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Terraforming Mars» Forums » Strategy

Subject: Is Martian Rails overpowered? rss

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Teis Jacobsen
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I've played 7 games in total. Two with Corporate Era cards and drafting. Played with different groups of people. Absolutely loving the game. It has even enticed me to learn how to do laser-cutting to create my own acrylic overlays.

In two of my games, Martian Rails has been a very deciding factor in who won the game. Of course these two games had lots of cities on board and Martian Rails was activated in a substantial number of generations.
After the second game we discussed if the game would be better if we incorporated a house rule for Martian Rails. Yet we also discussed if we just need to remember that the card is in the game, and that other players might play it and hence play around this scenario.

What are your thoughts on Martian Rails? Is it a situational card that just happened to be really powerful in our games, or is it too powerful in general?
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O.Shane Balloun
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replicat wrote:
Of course these two games had lots of cities on board and Martian Rails was activated in a substantial number of generations.
After the second game we discussed if the game would be better if we incorporated a house rule for Martian Rails. Yet we also discussed if we just need to remember that the card is in the game, and that other players might play it and hence play around this scenario.


This is the answer. Once someone plays Martian Rails, the other players need to remain cognizant that every city added to the board increases the economic benefit to the holder of the card. You mentioned that the card was on the board for quite a few turns—which tells me it was played before many of the cities were played.

A rational response might be to tactically pivot to avoid playing cities. Cities are rarely present en masse in the games I play (not sure why, other than they don't strike me or my gaming group as a necessary strategy), so Martian Rails is a nonissue. I'm not claiming our way of playing is better overall—only that it elucidates that a tactical pivot is in order for you and the others in your playing group.
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Ben Goulding
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Not overpowered at all. It's situational and like you said, it was played in a game with lots of cities and that player benefited greatly. In some respects it's your own fault for not considering it in your city building calculations.

The sensible counter is that the other players should be aware of the fact one player can potentially benefit from others' cities. Martian Rovers and Pets are similar cards, and the Tharsis Republic corporation also gets bonuses from other players building cities.

Case in point, I played TM against my Dad last weekend. The first card he played was Pets. From the outset I was a bit more cautious about placing cities. I had to make sure that every city I placed would outweigh what he would get for Pets. At the end, I won, but only by one point, 111 to his 110. His Pets card was worth 6 points by the end!
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Sebastian Stückl
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Martian Rails is certainly a card that can be really powerful if played under the right circumstances.
Sometimes, you will be able to get an extra 5-7 M€ per turn when you play it in the middle of the game, with that going slightly up afterwards.
In fact, you can sometimes generate so much extra cash from it that it's still worth playing on the penultimate turn.

However, this fails to compare the card to other options you have available.
First of all, the easiest way to compare this to other cards is taking cards that have a similar effect and cost, which you are relatively sure are not over/underpowered, and then see how it compares to them.
Also, note that you should not compare the card to standard projects, since those are supposed to be less efficient than playing cards. (Otherwise, there is no incentive to play cards. However, for strategic reasons, using standard projects is still desired even if playing cards is usually more efficient)


Now, let's look at a few other cards that give you a similar effect:
Acquired Company: (10M€, +3M€ income)
Noctis Farming: (10M€, +1M€ income, +2 plant, +1 VP)
Nuclear Zone: (10M€, +4 temp, +1 tile, -2 VP)
Industry Microbes: (12M€, +1 energy prod., +1 steel prod.)
Release inert gases: (14M€, +2 TR)
Mining Rights: (9M€, +1 steel OR titanium prod., +1 tile)
Adapted Lichen(?): (9M€, +1 plant prod.)
Sponsors: (6M€, +2M€ income)
Bribed Commission(?): (7M€, +2 TR, -2 VP)

Some more difficult comparisons are:
Immigrant City (13M€, -1 energy prod, -1M€ income, +1 city, +1M€ income/future city)
Concern Stronghold(?): (11M€, -1 energy prod., +3 M€ income, -2 VP, +1 city)
Zeppelin: (13M€, +1M€ income per city on Mars)


For most of these cards, I think there are no powerlevel concerns.
The only three that stick out to me here are Noctis Farming as a low-powered card, and Immigrant City/Zeppelin as high-powered ones.
Concern Stronghold(name?) also seems unappealing, but placing a city tile at the cost of 2 VP and 1 energy production actually sounds like a fine, but not amazing, deal if you think about it.

