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Terraforming Mars» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Review of Terraforming Mars (Wish Quaid was here) rss

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Paul Ferguson
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Terraforming Mars takes the players on a quest to make Mars a lovely place to live. This is done with drawing cards, paying for said cards and scoring points via actions from said cards. Sounds like a hoot. If only Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) was in the game to make it fun.

ARTWORK AND PRODUCTION -

If you want a lesson in how to mix clip art, drawings and photos into a game and make it look like a complete mess, this is the game to learn from. I am not sure what happened with the production of this game and why no one along the way said, "umm, this looks disturbing", because the graphic design is of an amateur standard.

When a game is trying to sell an idea and create a thematic experience such as terraforming a planet, the illusion is lost very quickly when the mismatch of conflicting art style choices clash. Parts of the art style are great, the image of mars is very well done, but then you see the milestone and awards section at the bottom of the board, the temperature and O2 markers and it becomes a little perplexing as to why on the game board there are 3 differing art styles.

I could go on about the individual player boards, but lets just say clip art mixed with cheap and nasty quality card stock. Also never, ever bump the table, as all your markers on your player boards will fly to the other side of the universe. My suggestion would be to use a 1D10 to mark each of your production outputs.

I also have issue with how the icons on the cards are displayed. On the top left of each card is the cost in credits/money to put the card into play, and sometimes a prerequisite. On the top right of the cards, is a mixture of icons that represent either what the card type is and, if you can use either of your 2 metal resources to put the card into play. This is a poor design choice, all costings should be on the left and card type on the right only.

So lets say, production and graphic design is not a strong point of this game.


GAME PLAY & SIMILARITIES -

The game play is very simple, you simply play 2 actions or less, of which there are seven to pick form. The actions range from, putting cards into play, selling cards, turning resources into tiles to place on mars and some environmental adjustment actions, amongst a few others.

The card play is the heart of the game, and makes for a very typical engine building euro, turning resources into point exchange mechanic. Some cards cost a lot and give a good benefit, some are cheap and likewise, give a small benefit. Where this game falls flat for me, is with the common draw pile that every player draws their cards from. Not only from a flow and mechanic issue but a thematic one.

This is a similar issue that I experienced many times in Viticulture. There are visitor cards in Viticulture that are great at the start of the game, and some are great at the end. This presented issues with timing, and gave some players a big boost, while others lagged. I feel the same issue presents itself in Terraforming Mars, some cards are great at the start and help to build your engine up nicely, while others you hold onto for 2 hours until the right condition occurs, or spend a vital action to sell them for 1 credit/money each.

This hurts the flow, balance and theme of the game. The game is trying to create a thematic experience of starting small then expanding Mars to a fully habitable planet. When a player gets a very powerful card early on and builds a tech card or somehow builds a city on the moon orbiting Mars, I am sorry the theme has disappeared completely. Shouldn't we improve the temperature or the quality of Oxygen first, before building a city on the moon of Mars or dropping a nuke? Apparently not.

If I could make one change to this game it would be have 2 decks of cards, which represent 2 phases of the Terraforming Stages of Mars. Phase one cards would be simple cards, with low costs, small benefits that would link and build with future cards. The phase 2 cards would be available at the end of the round where 3 or 4 prerequisites have been achieved. Lets say, oxygen levels are at 6%, 3 water tiles, 3 cities and temperate is at -12. Now each player can choose to get 4 cards from phase 2, phase 1 or a mixture. Theme now makes sense, the flow of the engine building is moving forward and the balance is fixed. Phase 1 cards would not have any conflict actions, ie, steal or remove cubes from any player. Only phase 2 has these rather pointless cards.

FINAL THOUGHTS -

The initial idea behind the game might have been a good one, but it hasn't translated into a good game. It is lost in a mix of bad design choices, awful graphic design, and a solo game pretending to be a multiplayer experience. The majority of the game is spent reading your cards and not interacting with the other players, and the conflict action cards feel like they were thrown in to add some interaction to the game, but deliver nothing to the game play. The hype train for this game is odd, people are excited for a game that is a package of mediocrity. Maybe I have played too many games in my time and expect that when a game gets a lot of buzz, that it is going to be a masterpiece of board game design. The hype train for this game is unwarranted, its ok, its not great, its not innovative, its just another euro with a different looking game board.




