Terraforming Mars is a strategy board game. In the far future, corporations are terraforming Mars in order to make it habitable. Each player chooses their own corporation to represent, and you all compete against each other to be the first to transform Mars into a hospitable environment by raising three global parameters: oxygen, ocean coverage, and temperature.
During gameplay, players purchase project cards using the in-game currency known as megacredits. These cards represent over 200 different terraforming projects from introducing plant or animal life, putting up cities, establishing greenhouse gas based industries to heat up the atmosphere, and more. These card provide immediate bonuses and also increase your capacity to produce resources: megacredits, steel, titanium, plants, energy and heat.
The corporation that is the first to successfully terraform the planet by raising the three global parameters to their goal is the winner.
Ranked in these QuestionsQuestion Ranking
Pro Exciting feeling of progression
The constant anticipation and sense that you're working towards a goal is very pronounced. At the start of the game, you'll have limited money and resources, but as the game progresses and these resources accumulate, you can start to do more and more things each turn. Seeing your strategy slowly start to pay off as your corporation grows, and knowing you'll soon have the resources to unleash your big play helps to keep you excited for the next round.
Pro Theme and gameplay gel well
Pro Huge amount of strategy
Juggling your resources, money, and production against your opponent's actions as you try to satisfy the win conditions (getting the oxygen, temperature, and ocean coverage to their desired levels) can be pretty intense. Always having to think several turns ahead will definitely appeal to people who like a game that makes them strategize and prioritize. Choosing which cards to buy each round, what to spend your resources on, and how to terraform the planet without giving too much leeway to your opponents creates plenty of situations to outplay others.
Pro Loads of replayability
There are over 200 unique project cards in the game that represent all of the terraforming projects available such as introducing plant or animal life, greenhouses, new buildings, and more.
Since you'll be drawing random cards in a random order each time you play, each and every game session turns into a unique experience. Even if you've seen a card in a previous session, the conditions on the board (oxygen levels, temperature, and ocean coverage) will most likely be different than the last time you saw that particular card, meaning you'll be calculating the cost vs. benefit of playing that card in a brand new way.
Additionally, each player-controlled corporation has its own specialties. Some examples are being able to substitute certain resources for money, or perhaps having an increase in production for specific resource. Each one plays dramatically different from the others, so something as simple as choosing a new corporation on your next playthrough will change your strategies.
Pro Great balance in the game systems
The win condition states the oxygen, ocean levels, and temperature must reach a certain level. However, all three of these parameters are interconnected with one another, meaning you'll have to focus on all of them rather than just trying to brute force one.
For example, if you want to build a water production facility, you will need at least 2 ocean tiles in play. But in order for those ocean tiles to come into play, the oxygen and temp will first have to be satisfactory.
Overall, the game systems are very deep and complex, but the takeaway is that everything has a condition that needs to be met that is reliant upon all three parameters. This results in a very balanced experience where you need to pay heed to everything equally if you want to succeed.
Pro Lots of great expansions
There are several expansion packs which add new moons and planets for you to terraform. The rules and game flow is the same as the vanilla game, but they add new cards and corporations. The most interesting twist is that the board layouts are completely different for each expansion - with heat sources, oceans, etc in vastly different spots. They are an excellent addition that take the fun and excitement of the base game while giving you an all new playing field full of new possibilties.
Con Games can feel very long and drawn out
The sheer amount of things that need to be tracked is fairly high, and continually grows in complexity as the game goes on. Keeping track of cards in play, actions, awards, milestones, map, resources, money, etc. can lead to some intense calculations. Most players will want to carefully ponder their strategy each turn, and the end result is a game that often seems like it comes to a grinding halt.
Con The board is flimsy
The game board itself is very thin cardboard with no linen finish, and tends to dent easily. After enough wear and tear, the game tokens/pieces won't stay in place due to the lumps and pockets that form in the cardboard. The board must be handled carefully at all times due to its low quality or you risk damaging it.
Con Game pieces are cheap and wear down easily
The little game cubes (the tokens/pieces that represent resources) are coated with a metallic finish that chips and wears away easily. This leaves you with some rather ugly game pieces with flaking and peeling paint, especially in the corners.
Con Not suited for large groups
Regardless of how many players you have, getting the oxygen, temperature, and ocean levels to their goal level to satisfy the win condition is the exact same. The more players you add to this equation, the longer the game will take as each person has to contemplate and think their strategy each turn. As such, this game is best played in only very small groups and doesn't lend itself well to larger parties.