For all of these cards, it should of course be remembered that in addition to the building cost, the card must be acquired first (+3M€)
For instance, Acquired Company costs 13M€, and sponsors cost 9M€.
If we look at several cards with this in mind, it becomes clear that the "cost" of 1M€ income is approx. 4M€ (huh, not a ton!)
Also, note that placing a tile usually reduces the cost of a card by 2-4M€ due to placement bonuses.
The value of 1 VP seems slightly higher than 1M€ income, but not by much (perhaps ~5M€/VP, which is also in line with other cards that give only VP)

For this calculation, it is also noteworthy that, generally speaking, 1 energy is worth more than 1M€ (assuming no leftovers, as with most resources). Since 8 heat can be used for +2 temp, 8 heat MUST be worth less than 14 M€ (1.75M€ each). For energy, there are other uses, so 1.75M€ is not a hard limit there, but any excess amount is worth less than 1.75M€, so most of your energy will be worth something in the 1.00-1.75M€ range


So let's take a step back and see how Martian Rails actually compares to the powerlevel of other cards.
First of all, what's its cost? Initially, it costs you 13M€ to build, and every use then costs you 1 energy(~1M€).
In other words, the card has to return at least 4M€ per use to be comparable to other production increases. However, note that increasing your M€ income is far less effective by the time this many cities have been built.
Therefor, it must produce at the very least 5M€. In reality though, this value will be even higher (6-7M€), because you still need to reach the break-even-point relatively shortly after playing this card, and then have enough time left to profit from it. If you are only up 2 or 3 M€ from playing the card and using it for 3 turns before the game ends, it was probably not worth the effort at all.
This means that Martian Rails actually has an extremely small time frame in which it can be played profitably. Of course, the players' strategies can make this window bigger or smaller, but it generally should not be longer than a few turns (I'd guess around 3 turns in a 3 player game).


So yeah, what's the verdict for Martian Rails then?
Well, basically this question is impossible to answer without answering the question of how many cities are usually built during a game of Terraforming Mars. I will leave this up to you.

In either case though, I have always seen Martian Rails as a very potent card, and this analysis helps me understand the card better.
The "sweet spot" for this card is probably after 4-6 cities have been placed on Mars. Before that, you are most likely better off spending your resources elsewhere. After all, playing Martian Rails will also severely limit the amount of cities placed afterwards.
And after the point has been reached, you better not waste any time getting this card online, or else it won't be a good investment anymore.
Funnily, there is a high chance that this time frame also collides with securing milestones/awards, so that doesn't help.

So what's my opinion?
I think the card is powerful, but ONLY on the right turn(s). It will always be an impactful card IF you play it, but I do not think it is overpowered.
Personally, I put this into the category "very narrow, and swingy".


Have a nice day!
Sebastian
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Joshua Schutte
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They need to realize you get 1 MC/turn remaining for the rest of the game for every city they build. Considering most 4p games last about 10 turns. They could be handing you an extra 30-50 credits to spend.

Pets is my favorite card for this very reason. Every opponents city is worth 1/2 a vp for you.
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Matthieu Fontaines
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Crikrunner wrote:
They need to realize you get 1 MC/turn remaining for the rest of the game for every city they build. Considering most 4p games last about 10 turns. They could be handing you an extra 30-50 credits to spend.

Pets is my favorite card for this very reason. Every opponents city is worth 1/2 a vp for you.


30MC more to spend seems the higher limit for me, when good conditions are met.

let's say at the end of the game 8 cities are build (that's one and a half per player on 5P and it already seems a lot to me)
lets assume
- the cities are evenly build during the game
- the game lasts 10 generations (so 4 cities are presents as a mean)
- you manage to build martian rails before first city is built and use it every turn
- you don't get discount for this card

the card costs 10+3MC, it will earn you 10*4 = 40MC, that is 27MC net.
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Teis Jacobsen
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Thank you for all your great answers. And one special thank you to Sebastian for such a thorough analysis!
It seems our games have had a tendency to create many cities, which according to your comments, doesn't seem to be the norm.
Apparently we just need to play more games and try different avenues of strategies. And more games of Terraforming Mars is of course a great thing. Looking very much forward to seeing how Martian Rails performs in our next games.
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Kain W.
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Hi,

I must admit we just played our first game so no big expert.

From my experience money is only at the start of the game a real factor (later on you have your engine running TW + resources ) BUT the limitation to two actions is the bottleneck.

The card gets only really good if there are many cities around, e.g. in the late game. Why should you spend one of your two actions to get more money - in addition you need to spend another turn (and 10ME) to build that first ?
I can only think of that if you have not invested a single card into money/mining. If not being totally wrong that card is not over powered if you play a bit of an engine building at the start.
 
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Teis Jacobsen
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Stubentiger wrote:
Why should you spend one of your two actions to get more money?

As many others before you, you seem to have missed the part in the rules which state you go around the table taking one or two actions over and over again until all have passed. This means you can do as many actions per generation as you want.
Have another go at the game with the correct rule. You wont regret it
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Florian Ruckeisen
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Stubentiger wrote:
From my experience money is only at the start of the game a real factor (later on you have your engine running TW + resources ) BUT the limitation to two actions is the bottleneck.

Sounds like this common error: You are not limited to 2 actions per generation - it's 2 actions per turn during the action phase. You can take as many turns as you like, and thus perform as many actions per generation as you like (and can afford).

That said, it's true that money is super tight in the early game, and more abundant in the later stages - but you can never have too much of it!

Edit: dat replicat ninja ninja
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Kain W.
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replicat wrote:
Stubentiger wrote:
Why should you spend one of your two actions to get more money?

As many others before you, you seem to have missed the part in the rules which state you go around the table taking one or two actions over and over again until all have passed. This means you can do as many actions per generation as you want.
Have another go at the game with the correct rule. You wont regret it

Yes, that is true.
..and it is good to know as I was wondering how I should ever bring my resources (heat and green) to the board while playing some cards.

