... Sigh.

So I turn to you, o great geeks and fans of this game. What do you do to get your motor humming in this game? What good strategies would you recommend? What do you look for early in the game, and what do you pass up?

Thanks in advance!
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Derek Fearnley
Canada
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Generally my solo games go like this.

Gens 1-7: Focus primarily on engine building related to my chosen corporation and science cards. Science gives you cost reduction, payback and card draw. You're going 14 generations, so I feel that most science cards are quite valuable. Usually in this phase, one global parameter starts to move, but the others are fairly static.
Gens 8-10: Transition from engine building to terraforming. Steal a bit from your engine if necessary to get plant production moving. With a good science base, space events should come down cheaply here and oceans and temperature should be steadily rising.
Gens 11-14: If terraforming is going well, then start maximizing VP production. Otherwise, see where you're short and make sure you're buying standard projects for the global parameters that aren't quite moving along. Adjust this plan as you draw asteroid or comet cards.

This has worked well for me. I successfully terraform about 90% of the time and my score is usually 100+ VPs.
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Marcus S
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Probably need a bit more information before being able to really help. Things like how many cards do you keep at the start, how many do you typically end the game with, how many standard projects do you find yourself using.
I typically find that my engine can account for raising 2 of the 3 requirements, and i typically need to use more standard projects for the other.
Keep in mind that the cost of cards follows a formula, this means that you are "paying" for victory points, paying for "take that elements" (removing others resources, or decreasing others production), so these automatically become less "efficient" in the solo game, particularly if you are just trying to terraform, and not going for a high score.
Be sure to calculate the cost/benefit of cards, particularly later in the game. You may draw a card that looks great, but many cards just aren't worth it in the later rounds. Sometimes i may go the last 4 rounds with buying cards because i already have cards, or i know it is more efficient to just use standard projects rather than trying to raise production a bit for the last couple rounds.
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Lorry Moller
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I usually only keep about 3-5 cards at the beginning, otherwise you have no money to get started. Discard any that you can't play in the next few turns due to minimum ocean/O2/temp.

After burning through your initial cash on round 1, you better have added some ME or steel or Ti production; only making 14Me a turn is painful.

Space events are huge in solo, particularly for getting oceans. They are expensive, but so is paying for oceans.

There are three or four blue cards that let you turn energy into oxygen (and sometimes get some steel at the same time) so if you get them early and use them each turn, you can ignore forests until the very end (for points). Don't forget about using the standard projects to get the energu production you need for that strategy.

Card drawing and card filtering (ie science cards) are huge in solo for getting the right cards you need. At the beginning you're starved for money but at the end you're starved for cards.

Don't worry if you start slow as long as your production is going up; if your production is good at the end, you can often complete a lot of o2/temp/oceans at the end.

Good luck!
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Matt Price
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CarcuS wrote:
Probably need a bit more information before being able to really help. Things like how many cards do you keep at the start, how many do you typically end the game with, how many standard projects do you find yourself using.

I usually buy about half of the 10 cards to get rolling on gen 1, but I've noticed I get suckered in on some of the cards that require O2, Temp, etc... They seem so tempting, but as the game evolves, they often become irrelevant and don't get played (or sold back for 1MC each as a standard action). This last game I also had trouble finding cards to ramp up production - this is often the case, and I wonder if i'm doing something wrong (see below, maybe i need to pay more attention to the standard projects?)

I often don't look to the Standard projects (those are the ones on the board, right?) as they tend to be expensive and the first few turns I'm cash starved. Even as UNMI (pay 3MC to get one more TR on a turn where you've gained a TR) my cash engine took awhile to get rolling.

I finally did get a few blue cards that allowed for better card cycling. One that allowed me to look at the top card and either buy it for the standard 3MC price, or discard it; another that allowed me to pay 2MC to take the top card. That was a bit hit or miss, but seemed to pay off more than not.

So how often do y'all pick Standard Projects as actions?
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Lorry Moller
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I generally only use them in the last round or two of the game (when you have more money than cards) to pick up points for cities or forests, (or to pick up a missing ocean or temp, but I prefer to get those through space events).