SUMMARY -

1 Artwork
2 Theme
3 Ease of learning
3 Replay Value
2 Innovation
3 Length
1 Interaction
2 Value for money

Average Score = 2.1/5.0

Recommend it - No






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Bill Buchanan
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Oh man, I'm regretting getting this now ...


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David Luchetti
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WBuchanan wrote:
Oh man, I'm regretting getting this now ...



don't so that! this review is way off the mark!

for the OP: you didn't describe the rules in great detail, which is fine - but i wanted to confirm that you're playing the game correctly ... did you realize that you can can 1 or 2 actions as many times as you can/want to per generation before passing? this is a common rules mistake.

also - have you played with cooperations and the corporate era "advanced" game before writing this review? each version of the game become increasing better as you go from beginner corporations to the corporate era.

based on your comment about viticulture i also wonder if you've played with the essential edition visitor cards - the issue you mentioned is very well corrected in the essential edition where pretty much every visitor has good options for early game or late game. for TM early/late cards really aren't an issue unless you play the game very poorly. if you're stuck with a card you didn't use efficiently you only have yourself to blame because you decided to buy the card and not play it in time ...
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Charles Darlage
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WBuchanan wrote:
Oh man, I'm regretting getting this now ...


This is just one persons opinion. Not every game is for everyone. Everyone in my group loves this game, plus it is great as a solo game.
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David Luchetti
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the OP has written 13 reviews of some of the most popular games ever - i couldn't find one positive one. i'm thinking that they just like being contrary.
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Marcus S
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Obviously you are entitled to your opinion, and no game is going to work for everyone, so that's fine that this game isn't for you. I just wanted to comment on a few of your points.
itmo wrote:
I also have issue with how the icons on the cards are displayed. On the top left of each card is the cost in credits/money to put the card into play, and sometimes a prerequisite. On the top right of the cards, is a mixture of icons that represent either what the card type is and, if you can use either of your 2 metal resources to put the card into play. This is a poor design choice, all costings should be on the left and card type on the right only.

I will not disagree with your assessment of the art, I think there is a really wide variety of types and quality of art, i guess it just doesn't bug me as much as it does you.
Your quote above i have to disagree with, I think the overall card design is done quite well and is very understandable. The cost and prerequisites are on the top left, and type is on the top right... What would you change? That is exactly how they are laid out... Whether it's a building, event, space card, plant card, earth card, etc, that is indicated in the top right... These tags have nothing to do with the cost of the card.

itmo wrote:
I feel the same issue presents itself in Terraforming Mars, some cards are great at the start and help to build your engine up nicely, while others you hold onto for 2 hours until the right condition occurs, or spend a vital action to sell them for 1 credit/money each.

I think one of the things i enjoy about TM, is that you get a group of cards, and have to choose/pay for the ones you want.. Seems like most games you get dealt cards and have to try to use them or discard them. If you are holding onto a card for 2 hours, you likely shouldn't have kept it to begin with.
I would also argue that actions in and of themselves are not "vital", since in theory you could have infinite actions in a game. What you do with them is vital, but selling a card is not "wasting" an action, and sometimes it can actually be beneficial to have a "useless" action that you can perform just to delay your further actions without having to pass.

itmo wrote:
If I could make one change to this game it would be have 2 decks of cards, which represent 2 phases of the Terraforming Stages of Mars. Phase one cards would be simple cards, with low costs, small benefits that would link and build with future cards. The phase 2 cards would be available at the end of the round where 3 or 4 prerequisites have been achieved. Lets say, oxygen levels are at 6%, 3 water tiles, 3 cities and temperate is at -12. Now each player can choose to get 4 cards from phase 2, phase 1 or a mixture. Theme now makes sense, the flow of the engine building is moving forward and the balance is fixed. Phase 1 cards would not have any conflict actions, ie, steal or remove cubes from any player. Only phase 2 has these rather pointless cards.

