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Subject: Four Rookies Playing Terraforming Mars rss

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Art Wright
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09/16/17

Pre-Game

I picked up Terraforming Mars a couple of days ago for 1/2 off (scratch-and-dent) at our friendly local gaming store. I’d been looking at it for a while, and have also been sore-tempted by Mission: Red Planet (which I realize is a very different game). After reading and watching The Martian, who doesn’t want to spend some time on the surface of the fourth planet? We were able to get the game to the table with four players last night, and I’m so glad I picked this up. It is a rich, immersive game and a rewarding engine-builder. It wasn’t too hard to learn, and about a half hour into the game, things were flowing pretty well around the table.

I had printed a couple of player aids, and they helped a bit. I’d read the instructions (mostly) and Jordan and I had watched a how-to-play video. He also skimmed the rule book when he arrived at my house. Eric had some idea how to play because he’d been interested in the game beforehand. John was totally oblivious to the rules when he sat down at the table, but but his easy-going nature worked in our favor as he patiently endured our confused, repetitive, non-exhaustive rules explanation.

Because I’d seen complaints about some of the components, we taped our player boards down to the table. This avoided tragic bumps that might’ve scattered our production levels and resources to the far corners of the solar system. The tape worked great, and came off easily enough at the end of the game, with no damage to the player boards.

I picked Yellow. John was Grey (Black?). Eric went with Green. And Jordan selected Blue. We were all the basic Beginner Corporations.

Jordan's corporation was the first to step bravely onto the Martian surface to start our game.

Early Game

Right out of the gate, Jordan built Space Mirrors, which I honestly thought was pretty impressive until John built his Giant Space Mirror late in the game. Jordan also created GHG Producing Bacteria, thus starting a bacteria-heavy strategy that none of the rest of us seemed to grasp. After all, we were just a bunch of suits working for greedy interplanetary corporations. We let him pursue his crazy science strategy throughout the game, however, and our anxiety continued to go up as he played Decomposers, Regolith Eaters, Ants, Small Animals, and Advanced Ecosystems. Our nervousness only increased as he kept putting small production cubes on these cards and seemingly moving them around at will. We started to worry that one day his strange microbes might wipe us all out….

Very early on Eric crashed a Giant Ice Asteroid into Mars, creating two oceans, raising the temperature four degrees celsius, and establishing himself as the terraformer par excellence. He broke out into the lead with his Terraforming Rating, and did not look back. Wowed by EricCorp’s ability to manipulate celestial objects, I vowed from then on that if I could not win the game, I would at least crash a small moon into the Martian surface before it was all said and done.

I started a research and development-heavy strategy which included Optimal Aerobraking and a Research Outpost. Both of these would help boost my resources over time. I continued to crank out green cards throughout the game. I also eventually decided that I over-purchased cards during the game: I think I sold 7 or 8 toward the end of the game. Jordan and I started lamenting the Research Phase each round, and crossed our fingers each time, hoping for crappy cards.

John started developing power plants of various sorts, including GHG Factories, because, hey, global warming sounds pretty good on a planet that starts at negative 30 degrees celsius! We all hoped that one day we could stop the warming trend…. This strategy payed off in the short term with strong energy and heat production, and would pay off down the road when John was able to claim the Builder milestone.

We all discovered that, early on, our corporations could be close to bankruptcy pretty quickly. A generation’s worth of spending could often be spent with a single card. But we were getting our engines going, and things were ramping up in a good way.

Mid-Game



Eric continued to build his presence on the Martian surface with Immigrant City. His MC and electricity production went down as a result. I said (facetiously) that immigrants were a drain on the economy, and that we should probably build a wall around Mars to keep immigrants out (apparently completely oblivious to the fact that everyone living on Mars is an immigrant). Someone at the other table (playing Coup) suggested that we make Jupiter pay for it. John suggested that the wall was called “space,” and we decided that if they made it to Mars, they deserved to be there.

