Terraforming Mars: Dice Game - Solo Layout (Photo by Kamio)

Terraforming Mars Dice Review

Overview

Terraforming Mars: Dice Game box side start
Terraforming Mars: Dice Game box side start

Choose your corporation and roll those dice; you’re back to terraform Mars! Terraforming Mars: The Dice Game is a fast-paced card-driven dice game where you’ll roll special dice to develop your corporation and make Mars habitable for humans.

Terraforming Mars Dice is brought to us by the Fryxelius family. Designed by Jacob Fryxelius, artwork by Isaac Fryxelius, published by FryxGames. The game plays 1-4, with an Official Solo Mode included.

Game Components

I have the Kickstarter edition of this game with the neoprene mat (that fits the official 3D terrain pieces) and custom sleeves that fit the uniquely sized cards.

The instruction booklet has a nice textured, linen finish, with a handy Milestones and Symbol Reference on the back. Unfortunately, the booklet has no component list, but a small one-line description of components is on the back of the box.

Terraforming Mars Dice!

The dice are a good size with nice primary colors and icons. I have seen photo reports that some people’s dice are inconsistent in size, but if so, it doesn’t affect gameplay.

There are five sets of dice resources with 12 dice each – Heat (red), Credits (yellow), Building (gray), Plants (green), and Water (blue). There are Common, Uncommon and Rare icons for each set. Each dice has 3 Common icons, 2 Uncommon icons and 1 rare icon on its six faces.

Terraforming Mars: Dice Game - All the Dice (Photo by Kamio)
Terraforming Mars: Dice Game – All the Dice, showing their icon rarity (Photo by Kamio)

Packaging

The box is roughly 10″ x 8″ x 3.5″ – which is the same size as the TM: Ares Expedition base game box. It has room for sleeved cards and all the components (except the neoprene mat, if you have that).

The insert is simple: just an orange (Mars surface print) cardboard divider, some foam blocks and a few baggies. You’ll likely need more baggies. If you play the game often, the box would do well with an after-market insert.

Terraforming Mars: Dice Game - Components (Photo by Kamio)
Terraforming Mars: Dice Game – Components (Photo by Kamio)

The Terraforming Mars Dice Kickstarter version includes the Corporate Era and Promo Pack cards.

If you have the retail version and want more gameplay, I highly suggest getting those extra promo cards, as they add quite a lot to the game! Corporate Era Promo adds 3 milestone tiles, 41 Project, 5 Bonus Project, and 8 Corporation cards. The Promo Pack adds 9 Project cards, 3 Bonus Project, and 5 Corporation cards.

Terraforming Mars: Dice Game - Cubes (Photo by Kamio)
Terraforming Mars: Dice Game – Cubes (Photo by Kamio)

Terraforming Mars Dice – Theme and Artwork

The game is not as thematic as the original Terraforming Mars game, but you’re still working with your corporation to fill the Mars planet with oceans and increase its temperature and oxygen. You’ll place tiles on a shared board, but no one owns them. The game is simplified greatly; for example, there are no stipulations on playing cards like in the OG game.

As for the artwork, Terraforming Mars isn’t known for its stellar artwork, but the bright, bold colors of the dice add to the fun! Here are the backs of the three types of cards – Project, Bonus, and Corporation cards.

Back of the project cards, bonus cards and corporation cards
Terraforming Mars Dice Review 10

If you’ve played the base game before, you’ll likely recognize some of the iconic card titles and images. Deimos Down, Giant Ice Asteroid – sound familiar?

Terraforming Mars dice roll (Photo by Kamio)
Terraforming Mars Dice ready to roll! (Photo by Kamio)

How Does Terraforming Mars Dice Compare to Multi-player?

In Multi-player, players only need to terraform two features of Mars. You’ll need to complete all three in 50 turns or less for solo! You’ll have a little help by starting the game with 3 tiles on the board and setting the Oxygen and Temperature parameters one spot further.

Terraforming Mars: Dice Game - Starting Solo Temperature (Photo by Kamio)

Compared to Ares Expedition and Original Game

The Terraforming Mars Dice version is the lightest and quickest of the three. The cards have a special small size, which I actually ended up liking, as they take up less space in your tableau.

You will notice there’s a ton of Red cards (these give a one-time bonus). Green cards increase your production on production turns, and Blue cards give either a permanent bonus (like a discount or extra capacity) or a one-time use between production turns. So you’ll need some of those Green and Blue cards! The base game comes with 53% Red, 33% Green and 14% Blue cards. If you add the promo cards, it turns out to be 50% Red, 26% Green, and 24% Blue, which seems more balanced.

I plan to play Ares Expedition and the original Terraforming Mars game again soon and then give a proper comparison.

Solo Gameplay

I’ve now played 17 solo games and haven’t won a single game. So that’s been a major frustration. Sometimes, I’m unsure if I forgot to move the AI dice a turn or moved it too many.

If allowed a few extra turns, I could win with a “decent” score. But the solo game is strict on winning within 50 turns. I typically never house rule, but if I were to focus on fun, I would change the solo mode, like lose points for every turn over 50.

Terraforming Mars: Dice Game - Solo Start (Photo by Kamio)
Terraforming Mars: Dice Game – Solo Start (Photo by Kamio)

Table Footprint and Time to Play

Three feet wide by two feet deep should be sufficient room for a solo player.

The solo game should take approximately 45-75 minutes. Initial setup if your cards are already shuffled is about 4 minutes.

Repeat game setup may take up to 6 minutes due to thoroughly shuffling the decks.

Pros and Cons of Terraforming Mars Dice

Pros

  • It plays faster than the OG and Ares games.
  • Turns go fast as well.
  • Grabbing a fistful of dice and unleashing them can be joyful.
  • Solo offers Awards and Achievements.

Cons

  • Randomness with dice. You could spend several of your precious fifty turns working on dice mitigation.
  • Randomness with cards. With over 50% red cards (one-time use), you may have trouble getting your engine going at the beginning of the game.
  • The gameplay can be longer than expected.
  • The solo mode is hard!!
  • It can be easy to forget to track solo rounds.
  • The card size is a new, small, unique size. You may not like the smaller size or may not have the right size sleeves on hand if you want to sleeve.
  • You will likely want the Promo cards. They give the game a more balanced card mix.

Terraforming Mars Dice Final Thoughts

Terraforming Mars box side - Terraformed!
Terraforming Mars box side – Terraformed!

It’s been almost three years since I’ve played the original Terraforming Mars. I’ve played it solo, multi-player and several times on the app. Although I’ve since blinged out the game, I haven’t played it since, so I am looking forward to playing TM in all its glory, including some expansions.

If I want a smaller footprint and a shorter game, I will likely grab TM Ares Expedition over the Dice version. I wonder if they’ll release a Terraforming Mars roll and write…

I’m looking forward to their next Kickstarter delivery – More Terraforming Mars! David Turczi and Nick Shaw designed the Terraforming Mars Solo Experience, which better simulates a real opponent with the flexibility to play with any expansion combination.

Have you played any of the Terraforming Mars games? What’s your favorite TM version?

One response to “Terraforming Mars Dice Review”

  1. Hamster Baconface Avatar
    Hamster Baconface

    I’ve not played the original, but for solo games I definitely preferred Ares Expedition over this dice version. I had a similar issue with being unsure whether I’d moved the turn counter 0,1, or 2 times each turn, and the abundance of red cards makes it feel less like I’m building up an engine (the best part!).

    I will say that this might be a more interesting option for multiplayer games, as there appears to be more interaction between players than Ares Expedition offers, but I haven’t tried that yet so am unsure if that makes up for the less enjoyable basic gameplay.

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