Terraforming Mars (FryxGames/Stronghold) has proved to be a hugely successful board game. Since its original launch at Spiel Essen in 2016 it has maintained its position in the BoardGameGeek 'Top Ten'. Aside from its several expansions, it has already spawned a second standalone game - Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition - that melds elements of the original game with the core mechanic from Race for the Galaxy (Rio Grande). Now, with Terraforming Mars: The Dice Game, Jacob Fryxelius has again reworked the theme as another standalone game.
Like its predecessors, Terraforming Mars: The Dice Game is an engine building game where 1-4 players are scoring victory points mostly by adding to the habitability of an initially barren planet Mars. Again, there's a board on which you'll be placing out hex tiles representing oceans, cities et al, and you'll be trying to raise the planet's temperature and increase the oxygen in the atmosphere. Like Ares Expedition, the board tho' is ancillary rather than central to your play. In this game, unsurprisingly, you'll be acquiring dice (custom six-sided dice of various colours representing your resources) and using them in conjunction with cards to create your engine. Off course it's a dice chucker, but tho' you're rolling dice, with the inevitable luck factor that that introduces, the game offers plenty of opportunities for luck mitigation. And we don't mean re-rolls: in Terraforming Mars: The Dice Game you don't get to re-roll but you can always spend a die to change the face of another die to whatever you choose. Cards too can give you the ability to choose the face of a die. This isn't then so much a dice rolling as a dice manipulation game.
Tho' you're ultimately working to terraform the planet, and you can pay at least three dice of the relevant colour to raise the temperature (red), place out an ocean hex (blue), build a city (grey) and place out a forest (four green dice), we've found in our plays at Board's Eye View that players remain keenly focused throughout on accumulating dice and optimising their dice pool as they synergise the dice with their cards.
Our games of Terraforming Mars: The Dice Game have all gone down well. It's a good game and we've enjoyed playing it. The problem is that the name, theme and branding of the game naturally and inevitably invites comparison with the original Terraforming Mars. That game always feels epic in scale and, win or lose, players usually leave the table with a sense of achievement. Terraforming Mars: The Dice Game doesn't have any pretence to be similar in scale to the original game; indeed, a big plus point for The Dice Game is that it plays in a quarter of the time. The title and theme tho' mean that players go into the game expecting a similar experience and they can therefore come away feeling disappointed. It's a different game. We understand why FryxGames have branded it within the Terraforming Mars franchise but we can't escape the feeling that Terraforming Mars: The Dice Game would be appreciated more if it had its own distinct identity and wasn't themed and branded in the shadow of the Terraforming Mars game.