By Kate Thompson
Do people still say pwn? I don’t care.
Pursuant to my last post, I decided to try another solo game of Terraforming Mars with the Venus Next expansion. I did this at 5:30 am on a snow day in January, which is not really my typical board gaming time, but it was nice.
The whole point of this exercise was to see how difficult the solo game is with the expansion. My only other attempt felt quite easy to me, so I wanted more data. Read on to see how it went, if you don’t already know what pwn means.
In the above image you can see my starting projects and corporations. My usual approach at the beginning of the game is to look at the two corporations I’ve been dealt, and also the starting projects I have available, and see if there are any completely broken (i.e., sick) synergies that I could take advantage of. Usually there aren’t, and I just have to decide which corporation works best with the cards I have, and then which of those cards will help me in the first few turns of the game. This time, however, I could tell there was some real potential!
As you can see here, I drew quite a few blue project cards, which theoretically work well with the new Viron corporation in Venus Next. Not only that, but these blue projects synergized really well together. First of all, let’s look at Underground Detonations and Deuterium Export. In the solo game, you start at zero production for all resources. Because you need to terraform the entire planet (AND Venus) on your own, anything that increases terraforming-related production like heat and energy is extremely valuable. Both of these projects allowed me to get my heat production going from very early on, meaning that I knew I would never have to worry about heat.
Dirigibles is great because it allows you to place floaters on ANY card, making it very flexible. In addition, it basically generates money for you if you are playing Venus tags, which I had three of already!
Extractor Balloons helps get the Venus track terraformed, which again will be necessary for the solo game. Finally, Air-Scrapping Expedition works with all the other floater projects I had. Being able to add floaters to those cards with Air-Scrapping allows me to use their action to gain the heat/energy/TR/money more often.
So, I chose Viron and purchased the five projects pictured above. Things were looking good!
Turn 1: On my first turn, I played Underground Detonations, and was able to activate it twice thanks to Viron’s special ability. I ended up with four heat production as a result!
Turn 2: I played Dirigibles and used it twice (again thanks to the corporation special ability), which allowed me to get a bit of a discount on Deuterium Export. Given that I still had five mega credits, maybe I should have used my corporation ability to activate Deuterium Export twice, gaining an energy production… But that is not what I did.
Turn 3: I used Dirigibles twice again to help pay for Extractor Balloons.
Turn 4 was pretty fancy! I played Air-Scrapping Expedition and added three floaters to Extractor Balloons. There were then four floaters on it, so I used the action twice to increase the Venus Terraforming track.
Turn 5: I got an extra heat production from increasing the temperature this turn. The other tracks had been slowly increasing each turn from the World Government phase, as well. In Venus Next, the government helps you out by increasing one track every turn. In the solo game, I just try to make sure this phase helps me to reach those bonuses (like the increased heat production) or helps me move towards any requirements on project cards in my hand.
Turn 6: Not much special to point out here, except that I kept increasing my production with my blue project cards.
Turn 7: I picked up Water Splitting Plant, which is another card that works really well with the synergy I was building. Energy and heat production are great for increasing the temperature, but once that track is finished, those production tracks you worked so hard to build up are no longer useful. Water Splitting Plant allowed me to start using my energy to increase the oxygen level as well, putting that energy to use!
Turn 8: At this point, my heat production was at ten, and energy was at five! I feel proud of that.
Turn 9: Things were looking really healthy so far. The only track that was lagging behind a bit was Oxygen, but I placed my first greenery tile this turn, and also still had Water Splitting Plant to fall back on once I finished increasing the temperature.
Turn 10: I developed Standard Technology, which is a really great project for the solo game. Standard Technology provides a three mega credit rebate when you fund any standard project. I find that I end up paying for most of the greenery tiles I need to increase the oxygen track (rather than using plants), so this makes that a lot cheaper. You can also use this to increase heat, place ocean tiles, and terraform Venus.
Turn 11: At this point, the temperature track was maxed out, with the other tracks close behind. In the solo game, you have until the end of turn 14 to terraform all tracks. That seemed like it would be easy to accomplish from here.
Turn 12: The only thing left was two points of oxygen!
Turn 13: Done! So, I’m actually not sure whether you are supposed to keep playing until the end of turn 14, or if you stop once terraforming is complete. I decided to keep going and see how many points I could accumulate.
Here is the board state at the end of the game. I ended up with 82 points, which I think is quite good. I’ve ended multiplayer games with similar scores!
Here are a few close-ups of the end game:
Summary: Easy Peasy
So I had a pretty easy time with this again, but there’s no denying that the synergy I was able to build here was pretty lucky. I’ll keep playing and keep track of how I do.
If you’d like to see more of this kind of thing, let me know in a comment below! Also, let me know how you’ve found the solo game with Venus Next!
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