After bombarding the surface with at least a couple of asteroids over the course of the game, Eric felt like the population was getting a little nervous about his corporation. He wisely decided to placate the populace by bringing Pets to the planet. Holding a cute little puppy definitely cuts down on anxiety levels.

I had 10 MC production, and we seemed to be at least halfway through the game. Feeling pretty confident, I funded the Banker Award. John smiled at me. I shifted nervously.

After each round, Jordan helpfully reminded us to “swipe right” to transfer our energy to heat, in apparently some sort of Martian version of Tinder. Things were starting to heat up.

Late Game

Eric continued on a terraforming binge, establishing forests (Greenery) and creating a strong presence on the board. He claimed the Terraformer and Gardener Milestones (10 VP’s!), if not on the same turn, very close together. John was able to claim the Builder as our third and final milestone.

John settled Noctis City, boosting his MC production but draining his electricity. He then started to complain that he didn’t get more benefits from establishing this unique city. Come on, man!

Jordan established a settlement on Phobos, which was pretty amazing, we thought. He built it entirely out of titanium, which seems about right. However he discovered at end-game that there was no Greenery around it to add any VP’s. Still, he had his own moon.

Speaking of moons, my corporation finally ponied up the cash to crash Deimos into the Martian surface. We weren’t using that moon anyway. This raised the temperature 6 degrees Celsius, destroyed all of John’s plant life (revenge is sweet), and boosted my ego by at least 4 points. During the same turn I also played Permafrost Extraction, allowing me to place an ocean tile. We were getting close to the end. The temp and oxygen were close to max, and we had 3 or 4 oceans to go.

John founded the Capital city, boosting his MC production by 5, and thus surpassing me for the lead in the Banker award. He would not relinquish that lead. I graciously volunteered to pin the award on his jacket when it came time for the ceremony, since I had funded it, after all.

John also pushed the temperature to a balmy 8 degrees, maxing it out. Realizing that we were running out of global parameters to boost, I paid cash for a Greenery tile. This boosted the oxygen to 14%, capping that. With enough money, you can do just about anything.

End Game and Reflections



At the beginning of the final generation (7th or 8th? we may have missed moving the marker a couple of times…), Eric crashed an ice asteroid into the planet, creating the final two oceans. Jordan groaned. We finished out that generation by trying to collect as many VP’s as possible. I funded the Miner award (which I would win), and the Thermalist award was also funded.

Once we’d all passed, we diligently followed the steps for the endgame. Once everything was settled, Eric won with 61 VP’s, a well-deserved victory. I eked out 2nd place by virtue of a 1 MC tiebreaker over John (we both had 55 VP’s). Jordan came in at an accomplished fourth place with 48 VP’s.

Overall, the game was very satisfying. By the end of the game, I hardly cared who won. Even though we were working independently and trying to pursue our own corporate agendas, it also felt like we were working toward the common goal of terraforming the planet. We cheered when others raised the temperature or oxygen, and the planet moved closer to being fully habitable. By the end, we celebrated once we’d reached our collective goal of fully terraforming mars.

The theme is rich and immersive. It feels like you are a wealthy interplanetary corporation bending the heavens to your will. (I mean, I’m guessing it feels like that. I have no practical experience of being a wealthy interplanetary corporation, but I have a pretty good imagination.) I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it afterwards.

I loved the opportunity to pursue unique strategies along the way. Eric was the main terraformer. John was the city-builder. I was the Deimos crasher. And Jordan was biologist extraordinaire. Obviously Eric’s strategy payed off the most in the end, but we all enjoyed our various pursuits.

All in all, we played about 2 hours and 20 minutes, and I think this would speed up considerably in a second game. The 90–120 minutes on the box seems about right.

I can’t wait to get this game back to the table. It is fun, humorous, and a great engine-builder. We’ll definitely try the various corporations next time.

