Terraforming Mars, Jacob Fryxelius

Finally, I have a chance to review Terraforming Mars. Well I say review; I am a reviewer in a very casual sense. I play games that I mainly buy myself and I know I’ll like, so it’s rare that I’m ever going to pan anything. This year I think there have been two games that I’ve had to hold my hands up and say ‘look, I made a mistake’ and I think I’ve made that pretty clear in my past posts (namely A Study In Emerald and Tiffin). I’ve never been mean or negative, but I have to say when I’m genuinely baffled, frustrated or disappointed. My reviewing ‘style’ is usually to chat about the game, basic game play and what I thought. So that clears up my ‘reviewing’ style.

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I didn’t think I’d be disappointed with Terraforming Mars. When you’re on a tight budget you kind of have to vet the games out fully to make sure it’s not going to be a colossal waste of money and time. Made that mistake and never again as far as I’m concerned. Of course it’s bound to happen again at some point because sometimes you just don’t know if you’ll be into the vibe until you play. Anyway, there is so much out there on Terraforming Mars that I think it would be very tedious to give you a full break down of the game play as I’ve done in the past. I kind of reserve that now for games I don’t see getting a lot of attention, like maybe a game that’s not had a lot of coverage or I think deserves like a full work up, rules and all. But Terraforming Mars is not one of those games. It seems that it’s a very enthusiastic thumbs up from everyone and a lot of videos and blog coverage. So I just want to focus on two things; is it worth the hype and what do I like about it?

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Yes. Yes it is. It’s a very clever game with what seems like infinite ability to replay at this point. In a two player game it seems that there are cards constantly coming up that you didn’t see the first two times you played, so I can imagine that with two player plus this would happen all the more. The cards represent so many things you can do to steam ahead, and I love the way they work together. Admittedly in my first game I was just buying what I thought looked good, but by the second I was more switched on as to what I was doing and employed a good amount of strategy into what I bought and why. The cards thematically link in different ways so for example you may want to go down the plant life route or the city building route to head up the score track and generate lots of ‘credits’ (the game currency). The cards synchronise by the ‘tags’, and you can use these cards to generate credits and build up a storage of titanium, steel heat etc and use these as payment for other cards. You can build on plant life and animal cards which will score you tons of points.You can be an amazing scientist. You can be a top biologist. It’s a good idea to get cards with end of game bonuses, and please, whatever you do, try to remember everything. I really thought I had the last game in the bag, I was ahead on the terraforming track, I was set to win some ‘awards’ but I forgot that land tiles on the board will score you end of game points, and I made a bad bet on an award at the last minute, not foreseeing that actually my opponent was going to end the game before I could fully achieve it. So I lost, and not by too much which was really frustrating. That’s the thing with this game, you have lots to think about and work at, but you need to remember that it’s all going to come together at the end.

I like the way you have to work with your opponents somewhat to bring the game to a close, and you have to do this by meeting the three end trigger conditions; all sea tiles placed and oxygen/heat leveled up. It takes a surprisingly long time in a two-player game, around 2/2.5 hours. But you know it’s a good game when the time has flown by and you feel like you’ve only been playing ten minutes.

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Overall, it’s fun, it’s challenging, it’s a bit of a brain burner, but not hard to pick up and learn. It’s having the full mental capacity to see it through that’s the tricky part.

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As an aside, it is a gorgeous game; beautiful big board, clear and concise cards, some with realistic photographic print, some illustrated. Shiny and transparent cubes which I love to look at (however I think my criticism would be that they are slippery little devils and a bit fiddly to handle) I would also say that I was mildly disappointed that with all the other very obvious effort put into the game I wish the player mats had been solid cardboard and not thick card, which is prone to warping. But you know when that’s your only real complaint, and it’s nothing to do with the game play, it has to be overlooked to an extent. So yes, if you have to pre-order and wait a while, or pay a little over the odds for it, I say do it. It’s worth it.

My last comment, a genuine thought and something that has been really bothering me….did the designer start this design before The Martian or was it inspired by the film? I would ask him, but I’m too embarrassed.