Although I'm not necessarily against this idea, I think it would be difficult to implement. How do you determine what is an early game card, or late game card? So many cards can be useful at any point in the game despite their cost depending on the type of engine you are building. The card may be way to expensive or useless to me, but to someone that has the titanium to pay, or has the energy production to give up, it could be very useful. What about expensive cards with huge benefits, but very limited late game benefit? ex. increasing heat production by 7 steps, this is obviously expensive, but almost entirely useless on the last 2 generations of the game.
The obvious first step would be splitting them up by requirement, but even those i think are a relatively small portion of the cards, and even some with "max" requirements have high costs (working against your plan to split them by cost).
With such a diversity in cards and engines or when engines are developed throughout the game, I just don't think you can do this in a practical way.
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Marcus S
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cdarlage wrote:
WBuchanan wrote:
Oh man, I'm regretting getting this now ...


This is just one persons opinion. Not every game is for everyone. Everyone in my group loves this game, plus it is great as a solo game.


Considering how much Bill posts in these forums, I am guessing his response was sarcastic.
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Nick P.
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No game is good for everyone (as you can read above), but from my experience TM is good for most.
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Ken Chaney

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I'm not going to argue most of these points as they are subjective or others have/will surely cover them, but there were a couple things that stood out. It appears deeper thinking and experience will answer some of what is unloved by itmo. I'm afraid graphics are going to be a question of taste - most of us are not bothered by them.

itmo typeth:
"or spend a vital action to sell them for 1 credit/money each."
This highly suggests there is a rule misinterpreted. Many players have incorrectly played with only 0, 1, or 2 actions per Generation. This is wrong. You get 1 or 2 actions each turn around the board, or pass. Players who have not passed keep taking actions (1 or 2 at a time) until they also pass.

You have unlimited actions, and they only become "vital" if you are in a race for a Milestone, critical tile placement, etc. In fact, taking a delaying action to keep you eligible for play until other players drop out or reveal information helpful to you makes a simple low/no value action a value in itself! I have seen a player happily pay 3MC to keep a card so they could sell it for 1MC. The delay action was worth more than the 2MC loss in that case, but typically won't be.

itmo on theme:
"This hurts the flow, balance and theme of the game. The game is trying to create a thematic experience of staring small then expanding Mars to a fully habitable planet. When a player gets a very powerful card early on and builds a tech card or somehow builds a city on the moon orbiting Mars, I am sorry the theme has disappeared completely. Shouldn't we improve the temperature or the quality of Oxygen first, before building a city on the moon of Mars or dropping a nuke? Apparently not."

Your specific examples are in fact highly thematic. I'm not going to argue the ethics, but from an economic/energetic point of view, building on a moon has many advantages over building on Mars. Early on, most refined resources would not come from Mars, but Earth (or Earth's moon, or an asteroid ...) This is a problem of energy and related economics. The bottom line is that an orbital/moon city is plausibly an early project.

The nukes are presented as a terraforming (areoforming/aeroforming arguments aside, please!) project, and their play early on seems most appropriate thematically.
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Richard Dewsbery
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I'm a contrarian too (hate Splendir, TTR and Carcassonne, for example). And I agree with the OP. Having played the game twice I'm now at the point where I have no desire to play it again, but I'm not *quite* at the point where I'll veto it.

The problems are many and varied. Including, but not limited to, the following:

Balance. The cards aren't remotely balanced. Some cards are very similar to others, but cost far more (or less). Some cards are great early on, others are useless until late game. Which lead to ...

Randomness. The size of the draw deck means that you're not likely to get through it once before hitting the endgame, so if at the start of the game you draw cards mainly endgame cards, or draw the string beginning cards near the end, you have a problem. And with only four cards drawn each turn (barring special powers that you might never see), that ain't good. But if your opponent draws the cards you need, you are completely out of luck - you won't see that card again until late game. Although as the discards are face-down, you have no idea if a card you need is the next one to be drawn, or was just thrown away by an opponent. Which is as close as this game gets to having ...

Interaction. Although choosing your discards to affect an opponent isn't actually interaction at all, because they're unlikely to ever get to pick them up. But there's precious little other interaction between the players. A few "take that" cards (which are not particularly welcome in a tableau building game). And the sort of decisions that one player makes that just happens to affect another player's plans almost completely by accident. And some other cards, that you *might* be lucky enough to draw, which just keep giving you points based on what others do. By accident.

