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Terraforming Mars» Forums » Strategy

Subject: Deconstructing Mars #1 rss

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Joshua Schutte
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I've always wanted to write review/strategy guides stripping a game down to it's base elements and applying logic (ie math) to provide strategy advise. My grammar needs work expect a few edits to fix it. So here goes #1:

Terraforming Mars at it's core is a game about turning credits (MC) into Victory Points (VP). That's the whole heart of the game with tons of great theme on top of it. Let's take a look at how to maximize our conversions of MC into VP.

I've mostly played four player games (14 of them, one with 3 players) and they all last 10 generations give or take 1. As players get better at the game this will only decrease as less mistakes drafting cards that won't see the table or aren't worth drafting in the first place. This is playing with the full deck (corporate era, 0 production to start), and drafting the 4 cards between rounds. We prefer draft as it adds a feeling of control, but you still get 4 cards, usually 1 good and 3 bad but sometimes you get lucky and it allows you to hate draft slowing your neighbors down, giving another catch up mechanic out side of attack cards.


Assuming the game lasts 10 turns (adjust the math for your average game length if it varies from my groups) one TR on turn 1 is worth 9 MCredits. Let's look at the standard projects through the lens of a 10 generation game.

Asteroid, 14 MC = +1 Temp if you do this turn 1, you will get 9 MCs of the 14 MCs back. On turn 1 it costs 5 MC (14 - 9 turns of +1 income) of the entire amount you will earn over the entire game. 1 VP = 5 MC, on turn 2 you get 1 VP for 6 MC, etc.. On turn 10 you get 1 VP for 14 MC. As the game progresses it's worse at converting MC to VP. Heat follows this same equation 8 Heat always equals 1 VP but is worth 1 to 9 MCs depending on how many turns are left in the game. Side note, this is only true the first 19 times it happens in a game. Heat has no value once the temperature hits 8c, unless the thermalist goal is in play. Or you find the card to turn heat to TR.


Green Spaces are worth 1,2, or 3 VP. 1 if the Oxygen is already at 14% and not placed next to a city. 2 VPs if the Oxygen is below 14% or if placed next to your city. 3 VPs if placed next to your city and the Oxygen is below 14%. The standard action costs 23 MC or you can spend 8 plants to build a green space. A plant is worth 1/8, 2/8, or 3/8 of a VP. For 23 MC you can get 1-3 VPs. 23 MC on turn 1 - 9 MC for 9 turns at +1 TR = 14 MC for 3 VPs = 4.666 MC / VP best ratio in the game. On top of having best VP ratio in the game they lead towards the Gardener Milestone 8 MC for 5 VP ! and Landlord achievement. On top of getting a placement bones for them. Remember only the first 14 get the extra VP for Oxygen bump, you can give your opponent points if they build a city next to your green spaces.

Oceans are usually the second least attractive standard action on turn 1. They only give you 1 TR and no owner ship bonus and are going to encourage your opponents to place next to them. On turn 1 of the game 18 MC = 1 TR - 9 Turns. 9 MC / VP. Or long form (18 - Turns Left / VP). Outside the placement bonus, oceans don't give any extra points. No milestones, no achievements.

Using these basic equations for points you can now evaluate about 2/3 the deck for efficiency. Let's take a look at my favorite card to start with

Arctic Algae 12 MC you get 1 plant in addition every time an ocean gets built you get 2 plants. Look up at green spaces section. Each plant is worth .125 to .375 points each. You know all 9 Oceans will be built every game. Let's say its turn 1 , 9 oceans left to build. The best standard action would get us 1 VP for 6 MC (asteroid) with no added benefit the rest of the game. This card for 12 MC will get us 19 guaranteed plants = 2.375 Greenspaces = 2-6 VPs plus placement bonuses plus added TR. Worst case 2 VP for 12 MC is equal to a standard action, best case were way ahead. Later in the game this card has to be played before -12C but you can apply the same math to see if this card is a good or bad investment.

Overall this strategy makes the game pretty boring but I've won or gotten 2nd place every time I've applied it. Convert a card into VPs assuming a 10 turn game. Don't assume you'll get some future card or action. Always evaluate for the current board state. Don't assume you'll get a city next to your green spaces unless it's already down. This game is a euro and doesn't reward risk. Playing safe and consistent will maximize your VP most of the time. Spend your plants quickly, plants are the main source of loss from attack cards, try to get them in groups of 8 and spend them right away. If you started a turn with 6 plants, place a tile to get 2 plants then build a greenery with your second action.

Hope this helps, it's a very common sense approach and probably obvious to most people playing the game.
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brian giese
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If 9MC=1TR on Turn 1, does that equation change during the game?
 
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Joshua Schutte
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Each TR = 1 MC next turn, assuming all your games last 10 +/- 1 turns getting a TR on turn 1 is 9 MC, turn 2 8 MC, etc...

The key point here is knowing how long a game at player count X will last so you can make good decisions during the game. This game can reward risks but 9 times out of 10 you should just make the best decision based on what you currently have in front of you. Don't gamble on finding one more tag of X to play this awesome card. If temperature won't hit 4c till next to last turn, how many more plants/heat do I need to get to intervals of 8.

The other keys is understanding your total MC pool for a game and spending all of it by the last turn to empty out your hand. I only draft a card if it gives around 1 VP per 8 MC (over the remaining turns in the game), or it beats the current VP's I could get from standard actions, and I it won't sit in my hand unplayed due to lack of MC by games end.
 
