Game Buzz: Mars Colony

In the aftermath of this year’s Spiel, here’s a preview of a couple of games that made an appearance there, as well as at Gen Con.  We’ll start with

image by BGG user EagleEye80
image by BGG user EagleEye80

Terraforming Mars is a game from designer Jacob Fryxelius, published by Stronghold Games.  The game is for 1-5 players and takes 90-120 minutes.  The idea is that we are rebuilding Mars in order to make it habitable for human life.

The game comes with a board, 5 player boards, 17 corporation cards, 208 project cards, 8 reference cards, 200 transparent plastic cubes (player markers), 200 opaque plastic cubes (resource markers), 3 big white plastic cubes (game board markers), 9 ocean tiles, 60 greenery/city tiles, 11 special tiles, and a first player tile.  Each player is dealt two corporations (or a beginner corporation if new to the game) and chooses one.  Each player is also dealt ten project cards, and may keep as many as they like, paying 3 money for each (starting money is determined by your starting corporation).  You take a color and player board, marking one of each type of resource, plus any other bonuses you get from your starting generation.

image by BGG user EagleEye80
image by BGG user EagleEye80

Terraforming Mars takes place over a series of generations.  In each generation, four phases occur – player order, research, actions, and production.

PLAYER ORDER: Pass the first player marker to the left and shift the generation tracker up one.  This is not done in the first generation.

RESEARCH PHASE: Each player draws four project cards and buys as many as he wants to his hand (3 money each).  This phase is also skipped in the first generation.

ACTION PHASE: Here, players will take turns doing 1-2 actions at a time.  Your options are:

  • Play a card from your hand: You must be able to meet the requirements of the card and pay for it.  Any immediate effects are applied right away, and then the cards are placed appropriately – events go face down in a personal pile, green automated cards are placed face up with only their top row visible, and blue active cards (which have ongoing effects or actions that can be used) are placed so the top panel is visible.
  • Use a standard project: There are six available standard projects printed on the board, and these are always available.  You could sell patents (discard cards for money); pay 11 money to increase energy production by one; pay 14 money to increase temperature; pay 18 money to place an ocean; pay 23 money to place a greenery tile to increase oxygen level; or pay 25 money to place a city.
  • Claim a milestone: If you have met the criteria for one of the five milestones (Terraformer with a rating of 35; Mayor owning three city tiles; Gardener owning three greenery tiles; Builder with at least 8 building tags in play; or Planner with at least 16 cards in hand), you can pay 8 money to claim it.  Only one player can claim a milestone, and only three of the five can be claimed.  Each one is worth five points at the end of the game.
  • Fund an award: The first player to fund an award pays 8 money and marks it.  The second one to do it pays 14 money, and the third pays 20.  Only three awards can be funded, and these score points at the end of the game for the person who won it (Landlord for owning the most tiles; Banker for having the highest money production; Scientist for having the most science tags in play; Thermalist for having the most heat resource cubes; and Miner for having the most steel and titanium resource cubes).
  • Use the action on a blue card: Put a player marker on the action you want to use (these can’t be used more than once in a generation), pay the cost, and gain whatever it says to.
  • Convert plants into greenery: You can turn in 8 plant resources to place a greenery tile, which increases the oxygen level by one.
  • Convert heat into temperature: You can turn in 8 heat resources to increase the temperature by one.

If you even don’t do an action on your turn, you won’t get to play again for the rest of the generation.  The action phase ends when all players have passed.

PRODUCTION PHASE: All energy is turned into heat and players get new resources.  You get money based on your terraform rating and money production, plus any resources you produce.  Player markers are removed from actions, and you’re ready for the next generation.

The game ends when the oxygen level has risen high enough for humans to breathe (14%), and when there are enough oceans to allow for Earth-like weather (9), and when the temperature is well above freezing (+8° C).  You get points for your terraform rating, awards, milestones, tiles on the board, and cards.  The highest score wins.

image by BGG user din0derek
image by BGG user din0derek

Terraforming Mars has been getting a lot of buzz.  It seems to be a fairly in depth game, with lots of moving parts.  There seem to be a lot of Mars games these days, but I think this one stands out because it has a really interesting theme.  It’s not just about exploring Mars or straight up colonizing it, but it’s about trying to transform it into a world we can live on.  It’s nice to see a game set in the future that is not about post-apocalyptic zombies or space combat.  It’s a straight-up Euro with a classic sci-fi theme, and it looks fantastic.  Can’t wait to give this one a try sometime.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Colony is a game by Ted Alspach, Toryo Hojo, and Yoshihisa Nakatsu that is being published by Bézier Games.  It’s a game for 1-4 players that takes up to an hour to play.  Colony is a post-apocalyptic dice allocation game where you will be storing dice, buying new structures and trying to score enough points to win.

The game has 30 opaque dice (stable resources), 12 translucent dice (unstable resources), 27 CHIPIs, 4 player score markers, a scoreboard, 16 starting cards, 8 basic fallout shelter cards, 30 basic production cards, 12 variable trade cards, 12 variable attack cards, 12 variable production cards, 28 variable exchange cards, 16 variable defense cards, 20 variable paragon cards, and 12 variable other cards.  To start out the game, lay out the basic cards (GMO Farms, Protein Lab, Fabric Replicator, Fiber Mill, Uranium Mine, and Fallout Shelter) in their own stacks.  You’ll then choose 7 other stacks of variable cards, each containing as many cards as there are players in the game.  These are all laid out in the center of the table.  Players get their basic cards – a Warehouse, a Supply Exchange, an Upgrade, and a Construction – as well as three stable resources, which are immediately rolled and placed in Warehouses.  The fourth player also gets a CHIPI, which is a little cardboard disc that can be turned in to roll an extra unstable resource on your turn.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

On each turn, you will follow this sequence: prepare, scavenge, activate, and clean up.

PREPARE: Remove all dice from your Warehouse and place them in your play area.  They are not rerolled.

SCAVENGE: Take three stable resources from the pool and roll them.  You can also turn in CHIPIs in order to roll unstable resources (the difference between the two is that stable resources can be stored while unstable resources must be used this turn or are lost).  Choose one of the stable resources to place in your play area and pass the rest to your left.  That player takes one for his Warehouse, and passes the final one to his left (or back to the first player in a two-player game).

ACTIVATE: You may now activate any of your cards one time, tilting them so you know they are used for this round.  You can also spend dice to buy one new building.  If you choose not to buy a building, gain a CHIPI.  At any time during your turn, you can choose to discard a building card.  This will gain you stable resources equal to the difference between your score and the leader’s score.

CLEAN UP: Put all new buildings in your area and refresh any used buildings.  Return all unused stable resources to your Warehouse, and all unused unstable resources to the supply.  Adjust your score based on new buildings or discarded buildings.  If, at the end of your turn, you have 15 VP (in a 4-player game), 16 VPs (3 players), or 20 VP (2 players), you win.

image by BGG user TheSealion
image by BGG user TheSealion

I got to demo this one at Gen Con.  It’s kind of a hybrid between Dominion and Alien Frontiers – you’re building up a tableau of buildings that will hopefully make dice rolling easier later and generate points, and using dice to activate these different areas.  It’s pretty low interaction, with the only real interface between players occurring in the dice draft at the beginning of each round.  It’s an interesting game, and I’d love to try it out again to explore some of the other buildings we didn’t use.  It’s a good one to check out some time, and I’d recommend that you do.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading!

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