Artwork. Verges between the decent to the moronic.

Game length. Only four hours for my last 4-player game. I was ready to gnaw my leg off by the end of hour two, when it was clear that from the cards I was drawing I was going to be fighting for third place.

My view? There is an element of Emperors new clothes about this one.
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Bill Buchanan
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CarcuS wrote:
cdarlage wrote:
WBuchanan wrote:
Oh man, I'm regretting getting this now ...


This is just one persons opinion. Not every game is for everyone. Everyone in my group loves this game, plus it is great as a solo game.


Considering how much Bill posts in these forums, I am guessing his response was sarcastic.


You might be right!
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Örjan Almén
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kenchaney wrote:
Your specific examples are in fact highly thematic. I'm not going to argue the ethics, but from an economic/energetic point of view, building on a moon has many advantages over building on Mars. Early on, most refined resources would not come from Mars, but Earth (or Earth's moon, or an asteroid ...) This is a problem of energy and related economics. The bottom line is that an orbital/moon city is plausibly an early project.

The nukes are presented as a terraforming (areoforming/aeroforming arguments aside, please!) project, and their play early on seems most appropriate thematically.


Also, in such a competitive work between organisations, some corporations would probably do things way too early than needed just because either that they actually can do it, or by bad judgement on when it's apropriate to do the task. I mean, there isn't a project leader in the terraforming, it's separate organisations doing what they believe is best for the terraforming.
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WBuchanan wrote:
CarcuS wrote:
cdarlage wrote:
WBuchanan wrote:
Oh man, I'm regretting getting this now ...


This is just one persons opinion. Not every game is for everyone. Everyone in my group loves this game, plus it is great as a solo game.


Considering how much Bill posts in these forums, I am guessing his response was sarcastic.


You might be right!


Thats a disappointing reaction then to a valid review (as is the post that Itmo is just posting negative reviews to be contrary).

I agree with the review (I was playing in the same game). Rest assured we did play the actions correctly, I dont know why Itmo said actions were "vital".
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Jeremy DuCharme

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I disagree with the 'small early/large late' project split deck idea. Instead I see it as a play style choice. Do you build several small projects that each give you a little boost in resources and maybe income to build upon later?

Or do you roll the dice, metaphorically, and place one or two big projects right out of the gate with your starting stockpile, and use that boost to carry your company through the following lean years as you have to scrape a bit to play some cards?

The Soletta for example is an expensive piece of infrastructure, but played right out of the gate is about enough waste heat to guarantee the player with it can pay for a temp scale increase a turn just from that. Which in turn is a steady increase in funds and TR score.

I had Phobos Logistics in a recent game, and in the first two generations played out Asteroid Mining and Beam from a Thorium Asteroid. Expensive, even with my titanium boost, but played early they sustained my core economy quite nicely to a win.

Similarly a Large Ice Asteroid drop is an event card that costs slightly more than three three cards I mentioned, and doesn't leave any infrastructure behind. OTOH it is a four TR boost (two water, two temp scale), plus likely a couple MC from placing both oceans together. If placed in the prime equatorial zone, it gathers enough plants for half a tile, while taking down another player's plants too.

Drop that right away, and the early boost in TR score and funding will nearly pay for the card by game's end.

Certain large project cards are natural early plays for certain corporations as well. The Soletta for example and Hellion are a no-brainer, as is PhobLog and anything that produces Titanium, which tend to be high end cards.
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Bill Buchanan
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bortmonkey wrote:
WBuchanan wrote:
CarcuS wrote:
cdarlage wrote:
WBuchanan wrote:
Oh man, I'm regretting getting this now ...


This is just one persons opinion. Not every game is for everyone. Everyone in my group loves this game, plus it is great as a solo game.


Considering how much Bill posts in these forums, I am guessing his response was sarcastic.


You might be right!


Thats a disappointing reaction then to a valid review (as is the post that Itmo is just posting negative reviews to be contrary).

I agree with the review (I was playing in the same game). Rest assured we did play the actions correctly, I dont know why Itmo said actions were "vital".


