Terraforming Mars

This is now one of my favorite games. In some ways it almost feels like a cooperative game, in that you’re all working to (surprise) Terraform Mars and make it habitable for colonists. Of course it’s not really coop at all… Yes you all are working together to improve the oxygen content, heat up the atmosphere and seed oceans to turn Mars green. However whenever you accomplish one of these tasks it improves your Terraforming Rating which leads to higher profits, and of course the accolades over everyone who wants to move to your section of Mars.

One of the things I particularly love about this game is that there are a wide variety of routes to winning. Doing a thing better than someone else will likely lead to you contributing the most to that factor which leads both directly and indirectly to more victory points. Want to build cities? Cover the planet in greenery? Fund Science? Achieve milestones? Just be the richest? All of these things can contribute to victory. There are two decks of cards, the regular one (about 150 cards) and the Corporate Era expansion (about 80) and every card is unique.


Now rather than try and explain the rules I think it might be better to talk about some optional rules. One of them is actually in the rule book, and that’s draft the research every turn. If you’ve got anyone who has not played before you’ll definitely want to skip this… drafting requires a bit of knowledge about the game, and will give just way too big of an advantage to someone who knows how all the mechanisms interact. On the other hand once everyone has a game or two under their belt, it only adds a little time to the game, but improves the game greatly. For starters you have much less chance of getting straight up hosed by a bad draw (instead you get hosed by your neighbors hate drafting when there’s nothing they want) and second it makes it a lot easier to build towards the strategy you want instead of just having to take what the deck gives you.

However an additional optional rule I made up is drafting the initial cards. Again, don’t do this if anyone has never played before, but my suggestion is for the initial 10 cards do two 6 card drafts, discarding the last card of each. One draft left, and one right. Then you buy from those 10 cards as usual, except it’ll be a much more agonizing choice of what to buy because you’ll have had much greater choice in what to take. This also vastly decreases the chance that someone will get a terrible start. And when a game takes 2-3 hours to play you really don’t want to start the game hosed.

I understand the game has finally been reprinted, so if you can get a hold of copy for retail definitely pick this up. You might also want to look into some kind of third party player boards… There are some nice 3D printer files out there if you’ve got access, but you can also get some CNC acrylic or wooden boards. There are also a few DIY projects posted on Board Game Geek using magnets which works pretty well. I made some boards out of drywall corner (flattened) and thick cardstock with a printout glued on top and it works pretty well. Definitely you’ll want some kind of improved player board unless you have a very sturdy table and are careful not to bump things.

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