The upcoming spin-off title, Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition, is set to provide a quicker experience than the original, as well as an optional co-op mode.
Revealed last month alongside some promotional artwork, Ares Expedition sees players taking control of a collection of competing corporations as they attempt to make Mars habitable for humankind. Similarly to the first game in the series, Ares Expedition challenges players to efficiently use their turns to invest in various projects - with the aim of gaining victory points and improving the planet’s terraform rating.
Unlike in Terraforming Mars, Ares Expedition has players using cards instead of tiles, with the game’s rounds being resolved in a series of phases.
Each round has five potential phases that players can select from - development, construction, action, production or research - using their hand of cards to choose which phase they’d like to participate in every round. Players simultaneously reveal which cards they have played, with the selected phases also being resolved simultaneously - thereby speeding up the game’s playtime.
Development enables players to use a green card to invest in one of their projects, whilst the construction phase has players unlocking new benefits or actions for their corporation. Alternatively, action cards allow the players to resolve specific abilities on the cards they currently have in play, whereas the production phase has players obtaining resources. Finally, the research phase enables players to draw two project cards and choose one to put into their hand.
As in Terraforming Mars, players will be looking to balance their terraform rating with the number of projects they’re able to complete. A higher terraform rating grants players more funds at the end of every round, but pushing for complete habitation too soon advances the game closer to its end - which could be too soon if players haven’t invested in enough projects and gathered enough victory points yet. Whichever player has the most victory points is named the winner of Ares Expedition.
The upcoming card game comes with an optional co-op game mode for two-players, that sees the duo working together to finish terraforming the planet before their allotted time runs out. This version of the game is similar to the standard mode, besides the cooperative element, the win condition and the game ending after 15 rounds. Players can also tackle a solo game mode, which also sees them attempting to make Mars habitable in a certain time frame.
Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition was co-designed by Jacob Fryxelius - the creator behind the original game - Sydney Engelstein, who co-designed the sci-themed co-op board game Space Cadets, and co-creator of spin-off title Aeon’s End: Legacy, Nick Little.
Stronghold Games is the studio responsible for co-publishing Ares Expedition, as well as Terraforming Mars, alongside FryxGames - the company co-founded by Jacob Fryxelius and artist Isaac Fryxelius, who created the artwork for the Terraforming Mars series.
The Kickstarter campaign for Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition is currently live until March 5th, with a pledge of $39 (£29) getting backers a copy of the core game that’s set to arrive in September.