Terraformers is a pretty chill game where you are slowly terraforming Mars into an inhabitable planet while keeping the population satisfied. It’s a simple game but it works.
If you break the game play down, the game is played in turns. In each turn, you can use one of the three actions of your leader. Every leader has the explore action. This will let you spend energy to explore an area of Mars. You will spend more energy the further away you are from a city. Exploring areas will net you some resources and potentially discover places to mine resources every turn or build a new city or structure.
In addition to the explore ability, each leader has two unique abilities. The abilities all differ from leader to leader. For example, one ability may grant you five energy while another may let you destroy two rocks in a city for free (rocks prevent you from constructing buildings and take energy to remove). Periodically you will have to pick a new leader from a pool of two so you can pick and choose according to your play style.
Other than using a leader ability, you can build structures in cities and on the surface of Mars if you have the available resources. Buildings are usually used to generate resources such as energy, increase population, increase support, and later on, do things such as increase the surface temperature on mars, generate oxygen, and create water. This sounds complicated but all you see are just numbers increasing in a meter somewhere.
The hard part of the game is managing to generate enough resources to build enough structures to keep your support rating high. As you spend your turns and time progresses, the people’s expectations rise and this is reflected in an increasing negative number on your support status. Every turn you need to generate more support in order to keep up with this, or you will end up losing support and lose the game.
In order to generate more resources, you have to mine them near your cities but this requires you to increase population in your cities. Once population is increased, you will have points available to expand to nearby tiles on the map. Expanding your population generally requires food, which can be produced from buildings or from finding them on the map. Another method is to trade for needed resources once you have trade platforms built on the surface of Mars.
It becomes a struggle of generating enough resources combined with smart handling of the cards you get. The only way to acquire building cards is at the start of each turn. You will be able to pick one building card to keep or choose to give up a building card in exchange for an extra science point. Sometimes you won’t get the buildings you want, so you need to make use of the trade platforms and leader abilities to get the resources you want in another way.
The constant need to increase your support generation which in turns requires greater resources turns this into a very strategic game. You have to spend each turn wisely and plan ahead otherwise you may find yourself stretched too thin and unable to come back.
The pacing of the game is relaxing despite the need for strategy. There’s no timer running so you can take all the time you need and plan ahead. The game is also not so punishing where you need to play perfectly every turn. Overall, Terraformers is a pretty enjoyable game. It started off slow but I managed to get hooked on it.