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Tiago Perretto
Brazil
Curitiba
Parana
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Thinking about my next move.
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So, if my only options are these, then I shall...
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About Terraforming Mars:

1) What is it?
Terraforming Mars is an economic and strategic game about making money while turning Mars into a proper planet to live. It mostly use variable powers, hand management and tile placement as mechanics. The goal is to have the best terraforming rating, which can be achieved in several ways.

Terraforming Mars calls for attention right way, with is thematic board, pretty resource cubes and a stack of cards bigger than the one in Race for the Galaxy after some expansions.

The game offers a lot of options and paths to victory, leading a little on a way by the company taken by the player, as they do something better than others, and using this advantage is important, but not determinant or impossible to stray away. And there is a sort of cooperative feel, since increasing temperature and oxygen levels might help others by allowing them to play certain cards.

It also counts with a heavy dose of timming, which, alonside with the amount of available choices and decisions, makes for a learning curve that will take some plays to get around and, due to high random factor of the card draw, will demand constant adjustments and watchful eyes to not lose opportunities.

While the game revolves around making Mars better to receive people, plants and animals, it has, surprisingly to me, some dose of "take that" elements in the cards - usually by lowering resources from the others, be from grabbing money or using their animals to feed your carnivores, and so on. Sure, companies don't tend to play nice with the competition, I get that, but in this sort of strategic game, this does seems, while not out of place nor even unthematic, a bit unnecessary - likely the "best" way the designers found to include more interaction during gameplay, and, if so, pretty weak way to go.

2) How do you play?
I will try to surmmize: players start with 20 of terraforming rating. This is also a value of income and doubles as points - the bigger your rating, more money you will get each round and more points you will have.

At the start of the game each player will receive 2 companies and pick one to play. All of them give different starting money, resources, income and/or special ability. At the same time, players will receive 10 cards and must choose which to keep in hand: there is no maximum amount of cards in hand, but retain cards cost $3 per card (once paid, you don't have to pay for them again in later rounds).

At the start of each round, except the first, players will get 4 cards, and will choose which to keep and which to discard. The cost to retain cards is the same: $3 per card (but this is only valid for the new 4 cards drawn).

During the rounds, players can do 1 or 2 actions each turn they have. They can be the same. Some actions are: play cards, use 8 plants to build a Greenery, use 8 heat to increase the temperature, actions in cards, build standard projects, trigger a Milestone, create an Award, and so on.

Some of these actions will allow players to build stuff on the board, usually a Sea, a Greenery or a City, but can also be some special constructions. Seas have proper places on the board, and adding them increases your rating in 1. Greenery must be placed adjacent to a tile you already own, if possible, and increase oxygen level in 1, your rating in 1, 1 point and the end of the game, and $2 for each adjacent Sea tile. City increase your income in 1 (not the same as rating, but both give money), $2 for each adjacent Sea tile and, at the end of the game, will be worth 1 point for each adjacent Greenery. Several places on the board give an reward when a tile is build there: usually plants, but also can give steel, titanium or cards.

Cards will do all sort of things: increase income (be of plants, heat, energy, steel, money or titanium), place tiles, give discounts, new types of actions (as breeding animals, creating beneficial viruses, etc), attack others, and so on.

Many of the actions will cost money. Therefore, build and managing your economy will be key.

The game will end once the oxygen levels reach 14%, temperature hits 8°C (celsius) and all the oceans tiles are on the board. In the round these three things are true, it will be the final one. After this final round, players will get income and have one last opportunity to build Greeneries. Once this is done, players will score their Greenery and City tiles, and also points coming from Milestones, Awards and cards.

The player with the most terraforming rating (points) will be the winner!

3) Which are the decisions made during play?
Wow. So many. To put is simple:
- Which cards to keep (money is used to retain then and also to play them);
- Which cards to use (considering their effetcs, restrictions and cost);
- Where to place tiles (the location is important for gaining a immediate reward, and also for end game scoring purposes);
- Which action to do (timming has some great importance here, as, say that you increased oxygen - this can allow someone else to play a card she wouldn't be able until then; or you build a Greenery and, almost afterward, someone puts a City next by, meaning you just gave 1, 2 or more points to that person; or using a card to steal or reduce the resource of someone else, preventing them from being able to do an action; or advancing temperature or oxygen to the limit, blocking others from gaining rating with their heat or when building Greeneries; and so on).

Though the decision tend to not be overly complex, almost all have lasting effects, be for income or by acting on the board. Money is tight and prioritize is normally the order of the day. Thinking ahead is also required, as is usual to keep cards not only for the current round, but for way down the road, when a restriction for it to be played (like temperature of -4°C or warmer; or 4 science icons; etc) will be achieved.

Sure, there is a lot of tatical play going around here - making the best of that projects (cards) appear is very relevant in doing well in the game, but forethought and preparation can win you the race.

4) What are the good things in the game?
- Huge amount of decision points with lasting results;
- The special abilities of the companies era good enough to be taken advantage of but not to corner a player to a single path of development;
- High replay value, as the amount of cards alongside the different companies make for a varied play experience;
- Very good production value;
- Strong theme, present both in the board (the placement of seas and mineral deposits), actions (like purchasing projetcs - cards -, than paying to implant them), effects of cards, and so on;
- Interactive, as players battle for positions of the board and opportunities, both in awards and milestones, but also in the main ways to increase their rating: oxygen and temperature levels.

5) Which are the bad news?
- Luck of the drawn can help or harm one more than others;
- "Take that" cards, which simply I don't think fit properly with everything else in the game;
- As with games with many choices, timming and considerations, some AP can happen and downtime issues can be present.

