5th April 2022

Blue and Pink arrived first and, while they were waiting for their dinner, squeezed in a quick game of Abandon all Artichokes (with the Rhubarb Promo).  This is a very quick “deck shredding” game, where players are trying to get to the point where they draw a hand that contains no Artichoke cards.  The game is really simple:  on their turn the active player takes a card from the face up market, adds it to their hand and then plays as many cards as they can before they discard the rest and draw five new cards.  If this new hand contains no Artichoke cards, the player wins.  Despite its simplicity, Pink kept saying he was confused, so given it was such a short game, it was no surprise that Blue won, and just in time too, as their pizzas turned up.

Abandon All Artichokes
– Image by boardGOATS

They were just finishing eating when Purple and Black arrived, then Pine popped in to personally deliver his apologies, before Green, Ivory and Teal joined the party.  The “Feature Game” was the Prelude expansion for Terraforming Mars, which was last played in the group a little over two years ago.  Ivory shared his memories of that game which he felt he had been doing very nicely in thank-you until Burgundy chucked a meteorite in his direction and left him scrabbling for points at end of the game.  That game had been played with the Hellas map from the Hellas & Elysium expansion, this time though, for the first try with the Prelude expansion, the group decided that maybe it would be quicker just to stick with the one new change.

Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium
– Image by boardGOATS

In Terraforming Mars, each person takes the role of a giant corporation initiating projects to make Mars habitable by raising the temperature, increasing the oxygen level, and expanding the ocean coverage.  The game is card driven and at the start of each round, players draw four cards, keeping as many as they like, but paying 3M€ per card. Players then take it in turns to take one or two actions from seven available: play a card; use a Standard Project; use an Action Card; convert eight plants into a greenery tile and raise the Oxygen Level; use eight Heat to raise the Temperature; claim a Milestone, and fund an Award.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the round, players simultaneously produce, turning any energy into heat, taking finance according to the combined total of their Terraforming Rating and their M€ production level, and finally receiving all other resources according to their production levels.  The game ends once all three Global Parameters are met: all of the Ocean Tiles have been placed, the Temperature has reached 8°C, and the Oxygen Level is at 14%. Teal, Ivory and Green all knew the game reasonably well so really only needed to discuss the integration of the Prelude expansion.  This provides Prelude corporation cards that jump start the terraforming process or boost the players’ corporation engines.  During setup, as well as corporation cards and their starting hand, players are dealt four Prelude cards, of which they keep two.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

The group decided to not use the advanced cards as they wanted to go home before midnight, so during set up players were dealt one base game corporation card and one corporation card from the new ones that come with the Prelude expansion.  Teal went with the Prelude Cheung Shing, which gave him 3M€ production extra and a 2M€ discount on all building tag cards.  Green wanted to use the Prelude Corporation Card no matter what it was and ended up with Vitor. This would give him 3M€ back for every card that he played with positive points. He also had to fund an award for free as his first turn.  Ivory had chosen Saturn Systems and all his other cards round that.  It was only as they were about to mark out their starting benefits that he realised it was from the Advanced deck.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

Rather than force Ivory to take his other card, the group gave him another two cards to choose from and this time he selected The Miners Guild, which gave him an extra steel production and five steel at the start of the game. Every time he gained a steel or titanium through building on Mars, his steel production would increase by another one too.  Although it was a good project, it did not fully suit the other cards he had selected, so Ivory started with something of a handicap.  If anyone in the group can cope with a handicap, it is Ivory however, as he regularly wins these more complex games.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

The trio then went round the table revealing their chosen Prelude Cards that give players that extra kickstart.  Ivory chose Aquifer Turbines (an Ocean tile, two Energy production and -3M€) and Mohole (three Heat resources and three Heat production). Teal went for Umni Contractor (three Terraforming Steps and extra project card) and the Allied Bank (3M€ and 4M€ production).  Green chose Dome Farming (2M€ production and one Plant production) and Society Support (-1M€ production, one Energy, one Greenery and one Heat production).  At the start Teal went straight for city building with a Standard Project, while Green and Ivory were a little more traditional with paying for project cards.

Terraforming Mars: Prelude
– Image by boardGOATS

Generation One was short and Generation Two was equally as short as Teal bought a second city, which prompted Ivory to also build a Standard Project city in Generation Three.  Teal had placed his cities in a convenient triangle to maximise points from greenery tiles when they got laid, but later in the game (before all those forests could be planted), Ivory played the Urbanisation project and built another city right in the middle of Teal’s carefully constructed plan!  Despite this, it was only towards the latter part of the game did it become clearer who’s strategy was working out and who’s wasn’t.

Terraforming Mars: Prelude
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory had been embracing his “inner Burgundy” and grumbled that he wasn’t getting any Green tag cards, yet Teal seemed to be building nothing but Green tag projects. Green joined the grumble adding that although he’d had some good ones at the beginning with microbe actions, these just weren’t fulfilling their purpose due to the lack of Green tags in his hand.  Black commented from the next table that was why he felt that Terraforming Mars really needs to be played with the drafting variant, where hands are drafted at the start of each turn.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

The group had chosen not to do this as it strongly favours more experienced players.  As Teal felt he was relatively new to the game having only played the electronic version against AI opponents on Board Game Arena, he did not want to add in extra complexity.  Black certainly had a point though and it is something to consider for next time.  With all the cards laid out, Teal commented how it was quite different from the electronic version. Seeing everyone’s cards grow gave an element of satisfaction and wonder that was missing from the computer version—even the wobbling and waving Mars on the computer didn’t make up for it.