I've made a decision, I'm keeping the game.
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telos81 wrote:
the OP has written 13 reviews of some of the most popular games ever - i couldn't find one positive one. i'm thinking that they just like being contrary.


Or maybe it's to balance the fact that the vast majority of reviews on this silly site are positive. Way off the mark? Stop pretending your opinion on a game is some sort of fact. Nothing the review says is wrong. Take a deep breath and go back to playing your mediocre game and having fun.
 
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Paul Ferguson
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telos81 wrote:
the OP has written 13 reviews of some of the most popular games ever - i couldn't find one positive one. i'm thinking that they just like being contrary.


I have in fact written positive reviews, I guess you haven't actually in fact read all if any of my reviews as you have claimed to have done. Try to be factual with statements.
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Paul Ferguson
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telos81 wrote:
WBuchanan wrote:
Oh man, I'm regretting getting this now ...



don't so that! this review is way off the mark!

for the OP: you didn't describe the rules in great detail, which is fine - but i wanted to confirm that you're playing the game correctly ... did you realize that you can can 1 or 2 actions as many times as you can/want to per generation before passing? this is a common rules mistake.

also - have you played with cooperations and the corporate era "advanced" game before writing this review? each version of the game become increasing better as you go from beginner corporations to the corporate era.

based on your comment about viticulture i also wonder if you've played with the essential edition visitor cards - the issue you mentioned is very well corrected in the essential edition where pretty much every visitor has good options for early game or late game. for TM early/late cards really aren't an issue unless you play the game very poorly. if you're stuck with a card you didn't use efficiently you only have yourself to blame because you decided to buy the card and not play it in time ...


The game was played as the rules stated, each player keeps taking actions until they can no longer do so. As for Viticulture, yes the rules have been amended to fix balance issues, 3 times in fact, but I don't see why we as consumers have to pay more money to fix any design flaw with a product.
 
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Paul Ferguson
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Nikas Zekeval wrote:
I disagree with the 'small early/large late' project split deck idea. Instead I see it as a play style choice. Do you build several small projects that each give you a little boost in resources and maybe income to build upon later?

Or do you roll the dice, metaphorically, and place one or two big projects right out of the gate with your starting stockpile, and use that boost to carry your company through the following lean years as you have to scrape a bit to play some cards?

The Soletta for example is an expensive piece of infrastructure, but played right out of the gate is about enough waste heat to guarantee the player with it pay for a temp scale increase a turn just from that. Which in turn is a steady increase in funds and TR score.

I had Phobos Logistics in a recent game, and in the first two generations played out Asteroid Mining and Beam from a Thorium Asteroid. Expensive, even with my titanium boost, but played early they sustained my core economy quite nicely to a win.

Similarly a Large Ice Asteroid drop is an event card that costs slightly more than three cards I mentioned, and doesn't leave any infrastructure behind. OTOH is is a four TR boost (two water, two temp scale), plus likely a couple MC from placing both oceans together. If placed in the prime equatorial zone, it gathers enough plants for half a tile, while taking down another player's plants too.

Drop that right away, and the early boost in TR score and funding will nearly pay for the card by game's end.

Certain large project cards are natural early plays for certain corporations as well. The Soletta for example and Hellion are a no-brainer, as is PhobLog and anything that produces Titanium, which tend to be high end cards.


The combos you mentioned are perfect, but it is all based on random draws from a large deck of cards. Statistically, it would be nice to see if players that get great cards early on, win the majority of the time.

 
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Paul Ferguson
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kenchaney wrote:
I'm not going to argue most of these points as they are subjective or others have/will surely cover them, but there were a couple things that stood out. It appears deeper thinking and experience will answer some of what is unloved by itmo. I'm afraid graphics are going to be a question of taste - most of us are not bothered by them.

itmo typeth:
"or spend a vital action to sell them for 1 credit/money each."
This highly suggests there is a rule misinterpreted. Many players have incorrectly played with only 0, 1, or 2 actions per Generation. This is wrong. You get 1 or 2 actions each turn around the board, or pass. Players who have not passed keep taking actions (1 or 2 at a time) until they also pass.

