Designer: Jacob Fryxelius

You lead a corporation that stands on the precipice of colonizing Mars, probably for the express purpose of strip mining it aggressively. However, to do so, you’ll need to earn resources and money to engage in various tactics that make the planet more livable, which includes tactics such as developing predators that eat your opponent’s pets, and frequently throwing a wide variety of asteroids at the planet’s surface. You know, for fun!

The core mechanic of the game is to purchase cards, and then spend resources to put them in your tableau in front of you, which generally makes you more efficient and helps you to heat the planet, provide it oxygen, and colonize it. As you play cards, you’ll try to maximize synergies, which means it very much is what many consider an engine-building game.

Interesting Mechanic: Starter Corporations.  It seems like a minor thing, but I love the way they handle corporations for new players. In most games, you ask new players to choose a role, class or whatever before they understand the game. This creates an early bit of choice paralysis for those players, and a sense of dread they aren’t playing the game correctly because they miss the trigger or using powers they have. Terraforming Mars gets around this by creating very simple Starting Corporations that players can choose for their first game. This corporation gives them a mass of money and a wad of early cards, but has no ongoing benefits to track beyond this. While these corporations are nowhere near as powerful or useful as the other Corporations, they eliminate the early problems for learning players, so those players can instead focus on what’s in their hand, and learning the game in general.

Terraforming Mars is really one of my favorite games right now, and one of the real pleasant surprises of the last year. It does tend to get a little long if you play with the expert cards that come in the base box, but in general, no one seems to mind the longer game if it’s not their first. Highly recommended.

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(Photo Credit: Geek & Sundry)