THE EXPERIENCE TRACKER
Welcome to the Experience Tracker.
While our site doesn't offer in-depth reviews for games, The Experience Tracker will be giving you insight into our thoughts and experiences on all the highlights from our table.
MARS, MARS, MARS, MARS, MAAAAAAARS!!
You have perhaps heard of this Terraforming Mars by one Jacob Fryxelius.
I will now talk about this game.
Let me start by saying that I am feeling hot to touch anything Fryxelius on cool-sounding name alone. It actually sounds like a new alien race expansion for Joseph's favorite, Twilight Imperium: "The Fryxelius demand an end to your egregious trade agreement, or their forces will move immediately on Rex!!"
TM is a lovely game for lovely people that can be played in 2.5-3 hours and is my current favorite engine-building Euro and also has a strange appeal for new players. This sentence is not a run-on sentence.
TM is my first board game where the included cards are the game in the game - the board itself actually being somewhat secondary. See, it's all about the projects here, folks! I love, love, love the gobs of variety brought forth by the 200+(!) unique project cards. In fact, after ten or so plays, I just saw a card I'd never seen before. Love that. The interplay between copious resource management and budgeting/planning for mid/late-game focus-changing is so satisfying.
So, yeah: those who prefer heroism and thick adventure theme-ing in their entertainments won't find much to push their buttons here, as evidenced by a handful of my friends' ambivalence for this piece. Those who like the potential to thread economic systems whilst focusing their timing to eke out victories (through many different paths) will be deliciously flummoxed and delighted.
The game that Joseph and I just played was my first time using the drafting mechanic, and wow was it a doozy. He crushed it. I can't remember the score, but Jett is a canny player who will always give anyone a good run for their money in a strat-jam. So canny, in fact, that he blocked nearly every useful card from my hand, leaving me absolutely pants-less.
Finally, I gotta say that while Joseph's not far off regarding the scattershot art, I find it hard to fault the game considering that there are so many unique cards in the box. Perhaps future versions of this gem will go all out with a truly dedicated style? I'm not chuffed, either way.
As long as I've got my pants.
Terraforming Mars is a game that is intriguing and deep and also frustratingly visually lifeless. I’d never completely dismiss a game because of its lack of artistic spark, though it does take away from the immersion into a world you genuinely wish you could know more about. The action of turning a barren wasteland into a lush forest with colonies and animals immediately evokes an array of visual images - few of which you’ll find within this box. The board is uninteresting, if effective, and gives only the information you need while not giving any additional flavor or detail. The cards can be downright ugly and rarely give you a hint at the broader universe you’re playing in.
It’s a shame that these things, I have no doubt, keep some players from picking the game up because once you get past the confines of the games visuals there’s a truly intriguing and deep game with resource management, planning, and vast choice. A win is uniquely satisfying and is a culmination of a groundwork well laid.
The game is functional with two players and will teach you how to win in bigger matches but it shines with 4, offering a board state that’s constantly changing and threats always looming from all sides.
It’s easy to return Terraforming Mars to the table - but not because you’re lured back into a rich world that sucks you into a narrative. Rather you’re invested because of the story each game manages to build on the board itself, the asteroids that came raining down on your neighbor, the population of microbes you managed to build that combined with another card to harvest finances for you each round. It’s a complicated game for being medium weight and lends itself to multiple play-throughs with the same group so that players can begin playing with the corporations and more advanced set of cards - a step that honestly ups the games intricacy significantly.
The red planet may not shine on its own here - but that won’t matter once you’re playing a cutthroat third game with a group of players who all know what they’re doing.