Generally the only time I do standard projects early in the game is if I need energy for a key card like the strip mine.
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Steve Crowley
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EnPHard wrote:
Generally my solo games go like this.

Gens 1-7: Focus primarily on engine building related to my chosen corporation and science cards. Science gives you cost reduction, payback and card draw. You're going 14 generations, so I feel that most science cards are quite valuable. Usually in this phase, one global parameter starts to move, but the others are fairly static.
Gens 8-10: Transition from engine building to terraforming. Steal a bit from your engine if necessary to get plant production moving. With a good science base, space events should come down cheaply here and oceans and temperature should be steadily rising.
Gens 11-14: If terraforming is going well, then start maximizing VP production. Otherwise, see where you're short and make sure you're buying standard projects for the global parameters that aren't quite moving along. Adjust this plan as you draw asteroid or comet cards.

This has worked well for me. I successfully terraform about 90% of the time and my score is usually 100+ VPs.


Good comments from all but Derek's generation timeline is a good one I think. I don't get much going at all from 1-8 then it picks up very quickly.
I have about a 50% success rate after 8 games. Getting those sciences in play with their extra action (along with microbes were possible) is important.
I like an early ocean to get those 2 project cards (Viking Lander site?)- worth a lot
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Kim Choy
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Good suggestions from all. Definitely remember to apply all bonuses for every play you make or it will be nigh impossible to win! In my first play I definitely forgot to give myself the MC boost for a few of the terraforming bonuses. Having played a few times now, I ensure that I do every step in a very procedural manner so as not to miss anything - seems to work well (I don't have any distracting children about, though, so I am playing with an advantage!).

On strategy, it seems to me like it is possible to just get screwed over by the cards you get or don't get. The one game that I lost so far I attribute to not getting any useful project cards which provided terraforming. Every game that I've won so far has included at least one card that allows converting energy into O2 (like Lorry mentioned) and cards that assist with either ocean tile or greenery tile placement.

As discussed above, pay particular attention to how many generations you have left when evaluating the bonus production you will receive from cards. Obviously, the earlier you can get a bonus production card the better. Don't pay for keeping cards that you will not be able to play for a net positive return on your investment. Conversely, don't be afraid to play cards that reduce your income if there are only a few generations left.

I've found that steel and titanium production is particularly useful if you manage to get it. Assuming you can use all the cubes you produce, each is worth the equivalent of a 2/3 MC increase.

As others have mentioned, getting some form of card draw or filtering seems important (as it generally is in card driven games). Since you will only draw through about 1/3 of the deck in any given solo game, any additional cards you can pull will help smooth out any unlucky card draws you may have had.

The overall hand management strategy that I employ is to acquire cards early on that I am sure to play in the future (especially cards that provide terraforming bonuses) as long as any delays in engine building will be recouped by the benefits of keeping the card. For example, if a card would give me two ocean tiles for 23 credits I would likely hold it even if it prevented me from gaining a free 1 MC production increase in turn 1.

I still haven't scored very high on my wins, my next goal is to figure out how to balance terraforming concerns with point generating strategies.
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Doron David
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Glad I found this thread. After playing the game multiplayer twice I bought the game and played solo, feeling something is wrong. With this thread I realized I played without the Corporate Era cards...
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Marcus S
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One additional thought is to watch a couple of the videos posted by NerdE on Youtube. He (self admittedly) isn't an expert solo player, but he does a very good job of explaining why he is doing certain actions, and gets very few rules wrong. I watched a couple before i got the game, and barely had to read the rules, and also had a decent idea of "where to start" in terms of basic strategy, like how many cards to keep, etc. I think he is up to 10 solo play videos now.
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Matt Price
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OK, I got to play my fifth game today, taking all the above into account. I still lost, but did much better (74% complete). I started out with the Corp that gets money for building cities, and an income production boost when anyone builds cities, and my starting hand had the Cupola city, and I soon got the immigrant city and a few others. By turn 6-7 I had a humming economy, but I just couldn't turn it into victory. I got all the oceans down, but only about halfway up the temp, and a little over halfway up the O2. (the kids were also at school, removing an important distraction!)