To find out more about the game play, rules and full details, go to the BGG page and follow all the links.

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Legendary: Big Trouble In Little China, Rob Heinsoo

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If you watched my unboxing video then you may have got the distinct impression that I was just a tiny bit excited about Legendary: Big Trouble in Little China. This was announced at Gen Con last year and I knew I was definitely going to be buying it right off the bat. This was so greatly anticipated for me, because I knew Legendary to be a good game. I enjoyed Legendary: Marvel, I wasn’t hugely ‘into’ it (I have enjoyed a Marvel film on occasion but I’m not massively into the franchise) but found the game to be really fun and to play really well. So it didn’t matter that I wasn’t superfan familiar with all of the characters. Now, I absolutely love the movie BTILC so I was stoked to play a great game with a theme that I knew I’d love.

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I don’t know why I love the film so much, I guess it’s because I watched it as a child and some movies just stay with you. Which as an aside is why I’m also excited to get Legendary Encounters: Alien because those films were just a huge part of me growing up. I thank my Dad that I grew up watching awesome films that perhaps other young girls didn’t like Blade Runner, Terminator, The Running Man, Predator, basically anything with Arnie, or directed by Ridley Scott or James Cameron. Anyway, I’m going waaaay off topic.

The good thing about the Legendary games is that you don’t have to be familiar with the content to enjoy the game. But if you are then it’s even more enjoyable, because you recognise the scenes and characters, and you can get behind the game further.
If you’ve never played a Legendary game I’ll sum it up as briefly as I can. It’s a semi co-op deck building/combat game. When I first played it reminded me strongly of Dominion, it’s just a classic deck builder only with far more fighting. You have a board (or in BTILC’s case a playmat, and various decks of cards (400 cards in total to be exact) and you use these cards to form ‘hero’ and ‘villain’ decks. There are many factions to choose from here, heroes such as Jack Burton, Gracie Law, Wang Chi, Egg Shen, and Miao Yin. Each faction has different cards with varying costs and abilities. In the villain factions we have the Wing Kong Exchange, Warriors of Lo Pan, Monsters, the Wing Kong Gang and more.
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Each game you choose a Mastermind that pairs up with a Scheme. The Mastermind (the ultimate baddie that you must defeat) has a ‘master strike’ condition and each scheme has its own set of playing conditions. Each turn a player must draw a villain card and add it to the ‘city’ i.e- playmat. The villain cards move along the city spaces each turn until they ‘escape’ the city. And then bad things happen. If you draw a scheme twist or a masterstrike from the villain deck then further bad things will happen that start to wear down your chances of making it out alive. Depending on your chosen Mastermind and scheme you will lose badly unless you work together to fight all the baddies and destroy all the Masterminds.

How? You must recruit heroes using your starting hand of ‘mediocre heroes’ (cheap and disposable cards) to pump up your deck. The more you cards you recruit the more powerful you become, and playing certain cards in succession means special abilities are triggered. Then you can start fighting left right and centre. Your own personal victory points lie in how many villains you KO throughout the game and their value. If you win the game against the villains it’s then down to the final cards in your hand and how many villains you’ve taken out. This will give you personal victory over the other players and win you the game. So it’s a really great balance of co-op and competition.

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It’s amazing how each game can be different depending on which decks you use, and this gives Legendary a huge amount of replayability. The overall system is just easy to pick up but it can be time consuming yet fun to execute. If you’re a fan of the franchise you’ll spend lots of time spotting characters and scenes, appreciating the flavour text on the cards and enjoying the special abilities that relate to the character. I’m a particular fan of Egg Shen’s Unpredictable Magician card which allows you simply flip a coin to gain plus 2 damage or coinage. There are cards that pit you against one another slightly, cards you can trade between players…so many lovely cards. I appreciate the way that the cards work together and intertwine so well, and how much planning goes into executing your moves as the game gets ‘bigger’.
The box art, the vibrant playmat and super cool vivid art work really bring the spirit of the theme to life. I can’t really praise the Legendary system enough, I just love it. If you like deck builders, combat, semi- cooperative then you’ll probably love this as much as me! 10/10, obviously. More info here.