Friday, 21 October 2016

Terra Visions

Last night Andrew, Chris and I sat down to play Terraforming Mars, the big hit at Essen this year. Would it stand up to scrutiny? Because scrutiny is Chris' middle name - he'd prepared for the game intensively, as his clarifications to my rule explanations revealed. I'd watched a couple of reviews and Andrew had done no prep at all. From the get-go we were slightly concerned that Chris seemed to know his Martian onions.

But to the game itself: as the name suggests, players are in the act of turning Mars from a barren wasteland into a garden teeming with life. At the start, we've only just arrived and are merely cracking our corporate knuckles. Then we begin building cities, aquifying oceans and cultivating greenery. When the temperature and oxygen levels reach a certain (habitable) point, and all nine ocean tiles have been placed, the game will end.

early Mars, as seen by Andrew

Meantime we are buying project cards (3 money per pop) and then activating them (variable costs) to either do stuff on the planet itself (the aforementioned terraforming) or bump up your productivity: all players have their own corporate mats that generate money, metal, plant life and energy at the start of each round. You can turn that plant life into greenery hexes and use that energy to heat up the planet. Both reward you with points. You can also spend actions to claim milestones (for stuff you've done) or pay for awards (for stuff you hope to do, or have done and don't want to be out-done). Because of the variety of cards, and the fact you can take either one or two actions on your turn - there's a lot to think about.


Chris surged into an early lead and stayed there. Andrew paid money every round to look for life, and never found it. I generated lots of energy and heat, but kept forgetting I could pay for my expensive cards by using metal rather than money, even though the whole structure of my final round was based on doing so. However even if I'd remembered, I wouldn't have caught Chris, who was decreed the best Terraformer by a very respectable margin:

Chris 80?
Sam 69
Andrew 50something

the vague scores are based on what I remember, and the tantalizing image below.

Andrew's cube hidden top left, Chris' hidden top right

Including rules explanation to Andrew we'd terraformed Mars in just under three hours. Not bad if the human race is ever in trouble, but rather long for a board game. I would hope that play-time is going to drop significantly, as although I enjoyed it a lot, three hours is a bit long for me.

We decided on a quick palette-cleanser to finish on, and busted through a three round game of tournament Raj. I won every round, but the game was most notable for mine and Chris' habit of playing the same card on the negative tiles, ensuring poor Andrew picked them up no matter what tactic he went for:

Sam 84
Chris 45
Andrew 10

And then we played Micro-Robots! My boys love this game of quickly-figuring-out the way to get the robot from one space to another, but it's not for everyone. Chris watched the whole game in silence, broken only once in order to get his move fractionally wrong. "I'm never playing that again!" he announced at the end, in the manner of a man who has better things to do (i.e. terraforming Mars).

Sam 5
Andrew 3
Chris 0

Verdict on Terraforming Mars from me was that it felt like a winner, but one that needed Raj played after it. It's more interactive than it first appears too, as you can beat each other to the punch on numerous things, and even blow each others' resources up! I need to play again soon.


  1. I liked Terraforming Mars a lot. Sorry I didn't do my homework, but the rules weren't too much of a problem, except those cards. It was hard to see how everything gelled together at first, but one I got going, I was fine. I liked seeing how things worked together and although I came last I enjoyed it. I certainly didn't feel like I'd just been shat on like I did after Raj. Thanks, guys.

  2. Not at all Andrew! I was ribbing Chris rather than you, with his pesky 'knowledge'.

    I enjoyed too. Like Viticulture your destiny can depend somewhat in what cards you get, but I suppose that's balanced in part by the fact you can buy far more than you'd ever need...