My Favourite Boardgames [Terraforming Mars] A Quick Review


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. In Terraforming 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.


  • 1–5 Players
  • 90–120 Min
  • Age: 12+
  • Designer – Jacob Fryxelius
  • Artist – Isaac Fryxelius
  • Publisher – Stronghold Games

Is there life on Mars?

IMG_6409Photo taken by Katie Aidley

My initial reaction to this game as I sat down at a friends house, ready to play was “Oh, not another space game”…… however this is probably one of my favourite games of 2016. I’d even go as far to say one of my favourite games, EVER. Yes, I said it and I am standing by it, this is one of my favourite games EVER.  At BGGCon last year, I played it three times within 24 hours and it has the perfect mix of tile placement, engine building and card drafting  that make for a very enjoyable game and a definitely worthy of being runner up in the Golden Geek awards.

Anybody that knows me or reads my blog will  know that I’m not usually a big lover of thematic games, it isn’t the first thing I think of when choosing a game, well apart from trains however this game got the theme SPOT ON and without sounding too obvious, you really ARE terraforming Mars during the game, I love the way you are working together to do this whilst also trying to win in your own right. This game doesn’t just feel like an engine builder with a theme stuck onto it at all, which was definitely one of my worries when first playing the game. 

Something that can be frustrating but can equally be what wins you the game, is the engine building involved. You could be doing really well for the first two thirds of the game, producing heat or ramping up the oxygen levels however sometimes you can just stall. I’ve found in a couple of the games that I’ve been doing pretty well then all of a sudden, just hit a brick wall and had to think on my feet and come up with a new strategy. For me, that’s something I find enjoyable in a game but it can be frustrating when you’ve spent the last hour or two working towards something.

One thing that initially put me off the game was the quality of the components and game pieces. Some people think the art is a bit tacky and dated but I actually really love the way it  looks unfortunately after only a couple of plays though, the cards and tiles started to become a bit shabby. The player mats are thin and flimsy and the once glistening resource cubes are already chipped and are looking a bit sorry for themselves. You know what though, it doesn’t matter.  It does not take away from how much I love the game and it certainly proves that looks don’t always count. I would highly recommend sleeving your cards straight away though and potentially forking out for the insert and game mat overlays. 


IMG_6371Photo taken by Katie Aidley

The players acquire unique project cards (from over two hundred different ones) by buying them to their hand. The projects (cards) can represent anything from introducing plant life or animals, hurling asteroids at the surface, building cities, to mining the moons of Jupiter and establishing greenhouse gas industries to heat up the atmosphere. The cards can give you immediate bonuses, as well as increasing your production of different resources. Many cards also have requirements and they become playable when the temperature, oxygen, or ocean coverage increases enough. Buying cards is costly, so there is a balance between buying cards (3 megacredits per card) and actually playing them (which can cost anything between 0 to 41 megacredits, depending on the project). Standard Projects are always available to complement your cards.

Your basic income, as well as your basic score, is based on your Terraform Rating (starting at 20), which increases every time you raise one of the three global parameters. However, your income is complemented with your production, and you also get VPs from many other sources.

Each player keeps track of their production and resources on their player boards, and the game uses six types of resources: MegaCredits, Steel, Titanium, Plants, Energy, and Heat. On the game board, you compete for the best places for your city tiles, ocean tiles, and greenery tiles. You also compete for different Milestones and Awards worth many VPs. Each round is called a generation (guess why) and consists of the following phases:

1) Player order shifts clockwise.
2) Research phase: All players buy cards from four privately drawn.
3) Action phase: Players take turns doing 1-2 actions from these options: Playing a card, claiming a Milestone, funding an Award, using a Standard project, converting plant into greenery tiles (and raising oxygen), converting heat into a temperature raise, and using the action of a card in play. The turn continues around the table (sometimes several laps) until all players have passed.
4) Production phase: Players get resources according to their terraform rating and production parameters.

When the three global parameters (temperature, oxygen, ocean) have all reached their goal, the terraforming is complete, and the game ends after that generation. Count your Terraform Rating and other VPs to determine the winning corporation!

Taken from Boardgame Geek – Terraforming Mars

Final Thoughts

So there you have it, Terraforming Mars. Definitely a solid game in my opinion and definitely one to have in the game collection, if you can get your hands on a copy!

A few design and component flaws but as I said earlier, perfect gameplay and very enjoyable. 

I’ve played this game many times, and will continue to do so with all different group sizes however personally I thought that this game played the best with 3 or 4 players.

Thank you for reading, and hopefully see you again soon.



5 comments on “My Favourite Boardgames [Terraforming Mars] A Quick Review”

  1. Good write up. It’s among my most played, and for all the reasons you pointed out. Looking forward to your other reviews.

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