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Terraforming Mars: A Board Game of Universal Proportions

Updated: Feb 17, 2022

My husband and I have been kind of space focused lately, from the shows we’ve been watching, the books we’ve been reading, to the games that have been hitting the table. This past week, we busted this bad boy out twice. Terraforming Mars. It is definitely in our top 10 games, and I believe at this point we have all of the expansions: Venus Next, Hellas & Elysium, Prelude, Colonies, Turmoil, and Big Box. First, I’ll give a quick bullet list for anyone who wants a brief synopsis, then I’ll get to the wordy bits.


Theme: You are a corporation participating in the Terraforming of Mars (and Venus if you have that expansion) If you are playing with the Prelude expansion you also start with two bonus starting cards that give you more starting resources.


Specs: 1-5 Players, supposedly 120 minutes to play the base game. With two players I’d say that’s fair. Maybe add 10 per additional player. With all games add 30 minutes per child you have in the house. Not playing, just…there…needing things. And an additional 30 for every two adults drinking alcoholic beverages (and an extra 30 for heavy drinkers and lightweights). The expansions can speed up the game. Sometimes. See previous sentences.


Recommended for ages 12+. Not a beginner game, more mid-level difficulty.


Mechanics: Tableau building, end game bonuses, resource management, and tile placement. Some cards are mean to other players. This is known as a “take that” mechanic. But you can easily play without using those cards.


Designed by Jacob Fryxelius and published by Fryx Games.


Would you like to know more? Cool beans! I’m not going to go over every detail, but want to give you a general idea of the game. And I’ve included some very tantalizing photos at the end for your viewing pleasure. Terraforming Mars comes with a base board that is one side of the actual planet of Mars. It’s pretty cool because it has real land features of Mars labeled on it. There are also two additional boards Hellas and Elysium which depict different sides of Mars and different end game bonuses.


The object of the game is to have the most victory points (VPs). You get points by playing cards that are worth VPs, playing cards/taking actions that directly increase your terraforming rate (VP tracker), and by increasing the global parameters that are also game end trackers. Each expansion adds a little something to make the game play faster or throw in a bit of a curve ball. While I love the base game these definitely add value and I am eager to play them with more than two players. Turmoil does just that, it comes with rewards, but also adds a good deal of turmoil, which could make the game take longer. Colonies gives new places and ways to increase your production of resources or get new cards. Venus adds another planet that you are terraforming, which basically means an additional way to increase your terraforming rate faster.


All in all I love the theme. I love the details of the game board and there is flavor text on every card that is fun. I find the rules easy to follow and the player cards give a nice quick glance to remind you of things so you don’t have to constantly refer to the rule book. It’s very intuitive and the iconography is all very clear. We have the Big Box because, um, organization for everything in one box? Yes please!! Having everything fit snuggly into one box instead of four boxes just gives me all the warm and fuzzies. The upgraded components are lovely and really make the game more aesthetically pleasing. Here are those fabulous pictures I promised of the player boards, some cards, and components.




Have you every played Terraforming Mars? What are your thoughts? If you haven’t played, go give it a try!

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