Ever since the World Government launched the Martian terraforming project, people have looked up to the sky and dreamed of what comes next. While some corporations strive to carve out the bulk of the Terraforming Committee’s subsidies, the initiative presents opportunities for all sorts of new ideas. Entrepreneurs, idealists and opportunists, individuals and organisations alike; they have something to put on the stage, and the red planet is holding auditions!
These hopefuls offer various sponsorships for anyone willing to help achieve their goals. Those who do so will gain access to unique benefits and rewards.
Sponsorships is a fan module I created for Terraforming Mars. It supersedes the milestones system, allowing more players to share the fun! Instead of rushing just to grab points, you can snag special benefits from your sponsors that play into your strategy and keep up the pace of the game. Even if you’re not the first to claim a sponsorship, you’ll still receive a lesser reward for meeting the requirements.
How to Play
To jump straight in, check out the download section below. It contains different ways to print the materials or play online, and has all the relevant files.
Sponsorships has two simple parts. The first is the Sponsorships board that sits over the top of the Milestones section:
The other part is what I like to call sponsor-chips! Before each game, six of these will be available:
If you’ve been looking closely, you might have already figured out how to play! Claiming a sponsorship is an action, almost exactly like claiming a milestone: you can do it if you meet the requirement. It only costs 5M€, instead of the 8M€ that claiming a milestone does in the base game. The first person to claim each sponsorship can take one of the available sponsor-chips (worth roughly 15M€), or opt for the default reward (1TR or 10M€).
Unlike milestones, you can claim a sponsorship even if another player has already done so. You’re just limited gaining to the default reward. So, if one of the main rewards is really exciting, try to get one of the sponsorships quickly! If you’re beaten to the punch, or you happen to get there eventually without rushing for it, you’ll still be able to claim a nice little extra reward.
Most of these rewards are instantaneous, but some provide an ongoing benefit. For example, Startup Business Incubator gives you an action you can use each generation.
Some rewards can also do things in slightly unusual ways. Prefabricated City gives you a city tile that can even go next to cities where it wouldn’t normally be allowed.
The final difference is that there’s no limit of three different claims. Every different sponsorship can be claimed, so five of the six reward tokens might also be taken during a game. If you’re able to rush you’ll get your preferred reward, but players going after the other targets will still have good options left.
Each sponsorship offers a different story and a little flavour. Whenever I claim one, I like to imagine what kind of sponsor wanted that requirement fulfilled, and how they’re working with my corp to get the chosen reward. Did someone with ties to new generations of Martian natives go to lengths to incentivise us to actually build homes for them? Who got me into an interplanetary racing contest in exchange for supplying settlements all around the solar system? For the full details and description of each reward, see the rules in download section.
I had the idea for Sponsorships after a few games where the milestones mechanic really soured the fun of a few players. A single turn of inattention while working towards a milestone — or misfortune with the turn order — stopped them dead in their tracks and left them noticeably behind. Most of Terraforming Mars is pretty relaxing. It’s a chance to have fun playing with the pieces of your engine, whether you’re winning or not. Milestones are much more directly competitive. They wouldn’t be so bad if you could ignore them, but they’re just so valuable that you’re almost forced to compete.
I spent the next day fiddling with ideas to adjust that element of the game. The initial idea of just downgrading the power of milestones grew into the much more exciting idea of being able to claim pieces that play into your engine! I got a playable initial version up and running in Tabletop Simulator. Finally, instead of packing for a board games convention a year and a half later, I decided to make a full print and play version to give out and have other people try.
What I wanted to change about Milestones
- Milestones are so incredibly valuable that you can’t afford not to play for them, even if you’d prefer to focus on your main strategy.
- They totally outshine awards. Awards are much riskier, so they probably shouldn’t just be trivially worse.
- They draw resources from the game but just give points, so they slow the game down.
- If you shoot for a milestone but you’re beaten to it, you’re left totally shut out with nothing to show for your efforts.
So far, I’ve felt like Sponsorships helps with all of those things, and slots cleanly into the base game and the expansions. I’m happy enough with it to put it out and hopefully other people have fun with it!
I could talk a lot about the topic, but that’s enough for now! I discuss some of the design ideas further in the rules booklet. If you have any ideas, feedback, comments, or just want to talk about it, please do!
The current release version of Sponsorships is V0.5, 21 April 2023:
- Sponsorships workshop item for Tabletop Simulator on Steam. Follow the instructions to pull the module into a game of Terraforming Mars.
- Shared drive with module files.
- Sponsorships is a fan-made expansion, published for free.
- Terraforming Mars was created by Jacob and Isaac Fryxelius and was published by FryxGames. I don’t own any rights to the game and its designs.
- The game icons used for the cards were assembled by Giulio Baldi on BoardGameGeek.
- The sponsor-chip image backgrounds were made by me.
- Thanks to Eddie and Pwal for putting up with the bad games that led to this!
- Further thanks to everyone who playtested and discussed ideas with me (and who continued to talk to me when I would talk about nothing else)!
Bear is a bear, who everyone thinks is a human. A board game, video game and roleplaying nerd, and definitely not a hacker. He can often be found hacking board games and video games. A real party animal!