6) How do you feel while playing?
I looked across the table, to that silver and coppery cubes, above the Heat space of my opponent, just knowing he could increase temperature. Nay, that he definitely would. But when, goddammit? I look my cards and see my dear Trees - but they require -4°C, only one more step. I do some trivial action and pass - I'm worried, I don't have any more of those left, and I spend too much already, and if I spend on something else, to delay, then I won't have enough for my trees!

Then, when you think, by reading, that you have figure the game out, you learn that the requirements also work the other way around: having maximum of something in order to be allowed to enter play. Sure, there is no way of knowing what cards the others have and what limitations are holding them back. Yet, you do know that, for each step ahead taken, one window might be closed and another might open. And it must be beautiful to look outside a window in Mars. And near the end all this is left behind, as everyone just want to increase their ratings and prevent others from doing the same.

Anyway, it was already mentioned and I add to the chorus: is similar, in feel, to playing CO₂. You have the same "cooperative end goal while competing" (reduce carbon emission; make Mars livable), and in the process, there is a lot of timming considerations and ponderations. In CO₂ you don't truly want to start a project that someone else will take over, but, sometimes, you will either have to or must to, in order to avoid an early defeat. In Terraforming Mars there is no defeat for everyone (maby in an expansion nearby...), but you want to increase oxygen levels and temperature, as you gain rating with this, which means more money and points - win, win, right? Except that, by doing this, you might allow someone to play a kickass card sooner than later, and reap the benefits for more time. Maybe even a single round gives and edge.

This is one of the many positive aspects in Terraforming Mars, one that brings more color to decision-making and interaction, but hardly the only one. Resources, particularly money, the board state and using opportunities are also there.

There are some oddballs, like the "take that" cards and the AP that all the considerations around your actions might lead ("If I spend this, I won't be able to do this. But this is better now. However, without this, I won't be able to to that later, and if I keep delaying, there is not even a point in holding this damn thing. But, wait, wait, maybe if I place this there, get that $4, I could play this! Yes! Now... wait. I could then build a City...") - it goes with the territory and, while this is player dependent, the game sure doesn't make it easier for the poor sod.

In the end, Terraforming Mars gives a lot for the players, providing a rich environment for development of the companies, many decisions, all wrap up in a very nice presentation. Recommended!

Regards,


Image credit: EagleEye80



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Alexandre Trentini
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Curitiba
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Re: Terraforming Mars - In which global warming in one of the goals - down to the basics review
Excellent review, I agree with almost all of your points, the "take that" effects are a little bit unnecessary, although I understand why they are there, and not just because of the interaction. It is mainly to prevent someone to just accumulate too much resources and use it in an unstoppable combo.

There are 20 cards in the deck of 208 cards that have this effect, almost all of that cards have little and costly effects, there is although some that take more plants (mainly the "take that" cards aim for the plants) from adversaries.

So in the end, although it bothers me because I'm sure there have to be a better solution to all this issues these cards are intended to "fix", this doesn't bother me too much because it represent, if most, 10% of the cards in the game, and in many cases they aren't even attractive, depending on the play style of the players.
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Scott Daniel
United States
San Diego
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Re: Terraforming Mars - In which global warming in one of the goals - down to the basics review
Nice review, I'd add you need to place the 9 oceans as well to trigger the end-game.
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Alexandre Trentini
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Re: Terraforming Mars - In which global warming in one of the goals - down to the basics review
Formersd wrote:
Nice review, I'd add you need to place the 9 oceans as well to trigger the end-game.


Very relevant!!!
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Gringe Commander
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Re: Terraforming Mars - In which global warming in one of the goals - down to the basics review
I would move interactivity to the bad side.
In a 4 player game, every player has enough boardspace to build the most valuable city/forest comstellation (7hex-design).
There is no other interaction with players, expept the few cards that destroy other players plants.
During our games nobody took any interest in the cards played by other players, only a quick check that the cost are paid.
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Örjan Almén
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Re: Terraforming Mars - In which global warming in one of the goals - down to the basics review
GringeCommander wrote:
I would move interactivity to the bad side.
In a 4 player game, every player has enough boardspace to build the most valuable city/forest comstellation (7hex-design).
There is no other interaction with players, expept the few cards that destroy other players plants.
During our games nobody took any interest in the cards played by other players, only a quick check that the cost are paid.


Well, the 7 tile constellations are not anything to look at at all, as the cities score for ALL greenery tiles around it, not only our own, so therefore, the player interaction on the board can be rather intense at moments, especially the last few generations. People playing blocking special tiles, throwing in cities at spots where someone else wants o build or to just score the placement bonuses, both those from the board but also those from the ocean tiles. The board is clearly a great point of interaction.
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Alexandre Trentini
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Re: Terraforming Mars - In which global warming in one of the goals - down to the basics review
orjanalmen wrote:
GringeCommander wrote:
I would move interactivity to the bad side.
In a 4 player game, every player has enough boardspace to build the most valuable city/forest comstellation (7hex-design).
There is no other interaction with players, expept the few cards that destroy other players plants.
During our games nobody took any interest in the cards played by other players, only a quick check that the cost are paid.


Well, the 7 tile constellations are not anything to look at at all, as the cities score for ALL greenery tiles around it, not only our own, so therefore, the player interaction on the board can be rather intense at moments, especially the last few generations. People playing blocking special tiles, throwing in cities at spots where someone else wants o build or to just score the placement bonuses, both those from the board but also those from the ocean tiles. The board is clearly a great point of interaction.


Agreed, and the race at the end to see who increase the global ratings until they cannot be increased further offers a good sense of interaction. Of course this game is not the masterpiece of interaction between players, but I don't think this is the intention here.
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