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Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition – Crisis Review


The Martian Colony is in crisis! Meteors have struck the planet, ripping apart the infrastructure, undoing the terraforming efforts of generations! Can you keep Mars habitable? This is the question posed by Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition - Crisis, a solo and cooperative expansion for Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition.

Crisis Management.

What exactly does Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition - Crisis have to offer players (other than a long and unwieldy title)? Quite a lot actually.

The expansion comes with a new main board, specifically for playing the Crisis scenario. This makes a great first impression, especially as one side of the board has some alternative tracks that player score and planet parameter markers fit on far more comfortably than they did on the original board. A nice quality of life improvement.

There are the crisis cards themselves; evocatively titled events that happen each turn, requiring certain cards played by the players in order to resolve them. If they remain unresolved, they will have ongoing effects that flip oceans, or reduce the temperature and oxygen levels. This expansion is called crisis for a reason; you must look to resolve these as quickly as possible, else re-terraforming Mars will be a near impossible task.

There are a pair of new corporations, designed to work with the crisis mode specifically. They are not playable outside of this expansion, though all of the base game expansions can also be used with Crisis.

Even when attempting to resolve the crisis solo, this expansion has your back. There are dummy phase cards that you draw from each turn, before choosing your own phase card. This will ensure you get 3 phases most turns and allow you to plan your own phase choice efficiently. A nice touch and a positive one, as the base solo game could lead you to losing phase actions based on the flip of the dummy phase card.

You also get a different set of dummy phase cards when playing the game cooperatively with 2 or 3 players. Again, this is to allow a bit more flexibility in terms of how many phases activate each round.

Finally, I can confirm: all of the components from this expansion will fit comfortably in the base game box. There are even new card dividers provided to separate out the Crisis cards from the rest.

Crisis Resolution.

Crisis is a brilliant solo/coop expansion. There is a pressure to get your production engine up and running, enabling you to re-terraform Mars quick enough to keep up with the damage caused by the Crisis cards.

The expansion subtly shifts the card priority for players too. Any cards with temperature/oxygen/ocean prerequisites are not used. Cards that score victory points were often not the most efficient choice in the base game’s solo and cooperative modes. In Crisis however, they are very important as you can resolve the crisis cards at the end of each round by spending 2 victory point tokens. This can be crucial as, for example, there will be times where a crisis card requires you to play a blue card and you just don’t have one in your hand. I find this system to be excellent and it means I’m getting even more value out of Ares Expedition’s huge deck of project cards.

A Crisis Reaches Conclusion.

Should you go out and purchase Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition - Crisis? Honestly, it depends how you enjoy playing the base game. If you mostly play it competitively with other players, there is not a lot in Crisis that will interest you - there are other expansions to Ares Expedition that will be better value for you.

If you enjoy playing Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition solo, then why are you still here reading this? You should go ahead and purchase it already with no fear of regret. I enjoy the base game solo and the solo mode provided here is even better and a fantastic alternative. As a solo player, this is one of the best expansions I’ve acquired in some time.

If you enjoy cooperative games and like Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition, again, I would highly recommend Crisis. It will provide you with an excellent cooperative experience; there is a genuine sense of tension as the crisis cards escalate throughout the game and you will need to discuss with the other players how best to meet the presented challenges. Will one of you focus on heat and control the temperature? Whose corporation is geared up to play ocean flipping event cards? How will you plan out your phase cards each round? Questions are constantly posed by the game that will require the players to work together in a manner that is truly cooperative, making Crisis an excellent choice if you enjoy this style of game.

I think Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition - Crisis is a near perfect expansion. It is not a case of providing players with just more ‘stuff’, rather it is focused on doing something very particular and catering to a specific part of Ares Expedition’s audience. I think this is a commendable choice from the publisher. Some players of Ares Expedition will give this a wide berth. If you don’t play the game solo or cooperatively, you can pass on this expansion (though if you’re remotely curious about doing so… this is the way to go). For those of us who do, there is no Crisis of confidence here; it is an easy expansion to recommend and further enhances the enjoyment to be had from this fabulous game.