The quiz picture this time is of a new game that has some lovely pieces.
The last quiz picture was not guessed at all, it was a pizza slice from Macroscope, the game is about identifying a hidden picture, the pizza slice is the example in the rules and is the picture used when explaining to others how to play.
Now onto the last 3 weeks of game.
Terraforming Mars has been getting a lot of favourable press and I have to agree that it is a very interesting game and one that I have become quite fond of. The basic idea is that players are corporations who have been charged with Terraforming the planet Mars, in doing so they collect victory points from various sources and the player with the most points at games end wins.
The players each receive a corporation board on which they record their production ability of cash, steel, titanium, plant growth, energy and heat, the player board also records the players stored resources of these six items. The game board consists of one face of the planet Mars upon which the players place hexagonal tiles as they terraform it and three gauges, the first is the temperature of the planet starting at -30 degrees, the oxygen level, starting at zero and the players terraform rating which doubles as victory points and part of their corporations cash income.
The driving mechanism of the game is a large deck of cards (I will come to them last of all) which are used to obtain resources and set up “victory point engines”, at the start of every round players are dealt 4 cards of which they may keep or discard as many as they wish, then players take turns to take 2 actions, however the players keep taking turns of 2 actions until everyone has passed, after this everyone produces and a new round starts. The game ends when all sea tiles have been played and the oxygen and temperature scales have maxed out, players continue taking actions but that becomes the final round.
Taking a round in a little more detail players are dealt 4 cards, they may keep as many as they like but each card kept costs 3 cash, as income at the start of the game is only 20 per turn initial choices of the correct cards is tough and taking them all will leave you hardly any cash to take actions. The choices of actions are numerous, and the possibilities provided by the cards are many-fold, however amongst them a player may take any basic action which consists of raising your energy production by 1 which costs 11, place a forest tile which costs 18, place an Ocean tile costing 20 or place a city tile which costs 25, when placing a tile players collect resources as printed on the board of the space they cover, if they place a forest they also raise the oxygen 1 step and move their TR rating up 1 on the score track (the knock on effect of a TR rise of 1 is 1 extra cash income too), placing any tile next to an Ocean gets you 2 cash straight away, another 2 actions you can take is to spend 8 heat cubes and raise the temperature 1 step (which also raises your TR 1 step) or spend 8 cubes from the plant growth box on your player board to place a forest tile with all the gains that may provide. You may also for an action take an action on a previously played action card in your display, which now brings us to the cards.
The cards (of which there are 208) come in 3 different colours, there are Red one use instant effect cards which after using are placed face down in front of you, there are Green one use instant effect cards which remain face up in front of you and Blue cards which need to remain open face up in front of you as they will either give on ongoing effect throughout the rest of the game or contain an action which you may use once per game round (of which there is usually between 10 and 12 in a 2 or 3 player game). Most (but not all) of the cards come with some circle tags at the tops of the cards, these are important as they provide triggers and knock on effects for cards you may collect later in the game and it is finding and playing a working combination that will gain you extra points at the end of the game, for instance there are several cards which give points for Jovian tags, unfortunately some cards need pre-requisites before they can be played for example oxygen level minimum 4% or needing three science tags in play however it is the cash cost to play the cards that can cause the biggest problems, at the start of the game after paying 3 cash for each card you keep you are usually left with enough to pay to put only one or two cards into play, on the plus side though steel can be used as a 2 cash subsidy for cards with a building tag whilst titanium gives a 3 discount on playing cards with a stellar tag so increasing your mining abilities can be quite beneficial.
The green cards are kept face up for their tags only, however the blue ones can give some interesting benefits from a discount on every future card played, discounts for certain tags to collecting microbes or animals for extra points at the end of the game, however most cards rely to a certain degree on you receiving the correct cards in later deals to augment this benefit, in one game I started with a stock of 10 titanium, however it was 6 turns into the game before I received my second stellar card, and in another I was waiting for 3 science tags to put other cards into play and did not draw a single card with such a tag, both these situations were frustrating and the first was game losing. I have not covered the last 2 actions you may take which is to buy a milestone or fund an award, the milestones give 5 points to the player who fulfils the requirements and claims them (only 3 of the five can be claimed) whilst the rewards give 5 points for whoever fulfils them at the end of the game, again only 3 can be sponsored.
Terraforming Mars is an excellent game, it has a nice mix of set collecting, area control and resource management. Plenty of thought and (to a certain degree) calculation is required in every turn add to that some long term planning, a need to balance resources and expenditure whilst also fighting the tempatation to buy every card that comes your way and you have a cracking game. I have enjoyed it immensely every time i have played, even those that went horribly wrong for me and in my opinion this should be the next Kennerspiele prize winner.