Thanks for reading!
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Michael Wheal
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Kosse
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Great session report !
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Bruno Freitas
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MWAlbion wrote:
Great session report !

I second that!

I love this game too! Try it on solo mode!
 
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Ian Lim
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Iloilo
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Venshad wrote:
MWAlbion wrote:
Great session report !

I second that!

I love this game too! Try it on solo mode!


if he has playmates like that... Why do the solo mode? I really wish i have playing partners like those you have Art. Im a bit tired of going solo.. I'm jealous at you.
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Florian Ruckeisen
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It's pretty lame to nitpick on such a fun and entertaining session report, but I noticed this detail:

art642 wrote:
Early Game
[...] Jordan also created GHG Producing Bacteria

If memory serves, GHG Producing Bacteria requires 4% oxygen, so playing it in the early stages of the game is unlikely unless someone boosted O2 quickly (which I'm sure you would've mentioned). So you may have allowed that card to be played earlier than it should.

Not that it matters much, as Jordan came in 4th in the end anyway. And it can happen to seasoned players as well - sometimes, just as I'm about to put a card down, I'm realizing "oops, actually, I can't play that yet..." whistle

Quote:
I also eventually decided that I over-purchased cards during the game: I think I sold 7 or 8 toward the end of the game. Jordan and I started lamenting the Research Phase each round, and crossed our fingers each time, hoping for crappy cards.

Sounds like a luxury problem for sure, but I've had that happen in a solo game just yesterday too: So. Many. Great. Cards in the early research phases, I had to discard some of what are usually my favourites just so I could afford to actually play some of those I already had. cry
 
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Art Wright
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Snapshot wrote:
It's pretty lame to nitpick on such a fun and entertaining session report, but I noticed this detail:

art642 wrote:
Early Game
[...] Jordan also created GHG Producing Bacteria

If memory serves, GHG Producing Bacteria requires 4% oxygen, so playing it in the early stages of the game is unlikely unless someone boosted O2 quickly (which I'm sure you would've mentioned). So you may have allowed that card to be played earlier than it should.

Not that it matters much, as Jordan came in 4th in the end anyway. And it can happen to seasoned players as well - sometimes, just as I'm about to put a card down, I'm realizing "oops, actually, I can't play that yet..." whistle



I may be miss-remembering the specific cards (I just glanced back through our card stacks after the game to write this session report). He played a lot of bacteria cards—none of us got any! It made him seem a bit like the mad scientist of the bunch. And he played it well. :-)
 
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Vergililus De Kat
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Thanks for this very entertaining session report

It was fun to read and looking back to my first games, very relatable:
art642 wrote:
...toward the end of the game. Jordan and I started lamenting the Research Phase each round, and crossed our fingers each time, hoping for crappy cards...


Next game, gather your game buddies and play the Corporate Era (CE) variant:
i.e. All the cards, All 12 corporations and No starting production but the one you get from your corporation.
The game becomes richer and allows strategies to pay off more.

While you wait for the next game with your friends, do try Solo as well. It's a different beast, but also very rewarding

Happy gaming!
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Art Wright
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Vergilius wrote:
Thanks for this very entertaining session report

It was fun to read and looking back to my first games, very relatable:
art642 wrote:
...toward the end of the game. Jordan and I started lamenting the Research Phase each round, and crossed our fingers each time, hoping for crappy cards...


Next game, gather your game buddies and play the Corporate Era (CE) variant:
i.e. All the cards, All 12 corporations and No starting production but the one you get from your corporation.
The game becomes richer and allows strategies to pay off more.

While you wait for the next game with your friends, do try Solo as well. It's a different beast, but also very rewarding

Happy gaming!


Thanks! I haven't had a chance to try solo, but will definitely give it a shot. I would have loved to play solo once before trying to teach my friends, but in the end I was glad I didn't because it was fun to explore the game together. And yes, we're definitely looking forward to throwing the corporations and CE cards into the mix!
 
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