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Subject: Terraforming Mars: Eurogame with Theme! rss

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Jared M
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Since Terraforming Mars came out it has been extremely popular, and initially, I hesitated to play it as I was worried that it was just “cult of the new”. Now after playing Terraforming Mars many times, I feel that is far from the case.



The theme is unique and refreshing, it is nice to find a eurogame that isn’t about trading in the Mediterranean. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good game with that theme. In fact, most of my favorite games are along those lines, but let’s be honest, as great as most euros are the theme only runs skin deep. This is one reason why the theme in Terraforming Mars is so refreshing, it is not only different, it actually works well with the gameplay. Everything you do works towards one of the main factors that would (theoretically of course) make Mars habitable.

This leads me to the next reason why I love this game. Jacob Fryxelius actually did his homework designing this game (which as a teacher I am especially grateful for). Most of the ideas or concepts on the cards (or implied by the cards) are fairly accurate science (for example the conditions necessary to play certain plant and animal cards). Obviously, there is quite a bit there that is still theoretical science, but as a science teacher, I appreciate the effort he went through to make the game (as much as he was able) scientifically accurate. For me, this makes the game even more enjoyable.

Terraforming Mars has a strong replayability value. This comes mostly from two major factors. First, the starting corporations which give each player unique abilities. These abilities in themselves don’t necessarily make or break you, but they can sure place you on a different path each time you play the game. The second factor is the project cards. Each game you end up with different project cards which change the way you play the game by giving you unique actions. Even if you see the same cards you may or may not purchase them. Cards that may be amazing for you one game can be completely worthless the next.

There are many paths to victory in Terraforming Mars, which adds to the excitement and replayability of the game. I enjoy trying different strategies each time I play to see how well I can do trying something different each time.

I don’t know how I feel about the drafting variant. I understand that some people may prefer it in order to reduce the luck of drawing project cards, but I feel that it often makes the game longer (especially when you are playing with people prone to analysis paralysis). I do not think the random luck of the draw is all that bad for this game, as there are many good project cards. I actually enjoy trying to make something out of the project cards I end up with, and I honestly believe that no matter what cards you get you can use them to create a good competitive strategy.

I have read that some people feel like this game can be too mean, but I disagree. I get where most people are coming from, especially if they are like me and mostly play euros that have very little direct player interaction, however, I don’t think this game is all that mean. The project cards that can negatively affect other people almost always deal with plants or plant production, rarely is anything else affected. Plants can be a powerful resource in the game since you essentially score greenery tiles 3 different times/ways in the game, and there is no way to stop a player who is building a powerful greenery engine (without those particular project cards). But don’t let that fool you into thinking greenery tiles are the only path to victory, I have been absolutely crushed by players that didn’t place a single greeny tile on the board. Which leads to another solution to the cards that can negatively affect you: just don’t build a big plant producing engine and you likely won’t become a target. I have introduced this game to several people that don’t like playing games that can be too mean, and none of them had a big problem with the “take that” project cards that came into play.

The biggest downside to this game is the component quality. It seems the publisher went on the thin side with this game. The box is thin, the cards are thin, and the player mats are thin. As a gamer on a budget, I do appreciate making games more affordable, but I think this game is a step too far. The cards can be sleeved in order to protect them and give them a thicker feel, but due to the sheer number of cards, this can make shuffling a nightmare (unless of course, you spent time as a dealer in Vegas).



Another gripe I have with the game is the player mats, it can be difficult at times to keep all the cubes in their proper places, this can really become a problem if you bump the mat and then can’t remember how much of a certain resource you are producing. There are a few ways to fix this problem. You can purchase mat covers that keep the cubes in place. This is a convenient option but the cost can be steep. Another option is making your own, if you have access to a 3D printer you can head over to thingiverse.com and download one of the many player mat covers or replacements different people have posted there. I prefer this option as it is much cheaper than buying premade covers.



In conclusion, Terraforming Mars has quickly become one of my favorite games. It is thematic, engaging, and worth playing countless times. It does have poor quality components, but that doesn’t change the excitement of playing the game. I would recommend this game to anyone who enjoys medium to heavy games, especially to those who enjoy euros but are looking for a new and engaging theme.

