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Thoughts: Planet Crafter


My existence on this earth has been a hard one so far. I have been put here with the sole purpose of playing every single game about terraforming ever made, and while some of them haven’t been too bad none of them have tackled the core concept of transforming a planet from barren wasteland to lush paradise well at all. Surviving Mars was way more interested in being a mediocre city builder than it was any terraforming elements. Terraforming Mars is a literal board game adaptation, and necessarily limited by that fact – your terraforming activity is limited to placing a very limited number of ocean and forest tiles onto a map. Per Aspera is… not good, would be the very short version, and the longer one is a 6,000 word angry rant. Last year’s Terraformers is probably the best attempt I’ve played so far, fusing a terraforming game with a simple 4X that still allowed it some satisfying mechanical depth, but the games tended to finish early before you completed the terraformation process and so it still felt like there was something missing. Which sums up my experience with these games in general, really; I play them all in the hope that they’ll scratch the itch, but they all end up disappointing me in one way or another.

I mention this all so that I can put the next sentence in its proper context: Planet Crafter is not disappointing. Planet Crafter is the first game about terraforming that I’ve played that’s actually sold me on the fantasy that I’m terraforming.a planet. And, weirdly, it’s done it by being much more mechanically light on the terraforming than even Terraforming Mars – instead, the bulk of its effort is spent on showing the player how the environment changes around them as their Terraforming rating improves. And this is an approach that pays off in spades.

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