Reviews

Review – Terraforming Mars: Venus Next (Stronghold Games)

Terraforming Venus Offers Exciting New Gameplay in Expansion

The second expansion of the Terraforming Mars base game, Terraforming Mars: Venus Next, has players building flying cities and making the atmosphere more hospitable on the deadly planet Venus.

Terraforming Mars Venus Next
Terraforming Mars: Venus Next

In Venus Next, the World Government chooses to also fund the terraforming of Venus. The Venus Next expansion adds 49 new project cards and 5 new corporations, as well as the addition of the Venus track, where players work to raise a fourth global parameter: the Venus scale. These new project cards and corporations focus on making Venus habitable. With the new floater resource, a new milestone, a new award, a new tag, and a new terraforming parameter, players are given more paths to victory and even more varied play.

Gameplay

With the addition of this expansion, there’s not too much different in the basic gameplay from the original game. Each player keeps track of their production and resources on their player boards, and the game uses six types of resources: MegaCredits, Steel, Titanium, Plants, Energy, and Heat. On the game board, players compete for the best places for city tiles, ocean tiles, and greenery tiles, as well as different Milestones and Awards worth Victory Points.

"<yoastmarkDuring the Research phase, all players buy cards from four privately drawn. During the Action phase, players take turns doing 1-2 actions from these options: playing a card, claiming a Milestone, funding an Award, using a Standard project, converting plants into greenery tiles (and raising oxygen), converting heat into a rise in temperature, and using the action of a card in play. The turn continues around the table until all players pass. Finally, during the Production phase, players get resources according to their terraform rating and production parameters. When the three global parameters (temperature, oxygen, ocean) have all reached their goal, the terraforming is complete, and the game ends after that generation.

What’s New

Venus Next includes the new Venus track, where players work to raise a fourth global parameter: the Venus scale. Because of Venus being a more long-term project, the scale only goes from Venus being 0% to 30% terraformed. It offers more opportunities to get Terraform Ratings (TR) and bonus steps, and, like other global parameters, it stops giving TR when maxed out. But the Venus scale is not an end game condition – you still only need temperature, oxygen, and oceans to be maxed out to end the game.

Venus Next What's New
Venus Next: What’s New

Venus Next also introduces a new resource: Floaters. Floaters represent a hovering infrastructure in the Venusian atmosphere, where the pressure and temperature are similar to that on Earth. The surface is decidedly more forbidding, with a 90 atm (bar) pressure and temperatures around 450°C. Floaters are collected on cards and work in the same way as microbes and animals. Additionally, some cards have a Wild resource, represented by a wild resource icon. This is an unspecified resource and can be used as the player’s choice of a floater, animal, microbe, or another resource.

There is also a new Hoverlord milestone and a new Venuphile award. To claim the Hoverlord milestone, a player needs a total of at least 7 floater resources on your cards. The Venuphile Award is a contest for most Venus tags in play. The Venus tag symbolizes that the project is located on Venus or in its orbit.

The Good

Adding a fourth global parameter, plus new project cards and corporations, this game could take hours to play, right? That is true. However, Venus Next introduces a new phase, the Solar Phase. This phase comes after the production phase each generation to help speed things along. I’ve played games of Terraforming Mars that have exceeded two hours, so any help to speed things along is welcome!

Venus Next new corporations
Venus Next new corporations

Step 1 in the Solar Phase is to check the end game conditions: if temperature, oxygen, and oceans are all maxed out, the game ends and final scoring begins with the normal conversion of plants. No further steps in the Solar Phase are executed. Step 2 is called World Government Terraforming. In order to terraform Venus without slowing down the terraforming of Mars, the World Government (WG) has decided to help out. The first player acts as the WG. The WG chooses a non-maxed global parameter and increases that track one step or places an ocean tile. All bonuses go to the WG, and therefore no TR or other bonuses are given to the first player.

The solo variant also utilizes the Solar Phase. Unlike the multiplayer variant, the goal in a solo player game is to max out all four global parameters, including the Venus scale. Solo players still start at 14 TR and have 14 generations, but the World Government Terraforming during the Solar Phase will help achieve this goal.

The Bad

The only “bad” condition I can find for this game is with the Venus scale. The Venus scale is not an end game condition. Only temperature, oxygen, and oceans need to be maxed out to end the game. If the Venus scale is not required to end the game, then why bother? There are a few cards that benefit from the Venus scale reaching a certain percentage. Also, when a player increases the Venus scale, their TR also increases. But, other than that, there aren’t any significant benefits from spending MegaCredits or resources to increase this scale. Some games will see the Venus scale completed well before the end, while at other times it will hardly be touched at all.

Final Thoughts

In a recent Dice Tower video, Tom Vasel discusses the best-selling games of January 2018. These figures are based on the number of units sold at CoolStuffInc.com, the largest online board game store. Two expansions for Terraforming Mars appeared on this list for January. The Hellas & Elysium double-sided game board expansion landed at #7, and the latest expansion, Venus Next, at #1.

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With the popularity of Terraforming Mars and its subsequent expansions, there is no doubt that this game is a runaway success. A recent poll on BoardGameGeek.com, The 20 Most Anticipated Games of 2018, had the yet-unnamed upcoming expansion for Terraforming Mars on the list at #8. I’ll be one of the first to throw my money at Stronghold Games in order to get it to my gaming table as soon as possible.

The consensus amongst tabletop gamers is that this game is amazing, and I agree wholeheartedly. I love this game, and I can’t get enough of it.

Game Statistics

  • Release Date:     2017
  • MSRP:                 $29.95
  • Playing Time:     90-120 minutes
  • Age Range:         12+
  • Player Count:     1-5 players

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About the author

Shanon Connelly

(a.k.a. “Super Muffin Girl”) is an avid board gamer, cosplayer, and all around nerd girl. She has been cosplaying for 10 years, attending several conventions every year. She recently started a YouTube gaming channel, "Time to Play!", which previews and reviews board games. Follow Shanon on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram (@supermuffingirl).

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