Board Game Session Report and First Impressions: Terraforming Mars (+expansions), SpaceCorp, Parks

This week is a big game week for my group. We played Saturday and Monday, and we’ll return for Wednesday and Thursday and probably next Saturday as well. This is part 1 of our gaming block, Saturday and Monday.

To help us narrow games down, we’ve begun using a system for picking and learning games to improve how much we can utilize each meetup. We have a rotating game selection; one person picks the next game, then they can’t pick a game until the others have picked a game. On top of this, each pick is selected before we meet up so we can watch rules videos or read the rules before meeting. That way, we’re not spending 30-60 minutes each meetup on learning the game. We also don’t have to spend 15-20 minutes picking a game. It works great for us. We still typically only play 1 game each meetup because we tend to play really heavy games that take 3-4 hours, but sometimes we get to play more.

Terraforming Mars + All Expansions


First up was Terraforming Mars with all expansions. We had been building up to this by playing the base game with Venus, then base game, Venus, and Colonies. We always play with Prelude. Turmoil was the new one. As often happens in TM, a strong plant game is near impossible to stop. It happens. I usually enjoy TM, and my friend rates it a 10 (he’s spent probably over $200 just on extra stuff for the game), but for all of us, Turmoil was a let-down.

The negative events are brutal and just slow down the economy, sometimes hitting some players much harder than others. The loss in TR each round also slowed things down. And in the end, the positive events weren’t that interesting, and the Ruling Party Tiles were okay, but Turmoil adds a lot of overhead and slows everything down for what doesn’t ultimately feel like it’s worth it. It’ll be a while before we try Turmoil again, and we’re removing the negative events.

This was also the first time playing with an all-in-one fanmade mat. It works pretty well, and the “non-slip” surface (which feels kind of sticky) holds the tiles really well. However, the person who designed the layout seems to have overlooked the point values for milestones and awards.

SpaceCorp


Yet another space game. We had also recently played High Frontier 4 All (I don’t have much to say on that one). But I knew going into SpaceCorp that I would like it more than HF anyway. Space is just not really a theme I’m into.

SpaceCorp is played in 3 eras, each one increasing in complexity (and time). We only played the first two eras since it was our first time. The game does include a quick setup for starting in era three if we want, and we probably will next time.

My Infra at the end of Era 1

The map at the end of Era 1

I really like the mechanics of the game, though the randomness does kind of hurt the multiplayer a bit. It seems like it would be fun solo. On the other hand, the infra (player tableau) is pretty interesting, and we would definitely go into the game differently. Two of us had big Move setups, and one player didn’t really build up their infra and just used ours (mostly mine). This was fine in era one, but in era two, we really noticed the lack of a good Build infra. The last few rounds were short on builds so we just went exploring and producing for points. Lesson learned.

My Infra at the end of Era 2

Era 2 map

Due to the randomness, there is a runaway leader problem, though it’s per era. Someone might shoot ahead in the first era, then someone else gets ahead in era two. But it’s pretty random who gets to move ahead. There are opportunities to make calculated moves, but where the points are concerned, it is highly random. Still a fun game, though.

Parks

Parks is a really pretty game and probably easy-going. But we’re too competitive to take it easy and relax. Two of us really enjoy Tokaido, so the path mechanic felt right at home. And we were surprised by how many Parks you could visit in one game; we were thinking you’d only get a few, but the resources can quickly multiply.

The main problem we had was the gear offer stagnated because two players didn’t want what was out there (I bought some). So gear didn’t play a big role in the game. The personal scoring cards might also be a bit weak. One player skipped doing the second part of his scoring card because he earned more points by doing something else. The points are low enough that I wonder if it could be better (at least sometimes) to ignore your personal goal and focus on in-game scoring opportunities. If even once, you leave 2 points to get something for your personal goal, it’s probably a wash.

Forgot to turn over my personal goal card, it was bonuses for collecting 5 and 7 Sun Parks.

The scores were also really close. 31, 32, and 33. So if sticking to your personal goal costs you even 1 point in order to finish it, that could mean a loss. Still, it was fun and quick. It was a little over an hour, I think, and that includes reading the rules and teaching. And it’s a great production.

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