Terraforming Mars

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Get our guide and summary of the Terraforming Mars Board Game Rulebook

We cover the essential instructions and gameplay to get your game started quickly.

Terraforming Mars Board Game is a:

  • 1 -5 player game
  • Recommended for ages 12 and up

1 -5  players

120 mins

Age: 12 +

What is the goal?

Game Theme Setting

  • Humans have explored and colonised Mars.
  • To increase migration from Earth, Mars needs to be terraformed through the improvement of living conditions and development
  • Players control corporations and are competing to terraform Mars

Game Overview

  • You control a corporation and buy and play cards that improve the terraforming process
  • Players compete to gain a good TERRAFORM RATING (TR) and as many VICTORY POINTS (VP) through tile-placement.

Generations – Players play a series of rounds called Generations

Development on Mars – Players compete to earn VPs by developing Mars for human migration, winning Awards and completing projects. Making Mars fit for human migration (the end-goal) involves placing the following on the game board:

  • City tiles (worth 1 VP, gain 1 VP for each adjacent Greenery Tile)
  • Special tiles (function described on the card that allows you to place the tile)
  • Greenery tiles (increases oxygen level by 1 step and in turn, your TR), if possible, placed to another tile that you own, mark ownership with you player marker)

When you raise a global parameter (temperature, oxygen or ocean), you increase your TRGlobal Parameters are tracked on the Game Board.

Global Parameters are:

  • Temperature, oxygen and ocean
  • When a global parameter reaches its goal, it can’t be improved further and won’t increase your TR. You can still play cards that increase the parameter but it won’t impact the global parameter
  • The game ends when ALL GLOBAL PARAMETERS reach their goal
    • enough oxygen to breathe (14%),
    • oceans that allow Earth-like weather (9 tiles), and
    • temperature well above freezing  (+8 degrees celsius)
  • TR also determines your income and score
  • Time in the game is measured in generations. Generations are tracked with the Generation Marker on the TR track

Game setup 

 

  1. Setup Ocean tiles – Start 9 tiles on Ocean tile stack on game board
  2. Set temperature on Mars (Game Board) – Place temperature marker at -30 deg
  3. Set oxygen levels – place oxygen marker on oxygen level tracker on game board
  4. Shuffle Project Cards deck and place next to game board
  5. Players choose colours and first player. First player gets 1st player marker
  6. Players place player markers on their starting Terraform Rating (TR) level on the TR track –
    • place player marker on 20 on the track
  7. Shuffle and deal 2 Corporation Cards to each player. Beginner players get Beginner Corporation cards instead.
    • Experienced players choose which of the 2 cards they wish to play.
    • Beginner players follow the instructions on their Beginner Corporation cards
  8. Deal 10 project cards to Experienced players who did not take the beginnner corporation card.
    • Players choose which 10 project cards they wish to keep in starting hand. Keeping a project card costs 3 MegaCredits.
  9. You are now ready to start the game and the 1st Generation (round):
    • Start from the Action Phase for the 1st Generation

Information about Game Tiles

  • Tiles are placed on game board
  • Certain areas are reserved for specific tiles: check if there are placement restrictions
  • Each tile may have specific restrictions printed on their respective card summaries
  • When placing a tile, you receive a placement bonus printed on that area
  • There is also a bonus for placing tiles next to ocean tiles

Ocean Tiles

Ocean Tile - Terraforming Mars Rules

  • can only be placed on areas reserved for ocean
  • placement results in TR increasing by 1 step
  • Each ocean tile provides 2 M placment bonus for any player who later places a tile next to it

Greenery Tiles

Greenery Tile

  • If possible, must be placed next to another tile you own
  • if no available area next to your tiles or if you have no tiles, place greenery tile on any available area
  • Place a player marker on it to mark ownership
  • Placement results in an increase in oxygen level and if possible, also your TR
  • Each tile worth 1 VP at end of the game

City Tiles

Terraforming Mars Rules Guide - City Tiles

  • May not be placed next to another city
  • Noctics city must always be placed on the reserved area
  • Add player marker to mark ownership
  • Each tile worth 1 VP for each adjacent greenery tile (regardless of owner) at end of the game

Special Tiles

Terraforming Mars Special Tile uses

  • Some cards allow you to place special tiles
  • Function or placement restriction is described on the card

