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Subject: A Belgian Review of TM - "A Solo and Sober Belgian on Mars" rss

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A Belgian dude
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Played 3 times in solo mod, but for a few hours each time. I did: Helion 87, Phobolog 103 and Ecoline 94. I almost went through all the cards available in the game.


I won't lie. A certain feeling of disarming vanity bewildered me as I was writing this review... Already 57 written reviews for the game? What could I possibly express that has not already been written? Also, while we are at it, what is love?

Instead of listening to my *cough*reasonable*cough* doubts, I tried anyway, adding to the pile of reviews available on BGG. I do nonetheless hope that this review, centered and based on the solo aspect of the game, will be able to add something to the rest.

Now, let's tackle the task of reviewing Terraforming Mars, a game whose goal and theme are contained in a self-explanatory way in its title.

Knowing how much reading a review can be a somewhat displeasing and perennial endeavor for some, the intent of the present review will be quite simple: presenting you some good, bad and ugly points about the game mixed with my opinions, of which nobody cares about and nobody probably ever should (no, really, just read what is in bold; don’t lose your time, go pet a kitten or fight with someone on Facebook about which board game between Splendor and Century: The Spice Road is the best).





The theme is brilliantly portrayed and embodied by the game. Fryxelius assuredly deserves to be amply congratulated for taking the risk of producing a game with an unapologetic and precise scientific tone to it; from the mechanisms (oxygen, temperature, water) to the flavor text via the scientific names for the diverse areas of Mars, I've really enjoyed the theme. It even makes the game educational. A board game is a marvelous way to popularize science.

The possibility to win or to lose. In the solo gaming world, "beat your score" games usually don't work, you need a higher goal than that. No problem with Mars since you have three requirements to meet by the end of the game: oxygen, temperature and water. If you don't fulfill them, you lose. It is a very good element to have for that euro and one that makes each game tense. Although I never lost, I always felt I needed to be careful until the very last round.

The variability and replayability of the game is excellent. The number of cards (208) and starting corporations (12 of them, each providing you with different enough bonuses/effects and starting conditions) is simply phenomenal.

Card drafting engine building at its best. The feeling of progression in the game is not easily equated in any other game I've played, especially in the solo. Through the hard choices of cards, you are largely able to create your own engine each time; finding new combos is always fun.

Ressource management. Linked to the cards is resource management. You basically have 6 resources that you will use during the game: money, steel, titanium, plants, energy and heat. Card drafting engine building is great, but linking it to managing resources just makes it so much more fun.

The tile placement is simple but efficient. Like the resource management, connecting you cards to an actual board on which you place tiles makes the game all the more thematic, rich and enjoyable.

The flow of the game is smooth and delightful. It really is a game in which every turn goes too quickly! Random advice: put some music on while playing it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwmYXylxA3g&list=PL2eZlx30U5....

Very clear iconography. You will never have a problem figuring out what cards does what and what symbol means what.

Bottom line: the game is extremely fun to play. While that will sound naive, it is not true of every good game. For example, I enjoy some games because they challenge me, even though they are not fun.



The art feels random. I am overly concerned with art in board games. Games like Scythe, Orléans or Tokaido (to take three very different styles) have set very high standards for their colleagues. Well, for TM, while not being terrible, the art is... random. Some cards will be illustrated by real-life pictures, others by drawings... It sometimes feels that the designer of the game just took his pictures from Google Image.

Components. Much has been said on that, but yes, in brief, you don't get what you paid for. I can't imagine playing it without the broken token supplements.

The solo could be improved and refined. While the solo experience is wondrous, it could very well still be improved. It would be fantastic if Fryxelius could come out with a solo only expansion replacing all those unuseful cards for solo in the game. In that regard, my current position is that the unuseful cards do bring some difficulty to the game, which is a good thing.

Luck. Sometimes, playing TM can feel like being the protagonist of a Greek tragedy; your fate seems already fixed. I am exaggerating, but the luck factor can sometimes be frustrating.
Now, to be fair, there is a simple way that the game uses to alleviate the luck factor: money makes you always able to buy "standard actions" which allow you to reach the three goals required to win (namely oxygen, temperature and water) and even more. It seems to me that if you have a good money engine, you will nearly always be able to at least win the game.

