This week’s Saturday #GameNight brought Terraforming Mars (Stronghold Games, 2016) to the RockyMountainNavy gaming table. This game, currently ranked #12 on the BoardGameGeek “Hotness,” has been out for a while. The game was strongly recommended by Uwe Eickert at @AcademyGames to me way back in August as a good engine-building, resource management game. I was a bit slow to acquire (hey, even I have a budget…as much as Mrs. RMN tells me I exceed it) and only this month got the game to the table.
As the publisher’s blurb for Terraforming Mars (TM) puts it:
In the 2400s, mankind begins to terraform the planet Mars. Giant corporations, sponsored by the World Government on Earth, initiate huge projects to raise the temperature, the oxygen level, and the ocean coverage until the environment is habitable. InTerraforming Mars, you play one of those corporations and work together in the terraforming process, but compete for getting victory points that are awarded not only for your contribution to the terraforming, but also for advancing human infrastructure throughout the solar system, and doing other commendable things.
Our first game was 3-player with each using the Beginner Corporations. There were several rules mistakes made including a major faux pas of not counting budget right the first few Generations (turns). This is because the game arrived Thursday and I rushed it to the table after just reading the rulebook twice and only looking at one How-to-Play video. I also failed to adequately explain the various Milestones and Awards meaning that some were missed or scored differently than all players understood. That said, the game is not overly complex and the problems we had are the fault of me rushing and not a negative reflection of the rules. Once we got the budget right the game started to click right along; I think playing in the advertised 60-90 minutes may be possible.
Cards & Actions
The cards in TM are also incredibly thematic; more then a few times we had short halts in the game to discuss what the events on the cards were describing. RMN Mom really likes listening to this part of our game nights because it demonstrates the teaching power of games. The incredible variety of Actions (Standard or Cards) ensures that there is no “one way” to win and that no two games of TM will ever be alike.
I had read some criticism about the component quality in TM. Suffice it to say that I generally agree with the critics. I will definitely be sleeving these cards. The RMN Boys and I are already looking at GamerTrayz to replace the Player Mats. We do like the footprint of the game; this game can be played on a 3’x3′ card table if necessary.
Component quality aside, Terraforming Mars is a spectacular game that has already earned a repeat slot in our family game night line-up. It is also another tangible piece of evidence of my evolution as a gamer. One year ago if you asked me if I was ever going to play an engine-building game (loosely) based on science about terraforming a planet I would of asked how many space battleships were involved. These days I cannot see our family game night without games like Terraforming Mars landing on the table because of their incredible game play and teaching potential.