Terraforming Mars: Venus Next ★★★ | Review
Venus Next was the second expansion for Terraforming Mars and the first one to add new cards. Yet, it’s one of the least loved. Often accused of making the game last longer for little benefit, many see little value on it. But its simplicity hides a surprising amount of depth and several tools to make strategies better and more varied than before.
TWO NEW PARTS
Venus Next is composed of two parts. The first is a set of 49 project cards and 5 new corporations, which change the composition of the deck significantly. The second is a small board, which includes a new terraforming parameter and two spaces for off-Mars cities. Neither is a large enough change to turn Terraforming Mars into something different but both improve it in subtle ways.
One of my favourite additions is a simple card called Terraforming Contract. It’s amazingly efficient but you need at least 25 TR to play. It’s an example of the seemingly ordinary cards that define this expansion. None have effects we haven’t seen before and most are variations of classic cards, like terraforming events or scoring tools, but they have small differences that make them stand out from the originals.
Venus Next also pushes for a small theme of cards in the base game centered around Earth tags. Two big city projects increase your income for each one you have, which can be a massive advantage. Furthermore, a handful of new cards require both a Jovian and the new Venusian tag in order to play them. Subtle, but it impacts the drafting experience.
After all, there is a new reward for accumulating Venus tags. It’s present in every game and differentiates the new cards from the originals. More importantly, a new type of resource called “floaters”, competes with the microbes of the original set, dividing our attention between them. This subdivision makes strategy substantially less straightforward than it seems at first glance.
The original deck was fairly small. If the match went long, players would go through the entirety of it. This meant we could always assemble the same combos. By diluting the deck, players are forced to develop their strategies organically. I noticed my games with Venus Next were less likely to fall into just drafting buildings or every event you come across.
However, the largest addition to Terraforming Mars is the Venus parameter. Like the other three, there are cards that allow you to raise it and it will increase your terraforming rating. The difference is that it’s not necessary to close the game. Regardless of how far players have pushed for it, matches will finish only once the transformation of Mars is completed.
This gives players the option to terraform without rushing the end-game, allowing them to control whether it finishes earlier or later than normal. Once you play the base game a lot, you’ll find most games finish on the same generation. By changing that, Venus Next makes the strategic space of the game a little bit broader than it was before.
For example, it’s now viable to use terraformation as an alternative to economic cards when you are behind. Similarly, Venus can be used to differentiate yourself from an opponent who follows a similar strategy. And it’s not always mandatory, some games will see Venus quickly terraformed but others won’t see any action on it at all.
Of course, it does open the door for an increased playtime. The manual suggests raising a parameter every turn, which is more of a band-aid than a true solution. The true way to compensate for it is to play it with Prelude, which made games unnaturally shorter. Together, they cover for each other’s flaws and form a perfect combination. Alone, they are rough.
It’s good with Colonies as well. The open-ended gameplay of the expansion has a natural partner in Venus Next. The only issue I’ve found is that, as you add more expansions, the number of Venus cards goes down. This is not much of a problem for most corporations, but it is for the handful of Venus-related corporations that come in the box. They become slower and wonkier despite not being overly strong in the first place.
Still, none of the Terraforming Mars expansions are amazing on their own. Their impact is just too small and besides Hellas & Elysium I wouldn’t call any of them mandatory. However, Terraforming Mars improves significantly when several of them come into the picture. Venus Next, while subtle, is a key difference between a fairly good one and one of my personal favourites. I always play with it.
|TERRAFORMING MARS: VENUS NEXT (2017)
|NUMBER OF PLAYERS
|1-5 (Best with any number)