I have some concerns about the multiplayer. I don't particularly see it as a fun game with more players. It feels like one of those "together alone" game paradoxically mixed with "incredibly *in your face* cards". Moreover, while the length of a solo game is perfect (certainly ranging between 1h minimum and 2h30 maximum; although according to many, you could get to 4min to 1 hour after many games), I do not see myself spending three hours for a two-player game of TM.
My advice: don't buy the game if you don't plan on playing it solo. Multiplayer might be fun, but occasionally.
Edit(05/02/18): After playing it multiplayer, I have to admit that I was wrong and it does indeed play well and does not take too much time.

It is more a medium light euro games than a medium one. It is not a bad thing, but heavy euro players beware. It is nevertheless a brilliant medium light one.



Now we come to the contentious part of my review, the ugly part. The following factor greatly determines the rating of a game for me: how the game complies or not to my innermost unreasonable, unspoken and irrelevant desires.

In that regard, one point stands unbearably in my sight: there are no brewery cards! Not one. You have puppies, the "Miranda resort" and a university, but no breweries are envisioned in Fryxelius' view of future life on Mars... That is highly unrealistic and displeasing for the Belgian "Belgian beer" aficionado that I am.


This is what an end game should look like in solo mod. The mere sight of this multitude of cards laid on the table is simply dazzling (fyi, I didn't count my points yet in the pictures).




Lost in a boundless sea of reviews, I hope this one will make you want to play and even buy the game. It most certainly deserves the “hype”.

It is an overall surprising and delightful game that Jacob Fryxelius has contributed to the board game world and everyone, despite their tastes, should probably give it a try as it will no doubt shape and inform board games to come.

I believe that Jacob Fryxelius has designed a very fine board game with a stimulating and precise scientific theme – that is the endeavor to terraform Mars – served by a top-notch set of mechanisms whose combination offers a smooth and absorbing experience.

To put it simply, if you love “card drafting engine building”, you will love to see it supported and concretized by an efficient resource management and a gratifying tile placement mechanisms.


Like we say in my mother tongue: “félicitations!”

My note: five Belgian beers out of five, as good as a "Belgian Strong Dark Ale".



See:

at the end.




I desire to thank my friend Colin for lending me his copy of the game (go check his solo/co-op channel, "the One Stop Co-op Shop": https://boardgamegeek.com/guild/3004).

If you want a better, more serious review of the game, literally check the 57 others.

Anyway, hope you got something from it. That was my second contribution to this amazing website/community that is BGG!

Psst: by the way, it is obviously Century: The Spice Road. Who would be crazy enough to think that Splendor is… Wait, I just got a notification on Facebook about that. I got to prove my point to improve my sense of self-worth as a human being by denigrating another person’s opinion. Adieu! See you next time!



(Metaphorically linked, somehow, to board games)

an IPA – One would only drink it if he were stranded on an island with no drinkable water available.
(e.g. Monopoly or 0 to 5.5 on the BGG scale)
a Pilsner – Who doesn’t like a Pilsner on a hot sunny day? When the right conditions show up, this beer can be a real pleasure. But don’t go to it to find substance. It is after all… a watery beer.
(e.g. Ticket to Ride or 5.5 to 6.9 on the BGG scale)
a Wheat beer (Witbier) – A Wheat beer. Now we are entering the good stuff. A delicious cloudy beer with fresh spices like coriander, orange peel or other oddball spices. One is always ready for one of those and they definitely occupy a sweet spot in the beer world. Nobody would go insane about them, but we are truly glad they are available.
(e.g. Lords of Waterdeep or 7 to 7.9 on the BGG scale)
a Belgian Triple, Quadruple or Dubbel – A bold and complex flavor at last! Those rich malty beers have been brewed with great care and love and everybody can taste it. The whirlwind of spices and dark flavors cannot but leave you satisfied and excited to try it again and again.
(e.g. Agricola or 8 to 9 on the BGG scale)
a Belgian Strong Dark Ale – “La crème de la crème”, a beer with a thousand years tradition behind it. I can’t think of any reason why anybody would not drink that every day. Every sip is a delight, an overwhelmingly complex tasting beer whose elegant dark robe will make you nostalgic.
(e.g. Terra Mystica or 9 to 10 on the BGG scale)




If you want to check my other reviews: it is here.