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Peter
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The player mats are my biggest gripe too. I've looked around and the solution I like most is not available. For a set of five, the acrylic ones are just as expensive as the game itself!

I wish the publisher would come up with their own solution. Maybe something like Dinosaur Island's?
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AJ Cooper
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Good review, lots of good points. I especially agree with your thoughts on drafting.

About components, I think you make a common mistake of confusing thickness and quality. They aren't the same thing, and thicker is not necessarily better. Consider your remark about how sleeving the deck can cause some difficulty with thickness: the same would apply if the cards themselves were thicker.

Yeah, things can get bumped around on the player mat if people aren't careful enough. Double-layer, recessed punchboard (as in Scythe and Dinosaur Island) is a popular idea of what should have been done. But the overlooked upside of cardstock mats is that they stay flat, whereas punchboard can warp.
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RyuSora
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I have played terraforming a bit over 120 times and i am not usre if the replayability is there... (sarcasm is on)
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Jared M
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Talmanes wrote:


About components, I think you make a common mistake of confusing thickness and quality. They aren't the same thing, and thicker is not necessarily better. Consider your remark about how sleeving the deck can cause some difficulty with thickness: the same would apply if the cards themselves were thicker.


Very true. The artwork and materials are good quality, but I think the cards here are still just a bit too thin. The cards are easily bent or misshapen just with normal use, but perhaps I am just a little too rough on cards.

Talmanes wrote:
Double-layer, recessed punchboard (as in Scythe and Dinosaur Island) is a popular idea of what should have been done. But the overlooked upside of cardstock mats is that they stay flat, whereas punchboard can warp.


True again, there are definitely trade-offs with each option, I don't know if there is a perfect solution. I have liked cardstock mats in other games, but I have trouble with it in this game particularly since you keep track of resource production and acquired resources on the same mat.

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Todd Kauk
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I didn't really like my experience with the physical game. It was too long and too fiddly with lots of randomness. But I am very excited for the app!

Those niggles will be taken care of in the app and I'll be able to play it in 15-20 minutes probably! =)
 
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Eric B
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JohnnySchmaser wrote:
The player mats are my biggest gripe too. I've looked around and the solution I like most is not available. For a set of five, the acrylic ones are just as expensive as the game itself!

I wish the publisher would come up with their own solution. Maybe something like Dinosaur Island's?


Have you seen the Scythe player mats? IMO something like this would have been super nice.
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Richard Young
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JohnnySchmaser wrote:
The player mats are my biggest gripe too. I've looked around and the solution I like most is not available. For a set of five, the acrylic ones are just as expensive as the game itself!

I wish the publisher would come up with their own solution. Maybe something like Dinosaur Island's?
Although care taken when playing is a perfectly viable solution (viz Eclipse), a much more affordable add-on than the acrylic offerings is available here: https://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/472884308/5-terraforming-mar...
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Chris Marlow
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For me, the problems with the components are not so much the quality, which seems fine, but the design choices. I'd have much preferred to see the gold, silver, and copper cubes replaced with cardboard counters. Obviously, using the little cubes as markers on the player boards is terrible, which was probably a cost cutting measure. The cards are OK. To be honest, no matter how good your cards are the only way to reliably protect them is with sleeves isn't it.
Luckily, the player boards can be mounted on MDF, and pins used as track markers for modest cost and effort. But I can't see a realistically priced way to replace the gold/silver/copper cubes with counters
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Bruno
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marlowc wrote:
For me, the problems with the components are not so much the quality, which seems fine, but the design choices. I'd have much preferred to see the gold, silver, and copper cubes replaced with cardboard counters. Obviously, using the little cubes as markers on the player boards is terrible, which was probably a cost cutting measure. The cards are OK. To be honest, no matter how good your cards are the only way to reliably protect them is with sleeves isn't it.
Luckily, the player boards can be mounted on MDF, and pins used as track markers for modest cost and effort. But I can't see a realistically priced way to replace the gold/silver/copper cubes with counters


I actually love the gold/silver/copper cubes and the fact they are of different sizes. Only gripe is that after some use they are starting to show some wear.
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Bruno
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100% agreed on the drafting point. The drafting variant is way too overrated and I understand that it is not even favored by the designer himself!
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