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Gringe Commander
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main victory goal is to build at least one 7 hex 13VP city-design and then try to expand it to one or more sides, adding additional 10VP per 3 hexes.
 
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Örjan Almén
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GringeCommander wrote:
main victory goal is to build at least one 7 hex 13VP city-design and then try to expand it to one or more sides, adding additional 10VP per 3 hexes.


Not really, as in the other thread about player interaction, you don't score that way, the 7 tile constallation is nothing you build on your own but something you take advantage from other players greeneries for your own cities. Also, there are so many different ways to score a lot, by several kinds of cards (and trying to prevent others to collect so much points on their cards), by greeneries alone, by cities or cities and greeneries, by advancing the global parameters, and much more.
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Danny Perello
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orjanalmen wrote:
GringeCommander wrote:
main victory goal is to build at least one 7 hex 13VP city-design and then try to expand it to one or more sides, adding additional 10VP per 3 hexes.


Not really, as in the other thread about player interaction, you don't score that way, the 7 tile constallation is nothing you build on your own but something you take advantage from other players greeneries for your own cities. Also, there are so many different ways to score a lot, by several kinds of cards (and trying to prevent others to collect so much points on their cards), by greeneries alone, by cities or cities and greeneries, by advancing the global parameters, and much more.

I've won the game without building any greenery...
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Gringe Commander
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orjanalmen wrote:
GringeCommander wrote:
main victory goal is to build at least one 7 hex 13VP city-design and then try to expand it to one or more sides, adding additional 10VP per 3 hexes.


Not really, as in the other thread about player interaction, you don't score that way, the 7 tile constallation is nothing you build on your own but something you take advantage from other players greeneries for your own cities. Also, there are so many different ways to score a lot, by several kinds of cards (and trying to prevent others to collect so much points on their cards), by greeneries alone, by cities or cities and greeneries, by advancing the global parameters, and much more.


You can and should build that on your own.
1 forest in the center and 3 cities and forests around it:
4 TP + 4 VP forests + 3x3VP cities = 17VP total. Try to gain 3 city VP bonus as well. for a total of 22VP
Add 2 forests and 1 city for 10VP.
Since plant growing cards are really cheap and a lot of them have VPs as well, you can build those forests with plant-token. So you can save lots of money for heat/energy cards, and save lots of money. You get additional award VP for the most money and heat at the end. And with big heat produktion you get additional TP for raising temp.
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Örjan Almén
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GringeCommander wrote:

You can and should build that on your own.
1 forest in the center and 3 cities and forests around it:
4 TP + 4 VP forests + 3x3VP cities = 17VP total. Try to gain 3 city VP bonus as well. for a total of 22VP
Add 2 forests and 1 city for 10VP.
Since plant growing cards are really cheap and a lot of them have VPs as well, you can build those forests with plant-token. So you can save lots of money for heat/energy cards, and save lots of money. You get additional award VP for the most money and heat at the end. And with big heat produktion you get additional TP for raising temp.


But if you steal one of the tree city spots from a competitor, you both prevent him/her three points and you get three points for your self. More player interaction and rather cheap points.
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Yan P.
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As soon as there are two opponent forests next to each other, it becomes rather attractive to build a city there.

Three forests in a ring and you're just asking for it. It's happened to the best of us when we make lots of plants and don't have any city cards, though.
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Game Guy
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Not wrong, but kind of pointless. These "how many points per unit of input" type strategy threads always fail to capture the importance of player interaction and sequencing of actions in any game. If I could just build green-spaces and cities at will, tiling them in optimal patterns, I would score a huge amount of points. And the game would be utterly boring.
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Bryan Thunkd
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Crikrunner wrote:
Green Spaces are worth 1,2, or 3 VP. 1 if the Oxygen is already at 14% and not placed next to a city. 2 VPs if the Oxygen is below 14% or if placed next to your city. 3 VPs if placed next to your city and the Oxygen is below 14%. The standard action costs 23 MC or you can spend 8 plants to build a green space. A plant is worth 1/8, 2/8, or 3/8 of a VP. For 23 MC you can get 1-3 VPs. 23 MC on turn 1 - 9 MC for 9 turns at +1 TR = 14 MC for 3 VPs = 4.666 MC / VP best ratio in the game. On top of having best VP ratio in the game they lead towards the Gardener Milestone 8 MC for 5 VP ! and Landlord achievement. On top of getting a placement bones for them. Remember only the first 14 get the extra VP for Oxygen bump, you can give your opponent points if they build a city next to your green spaces
You're ignoring the fact that greeneries can be placed next to more than one of your cities. In one game I played, the Tharsis Republic was able to get three cities out quickly and then plop a forest dead smack between them (he placed them for maximum overlap when building greeneries.) That greenery got 3 points for being adjacent to three cities (as well as the point for itself and the TR bump for oxygen).
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Jeff Kahan
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Xatham wrote:
As soon as there are two opponent forests next to each other, it becomes rather attractive to build a city there.

Three forests in a ring and you're just asking for it. It's happened to the best of us when we make lots of plants and don't have any city cards, though.


Ahh! But therein lies the Standard Project City-... I keep forgetting to do that and bemoan not having any city cards.... duh... I can just build one in that pristine location! whistle

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