Before I leap into the review I just want to say thanks to everyone who has got me back into games and let me play theirs (especially this last 12-18 months). Here is my first game review by way of thanks. I hope someone finds it useful!
“Earth is overpopulated and resources are dwindling. We now face the choice either to recede, or to expand into space to find new homes for humanity. For this reason, we need to turn Mars into a habitable planet”
World Government, 2315.
Yes, it’s the 24th Century and humans are trying to inhabit Mars beyond those first few small colonies. Working with the World Government you control a corporation that is aiming to be a part of that process. The more you do to help terraform the planet and make it habitable, the more you are rewarded...
Firstly, you need to choose a coporation. The game recommends that you play for the first time with a generic beginner corporation which gives you 42 money and 10 free cards. Alternatively, you can have one of the other corporations which means starting with a specified amount of money and then paying for your initial cards. However, you then get other benefits through the game...
The action phase - initially we are engine building to develop resources. Those resources will allow you to then do other actions that either improve your engine further or directly terraform the planet. Actions are mainly playing a card from your hand that (for example) improves your heat production or places a greenery tile onto the board. Other actions include raising the temperature (if you have 8 heat cubes) or fund an award or use a standard project etc. There are many options! Improve 1 of the 3 global parameters (temperature, oxygen and water) and you also improve your Terraform Rating (and income!).
Players can take 1 or 2 actions per turn (not per generation). This continues clockwise until everyone has passed. Then you have the production phase whereby you get resources as per the production track on your board. The first player marker moves on as the next generation starts and you draw cards and choose which ones you want to buy before starting the next action phase.
Once the 3 global parameters (temperature, oxygen and water) are maxed out the game ends and the person who has the most rewards (VPs) wins. Your final score is the total of your Terraforming Rating plus VPs for Awards, Milestones, greenery tiles, cities with adjacent greenery and VPs on cards.
OK, you will need the rule book for all the details but that’s a quick summary. There are also 2 other variants in the book. The first adds another deck of cards (The Corporate Era) and you start with less resources for a longer more economic game. Secondly there is a way to draft cards around the table rather than just drawing from the stack.
Overall - Very good.
The exception to this is the insert for the box. When you open the box and see the insert all bashed up it is not a good first impression! With some sellotape repairs and more cardboard underneath to strengthen it I think it will survive in the long run, but, I shouldn’t need to do that to a £65 game! Having got that off my chest I pretty sure I’ve seen the Fryx brothers say here somewhere that the insert will improve as others had the same issue so I will say no more.
Everything else - the game play components - were in fine condition once I got them out and looked at them. I’ve seen a few others say that they were disappointed with the quality but I disagree. Thin doesn’t automatically mean cheap or poor. The components all strike me as good / high quality...
Board - Feels solid. No complaints. Nice layout with an area of Mars and spaces for the global parameters, Awards, Milestones and “scoring track”.
Cardboard pieces - Again they feel solid. No complaints.
Player mat - Feels like a high quality piece of thick paper stock. It’s not going to easily tear or fall apart in normal use. My gripe here is that it is too shiny! It doesn’t take much of a nudge to the table and cubes slide around on it... Something recessed to hold cubes in place would be brilliant or just a matt / linen finish to stop things sliding so easily. The iconography matches the cards and helps to tie them together visually.
Player cubes - Fine. They are like the cubes in Pandemic and do the job well. Personally I’d like the colours to be a bit bolder so they stand out more on the board. Maybe if they were a bit less translucent... That’s my personal preference though.
Resource cubes - Look great and the metallic nature really suits the theme. OK, one corner (I presume from the sprue in the manufacturing process) lacks colour but it doesn’t stand out when playing. Will the colour remain on the plastic - time will tell... Actual metal cubes would be great but they would also weigh and cost a lot more. Currently inclined to think the cubes are a fine compromise.
Cards - The cards themselves feel like high quality. I’ve sleeved them, but, that is due to the price of the game, not because I think they’ll easily damage. Artwork - it’s come in for criticism by some but I’ve not seen anything which offended me. Some are drawings, some are pictures. Why should that be a problem when the art all seems to fit the card? The iconography is clear and some of the flavour text is great.
Rule book - the odd thing maybe could be clearer (2 actions per turn not per generation - I’m not the only person to make that error as a newbie terraformer!) but overall it does the job admirably while adding some great flavour. Maybe an FAQ in future versions to clear up some common questions on forums.
It’s a really great game and I really love the theme. Suitably futuristic but with a hint of realism - what will humanity be doing in a few hundred years time if we continue to use up natural resources? I’m not sure that crashing Deimos into the Martian surface to raise the temperature 4 degrees is the right answer but the game certainly fires the imagination!
Why did I buy it?
I bought this as I was after another heavier Euro to sit alongside Agricola. Normally I try to play games before buying, however, this time I took a not inexpensive leap of faith. Jumping from 17th Century farming to 24th Century terraforming might seem a leap too far at first sight, but the concepts of engine building and resource management are similar. Working out how best to synergise your cards and resources in order to progress is a fun challenge and I’m happy to say it was worth the gamble.
Currently rating it a 9/10. That is based upon playing with it at home and one play with others at FLGS. However, if the long term re-playability is as good as I think it will be that might move up to 10/10...
Glorious game and very enjoyable. This one’s a keeper.