It's crazymaking that I just can't seem to figure out how to get to 100%! But crazymaking in a good way, I can't wait to play again.
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Peter Waters
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I have now played 12 solo games one for each corp except the beginner and at the moment I am losing 5 to 7. I do want to play a beginner corp without corporate era cards just to see what it will be like.
I started off watching all of the NerdE solo games before I started playing. That gave me a good grouding, before playing half-assed and getting too many things wrong.
I also think you have to be quite draconian in your discarding of cards if it doesn't effect you in the next two or three moves ditch it. Of course there are always exceptions and you will learn by mistakes. My highest points tally so far has been 82. that was a very lucky game where the card gods were on my side. Most are around the early 60s mark.
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Steven Amamoto
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In a few games I did an overload in heat/energy production. It was great raising the temperature, but I ended the game with an overflow of worthless cubes in the energy bin.

I'm looking to get a read on what is enough to fulfill the 3 winning conditions so I can work on scoring. The Nerd E play throughs are a great introduction and one thing he is good about noting is watching for setting up just enough production. But note that he does place an emphasis on winning over point scoring. I'm looking at keeping point scoring cards that he regularly discards as I develop my game.

Card luck can play a big role. I've had games where I had healthy steel production in place and didn't draw cards with building tags.


The great thing is win or lose this is such a fun game to play! So, enjoy!
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Matthieu Fontaines
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mattprice wrote:

Midway through this last game, I was quite annoyed with myself to see that I'd placed three greenspaces without raising the O2 levels! So I'm a bit worried that I'm just playing sloppy, and forgetting to increase things here and there as cards dictate. I reckon I might be a bit distracted (two young sons vying for my attention, if that ain't distracting...!) but that shouldn't account for missing a full third of terraforming steps... Sigh.


I often forgot to increase my TR (mainly whith chain TR increase, for instance an big asteroid increasing ocean by 2, temperature by two, which in turn increase again T° by 1...), in solo game, you can quite always check if you are right on the TR:
- count the ocean placed, O2 level and T°C level, easy
- Check red, green, blue card for "production" TR increase
- when playing UMNI, I add a ressource on the UMNI card each time I use its power (so I can add it)
- add another player color cube each time you use a blue card to increase TR or a parameter (in order to not mix it with it's own ressources)


It's quite difficult to play it with kids playing, with mate watching a series or other disturbance, so I often tries to play when everybody sleeps :)
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Florian Ruckeisen
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EnPHard wrote:
Gens 1-7: Focus primarily on engine building related to my chosen corporation and science cards. Science gives you cost reduction, payback and card draw. You're going 14 generations, so I feel that most science cards are quite valuable.
[...]
This has worked well for me. I successfully terraform about 90% of the time and my score is usually 100+ VPs.

This is an interesting take to me, as science cards have so far not occured to me as a reliable element of my solo engine at all. Mostly because science tags don't, in and of themselves, provide any effect / cost reduction, so you're basically hoping for one of the few cards to come up which offer great value, but have a science requirement (like Mass Converter or Gene Repair or maybe Plantation).

That said, the only solo game where I did shoot for some science cards specifically (most notably the Colony Ship) did end up my highest-scoring so far, and your success apparently speaks to the viability of this as well.

I may also be undervaluing card draw/exchange effects from the likes of Olympus Conference and Mars University. Those have only appeared to me as "nice to have" side effects of the science tags these cards provide. I guess I'll try to play a bit more "science-y" in my solo plays next. cool

petegeo wrote:
I also think you have to be quite draconian in your discarding of cards if it doesn't effect you in the next two or three moves ditch it.

Yes, unless it's a card I really want to work towards playing, I usually follow a fairly strict "well this would be nice later on but.. other decent cards will come up in future turns" discarding policy.
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Marcus S
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Snapshot wrote:
EnPHard wrote:
Gens 1-7: Focus primarily on engine building related to my chosen corporation and science cards. Science gives you cost reduction, payback and card draw. You're going 14 generations, so I feel that most science cards are quite valuable.
[...]
This has worked well for me. I successfully terraform about 90% of the time and my score is usually 100+ VPs.