P.S: Now I understand why that card seems a bit OP, especially if you can get an Money -> Energy action too
 
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Matt Shields
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Duinhir wrote:
Crikrunner wrote:
They need to realize you get 1 MC/turn remaining for the rest of the game for every city they build. Considering most 4p games last about 10 turns. They could be handing you an extra 30-50 credits to spend.

Pets is my favorite card for this very reason. Every opponents city is worth 1/2 a vp for you.


30MC more to spend seems the higher limit for me, when good conditions are met.

let's say at the end of the game 8 cities are build (that's one and a half per player on 5P and it already seems a lot to me)
lets assume
- the cities are evenly build during the game
- the game lasts 10 generations (so 4 cities are presents as a mean)
- you manage to build martian rails before first city is built and use it every turn
- you don't get discount for this card

the card costs 10+3MC, it will earn you 10*4 = 40MC, that is 27MC net.


This is interesting to me. We're averaging far more cities per game than this in our first few games. I think we had something like 17 cities built in our 5 player game last night, (including the two off Mars). So the player with Martian Rails was getting double digit money per turn for several generations.

I'm starting to realize now that this is likely just bad play on our part. I think that for new players, cities are one of the most obvious ways to score points so people tend to do way too many of them. Or at least we have. Also when you're new you're so focused on just figuring out what you can do that you don't have the bandwidth to really pay close attention to how your actions are benefiting other players.
 
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Jared Heath
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Its OP if played very early.

In the one game I have played, it went down in gen 2. We played 14 generations, so it was easily worth 60 credits.

That's a ton of $$$. The guy who played it won.
 
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Örjan Almén
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jaredh wrote:
Its OP if played very early.

In the one game I have played, it went down in gen 2. We played 14 generations, so it was easily worth 60 credits.

That's a ton of $$$. The guy who played it won.


Not necessarily. All depends on the game as stated above. In most games, there won't be any cities played for the first generations. In some games, there's only 5-6 cities played in total, then it's not near any 60 credits worth. Yes, he won and he had played it, but did he won because of that card? Probably not. It surely helped him, but as you can increase your money production up to above 60/generation (plus TR), it is a minor issue that a player can get 60 additional credits in total during a game for a card. It's all about how you play and consider your and other players cards.
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Florian Ruckeisen
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I've had a few games now where Martian Rails earned some indecent amounts of money too. The "meta" in that particular group does favour city spamming, so that plays right into this card's hands. If you don't want Rails to become a money machine, you have to curb your city building.

The devious thing about it is that for each individual city placed, the effect isn't that drastic. "Okaaay, he'll get another M€ for his trains, but whatever, I really want that city now!"
But of course, it adds up, and the trains will keep a-rollin' round after round.

In fact, Martian Rails is extremely similar to Immigrant City in that regard.
Both effectively require 1 energy production to run*. Both earn an extra M€/generation for every new city placed.
The main difference is that Rails also profits from cities that were already there before, while Immigrant City grants you a city tile (which is awesome). I.City costs just 3 M€ more, but also costs (effectively) 1 M€ income to play.
I.City can earn you almost as much money when played as the very first city (although granted you always get that money 1 generation later than you would with Rails), and is a city in itself!

* The difference between costing 1 power resource once per generation and costing 1 power prod is subtle. Martian Rails is more lenient in that you still have the choice to use your power for something else, while I.City gobbles up your production outright. OTOH, a card that requires the spending of a resource often takes 1 generation longer to set up than a production-eating card.
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Jesse Everett
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Terraforming Mars seems to be all about finding ways to get better-than-baseline value out of your actions.. and with MC production, in particular, there are quite a few cards that give that potential.

If Martian Rails were re-written as a card that simply gave MC production (playable with no requisites), it would give ~2.8889 MC production (total cost 13 / 4.5 baseline cost of MC production). Martian Rails also effectively requires 1 Energy production, however, which itself has a baseline cost of 7. So as a 20 total cost action, to hit baseline value, the card needs to produce ~4.4444 MC per generation. Over a full game (estimated somewhere around 14 generations), then, if you played the action first generation, you'd expect the card to yield a total of ~57.7772 MC.

 
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Jonathan Franklin
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Turn 1 Pets can be great too.
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Joseph Cochran
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TwitchBot wrote:
We're averaging far more cities per game than this in our first few games. I think we had something like 17 cities built in our 5 player game last night, (including the two off Mars). So the player with Martian Rails was getting double digit money per turn for several generations.

I'm starting to realize now that this is likely just bad play on our part. I think that for new players, cities are one of the most obvious ways to score points so people tend to do way too many of them. Or at least we have. Also when you're new you're so focused on just figuring out what you can do that you don't have the bandwidth to really pay close attention to how your actions are benefiting other players.


I think it's also group dependent. Our group even when learning never thought cities were great. Sure, if you get greenery around them they are worth end game points, but they have little immediate benefit. That's not to say that we avoided them, but we found other options more enticing. We are much more interested in things that raise TR early. So we rarely get more than 7-8 cities out.
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