Terraforming Mars Rules (Official Board Game Instructions)

Are you fascinated by board games set in space, with stellar graphics, including diverse strategies and actions that require serious brainstorming? Trust me, Terraforming Mars won’t disappoint you even a little bit. 

Just like other resource-building games such as Gaia Project and Scythe, Terraforming Mars rules may seem intimidating for a fresh player. But if you have ever roamed in the fantasy world Terra Mystica galaxy, you will appreciate Terraforming Mars to its core.

So you think you are ready to save humanity and take a giant leap to colonize Mars?

Stay with us till the end of this guide, and we will walk you through a comprehensive overview of Terraforming Mars rules, multiple elements and actions and the final scoring process.

What is Terraforming Mars?

Terraforming Mars Board Game Info image

Terraforming Mars is an elaborate board game based on economic engine building and expanding territories. 

The backdrop of Terraforming Mars is set in a future world of 2174 when humanity is constantly striving for global peace and unity. 

To deal with the population explosion and limited resources on earth, the World Government has taken an endeavor of terraforming the red planet to increase immigration into space. The sole purpose of this mission is to alter the climate of Mars into a more welcoming atmosphere for human habitation. 

Each player in the game represents a Corporation who participates in this massive undertaking. They work in a competitive and ambitious environment as the Committee announces generous rewards for the better performers. 

Number of Players: 2 – 5

Ages: 12+

Length: 90-120 minutes 

Difficulty: Medium to Hard

Similar to: Terra Mystica, Gaia Project, Risk, Scythe, Splendor

Main Objective: Buy and play cards, completing different projects to terraform Mars. As you contribute to increasing the levels of the Global parameters, your Corporation earns Terraforming Rating and Victory Points. Compete with other corporations to be the highest scorer to win the game.

Why We Love It: The fun part about this game is all the players are working to achieve the same goal, yet they are in a struggle to outdo each other. 

There is a ton of choices to make while taking an action for your Corporation, and as the game proceeds, it becomes more and more engaging. 

terraforming mars game play image

Playing Terraforming Mars – What You’ll Need

Have a look at this Terraforming Mars board game set by Indie Boards and Cards. It should be a great choice to experience Terraforming Mars for the first time. 

You will find an array of contents inside the box:

  • Game board
  • Player boards
  • Project deck
  • 4 different types of tiles 
  • 5 different colors of Player markers 
  • Resource cubes – Bronze, Silver and Gold
  • Global Parameter markers – White cubes 
  • Terraforming Mars rules and instruction sheet

This set features over 1,200 projects to be completed. 

Terraforming Mars Board Game
$69.95 $61.70
Buy Now
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
10/06/2023 09:37 am GMT

If you are tired of playing this same version over and over again, Terraforming Mars has five amazing expansion packs that every board game fanatic should try at some point. 

How to Set up Terraforming Mars Game

As complicated as the game setup is, if you understand some basic concepts and components, it will get easier eventually. 

The aim of Terraforming Mars rules is to increase the percentage of the three Global parameters until they have reached their limit:

  • Temperature, 
  • Oxygen and; 
  • Ocean 

Game Board 

As the game begins, Mars is dead. Oxygen level is at zero, and Temperature starts at a freezing  -30°. So place these Global Parameter markers (the white cubes) accordingly on the starting points of their respective scales. 

The planet is parched and dry, so stack the 9 Ocean tiles on the spaces assigned for them. 

Each player chooses a color and picks the corresponding Player markers and Player boards.

The Terraforming Rating track around the edge of the board measures the basic corporate income and VPs. Counting on this track starts from 20 space, so everyone places their colored cubes at that point. 

The Generation marker also moves up the TR track starting at 1, which helps to measure time. 

Player Board

In the Player board, you keep track and manage resources, production and economic growth of your Corporation. 

As the game begins, the surface of Mars is still blank, and you start by planting 1 production of each resource. To do this, place your Player markers on the 1 space of the 6 production tracks – MegaCredit, Steel, Titanium, Plants, Energy and Heat. 

Corporation Cards and Project Cards

The first time players receive a Beginner Corporation card each. These cards will instruct them to draw 10 Project cards from the deck secretly and collect resource cubes of total 42 MegaCredits. 

  • Value of the resource cubes:

Bronze – 1

Silver – 5 

Gold – 10

The remaining experienced players are dealt with 2 Standard Corporation cards and 10 Project cards each.