This is an interesting take to me, as science cards have so far not occured to me as a reliable element of my solo engine at all. Mostly because science tags don't, in and of themselves, provide any effect / cost reduction, so you're basically hoping for one of the few cards to come up which offer great value, but have a science requirement (like Mass Converter or Gene Repair or maybe Plantation).

That said, the only solo game where I did shoot for some science cards specifically (most notably the Colony Ship) did end up my highest-scoring so far, and your success apparently speaks to the viability of this as well.

I had the same first thoughts about this response. It seems science cards are good for shooting for a high score, but very unreliable for actually terraforming. For someone struggling just to terraform, science cards would not be my personal recommendation to help with that.
In my experience using science cards is more dependent on luck of the draw than more other things (except maybe animals/microbes). It just seems like so many science cards require other science cards, either to make them effective, or just to be able to play them because of the tag requirement, so it feels like a lot of the time I am playing science cards that don't help immediately just so that i can play other better cards later on (which may or may not get drawn). It seems like it can have the same side effect as focusing strongly on steel or titanium production early on, and not getting any building or space cards to play...
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Lorry Moller
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For me, it is precisely _because_ a key card can help you so much that makes the science card-manipulation so valuable.

One interesting note is that in general, any card with a repeatable action (ie the once-per-turn red arrow) is generally better to play in the early game since you get to use them more. However the few cards with once-per-turn card draw are still valuable late in the game, since you are so card starved at the end (lotsa money with little to play it on).

Every game is different, but:

- the repeatable one that lets you draw and choose to buy is a must-play at any point in the game for me (okay, not always on the last turn, but even thn i will consider it if it triggers another of my science cards or if I really need to fish for a good card to burn some leftover titanium on)

- the repeatable one that lets you pay 2 to draw is not as good, except that it also gives you a brown hex tile which can be valuable for getting a board bonus and as a new anchor for your tree hexes

The other ones that trigger off of other science plays can be swingy, but tend to feed each other if you can get a couple together in a single card draw.
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Florian Ruckeisen
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Snapshot wrote:
I guess I'll try to play a bit more "science-y" in my solo plays next. cool

Science-y Thorgate just kinda crashed and burned. blush

I was "only" short 4 oxygen in the end, but I never really felt like things were going well. Granted, I did invest a fair bit into power production as well (cheaper as Thorgate, but still an investment). What I needed the most tho was oxygen, and no science strategy in the world would've helped me with that, aside from saving a few M€ on a greenery with Plantation...

Onto more terraforming attempts!
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Benjamin Kriechel
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In solo its really important to get oceans on the board asp.
They are a really nice boost to your income.
I generaly place 2 oceans in the middle of the board,where they give you 2 Plants each.Then i start to place greenery or special tiles or even citys next to them, so that i get a money each time i do it.I always try to build oceans before getting other tiles on the board,otherwise it's just wastet money.
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David Arlington
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Duinhir wrote:


I often forgot to increase my TR (mainly whith chain TR increase, for instance an big asteroid increasing ocean by 2, temperature by two, which in turn increase again T° by 1...), in solo game, you can quite always check if you are right on the TR:
- count the ocean placed, O2 level and T°C level, easy
- Check red, green, blue card for "production" TR increase
- when playing UMNI, I add a ressource on the UMNI card each time I use its power (so I can add it)
- add another player color cube each time you use a blue card to increase TR or a parameter (in order to not mix it with it's own ressources)


It's quite difficult to play it with kids playing, with mate watching a series or other disturbance, so I often tries to play when everybody sleeps


This is EXACTLY what I do now every game and after every generation, I check to make sure my totals are right. I started doing this after I failed to terraform Mars by one MC in one game.

Now that I do it, I can't believe, no matter how scrupulous I THINK I've been about keeping my TR rating in pace, how many times I seem to miss some here or there. Especially when I chain a bunch of parameter increases in one action. I get so excited about the chain reaction that I tend to overlook some of the increases on the TR track.

Dave
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