Terraforming Mars: Prelude
– Image by boardGOATS

As for the terraforming of Mars itself, the group completed the Oceans fairly quickly and Oxygen levels also rose at a reasonable rate.  It was just so cold for most of the game though!  So, in the end, it was a race to see who could heat up the planet the most.  Throughout the game everyone all remained close on the Terraforming score track, which meant everyone had all equally contributed to the improvement of Mars and the game would be won or lost in the bonus points.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

The award for most Award points went to Ivory, as he came top in two of them.  There was a debate regarding the Award Green had funded at the beginning (Scientist). Green had won clearly with four science tags, but both Teal and Ivory had none.  The question was whether they should they score nothing because they hadn’t achieved anything, or whether they should get a second place tie (and as ties are friendly in this game, both would get the points).  Ivory managed to find a thread on Board Game Geek which resolved the issue:  the designer himself stated that second place is second place, even if nothing was done to achieve it.  So Green scored five, while Teal and Ivory both got two, and the free Award from the Prelude Corporation card, Vitor, scored Green a grand total of three points!

Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium
– Image by boardGOATS

Teal managed to get two of Achievements and Ivory got the third with just points for the map left (one point for each forest and for each forest tile adjacent to a players city).  Teal’s early planning came good here, as he scored eighteen points in total, while Green and Ivory took only twelve and ten respectively.  Green had been playing those bonus point projects to good effect, but although he got nine points from them, Ivory and Teal still managed five and four each.  Adding everything up, Teal was the master Terraformer with a massive seventy-four points, eight ahead of Ivory in second—who knows what his score might have been without that starting handicap.

Terraforming Mars: Prelude
– Image by boardGOATS

There are several members of the group who aren’t so keen on Terraforming Mars and others who felt it would be too taxing on a night when their brain felt a bit fried.  So those members of the group looked around for something more relaxing to play.  Lime had said he would be there, and although he was unusually late, Black, Purple, Pink and Blue decided to play a quick game of Coloretto in case he had been delayed by traffic or other unforeseen circumstances. Coloretto is a super-simple, but clever little game that we’ve played a lot, so needs little explanation: on their turn players either draw a card from the deck and add it to a truck, or take a truck and add the coloured cards to their collection. The largest three sets of chameleon cards score positively, while the other score negatively.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Despite having played Coloretto lots of times, we still needed to check what the Golden Joker did and how it differed from the normal multicoloured Joker. This led to a brief hiatus while Pink tried to read the minuscule text in the English Rules and Blue tried to translate from the original German rules. The conclusion verified later was that it acted as a Joker, but the player who took it also got an extra card drawn from the top of the deck—this could be a good or a bad thing depending on how lucky they were. This time, Pink was ultimately the either the luckiest or perhaps the best player (the line is a fine one), with Blue the best of the rest—just.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

The foursome were just looking round for something else to play when Lime walked in wearing a suit having come straight from Reading.  His arrival altered the options as the foursome became five.  In the end, Pink persuaded everyone to play Modern Art as he was keen to play something that would make use of the recently rehoused coins he and Blue had brought back from Essen last time they went (now quite a while ago).  Modern Art is a much older game, dating from 1992, but it had been out of print for a while and we only played within the group for the first time a few months ago.  That had been a remarkably enjoyable experience though, and it definitely deserved a second outing.

Modern Art
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is simple enough to play, but difficult to play well.  The idea is that players take it in turns to auction off one of the Art cards from their hand:  if another player wins, the auctioneer gets the money, if the auctioneer wins, they pay the bank.  At the end of the round, the Art is evaluated according to the artist by determining who has the most artwork in players’ collections, with the most being the most sought-after and therefore the most valuable.  Players then sell these to the bank for the determined amount which gives them money to spend in the next round.

Modern Art
– Image by boardGOATS

The clever part (which is also the part that messes with people’s heads) is that in any given round, only Art by the three most popular artists is worth any money, however, the value depends on both the popularity in the current round and any previous rounds.  Thus, a painting might be worth £120,000 if it is by the most popular artist in all four rounds, but would be worthless if that artist was the fourth most popular in the final round.  As all the art is available for play, this is a potentially deterministic problem, however, players can try to control the game by avoiding playing some cards.

Modern Art
– Image by boardGOATS

After a strong first round, Blue began the second round well.  She took a couple of early, cheap Kaminskis followed by auctioning a couple of Kaminskis of her own.  This worked well, except that she didn’t have a fifth to trigger the end of the round and ensure they scored.  As Kaminski is the weakest artist in the tie-break and nobody else seemed keen to help her, she did not make the expected profit. Consequently, she went from having “cash to burn” to struggling, a problem exacerbated by a large winning bid on a Mondrian that didn’t come off.  Meanwhile, everyone else was making money from Blue’s mistakes.

Modern Art
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to the unusual money allocation, different pieces of Art are auctioned in different ways:  some are sealed bids, while others are once round or highest bidder and others use a “double auction” where players sell two pieces at the same time.  The double auctions are curious affairs as, if the active player only has one artwork by the given artist (or chooses not to sell a second), they forfeit their turn as auctioneer and play skips on until another player takes up the mantle, selling one of their own together with the original piece.  This has several consequences: firstly, the new auctioneer takes all the profit, and secondly, any players between the first and second auctioneer miss a turn.

Modern Art
– Image by boardGOATS

This happened a couple of times as the group played out most rounds to the near maximum, especially as the game wore on—the final round had four Hicks, Ivorys and Okamotos before it came to an end meaning the tie breaker determined which would score.  It is an odd game and, not helped by a bit of “group think”, it was also quite a long game this time, though enjoyable, especially as it wasn’t obvious who was winning.  Black was obviously doing well, but then Lime also made a couple of good sales.  It was Pink, however who navigated the notoriously fickle art market most successfully though, finishing with £428,000, £26,000 more than Purple who took a strong second.

Modern Art
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Mars has a Marmite Factor.