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Terraforming Mars is a recent (2016) game developed by Fryxgames which is a family run gaming company (“FryxGames consists of 4 brothers out of a family of 10 brothers, 6 sisters, and 2 game-passionate parents.“). I first heard about it when it was nominated for some 2016 Golden Geek Awards (Game of the Year, Strategy Board Game, and Solo Board Game). It was later nominated for even more awards (2016 Swiss Gamers Award, 2017 Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming, 2017 Jogo do Ano, and 2017 Kennerspiel des Jahres). Given all the hubbub, I decided to take a look.

I watched a gaming session on and it seemed intriguing. I put it on my Amazon wishlist and hoped it would magically make its way to me. And that is in fact what happened, as I received Terraforming Mars as a birthday gift.

Terraforming Mars is an Engine Builder game, meaning that you are building your own engine to power you through the game. In this case you have several production aspects:

  1. Money – Even in the future you have to buy things
  2. Steel – Which counts for $2 when building Building projects
  3. Titanium – Which counts for $3 when building Space projects
  4. Plants
  5. Energy – Which is converted to heat at the end of each generation
  6. Heat

Terra Mystica is also sort of an Engine Builder, since what you build helps determine what you produce, but that involves much more Tile Placement. Terraforming Mars has some Tile Placement, but it doesn’t seem as significant as it is in Terra Mystica.

Terraforming takes lots of time, so every round is a generation. Chubby Unicorn and I have played 2 games thus far and both times it has taken 2 hours and 10-11 generations to reach the 3 end goals of +8 degrees Celsius Mean Temperature at the Equator, 14% Oxygen Content, and 9% surface area Ocean Coverage.

During each round (other than the first) you will review 4 research projects (cards) and allocate funding ($3@) for some, all, or none of them. Those that are funded go into your hand and you can later build those projects. After the Research phase is the actual playing phase: you build projects (from your hand or the standard projects on the board), claim milestones, and/or fund awards. Once each player has passed, you enter the production phase, where you get the resources you are currently entitled to receive. Then the 1st player token is passed and the generation marker advances and you start back with the Research Phase.

We’ve only played with 2 players thus far, and the gameplay moves pretty quickly. I’m sure there would be downtime as you add more players, but overall (from what I’ve read online at least) it seems like more players doesn’t stretch the playing time too much, as the end goals do not change, and you have more people contributing toward them.

One last thing I want to mention, this game really needs a 3rd party supplement for the player boards. Putting the little cubes on a piece of paper causes issues in the event of any table bump, even a minor one. I’ve already ordered an acrylic player board off of etsy. Once they arrive and we get a chance to try them out I’m sure I’ll be giving them a write up.

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