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Terraforming Mars» Forums » Reviews

Subject: A review after 4 games rss

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Erik Hasse
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Iowa
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I first learned about this game a week and a half before Gencon. The title and the short phrase "heavy Eurogame" drew me in. I read the rulebook and continued to be interested. So Thursday morning when the convention hall opened, I decided to buy Terraforming Mars without demoing it.

And the verdict is: It's fantastic. We played 4 games during Gencon and we'll definitely be playing more.

As a brief overview of mechanics: Each turn you draw 4 cards and choose which ones you want to keep. Each one that you add to your hand costs $3, and the rest are discarded face down. Then players go in a circle taking 1 or 2 action. The typical actions are play a card, use a card, or use one of the various actions open to everyone. If you don't want to or can't do anything, you pass and then you're out for the rest of the turn. This whole process will be very familiar to anyone who's played Terra Mystica. Once everyone's passed, you get goods based on your production and move to the next round!

Pros:
• The theme is perfect. Every card makes a lot of sense. It's just so much fun to be dropping asteroids on the surface.
• In my 4 games, we tried a lot of different strategies, and they all seemed viable.
• It comes with a few different variants included: A bunch of extra cards to add to the deck, instructions to draft cards each turn instead of just drawing them, and a solo variant. I haven't tried the solo game, but the other two are great!
• A lot of the art is really nice. In particular the box art and card backs are gorgeous.
• The cards have both symbols and text saying what they do. When you're learning, use the text. But later you can pretty much ignore it.

Cons:
• The card draws can be pretty random. A few cards can swing a close game (although they're definitely expensive to play). It's also possible that you get set up for one thing, but the cards for the payoff never happen. The draft variant mitigates this a lot
• While the art is nice, the mix of photographs, 3D renders, and traditional art on the cards occasionally bugs me. But really I rarely notice.

Other notes:
• After a few games, I have a few questions that I just couldn't find an answer to in the rulebook. Most of these come from card interactions. It's practically unavoidable without a giant rulebook.
• When I saw the player boards I was a bit skeptical: spots to put cubes of different size and color to indicate amounts of each good, with another cube to indicate production? But it does end up working out really well.
• I saw and heard a few people criticize the rule book, but I didn't have much trouble learning and teaching the game. I did miss one rule, but that was my fault, not the book's. The rule I missed is that before the first turn, everyone draws 10 cards and buys to hand instead of the normal research phase. This meant our second and third games were a little slower to ramp up, and that we didn't necessarily have any really goals to work towards in hand.

Here are the different combinations of games we played:
• 3 players, everyone on Beginner Corporation, no expansion, no drafting
• 3 players, deal 4 pick 1 corp, with expansion, no drafting
• 2 players, pick whichever corp sounds cool, no expansion, no drafting
• 3 players, deal 4 pick 1 corp, no expansion, with drafting

TL;DR: This is a combination of the mechanics of Terra Mystica and the card variety of Race for the Galaxy. It comes together perfectly and is just dripping with a great theme!
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Chris Schreiber
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ehasse wrote:
TL;DR: This is a combination of the mechanics of Terra Mystica and the card variety of Race for the Galaxy. It comes together perfectly and is just dripping with a great theme!

Nice summary!
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Steve Austin
Canada
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What did you think of the two player game compared to higher counts?
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Ben Welch
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The rule book is not done well. You said you didn't have a problem with it yet you have another post with a list of questions not answered in the rule book. We played a game and had to hack our through it and figure some stuff out on our own. We still have a few questions ourselves but figure we will wait for an FAQ before going back to it.

Love the theme and the mechanisms but the rule book is borderline terrible. That's not just me talking either. It was the consensus of two other groups I talked to at Gen Con that were playing it.
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Erik Hasse
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Peepser wrote:
What did you think of the two player game compared to higher counts?

I didn't have any issues with it. The "take that" aspect of some of the cards is higher because there's only one target, but those cards are still a pretty small portion of the deck

Benncory wrote:
The rule book is not done well. You said you didn't have a problem with it yet you have another post with a list of questions not answered in the rule book. We played a game and had to hack our through it and figure some stuff out on our own. We still have a few questions ourselves but figure we will wait for an FAQ before going back to it.

Love the theme and the mechanisms but the rule book is borderline terrible. That's not just me talking either. It was the consensus of two other groups I talked to at Gen Con that were playing it.

I guess I should clarify that I didn't have any problems learning the basic mechanics of the game from it. After the first game we rarely referenced it, and even the first game we didn't need it that often. I didn't demo it or watch any videos, just read the book and used the reference cards.

There is some stuff missing to be sure, but it's almost entirely related to the effects of individual cards. I think that the book itself is laid out in a logical manner for the game mechanics. Maybe some people disagree, but my experience with it is fine.

Just to be safe I moved the rulebook from a pro to my other notes. I think there are a few people making a way bigger problem out of it than it actually is
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César Mendes
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Thanks for the review
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Stephen Buonocore
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Thanks for doing the review!


Thanks,
Stephen M. Buonocore
Stronghold Games
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Steve Carey
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ehasse wrote:
And the verdict is: It's fantastic.


I'm totally blown away by just how good this game is - it's very well-designed, it's incredibly thematic, and it's exceptionally fun.

Three multi-player sessions in 3 days for me, and we're playing again tomorrow.

Outstanding!
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Brian Frahm
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What have your playing times been? Trying to gauge teach time / play time for an upcoming con...
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Erik Hasse
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It depends on the mode. I just did a 4 player game where I had to teach two people the game in a little over 2.5 hours. So for teaching at a con, I think if you plan on 3 it should be fine. Maybe 3.5 to be really safe.

