by Kate Thompson
The Venus Next expansion for Terraforming Mars was released in December 2017. I managed to get my hands on a copy even earlier than that at PAX Unplugged. This was entirely thanks to my AMAZING friends Karyn and Kevin, who found it and then generously let me have their copy when we returned to the booth to find they had sold out. I was vibrating with joy and anticipation!
Here’s what the expansion adds to the game, and what I think about it!
What’s in the expansion?
Overall, I love this expansion. I don’t see myself ever playing the game without it. The thing I like the most is the new projects and corporations. I have played Terraforming Mars MANY times. My partner Neil and I have been playing it at least once a week for over a year. This means that we are both very familiar with all of the project cards and corporations. Being familiar in this way is part of what makes the game interesting to me -- I get to learn all the synergies that exist and figure out when to try and make them happen. However, after a certain point, I miss seeing new cards and figuring out how best to make them work. So, Venus Next scratches that itch perfectly.
I’m a huge fan of the new floater resource, which works similarly to microbes and animals in that you are collecting them and then trading them in. I had a great time in my first game with the Celestic Corporation because I was able to create some really powerful floater synergies. I also really like snagging a floater card and piling on 7 floaters as fast as I can for an easy Milestone in Hoverlord.
All the new corporations are a lot of fun. I’ve tried most of them now, and haven’t been disappointed. The new corporate abilities are interesting and unique. As one example, the new Manutech Corporation allows you to gain resources equal to any increase in production that you get. So, if your plant production goes up by 2, you get 2 plants immediately. Over the course of a game, that’s a lot of extra resources! Another one of my favourite new corporations is Viron, which allows you to use the action ability of any project card for a second time in a round. Like many corporation special abilities, how useful this is will depend on the cards you get. But if your opening hand contains some good blue project cards, this corporation can be very powerful. There is a reason you can normally only activate a blue project once per round!
The Venus Terraforming track had the potential to make the game drag on for much longer than normal, but they incorporated a couple rules to curb that. First, like I mentioned, Terraforming Venus is not a game-end condition, so you don’t need to finish that track to end the game. Second, they added a new phase to the game: the World Government phase. After everyone passes, but before production, the 1st player gets to advance a terraforming track (temperature, oxygen, oceans, or Venus) one space. I think this is a great way to keep the game shorter… but it depends entirely on everyone remembering to do it. Since the game is so well ingrained, it’s been hard for us to remember. The first Venus game we played, we forgot until after the game was over… a game that was so long we had to take a break in the middle!
I like the rule that each player gets dealt one of the new Venus corporations, and one old one at game start, especially when you are trying the expansion out for the first time (it guarantees that you have the option of playing with a new corporation if you want to). However, I personally found that I usually just picked the new corporation because it’s fun to try something new. That urge is starting to go away though, and I now tend to let my starting projects guide my corporation choice, which is what I would normally do.
After the first couple games we played, my partner commented that the Venus Terraforming board didn’t seem to add much to the game. He saw it as a pointless track. However, he lost to me in both of those games, and I used that track heavily both times to get TR. In the games we’ve played since, he has started using the track a little more, which has balanced things out so that we both win sometimes… So I think the track *could* be seen as irrelevant, but only if NO ONE uses it. If someone else seems to be racking up points on that track, it really can make a difference in who wins.
I have played the Venus Next expansion with the base game board as well as with the Hellas and Elysium expansion boards. I have also played the solo variant with Venus Next. I have not noticed any combinations that don’t seem to work particularly well -- it seems balanced. I would like to play a few more solo games though. It should theoretically be harder because, in the solo game, you do need to complete the Venus Terraforming track along with all the others. However, I won the game I played fairly easily, so I’ll have to wait and see if it’s always that easy.
To sum it up, I don’t have anything bad to say about this expansion. If you couldn’t tell, though, Terraforming Mars is one of my very favourite games, so that might put some rose coloured glasses on my views of this expansion!
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