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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Terraform Mars in this clever combo of tile placement and nonviolent 4X

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Terraformers is an upcoming strategy game with familiar premise—Terraforming the planet Mars—but a novel implementation of the gameplay a lot unlike what I’ve otherwise seen. I got a chance to play it during the Steam Next Fest 2021 and was charmed by the emphasis on strategy more like Civilization V, or a tile placement board game, than the recent real-time base building games with the same theme.

The turn-based gameplay of Terraformers emphasizes building various cities on the regions of Mars. Those cities are put in charge of various nearby regions, and the choice between giving a newly explored region to an existing city to boost its output or founding a new city was quite interesting to make. 

As turns pass you draw new building cards and gain them through events, as well as rotate through a cast of characters for Mars’ leadership. As generations pass, these leaders can grow old, retire, and die.

Beyond the basics of exploring and expanding, each city was itself a minigame of placing new buildings near each other to build synergy. Thus, the choice was always to build now and risk missing out on later synergies or to dedicate individual cities to a precise specialty, even if it means missing out on production in the meanwhile.

The final version of the game will randomize the surface of Mars each time, varying what resources you have access to each playthrough. You can find Terraformers on its official website and on Steam. It doesn’t yet have a release date.

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