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Additional information about Terraforming Mars – How to Play Videos/Reviews

How to Play Terraforming Mars Game Rules Simply Explained

Our simple guide to How to Play Terraforming Mars Game Rules. Get your game set up and started quickly.

Players: 1 to 5 | Game duration from: 110 mins | Game Complexity: MEDIUM How to play Terraforming Mars rules in simple steps

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What is the objective of Terraforming Mars Board Game?

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. Players strive to achieve good Terraform Rating and compete to earn as many victory points through tile placement.

Game Overview

You control a corporation and buy and play cards that improve the terraforming process. You 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 TR. Global 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

Step-by-Step Guide on How to Play Terraforming Mars

Step by Step How to Play Terraforming Mars Gameplay

This section provides you with a step-by-step guide on how to play Terraforming Mars. The game is played over a series of rounds called Generations.  Each generation involves players going through the following phases:
Player Order Phase
Research Phase
Action Phase
Production Phase

Total Time: 2 hours

Player Order Phase

Phase is skipped if it is the 1st Generation. The 1st player marker shifts 1 step clockwise. The Generation marker is moved up 1 step.

Research Phase

The research phase is skipped if it is the 1st generation. You draw 4 cards and decide which to buy to your hand. Each card costs 3 MegaCredits. A player may buy 0-4 cards. Cards not bought are discarded face-down to the discard pile. There is no hand limit.

Actions Phase

Terraforming Mars actions

Players take 1 or 2 actions each turn or pass. Play proceeds clockwise until all players have passed. Once you pass, you cannot take any more actions in this generation.

Actions can be combined in any way. List of actions are:
1. Play a card from your hand
2. Use a standard project
3. Claim a milestone
4. Fund an award
5. Use action on a blue card
6. Convert plants into greenery
7. Convert heat into temperature

Action: Play a card from your hand

Perform 3 steps when playing card from your hand.
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 or if it removes resources for any player which you can’t remove or do not wish to do so

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

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

Action: Use a standard Project

6 standard projects are printed on the game board and available for use to the players. Each may be used several times:
Sell patents (Gain MegaCredits): Discard the number of cards from your hand to gain the same number of MegaCredits.
Power Plant (Increase Energy): For 11 MegaCredits, increase your energy production 1 step
Asteroid (Increase temperature): For 14 MegaCredits, increase temperature 1 step (and your TR)
Aquifer (expand ocean): For 18 MegaCredits, place an Ocean tile (get 1 TR and collect placement bonus)
Greenery (expand greenery and increase oxygen): For 23 MegaCredits, place greenery tile, increase oxygen and TR 1 step and collect any placement bonus
City: For 25 MegaCredits, place a city tile, collect placement bonus and increase MegaCredit production 1 step

Action: 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

Action: 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:
Landlord: own most tiles in play
Banker: Having the highest MegaCredit production
Scientist: Having the most science tags in play
Thermalist: Have the most heat resource cubes
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 using 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 (increases 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

8 heat resources may be spent to increase temperature 1 step (and therefore also your TR 1 step).

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.

End of Game

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.

Counting Score in Terraforming Mars and Winning

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.
Awards: Gives the leading player in that category 5 VPs and the runner-up 2 VPs (except in a 2-player game).
Milestones: Each claimed Milestone is worth 5 VPs
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 of who owns the greenery tiles).
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.

Terraforming Mars FAQs

How long does it take to play Terraforming Mars?

Terraforming Mars takes about 120 minutes to play.

Is Terraforming Mars good solo?

Terraforming Mars can be played solo as well.

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