Terraforming Mars was surely the hit game of 2016. It is still winning large numbers of converts a year after its initial release, and justifiably so: it’s an excellent game. You can see the Board’s Eye View of Terraforming Mars at https://www.boardseyeview.net/boardseye/tag/Terraforming%20Mars.
The success of the game has naturally created demand for expansions. We have had two so far and there are rumours of four more in the works. Designer Jacob Fryxelius has wisely so far gone for augmentation rather than major game changers. The first expansion, Hellas & Elysium comprised two alternative mapboards for the game: a tweak to the dynamics because you are focusing on different regions of the planet. If you were always following a similar routine in the way you tried to lay out your cities and greenery, this expansion offered a shake up. Aside from the map changes, each board also offers different Milestones and Awards.
Venus Next is the more recent expansion and appears to offer a bit more of a change. Players are still expected to concentrate their terraforming efforts on Mars but the notion is that a longer term project to terraform Venus has begun. The expansion introduces a small extra board and track representing a tiny part of the planet and the early stages of the terraforming process. The track contributes to players’ Terraforming Rating but its completion is not an end-game requirement. That means it can be incorporated into the game and, depending players’ choices and the cards that come up, it may or may not play a significant role. Incorporating the Venus Next expansion means offering a new Standard Project, a new Milestone and a new Award. Each are added to those available in the standard game, although, in the case of the Milestones and Awards, it will still only be the first three that score.
What will interest most people are the new cards that come with Venus Next. These include five new Corporations. In addition, there are 49 more cards to add to the deck. Almost all of these have a Venus tag or have an impact on the Venus terraforming but most will also have an effect on aspects of the core game and players efforts on the Martian surface.
One of the key gripes people had about Terraforming Mars is that it’s a long game. The worry with this and with any future expansions that might incorporate additional terraforming tracks and objectives is that these will make an already long game even longer. The designer has taken that squarely on board here by using the Venus Next rules to introduce a new ‘solar phase’ into the game after the production phase. Now, each generation, the player with the first player marker acts as the ‘World Government’ to place out an ocean or move up by one any of the Mars terraforming tracks. The player doesn’t get any bonuses for these improvements (he is merely proxy for the ‘World Government’) but they serve to shorten the game and compensate for the impact of adding the Venusian objectives.
Venus Next is a worthwhile expansion that most Terraforming Mars enthusiasts will want to incorporate into their game. Where will Terraforming take us next…?