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Doug's Dungeon - Terraforming Mars

Man, that Elon Musk guy is everything I wanted to be when I thought a career in engineering lead you to being a literal Tony Stark. Minus the honestly impractical suit (lets be real, Stark can pilot the suit remotely and therefore always should… y’know, like a drone) Musk dreams BIG. The biggest of these thought biggies is to colonize Mars. The planet. The frozen, red wasteland of nothingness in space. Now I don’t doubt the guy’s ambitions or resources for the job, no sir. You just gotta understand, it’s a big job. For us to comfortably netflix at home on Mars, we are gunna need to do a little housework… planetwork. The more scientific term would be ‘terraforming’. Terraforming Mars. CUE THE OBLIGATORY BOARD GAME ABOUT THIS VERY ACT:



Yes that’s right, Terraforming Mars is a game about doing the very thing the title says, and nothing else. You have to respect that. If only Terra Mystica was called “dig up the land for your houses and not other people’s houses” it might get more sales. Each player represents a space-faring corporation. Each of these faceless industries compete to have the most credit for making Mars a habitable home for Harrys and Heathers. The core of the game is about achieving the very real milestones we may one day perform on the red planet. Raise the temperature. Fill the canyons with water (Oceans are just very wet holes in the ground). Pump some of that sweet oxygen all over the place. And finally, blanket the red with greenery and cities. And make sure to ask Amazon to set up a new headquarters somewhere there.



There’s a bunch of things that need tracking in a game of Terrorizing Martin. Every player is acquiring resources each round and stashing them on their tableau. These resources get spent on generic actions and playing cards from your hand. The cards range from cultivating grass to the construction of huge mega-cities. Resources like steel are used in placed of money (and is more valuable) when doing construction projects, while titanium is spent on space stuff (satellites and trying to find the edge of Kanye West’s ego). Cards you play not only earn you victory points for the end-game, but also affect your resource incomes (positively AND negatively). You may have guessed by now that Trademarking Marriage is an engine building game. Well it is. A really over-the-top one.




Every act you perform that pushes Mars closer to being the human race’s next trash heap grants you more Terraforming Rating. This rating serves as the basis of your money income AND a source of victory points. So everyone will end up pitching in. thing is, not everything you do will escalate life on the planet. You may have to sacrifice being in the good boy terraforming books just to get your resource income online, or maybe you just really want to build those cities on Mars’s moons. And who wanted to terraform anyways huh? Thing is, if you go too green, you end up just making it easier for your opponents to put their advanced projects online faster (example: some greedy jerk might wait for you to do all the ‘breathable air’ stuff and just sweep in and say “hey guys look at me I made insects! I’m the coolest!”).


The card grabbing phase in Tearing Mark is the most skill intensive part of the game. Players need to pay for each card they want to grab of the 4 they are dealt, and some can just end up sitting in their hands, holding you up. Take too few cards, however, and you’ll be twiddling your thumbs while Jerry is over there cultivating bacteria. The corporations you play as have their own abilities to use as well. Each changes your starting resources and can greatly affect which milestones and awards you can race for. Oh yes, in addition to showing off what a good boy or girl you are for making Mars into tomorrow’s traffic jam, you can go ahead and fund awards to pat yourself on the back. Now bear in mind, just funding an award doesn’t give it to you. Rather, you need to confirm you’re gonna have the most cities (for example) by the end of the game.






Milestones are just a race to see who did the thingy first, however. You still have to drop some cash and time, but the victory points are worth it. All together Terminating Martha is a hell of a game that has a fair amount of replayability. If you like the idea of making an apple pie from scratch into a thriving civilization, this is a game for you. Build your engine, and then exploit it. That’s all! The expansion boards are popping up as well, offering new sides of Mars to colonize. As for me, hopefully with enough plays of this game, I’ll be able to apply to Tesla. But I doubt they’ll let me in.

I’ll be too overqualified by then.


Don't own Terraforming Mars yet? No problem, you can find it on our webstore here.



Doug Moore

I'm an avid lover of all things table top. I also have a growing collection of board games which inspire me to create my own. I put my loud and expressive personality to good use as a dungeon master for my friends, having run many campaigns through 4th and 5th edition D&D. 

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