If you're playing with people who know the rules, but you're using the expansion and the draft variant, I'd guess it would take around 3 hours. I've done one or the other, but I haven't done both together yet. They both add some time (the expansion because it slows down the early game, and the draft because it adds time to research each generation).
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Steve Carey
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Agree with Erik, I can teach the game in 10-15 minutes and our games have been averaging 2.5 (very enjoyable) hours.
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Thomas Leitner
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I've taught the game 5 times now. It takes me about 20 minutes to do a complete job.

Play times for 3 and 4 player games have clocked in at 2-2.5, not including teaching.

As with Steve, these are very enjoyable hours.

I plan to play tonight with the drafting variant. I am curious to see how this affects play time.

Given that it may serve to make players more efficient with their game engines, it might even shorten play time? We'll see.
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Kain W.
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Thanks for the review.

A short question: How is the player interaction ? I really like Euros, but some tend to forget the player interaction :-) and get dull after some rounds.
 
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Örjan Almén
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I believe the interaction is on a good level. There are competition on tile placements which can give some interactions, and there are a few (about 10% of the cards) that makes a target player lose some resources or production. Usually not much, just so you can cool down your coplayers. You need to keep track on what the other players do to not be too competitive on the same strategy, but also not let anyone take overhand in one area to progress too quickly.
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Joe S
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With all the gripes about the rulebook and fiddly-ness of components, I'll patiently wait for the 2nd edition. I'll play your copy though :/
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Lieven De Puysseleir
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you make my urge to get this game even worse!

where is the pre-order for english version? whistle
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Örjan Almén
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Pre-order has closed from Stronghold, but many game stores would probably take your pre-order now if you ask them to. The game is to be GA in end of September.
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Lieven De Puysseleir
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orjanalmen wrote:
Pre-order has closed from Stronghold, but many game stores would probably take your pre-order now if you ask them to. The game is to be GA in end of September.


Stronghold isn't Europe, no?

Anyway if that's the case then I just hope to get it in Essen or later.
 
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Örjan Almén
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Stronghold only did pre-order in US, yes, but I can't believe they would distribute only to US stores. I'm sure you will be able to find it in European stores as well in some weeks. And I know for sure (through one of the Fryxgames crew) that it will be available at Essen.
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Jacob Fryxelius
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Stronghold has world-wide distribution of the English version; any distributor is welcome to get TM from them. So nag on your store to nag on their distributors to get the game! World-wide release date is 28th september, with launch kits arriving in stores who specifically ordered them 14th september.

TM will also be available in Essen:
Stronghold Games: booth 3-M107
FryxGames: booth 3-O105
Schwerkraft (german version): unknown location
Rebel (polish version) will probably not have the game at the fair.

I think all of us will take pre-orders for Essen, but I can't really speak for other than FryxGames.

Cheers!
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Steven Tan
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ravager wrote:
With all the gripes about the rulebook and fiddly-ness of components, I'll patiently wait for the 2nd edition. I'll play your copy though :/


From what I hear, and from the two games I've played from Stronghold (Dark Moon, City of Spies); the rulebooks are and always will be poorly organized. Mostly bad at defining keywords and organizing the flow of the game.

The rules are available for download on the TM page, and from what I've skimmed they don't look nearly as bad as Dark Moon's.

Edit: You can read them and judge for yourself, but I'm convinced. Pre-ordered!
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Felix Brause
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ehasse wrote:

TL;DR: This is a combination of the mechanics of Terra Mystica and the card variety of Race for the Galaxy. It comes together perfectly and is just dripping with a great theme!


Nice review... but to compare the mechanics to Terra Mystica... i don't know.
I like both games but they are quite different.
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Uzair Parker
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Played this game over the past weekend and boy was it great! You're spot on when you say the game is very thematic, even the mechanics around oxygen and temperature feels streamlined and 'spacey'. Loved it!
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Shane Larsen
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MrCleanOr wrote:
ehasse wrote:

TL;DR: This is a combination of the mechanics of Terra Mystica and the card variety of Race for the Galaxy. It comes together perfectly and is just dripping with a great theme!


Nice review... but to compare the mechanics to Terra Mystica... i don't know.
I like both games but they are quite different.

+1 to this. I see the card comparison to Race, but the Terra Mystica comparison is misleading. Besides using hex tiles and a hex map, how is it even close to the same mechanically?
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O.Shane Balloun
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thedacker wrote:
MrCleanOr wrote:
ehasse wrote:

TL;DR: This is a combination of the mechanics of Terra Mystica and the card variety of Race for the Galaxy. It comes together perfectly and is just dripping with a great theme!


Nice review... but to compare the mechanics to Terra Mystica... i don't know.
I like both games but they are quite different.

+1 to this. I see the card comparison to Race, but the Terra Mystica comparison is misleading. Besides using hex tiles and a hex map, how is it even close to the same mechanically?


The comparison to Terra Mystica is somewhat superficial, literally. On the board, the placement of city tiles does create indirect bonuses to the greenery, but you are not awarded points based on your largest area nor are you penalized for having more than one area (in that it doesn't score), which is key in Terra Mystica. Mechanically—and this comparison is tenuous as well—the placement of tiles and scoring is somewhat closer to the placement of buildings in Kingdom Builder {although the restrictions for placement of control devices [buildings (KB) vs. tiles/cubes (TM)] near currently controlled areas only exists for greenery}.

The comparison to Race for the Galaxy is entirely superficial. There's nothing mechanically similar. Mechanically, the card play is closest to something akin to 7 Wonders or Innovation (in the latter, minus the splaying). I mention Innovation because the play tags augment your later ability to garner more abilities and to play more powerful cards.

The resource generation, of course, is nothing like the comparisons made earlier.

Overall, of course, Terraforming Mars is sui generis. It is hard to categorize, which is what gives it so much of its mystique.

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