Information about Game Markers

  • Resource cubes
    • Bronze = 1
    • Silver = 5
    • Gold = 10
  • Player Markers are used by each player to:
    • mark TR
    • mark tile ownership
    • mark production
    • indicate used blue card actions
  • Temperature, oxygen and generation markers used to track progress on game board
  • First Player Marker shifts clockwise to the next player after each generation

Player Boards

  • Player boards keep track of your resources and production.
  • Resource icons refer to resource cubes
  • Resource icons in brown boxes refer to the production of that resource

1. Production Track
When you gain the production of a resource, mark new production level with a player marker. Production is not limited to 10. If you increase above 10, use 2 player markers to mark the level.

2. MegaCredits
Used to pay for cards and things. MegaCredit income is the sum of MegaCredit production and TR. MegaCredit production can be negative but not lower than -5

3. Steel
Used to pay for building tag cards and is worth 2 MegaCredits/cube. Can be combined with MegaCredits for payment but no change is given.

4. Titanium
Used to pay for cards with space tag and is worth 3 MegaCredits/cube

5. Plants
Can be changed to greenery tiles using actions

6. Energy
Used by many cards. Leftover energy is converted to heat at the beginning of the production phase

7. Heat
Can be used to raise the temperature by 1 step using actions

Terraforming Mars Player Boards
Player Board

Cards

Each player starts with Corporation Card.

Players buy and play project cards to get benefits.

  • There are 3 types of cards:

    • Active (cards have a Blue Frame)
    • Automated Cards (Green)
    • Event Cards (Red)

    1. Tag – Identifies the category of card
    2. Starting Conditions – Tells you starting MegaCredits, resources or production
    3. Effect/Actions – Blue ribbon boxes indicate ongoing effect or action that may be used during game
    4. Background Summary – Background information about the card
    5. Cost – Cost to play the card from your hand
    6. Requirement – Conditions that need to be met to play the card
    7. Immediate effects: Cards that have immediate effects that affect resources or production
    8. VPs: Cards that provide victory points at game end

Gameplay

Game is played over a series of rounds called Generations. 

Generations

Each generation involves players going through the following phases:

  1. Player Order Phase
  2. Research Phase
  3. Action Phase
  4. Production Phase

1. Player Order Phase (phase is skipped if it is 1st generation)

  • 1st player marker shifts 1 step clockwise
  • Generation marker is moved up 1 step

2. Research Phase (phase is skipped if it is 1st generation)

  • Player draws 4 cards and decides which to buy to his hand
  • Each card costs 3 MegaCredits. A player may buy 0-4 cards
  • Cards not bought are discarded face-down to discard pile
  • There is no hand limit

3. Actions Phase

  • Players take 1 or 2 actions each turn or pass.
  • Play proceeds clockwise until all players have passed.
  • Actions can be combined in any way.
Action: Play a card from your hand

When playing a card from your hand, you perform 3 steps:

a) Check card requirements

  • To play a card, you need to meet its requirements. A card can still be played:
    • if it raises global parameters that have already reached their goal (e.g. all ocean tiles have been placed or temperature is already at 8 degrees celsius)
    • if it adds resources that you can’t collect
    • if it removes resources for any player but you can’t remove or do not wish to do so

b) Pay for the card and get immediate effects

  • Pay card’s costs and resolve immediate effects shown in lower panel of the card
  • Any production (brown boxes on cards) must be performed
  • Resources or productions with a red frame indicate that you can affect any player you choose (including yourself)
  • Resources or productions without red frames affect yourself and must be performed
  • Cards may also feature tiles and tags with a red border. ‘Red’ tile means any player’s tile and ‘Red’ tag means any players tag.
  • Resources are gained immediately
  • Tiles placed by a card follow rules for the tiles

c) Place the card

  • Events (red cards) are placed in a personal pile faced-down
  • Automated cards (green) are placed face up in a stack on the table, with only top row visible
  • Active cards (blue) have ongoing effects that trigger any time – they are placed with top panel visible
Use a Standard Project

6 standard projects printed on the game board and available for use to the players.

