It is the end of the 22nd century and humanity is not doing all that well. The earth is overcrowded and the raw materials are running out. It is clear that something has to be done and that the solution has to be found outside of earth itself. The world leaders therefore focus their attention on Mars. On this planet it is terribly cold, dry and there is almost no oxygen. But it must be possible to turn this planet into a habitable planet where mankind can build a bright future. The world leaders therefore introduce strong financial bonuses to encourage entrepreneurs to take up this challenge. And you guessed it: you are one of those entrepreneurs in this game.
In Terraforming Mars, a game by FryxGames, the players work on three main goals: raising the temperature, increasing the oxygen content and creating oceans on the Red Planet. In addition, the entrepreneurs also create some forests and cities. This may sound like a cooperative game, but Terraforming Mars is not. The players are awarded for their individual contribution to these goals.
At the beginning of the game all players get a start-up company that determines how much seed capital (money, raw materials) they have in combination with any special promotions that they can use during the game. Everyone will receive ten more cards with possible projects that they could carry out on Mars. The players have to decide which of these projects they want to keep, but you have to pay 3 money for each card you want to keep. And money is scarce in this game, you always have less than you would want. You have to think carefully about which project cards to choose. At the beginning of each round, all players get 4 new project cards to choose from (and indeed you have to pay for it again!).
The game plays out in different rounds. The core of a round is the action phase. In this phase the players may perform a maximum of 2 actions. For example, as an action you can build a project card that you have purchased by paying the price at the top of the card. For example, you could invest in geothermal energy so that your energy production goes up. After that, you would then be able to build one energy production facility in a city and your money income would go up by 3. There are many such shifts in the game: you first build it and then you use it to do something else. In addition to project actions, you can also carry out the standard projects that are shown on the board (for example, building cities, power plants or oceans).
These actions not only improve Mars but also your income. Each player has his own game board in front of which you keep track of your production value for six categories (money, steel, titanium, plants, energy and heat) and on the other side how many units you have produced. In this game no special blocks are made for each category, but you keep everything with copper (value 1), silver (value 5) and gold (value 10) blocks. This system takes some getting used to, but actually works very well once you get the hang of it.
But in the end it’s all about the points in this game and they can be earned in different ways. During the game, you may occasionally increase your Terra Rating as a reward for carrying out a project. Every point that you score in this way is also a point for the final score. During the game you can also score certain bonuses by, for example, being the first to built 3 cities or by having 16 project cards. And then at the end of the game (if the three main goals have been reached) there are also a lot of points to earn for the buildings on Mars: every forest is worth a point and every city is worth as many points as there are forests to lie around it. This can add a lot. Whoever has the most points wins the game (doh).
Conclusion: Is Terraforming Mars Good?
At first I thought that Terraforming Mars would not be for me. The game can easily take more then 2 hours to play, which might be a put off for a lot of people. Long games often drag out to long with losing player feeling like they have nothing to do. Long games can also get to complex very easy. Terraforming Mars is not at all as complex as you think at first sight. There are many different cards in the game that are different, but each card displays very clear how it works. You will also receive only 4 new cards each turn you can choose from, so the amount of information you need to process is also pretty limited. Terraforming Mars gives me the same kind of fun as games like the Settlers of Catan and Agricola in which you are also building something. The game does have a solid playing time, the time really flies by. Terraforming Mars is nonetheless a bit too much for people who only occasionally play a game, but every hardcore game lover will play this game with pleasure.