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Kevin Shaud
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I'm concerned that IPA is used to represent your lowest rating. Surely you jest because IPAs are the kings/queens of beer. laugh
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A Belgian dude
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Haha you are exactly right! Not knowing how to deal with that king/queen of beer in real life, I'm jesting about it on the internet, hidden behind a screen ; so much easier.

Kidding apart, I can see why some people like it, my review and my "Beer-o-meter" are obviously to be taken with a BIG grain of salt whistle.
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Kevin Shaud
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Timobe wrote:
Haha you are exactly right! Not knowing how to deal with that king/queen of beer in real life, I'm jesting about it on the internet, hidden behind a screen ; so much easier.

Kidding apart, I can see why some people like it, my review and my "Beer-o-meter" are obviously to be taken with a BIG grain of salt whistle.


Hahaha. I just had to give you a hard time about it. Let's just all agree that beer is delicious
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A Belgian dude
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kevinruns262 wrote:
Hahaha. I just had to give you a hard time about it. Let's just all agree that beer is delicious


Haha of course, and I was asking for it. Here we go! Beer is delicious indeed, in all hops, malts and spices .
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Joe Pilkus
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Great review. While I'm not at all a fan of TM, I can appreciate as a designer the mechanics in play and how it's appreciate shy players. My favorite Mars inspired solo experience is Martians: A Story of Civilization.

Cheers,
Joe
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A Belgian dude
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The Professor wrote:
Great review. While I'm not at all a fan of TM, I can appreciate as a designer the mechanics in play and how it's appreciate shy players. My favorite Mars inspired solo experience is Martians: A Story of Civilization.
Cheers,
Joe


Thank you for the feedback and your honest opinion Joe, it is very much appreciated! I should give "Martians: A Story of Civilization" a try too.
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Clearly a tripel is the king of beers.
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Multiplayer isn't as slow as you think. With myself and a friends of similar AP level, it takes about 2 hours plus setup.

Although, I can play solo in about 45 minutes. If you are playing solo for 2+ hours, I can hardly imagine how long three of you would take.
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A Belgian dude
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TheUbiquitous wrote:
Clearly a tripel is the king of beers.


Haha, I love how a whole discussion about beer started . Which Triple is your favorite? Any recommandations? I personally love the Tripel Karmeliet of Brouwerij Bosteels.

Talmanes wrote:
Multiplayer isn't as slow as you think. With myself and a friends of similar AP level, it takes about 2 hours plus setup.

Although, I can play solo in about 45 minutes. If you are playing solo for 2+ hours, I can hardly imagine how long three of you would take.


Haha, yes, but again not only am I a slow player, but I also love to take my time when playing solo. Although I could see how you could play in 45 min at one point when you know all the combos. The thing then would be that you need someone that knows the game as much as you do, like you said, to end up with a reasonable time of play.
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Timobe wrote:
TheUbiquitous wrote:
Clearly a tripel is the king of beers.


Haha, I love how a whole discussion about beer started . Which Triple is your favorite? Any recommandations? I personally love the Tripel Karmeliet of Brouwerij Bosteels.


Alas, I am not much of a beer drinker. The best I've had is Exit 4, and that's merely an American craft brew. I am a big man, though, and I enjoy drinking enough on a 2-beer limit.
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A Belgian dude
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TheUbiquitous wrote:
Alas, I am not much of a beer drinker. The best I've had is Exit 4, and that's merely an American craft brew. I am a big man, though, and I enjoy drinking enough on a 2-beer limit.


The Exit 4 looks like a good one on paper! I will give it a try. As for the American part, I've been surprised so far by American breweries such as "New Belgium", "Ommegang" or "Victory Brewing Company" (specifically their tripel, the Golden Monkey).