You have unlimited actions, and they only become "vital" if you are in a race for a Milestone, critical tile placement, etc. In fact, taking a delaying action to keep you eligible for play until other players drop out or reveal information helpful to you makes a simple low/no value action a value in itself! I have seen a player happily pay 3MC to keep a card so they could sell it for 1MC. The delay action was worth more than the 2MC loss in that case, but typically won't be.

itmo on theme:
"This hurts the flow, balance and theme of the game. The game is trying to create a thematic experience of staring small then expanding Mars to a fully habitable planet. When a player gets a very powerful card early on and builds a tech card or somehow builds a city on the moon orbiting Mars, I am sorry the theme has disappeared completely. Shouldn't we improve the temperature or the quality of Oxygen first, before building a city on the moon of Mars or dropping a nuke? Apparently not."

Your specific examples are in fact highly thematic. I'm not going to argue the ethics, but from an economic/energetic point of view, building on a moon has many advantages over building on Mars. Early on, most refined resources would not come from Mars, but Earth (or Earth's moon, or an asteroid ...) This is a problem of energy and related economics. The bottom line is that an orbital/moon city is plausibly an early project.

The nukes are presented as a terraforming (areoforming/aeroforming arguments aside, please!) project, and their play early on seems most appropriate thematically.


When I wrote "vital action" I meant, spending a action to simply sell a card that is of no use to you, which may have cost 3 credits, to get back 1, is an inefficient use of an action. In an engine building game, every action is vital. This use of an action to sell a card stems from the random luck drawing of cards. If cards were in stages, there would be less and most likely no need to sell cards at all.

I guess it does make sense to cart a nuke to mars taking up valuable cargo space, make a hole in the ground, rather than using that time and money to establish, I don't know, maybe water supply, food, shelter. Do we know exactly how the nuke will react to the atmosphere of Mars, don't know, lets just set one off and find out.
 
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Bill Buchanan
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I would never willingly play with the "beginner rules", and would always choose to play using the advanced drafting rules ...


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Bill Buchanan
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itmo wrote:
When I wrote "vital action" I meant, spending a action to simply sell a card that is of no use to you, which may have cost 3 credits, to get back 1, is an inefficient use of an action. In an engine building game, every action is vital.


What's inefficient or vital about it? You can keep taking actions until you can't take anymore. It's not like they are limited, it's just that you only take 1 or 2 at a time. In fact getting rid of a bunch of cards (It's unlikely you'd use the sell cards action until it was worth your while) would make you more efficient by giving you more money to spend on more actions ...

You have full choice whether to draft a card or not, and again whether to spend money to put it in your hand. You also have full control whether to play that card to the table at the correct time. If you choose not to for whatever reason, that is your choice. If you make that choice, you can sell the card(s). This is also a choice you are fully in control of.

Also buying cards isn't the only way to get cards into your hand.
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Paul Ferguson
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WBuchanan wrote:
I would never willingly play with the "beginner rules", and would always choose to play using the advanced drafting rules ...




Adding more and more time to this game would be awful.
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Paul Ferguson
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WBuchanan wrote:
itmo wrote:
When I wrote "vital action" I meant, spending a action to simply sell a card that is of no use to you, which may have cost 3 credits, to get back 1, is an inefficient use of an action. In an engine building game, every action is vital.


What's inefficient or vital about it? You can keep taking actions until you can't take anymore. It's not like they are limited, it's just that you only take 1 or 2 at a time. In fact getting rid of a bunch of cards (It's unlikely you'd use the sell cards action until it was worth your while) would make you more efficient by giving you more money to spend on more actions ...


Selling a card for 1 credit is inefficient, even in a game that you can keep going and going and going until everyone has passed.
 
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Bill Buchanan
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itmo wrote:
WBuchanan wrote:
I would never willingly play with the "beginner rules", and would always choose to play using the advanced drafting rules ...




Adding more and more time to this game would be awful.


That's your opinion. It is also debatable, as drafting allows you build your engine faster and more efficiently due offering more opportunity to choose cards that fit your strategy.

So sure, you are taking more time to draft, but it allows the rest of the game to flow better.

I'd say you should try it, but I doubt that will happen.
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