Starting Conditions 

Before beginning the gameplay, players with a Standard Corporation card will reveal the chosen corporations in a clockwise order starting from the player holding the First Player token. 

At the same time, they collect initial resources and production and pay 3 M€ for each Project card they want to keep for the starting hand. 

The beginner players are allowed to keep all 10 Project cards at no extra cost. 

The leftover Corporation and Project cards are discarded face-down from the game. 

Keep the Greenery, City and Special tiles and the resource cubes by the side of the board, within everyone’s reach. 

As Terraforming Mars rules suggest, the player who won the last game of Terraforming Mars gets the First Player marker. You can totally personalize this rule if everyone is a first-timer. 

Terraforming Mars Game Rules and Gameplay

In Terraforming Mars rules, one complete turn is known as a Generation. A Generation is played in 4 consecutive phases. 

As the Player Order phase and Research phase are already performed during the game set up, the first Generation starts directly from the Action phase. 

Phase I: Player Order 

In this step, the 1st player marker is shifted 1 space in clockwise order, and the generation marker is moved up 1 space on the track. 

Phase II: Research Phase 

Each player will draw 4 cards, and they can opt to buy 0-4 cards to the hand for 3 M€ per card. If you don’t buy all 4, discard the rest face-down on the discard pile. 

This step first takes place in the 2nd Generation. 

Phase III: Action Phase

This phase lets the players take 1-2 actions each turn or just pass if that’s what they choose to do. You can combine the actions in your own way. The phase ends when every player around the board has passed. 

Look at the options you have to pick from:

  • Play a Project card from your hand 
  • Use a standard project
  • Claim a milestone 
  • Fund an award 
  • Apply the action of a blue Project card
  • Convert Plants into Greenery tile
  • Convert Heat into Temperature increase

Phase IV: Production Phase 

The Production phase is carried out simultaneously by all the players. 

  • All Energy is converted into Heat – resource cubes from the Energy box are shifted to Heat box.
  • All players receive new resources based on their current production levels and M€ according to their terraforming rating. 
  • Finally, the Player markers are removed from the used action cards, so that they can be used further in the next Generation.

With that, one Generation is over, and you are all set to start the next one. 

Final Scoring and Winning the Game 

The game comes to an end when all of the 9 Ocean tiles have been placed, and Temperature and Oxygen levels have reached their maximum level. 

After finishing the Production phase of the last Generation, players get a chance to convert their Plants into Greenery tiles, in the current turn order.

Now it’s time for the final scoring. 

  • TR – Your Terraforming Rating at this point is your final base score. Move your Player marker as you count and add VPs from other achievements. 
  • Awards – The leading player will get 5 VPs and the runner up scores 2 VPs in this category.
  • Milestone – For each claimed milestone, add 5 VPs.
  • Cards – Count the total VPs from your face-up cards.
  • Game board – Each Greenery tile and City tile is worth 1 VP.

Sum up all VPs and base score, and the highest scorer wins!

If it’s a tie, the player with the most MegaCredits wins the game. 

How to Play Terraforming Mars Board Game – Video Tutorial

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the resources used in the Terraforming Mars board game?

The Player boards display production tracks for 6 resources used in terraforming – MegaCredit, Steel, Titanium, Plants, Energy and Heat. 

In Terraforming Mars, how do you use the action on a blue Project card?

The blue Project cards have different actions, indicated by a red arrow. For some of them, you have to pay the price, some of them are free of cost. You will receive whatever resource is stated there in the card. 

Since a blue card action can be taken only once in a Generation, you need to place a Player marker on that card as a reminder of that card already being used. 

What happens when Plants are converted into Greenery in the Terraforming Mars Action Phase?

It will cost you 8 Plant resources to place one Greenery tile on the board, which increases the Oxygen level 1 step.

Consequently, your score on the TR track also increases by 1 space.

Alternative Games You Might Like 

Have you already played all the expansions of Terraforming Mars and are looking for something of a similar note?

We have plenty of suggestions for you!

Terra Mystica, Gaia Project, Star Realms and Catan are such games where the factions try to terraform new territories into habitable environments through resource and engine building. 

If you are looking for war based games of world domination, you may check out our easy guides to Risk and Scythe board game rules.

To rejoice pure engine-building, learn How to Play Splendor the Board Game.

Article by:
Read all the articles (58) written by MaddyGG101