Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium
Time: 90 minutes
Times Played: 12
Hellas & Elysium is the first expansion to the 2016 smash hit, Terraforming Mars. Does it add anything ground breaking to the game? Nope. Is it slightly overpriced? Maybe. What it does add is a double-sided board with additional Milestones and Awards and honestly? I think it’s perfect for changing up Terraforming Mars. The base game feels like a card drafting game with a board around for presentation purposes. The double-sided expansion makes great work of the new maps and makes this feel like more of a complete experience.
Off the bat, set-up is exactly the same. The only difference is which board you will use when playing. The same amount of oceans need to be placed, the same amount of temperature needs to be risen and the same amount of oxygen needs to be pumped into (onto?) the surface of the planet for the game to be finished.
Hellas, otherwise known as “The Southern Wild”, showcases the South Pole of Mars as well as the Hellas Sea. With the equator being located near the top of the map, all plant bonuses will be found around that region whereas other locations, such as the South Pole, offer an abundant amount of heat when construction occurs.
The Hellas board introduces five new Milestones specific to the map. They are:
The Diversifier: Requires eight different tags;
The Energizer: Have six energy production;
The Polar Explorer: Have three tiles placed on the bottom two rows that are near the South Pole;
The Rim Settler: Have three Jovian tags; and
The Tactician: Requires five cards with requirements.
The five new awards for Hellas include:
The Eccentric: Most resources on cards;
The Contractor: Most building tags (sans events cards);
The Cultivator: Most greenery tiles;
The Magnate: Most automated (i.e. green) cards in play; and
The Space Baron: Most space tags (sans event cards).
The Elysium Milestones are:
The Generalist: Have all six productions sitting at one-level or more.
The Specialist: Have at least 10-level production for any resource.
The Ecologist: Have four bio tags;
The Tycoon: Have 15 project cards in play; and
The Legend: Have five played events.
The new awards on Elysium include:
The Celebrity: Most non-event cards with a cost of at least 20 Megacredits;
The Industrialist: Most steel and energy resources;
The Desert Settler: Most tiles south of the equator;
The Estate Dealer: Most tiles adjacent to oceans; and
The Benefactor: Highest terraform rating. (When final scoring begins, this award is the first to be calculated.)
Terraforming Mars might be the most contentious game in our collection. Some days we criticize and bemoan why it takes up space in our collection and other days we fight over how high we should rate it in our list of top games. I honestly think I want to love it more than I actually enjoy playing it because I enjoy the theme. Nothing the game does is too egregious in terms of gameplay and a few issues that I do have with the base game (most notably, tile placement and why is it even important?) is addressed with the new boards.
The new milestones and awards add greatly to the variability and replayability of the game but I am most impressed with the new maps. The placement bonuses and awards/milestones granting additional points for placing tiles add a brand-new dimension to the game and add more strategy to the physical board, which I thought was sorely lacking in the base game.
I enjoy both maps but Hellas is my favorite with the awards and milestones created for placement. I’m also quite fond of the Diversifier milestone as it gives players an alternate strategy than what they are accustomed too. I didn’t really take note of it until I saw this milestone how specialized my group plays the game. This helps mitigate getting a bad draw of cards while ensuring you don’t fall too far behind.
The Energizer milestone and the added heat bonuses on the map will lead to the temperature being maxed out quicker than usual as well. In our plays of the base game, temperature is typically the first global parameter to be completed and this map just accelerates that. Nothing wrong with that and it has caused us to change some strategies (why focus on heat if it’s going to be completed twice as quickly?) but I wanted to make note of it.
For the Elysium side, I enjoy the new awards more than the milestones. The Desert Settler and Estate Builder awards make placement matter (a theme in my praise here) whereas the base game did not really provide enough incentive to truly dictate where you placed tiles and oceans. There were some placement benefits but they were minuscule in the grand scheme of things.
The reason I’m not a particular fan of the milestones is that they award card hoarding and Mars is already a game that features a healthy dose of cards and real estate needed to place those cards. Is this superficial? Probably. But a man only has so much space on their table. But speaking more to the game-play, it just feels like a waste to spend credits on cards that aren’t bound to your strategy just to get the bonus needed.
But…I think I prefer Elysium more than Hellas for solo plays. I’ve done two solo plays on both maps and for whatever reason, Elysium just felt more fulfilling. It wasn’t easier or more difficult than Hellas.
With everything that I’ve said, I do want to mention that this feels like playing Terraforming Mars. Which, if you like Terraforming Mars, you’ll love this expansion. While I greatly enjoy the new maps, there isn’t enough of a change to say this is a must buy or even a must play.
If you did not like the base game that is Terraforming Mars or were hoping for some large changes that would spice up the game-play, I have bad news for you. This expansion will not change your feelings on the base game.