Each may be used several times:

  1. Sell patents (Gain MegaCredits): Discard number of cards from your hand to gain same number of MegaCredits
  2. Power Plant (Increase Energy): For 11 MegaCredits, increase your energy production 1 step
  3. Asteroid (Increase temperature): For 14 MegaCredits, increase temperature 1 step (and your TR)
  4. Aquifer (expand ocean): For 18 MegaCredits, place an Ocean tile (get 1 TR and collect placement bonus)
  5. Greenery (expand greenery and increase oxygen): For 23 MegaCredits, place greenery tile, increase oxygen and TR 1 step and collect any placement bonus
  6. City: For 25 MegaCredits, place a city tile, collect placement bonus and increase MegaCredit production 1 step
Claim a milestone
  • If you meet milestone criteria, you can claim it by paying 8 MegaCredits.
  • A milestone can only be claimed by 1 player and only 3 of the 5 Milestones can by claimed in total
  • Each milestone is worth 5 VPs at the end of the game

List of Milestones and what you need besides paying MegaCredits

  • Terraformer: Have a terraform rating of at least 35
  • Mayor: Own at least 3 city tiles
  • Gardener: Own at least 3 greenery tiles
  • Builder: Have a least 8 building tags in play
  • Planner: Have at least 16 cards in your hand when you claim this milestone
Fund an Award
  • No requirement to meet to fund an award
  • First player to fund an award pays 8 MegaCredits and places a player marker on it
  • Next player to fund an award pays 14 MegaCredits and the last pays 20 MegaCredits
  • Only 3 awards may be funded and each award funded only once
  • In final scoring, each award is checked and 5 VPs awarded to the player who wins the category. 2nd place gets 2 VPs. It doesn’t matter who funds the award.
  • If tied, more than 1 player may get the 1st or 2nd place VP bonus.
  • If more than 1 player gets 1st place VP bonus, no 2nd place is awarded.

List of awards that may be funded:

  1. Landlord: own most tiles in play
  2. Banker: Having the highest MegaCredit production
  3. Scientist: Having the most science tags in play
  4. Thermalist: Have the most heat resource cubes
  5. Miner: Having the most steel and titanium cubes
Action: Use action on a blue card
  • Many blue cards and corporations have actions (indicated by a red arrow)
  • Each such action card may be used once each generation.
  • When you use an action on a blue card, you must first pay any cost stated to the left of the arrow.
  • You get whatever the arrow points to, and place a player marker on the card to indicate that it has been used
    this generation.
  • The player markers will be removed during production phase
Action: Convert plants into greenery
  • 8 plant resources may be turned into a greenery tile (incrases oxygen level 1 step and also your TR)
  • Place greenery tile next to another of your tiles (if possible) and get placement bonuses
Action: Convert heat into temperature
  • If there are 2 or more equal options available, Lead Investigator makes the choice
  • If unsure of how to resolve rules, resolve it in the manner that is perceived as the worst possible outcome for winning the scenario
  • 8 heat resources may be spent to increase temperature 1 step (and therefore also your TR 1 step).

4. Production Phase

  • Players perform this phase simultaneously
  • All energy is converted into heat (move all resource cubes from energy box to heat box)
  • All players receive new resources:
    • Players get MegaCredits based on their TR plus any MegaCredit production
    • Players get any other resources they are producing as tracked by their player board
    • Place all resources in their corresponding boxes
    • Remove player markers from used action cards, so that they may be used again in next generation
  • Start next generation

How do you win?

Terraforming Mars game ends when ALL GLOBAL PARAMETERS have reached their goals.

The game ends at the end of that generation.

After the production phase, players have one extra chance to convert plants into greenery tiles (in player order), then the final scoring takes place.

How do you count score in Terraforming Mars?

  1. TR: Your TR at the end of the game is your basic score. Move your marker onward from this point as you add VPs
    from the rest of the scoring.
  2. Awards: Gives the leading player in that category 5 VPs and the runner-up 2 VPs (except in a 2-player game).
  3. Milestones: Each claimed Milestone is worth 5 VPs
  4. Players get VPs for greenery and city tiles on the game board. Each greenery tile is worth 1 VP and each city tile is worth 1 VP for each greenery adjacent to it (regardless ofwho owns the greenery tiles)
  5. Cards: First count all VPs on cards that collect resources. Then gather all of your remaining cards (including all your played events!) and count your VPs. If you have Jovian cards, these may have to be counted separately.

The player with the highest total score is the winner. If tied, player with the most MegaCredits wins.

Video Walkthrough

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