Hmm, two good beers is a good number anyway .
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Robert Smithwick
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There has to be some good IPA in Minnesota. I'm from south Minneapolis and I'll be back the end of October. Anything good I should try while I'm back in my old stomping grounds (that would be 4/5 beers in your book)?
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Matthieu Fontaines
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Kwak is definitely the Queen of Beers, so Kwak should represent Terraforming Mars :)

And, indeed, a "Martian Brewery" goodies project (or corp...) would be a nice addition
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A Belgian dude
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Orion328 wrote:
There has to be some good IPA in Minnesota. I'm from south Minneapolis and I'll be back the end of October. Anything good I should try while I'm back in my old stomping grounds (that would be 4/5 beers in your book)?


Fun, I'm in Saint Paul. What IPA would you challenge me to try? Hmmm, try the Abbey Belgian Style Ale from New Belgium (surprisingly refined Dubble) or the Golden Monkey from Victory Brewing Company (it's an odd one though, banana is one of the spices!). I like those two because they are American-Belgian beers. Imported Belgian beers being expensive here in the US.

Duinhir wrote:
Kwak is definitely the Queen of Beers, so Kwak should represent Terraforming Mars

And, indeed, a "Martian Brewery" goodies project (or corp...) would be a nice addition


Hmm, une bière ambrée... Je n'ai jamais essayé la Kwak cependant ! Je vais voir si je peux la trouver ici aux US.

Yes ! A corp that would be a brewery would be so fun. Like: "You can use plants as money." Or : "You can sell a plant for two millions." maybe.
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Travis Meredith
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You're right, Tripel Karmeliet is the "King of Beers". Especially since Bosteels was bought out by Inbev(Budweiser) a couple years ago. That would also make Kwak the "Queen of Beers".

Trip Karm is a fantastic Triple. I'm also a big fan of St. Feuillen Tripel. Totally different profile from Trip Karm, more delicate, but still complex.
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A Belgian dude
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It is a fantastic one indeed.

I can't seem to remember if I already had a St. Feuillien... I should try it again anyway. I don't seem to find it in the stores near me though :/. If only one could teleport to drink Belgian beers, French wine (missing cheap Bordeaux here in the US!) and eat Italian, the world would be a better place haha.
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The most informative review of TM I’ve read. No Brewery is a huge oversight; unless they are planning to introduce it as a dedicated expansion: “Terrabrewing Mars”.

Can you substitute this with real life beer while playing?
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A Belgian dude
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Carter_Burke wrote:
The most informative review of TM I’ve read. No Brewery is a huge oversight; unless they are planning to introduce it as a dedicated expansion: “Terrabrewing Mars”.

Can you substitute this with real life beer while playing?


Thank you! Happy that the review helped and most of all happy that we agree about the lack of a brewery being an atrocious oversight.

I would definitely back Terrabrewing Mars haha.

You absolutely can. And I absolutely did if I remember well .
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Christopher Schall
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I just got this game this weekend so I am still figuring it all out. Played three solo games and have yet to win. Still, I am really enjoying it. Great review and I, too, like beer.
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A Belgian dude
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Thank you Christopher! Cheers and the game does take time to figure out. And some corporations are better than others when playing solo.
 
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Kenneth Sweeney
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For me it would be a good bitter or stout. None of this Fizzy lager
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A Belgian dude
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Uksweeney wrote:
For me it would be a good bitter or stout. None of this Fizzy lager


I cheer to your stout with a dark ale Kenneth!
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Franck Bouvot
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Les grands esprits...
I got the game last Friday and have played 4 times already. Won 4 times with scores ranging from 78 to 96. Not been able to beat 100 yet.

Another great review, and I only have one bottle of beer to celebrate tonight. I might go to the pub instead...

Continue bien l'ami !
 
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Brent Schleicher
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I just read this one and re-read your Renegade review and remembered that I wanted to tell you then what I'm telling you now, these are excellent, well-written reviews! Great job!

I hope they keep coming, and if I might humbly request it, would you consider creating a tracking geeklist that we can subscribe to so that we don't miss future reviews when you post them?
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