Turmoil is the fifth expansion for the highly regarded strategy board game Terraforming Mars, which was released at the end of 2019 after a successful Kickstarter campaign. Leaving the 1 – 5 player count unchanged, the expansion was designed by Jacob Fryxelius and published by FryxGames and Stronghold Games. Adding in global events, a committee to contribute to, parties and policies this small box offers a decent change to the overall strategy. However, will fans enjoy the latest twist or has it put the loved gameplay into Turmoil? Let’s find out!
Setting up Terraforming Mars with the Turmoil expansion requires a little extra time and table space. Firstly, the new project cards and corporation cards need to be shuffled in. Two new small side boards are added to the table, a Global Event board and a Committee board. The committee board has a space for the ruling party’s policy. This starts with the Green’s policy of earning 4 megacredits for placing a greenery tile.
Introduced in Turmoil are delegates, of which there are coloured delegates for the players and grey neutral delegates. A neutral delegate starts as the chairman of the committee but this won’t always be the case during play. Each round a delegate for each player is added to the lobby of the committee board, which is also performed in setup. The rest of the unused delegates are placed in the reserve section.
During play a player can move their delegate from the lobby, or for 5 megacredits one from the reserve. Delegates can be placed into any of the six party zones. If it is the first delegate of the party, or causes that player to have more delegates than others, it becomes the party leader. Otherwise it is just a standard delegate that sits behind the party leader. The party with the most delegates becomes the dominant party – which impacts upcoming bonuses and policies.
At the end of the normal round, post production, each player contributes to the committee – losing 1 Terraforming Rating. Next the global event triggers. Global Events are somewhat out of players’ control, though committee influence can be used to mitigate “damage”. Plus, players see the events coming generations away, so can attempt to plan. This can be anything from a solar flare, which negatively impacts those with space tags, to mudslides, that impact those building next to oceans. Often the amount lost or gained can be improved by committee influence – earnt for being the chairman, being the dominant party leader and having dominant party delegates.
Next up the new government step occurs, seeing the dominant party take over the committee. The party leader replaces the chairman, with all other delegates returned to the reserve. This triggers the party bonus – often the reason a player would want a specific party to take control. This ranges from the Scientists ability to pay 10 megacredits for 3 cards through to Unity’s 1 megacredit bonus for each Venus, Earth and Jovian tag players have. Lastly, the global events shift along, with a future event being revealed. This process adds a couple of neutral delegates to the committee board before the next round commences.
The way elements of the expansion play out is as if players are stuck following the flow, that the game is taking them in. In a 2 player game for example, as many neutral delegates are added each round as all players combined can add for free. In a four player game these two neutral delegates are outnumbered, resulting in higher player influence. On top of this there is a dynamic back and forth to the committee board, as players group up to force through beneficial parties.
Another aspect of randomness is introduced by the global events, furthering the feeling that things are outside of players control. Players can see the upcoming short term (three generations) events – which is a great touch. Alas, it isn’t possible to be certain an event will or won’t happen long term – which could spoil an otherwise solid plan.
This is a relatively thematic aspect of the game, albeit one that players cannot account for. FryxGames has done a great job with the new content theme wise. Some of the new project cards relate directly to the committee. For example, only the chairman can throw public celebrations for 2VP or ban a delegate – removing a non leader delegate from the terraforming committee board. There is even a vote of no confidence card to swap out a neutral delegate.
Many refer to which party is in power. A nice balancing touch is for cards requiring a dominant party, players can also play them if they have 2 delegates in that party. This means the cards which would be highly situational can always be played, regardless of how the committee is going. This is especially the case as players get a free delegate each round – so even without contributing players have the chance to get the two party delegates needed.
Prelude is regarded by many as a must have expansion for Terraforming Mars (you can find our thoughts on the expansion here). The general consensus is that the time cut via Prelude helps the game get to the table and skip the sluggish nature of those early rounds. Turmoil adds back in that sluggishness of the early rounds and adds the time saved back onto the experience. For this reason I cannot ever see myself wanting to play Turmoil without Prelude.
Turns feel more as if you are trying to eke out every last megacredit in the early game. The initial money gets spent and only money via production becomes available. Each round though your terraforming rating is dropped, leading to smaller income amounts. Towards the mid-late game there is a sense of potential snowballing though. When the party bonuses are triggered players can earn a lot of bonus megacredits for tags. Also there is a chance to gain things via influencing global events. At the start players just don’t have the tags built up for this to feel effective.
As far as the components go they match the style and quality of the base game. The delegates are of the same transparent colours, naturally matching the player colour cubes. The two side boards are slightly thin but do the job for their limited usage. Handily the Global event board lists the new Turmoil steps post-production. This certainly helped the rulebook from being constantly picked up in the first game with the expansion.
Terraforming Mars: Turmoil is somewhat of a marmite expansion. The global events are thematic and an interesting twist to deal with. Plus, the bonuses from party policies makes the committee relevant for different strategies – adding an element of perfect timing into the game. One of the most interesting twists is that global events can see global parameters go down: such as snow cover reducing temperature or dry deserts removing an ocean from the board. The new corporations add new interesting strategies, with it being nice to see only 1 of the 5 new corps being limited to Turmoil only games.
Alas, it feels like two smaller modules pushed together, global events and a government. Both show individual promise but neither being the polished diamond they could be. If you don’t mind the additional game time added, via the reversal of the streamlining from Prelude, Turmoil shakes things up. If looking for a new challenge this certainly adds a new wave to the experience.
(Editor’s Note: Terraforming Mars: Turmoil was provided to us by Asmodee for the review. The game is currently available from local board game stores, find your local store here.)