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Terraforming Mars - Tony's Top 5 Board Games

by Tony Webb on August 15, 2020

The Meeple Design website has been live for almost a year now and during that time we have been focussed on our designs but are also gradually finding time to update our blog with more regularity. Therefore, we thought it was about time we added the obligatory 'favourite board games' post. It should give an idea about our thought process behind buying new board games, I will admit that sometimes we like something shiny, and hopefully a bit of insight into why we started Meeple Design. There will my top 5 games and Hannah's top 5 games as well. I am sure the list will be different and even if there are crossovers I think the reason we like the games will vary as well.

It is difficult to pick my favourite 5 games, as there are so many that I enjoy playing and a few that I need to play more of before I can confidently say they are among my favourite games. The 5 games that I have picked are partly because they play well with 2 players and I play most often with 2 players, even pre-pandemic. It is quite clear from the 5 games that I have picked that I am a big fan of euro style games. 

In order to provide a bit more detail about each game and why I like it, I will be publishing an article for each game. They are in no particular order as it was difficult enough to narrow down to only 5 games. My top 5 games are:

  • Terraforming Mars
  • Brass Lancashire
  • The Castles of Burgundy
  • Great Western Trail
  • Raj of the Ganges

 

Players: 1 to 5
Play Time: 120 minutes
Board Game Geek Rank: 4
I have not played this as much as I would like to, partly due to unplayed games on our shelf and also due to it being heavy game which requires the time to play, similar to other games on my list. It is a euro game with heavy card play and resource management where you take control of a corporation whose aim is to Terraform Mars, as the name suggests. You spend most of the game increasing the planet temperature, oxygen and water levels on the central board by adjusting the levels or adding tiles to Mars.

There are 4 phases each round; 1) player turn order changes 2) draw new cards into your hand 3) take actions by playing cards, converting resources, claiming game end point objectives or using cards in your tableau 4) gather resources based on your production and terraform rating. One of the reasons I enjoy the game so much is that the phases are fairly straightforward to pick up but the complexity is in the cards. Every card in the game is unique with a wide range of effects and you need to ensure that you are creating effective synergies in the cards you choose to keep and play. In phase 2 every card you choose to keep costs you credits, there aren’t many games that I have played that make you consider whether you even want to keep a card in your hand, let alone then paying the cost to use it. If you get a great card early on that is expensive to play, do you keep it knowing that it will be a while before you can play ?! But there is no use playing that expensive card if it doesn’t work well with cards that you have already played. Terraforming Mars is a slow burn game where in early turns you aren’t actually able to do that much but as you progress and build your resources, you feel as if you are able to take epic turns where you can perform all kinds of crazy combinations. It is also a rare game in that you feel like you are able to take several turns where your engine is in full flow, in a lot of other euro games I find that the game ends just as your engine is getting started.

As with every game there are always some negatives and I would be remiss not to point them out, even in the games that I love. Terraforming Mars is an expensive game, but the components do not reflect the cost of the game. The player boards are used to store resources and track your production values of each resource however they are made if flimsy cardboard and unfortunately do not do a good job of tracking production values as they markers are easily knocked. There are cubes to denote different values of resources which look great but unfortunately the paint on the cubes easily scratches off. The card stock quality is not great, although there are a lot of cards, the artwork on the cards is inconsistent. Nevertheless, I am personally a fan of the artwork used but it is a mixture of drawn artwork and seemingly stock pictures easily found on the internet. There was a recent Kickstarter with deluxe components and there are shops on Etsy that you can purchase some good game upgrades from, such as player board overlays. We will be adding an article for our favourite board games with the our recommended game upgrade purchases so watch out for that. However, overall I would say the quality of the game play more than makes up for the component quality and I have no problem spending a bit extra money on Terraforming Mars.

Finally, there are many expansions available for Terraforming Mars. Some change the board, add sideboards with extra rules or additional cards/ corporations. The only expansion I currently own is Prelude which adds additional corporations and speeds up the start of the game, giving everyone a unique bonus at the beginning of the game, essentially removing the early engine building aspect. I have not played with the expansion yet but heard it speeds up the game due to the removal of the initial engine building aspect.

As fans of Terraforming Mars and Sci-Fi in general we have created our own MeepleDesign travel style and silhouette posters to decorate your gaming space with as well as unique apparel designs. All of which are available exclusively from Meeple Design - check them out here.

**Our blog is supported by fans of Meeple Design. If you buy through a link, we may earn an affiliate commission.**

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