Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday 6 February 2018

Completely uninhabitable? Hold my drink!:- Terraforming Mars: Venus Next

Game: Terraforming Mars: Venus Next

Publisher: Stronghold Games

Designer: Jacob Fryxelius

Year: 2017

Venus Next is an expansion to the  2016 hit game Terraforming Mars, as you may have guessed from it's title it adds the ability to terraform the second rock from the sun. While Mars certainly has issues for human habitation, Venus has some very different ones, a surface temperature that's hundred of degrees outside our comfort zone and an atmosphere of carbon dioxide so dense that  the pressure on the surface would be like going on a deep dive in the ocean. A very, very hot ocean.

So instead of trying to make the planet another blue-green haven in the cold darkness of space, you have to construct floating cities, while concentrating only on getting some oxygen back in the atmosphere. Fortunately the dense gases promote the use of very efficient blimp-like vehicles known as "floaters". The Venus board gives you a few new cities to build and a whole new planet to terraform, even if it only has 1 track, while the new cards provide you with a selection of Venus-focused corporations, along with a whole host of new cards that add ways to manipulate Venus' environment and set up a network of floaters.

While Venus itself is obviously a big change, what it actually provides is an additional terraforming track, a way to increasing your terraforming rating (and as such your income and end game points) without actually improving Mars. As you might imagine this can lead to extending the length of the game, to counter this at the end of every round the first player may increase any of the 3 terraforming tracks on Mars, preventing the game coming to a standstill while everyone slowly waits for the planet to meet their card prerequisites.

There are some cities on the Venus board, but with no forests present you'll need to build on Mars if you want the big points.

The most notable change in my mind is the inclusion of floaters, however in reality these are no different to the bacteria or animal cards in the base game. Most allow you to use their action to add floaters, or alternatively use the floaters on them to trigger an effect; such as increasing the O2 level on venus, or increasing your energy production. The big change with floaters is that they are far more abundant than bacteria, they give you a chance to focus on building up an engine of blue cards right from the start of the game, should you so desire, which really does add a new way to progress in the game.

The new corporations are good, they add yet more variety in the game and help force you towards taking a Venus heavy strategy, but even with them you can't afford to ignore Mars. There is a new award for doing well on Venus as well as a new milestone for collecting enough floaters, which I particularly like. It's very achievable to get a large number of floaters early, but if you are saving your floaters to meet the milestone then you aren't using them for their abilities, it gives a nice balance between short term use and end game points.

Floater cards often give the ability to add floaters to other cards giving you the ability to make a very flexible engine.

Terraforming Mars: Venus Next doesn't really do anything new, the cities on Venus are no different in effect to the cities on Mar's moons, the floater cards are no different to bacteria cards, the new corporations don't add anything new except variation. But that doesn't mean that I don't like Venus Next, sure it's "only" more of the same, but when you take such a good game and provide an expansion that adds more of it without detracting from the original or over complicating things, then that's a win. Venus Next is an expansion that I don't think I'd ever play without,which is always the highest compliment you can give an expansion.


Terraforming Mars: Venus Next was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available for an RRP of £29.99 at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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