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.
Hellas & Elisium is the most important expansion for Terraforming Mars. However, it’s not because it introduces any new elements to the franchise or because the shape of its two maps has an important effect on how you play. Rather, it’s the most important because it does away with the tutorial aspects that define the base game and allows players to more fully express themselves.
One of the strange things about the board game industry is that every successful title, no matter how simple, eventually gets a card or dice-based variant. These versions are rarely as good as the games they are based on and Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition is no exception. By reducing the scope of its mechanics, it loses the depth and nuance that defined the original.
Last week I played the most gruelling match of Terraforming Mars I’ve ever had. It took seven hours, used thousands of cards and had a massive board that covered the whole table. It was the GIGA variant, a fan-made expansion combining a deluge of unofficial content. This is the kind of experience made for fanatics like me. How did it go?
Not all cards inTerraforming Mars are good. While most are welcome in the right circumstances, the opportunity to play some of them is too small. Be it out of inefficiency, poor design or lack of synergies there are at least six cards I’ll avoid in all but the extreme minority of games.