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Review: Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition

The cold dusty surface of Mars is no place for humankind to live. There needs to be change, to make it hospitable to life. Players take on the role of a corporation that will take Mars from the cold dusty place it is to a lush place for humankind to live. Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition takes everything about the 2016 Terraforming Mars and shrinks it down including the time to play it.

In the original version of Terraforming Mars players would be playing cards and putting hexes down on a large map of Mars. All in an effort to create oceans and raise the temperature and O2 levels of the planet. What takes generations of real time was boiled down into a couple hours of a competitive board game. Now the Fryxelius family has come up with is a card game version that takes about half the time as the original but has all the same themes and feels.

There is no giant board that you are filling up with cities and forests and oceans. there is a tiny board that mostly tracks the stats of the game like Temperature, O2, how many oceans have been created and everyone's terraforming rating (victory points). When you look at it it really does look like a small version of the original.


Terraforming Mares Ares Expedition is a resource management game that has an engine building feel to it. I say engine building feel because players build up on previous cards they played but its more realistically a set collection. There 3 resources that each player tracks on their own, Mega Credits (MC), Heat, and Plants. There are also a few extra resources that pop up via the cards Animals and Microbes. on the player boards players also track the Steel and Titanium capabilities. These act as a discount on future card plays. Each of the resources has a production value and a pool to hold the produced resources.


The game unfolds over 3 steps each round. The first step is the planning step and this is where each player will choose one of the 5 phase cards from their hand. Each player has the same 5 cards. The phases are Development. Construction, Action, Production, and Research.

When you look at it it really does look like a small version of the original.

The second step of the round is called the Phases step. After each player has chosen the phase they want to play this turn they are all revealed and then each of the chosen phases are played in order. This means that each turn of the game not all the phases will be played and even less if players happen to have chosen the same phase. All players participate in each of the chosen phases, and the player who chose the phase will get a bonus during that phase (listed on the card). The third and final step of the round is to discard down to 10 cards and gain 3 MC for each discarded. Then reset the phase trackers. Rounds keep happening until all nine ocean tiles are flipped, the temp is up to +8C, and the O2 level is 14%. Then players finish the phase they are on and score the game.

So how does one go about Terraforming Mars?

So how does one go about Terraforming Mars? Well first each player needs a corporation to become and gain its unique advantages. I like this small asymetric player bit that is in the game its enough to make each player play a little different and not enough to sway the game toward a certain corporation. Next players want to be able to build the corprate engine to raise the O2, build oceans, and raise the heat. Players do this by playing cards.


The Development phase allows players to play green cards from their hands and the Construction phase allows players to play blue and red cards from their hands. The Action phase is the phase that will allow players to spend resources to preform actions to terraform mars. There are five basic actions that players more than once like raise temperature for the cost of 8 heat. Some of the other cards in your tableau will allow you to preform other actions and those are spelled out on the cards. The designers do a great job with the iconography it makes it real easy to interpret what happens with each card.

So where do these resources come from to play cards and preform actions?

So where do these resources come from to play cards and preform actions? Well that's the production phase. When you play cards into your tableau (Development and Construction Phases) they can increase your production values. Each player gets resources equal to the production value on their track. Players also add their Terraforming Rating (TR) to the MC production. Every time a player raise the temp flip an ocean or raise the O2 they also move their TR up by one. Finally the last phase is the Research Phase, this allows players to draw new cards into their hands.


In Terraforming Mars Ares Expedition players will play cards to increase the production values which in turn produce resources to increase the O2 and temperature and build oceans, which increase the Terraforming Rating. The Terraforming rating is the base of victory points for the game.


Terraforming Mars Ares Expedition is fun game that sits on the heavier side. Its solo variant is as enjoyable as the multiplayer version. It plays quick and gives you all the feels that you get from its big sister Terraforming Mars. Terraforming Mars Ares Expedition is now widely available and there is a "deluxe" version out there that has some enhanced components. My version was heavily on sale at from Target.


Players: 1-4

Year Published: 2021

Recommended Ages: 14+

Time to Play: 45-60 minutes




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