Board Game Review: Terraforming Mars

Board Game Review:

Terraforming Mars

Rating: 8.6 out of 10 stars


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Terraforming Mars is my favorite board game. I am willing to admit it has its shortcomings, but it is my go-to game when choosing what to play. I very rarely win. In fact, I have only won it once, and I took a picture as a memento. (Picture on left.)

The fact that I love the game despite constantly losing it says a lot about the game. It’s a game that makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something no matter what your score.


What I hope to accomplish with my board game reviews is to introduce you to a new game and help you determine whether the game is a good fit for you. I will consider and rank five criteria: gameplay, design, strategy, originality, and replayability.


Terraforming Mars is a strategy board game for 1-5 players. It utilizes mechanics such as hand management, engine building, and set collection. The theme is set in the year 2400, when various corporations are attempting to increase their profits by making Mars habitable.

Gameplay (10 out of 10 stars)

It’s a pretty complex game, but I’ll try to simplify it here. Obviously for the complete rules, consult the instruction booklet that comes with the game.

Basically, during the game you are trying to boost your terraforming rating as much as possible. You can do this by using cards to build your corporate empire, using tiles to transform the surface of Mars, boosting the temperature, increasing the oxygen level on the planet, or creating oceans.

The cards are varied and include those that boost your production levels, those that introduce animals or plants to the planet, those that allow you to hurl meteorites and asteroids at your foes, those that can be played again as actions each generation, those that reduce the cost of future cards, etc.

You can fund awards or reach achievements to gain endgame points as well as gain bonuses for placement of tiles.

The corporations give beginning of the game bonuses as well as powers that can affect gameplay.

Design (5 out of 10 stars)

Design includes two categories: art and components.

The art leaves much to be desired. Much of it is from free stock photos. All the photos fit the theme, but they could’ve done better.

The components are mostly pretty good, except the player mats. The player mat shown in the picture above is from a kickstarter, mostly because the originals were basically unusable, so flat that pieces would constantly be moving around. It was hard to remember what level all my stats were at, so until we got the kickstarter player boards, we would use a separate piece of paper to keep track of stats.

Strategy (10 out of 10 stars)

The strategy level is high in this game because you have so many options. Will you focus on increasing your Mega Credit production, or on titanium or steel? Will you mostly plant greeneries or build cities, carve out oceans or raise the temperature? Which corporation will you choose? When will you invest in cards and when will you save your mega credits for the next opportunity? Do you sabotage opponents and risk retaliation or play it safe?

Originality/Creativity (9 out of 10 stars)

The game mechanics are pretty original when paired with the theme. I don’t know of any other Mars-themed games that can stand up to this one.

Replayability (9 out of 10 stars)

I would replay this anytime, but I know not everyone would. Its length usually lasts longer than the 2 hours suggested, even with our house rules that shorten the game. (In our house, we start with 1 production on each track on the player boards and do not have to buy our initial cards.) The length does make it hard to replay unless we are planning ahead.


I fully recommend this game, but caution that it is not for everyone. If you like medium-weight engine-building games, this is probably a good one for you.

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