Why I Won’t be Buying Mobile Terraforming Mars

(Edit 3/28/20): I probably should have said that I did go ahead and buy the game a month or so ago. A little bit of peer pressure (a bunch of my friends wanted to play it) and a little bit of “Asmodee seems to be working to make the game better”

Nothing since then, though, and it could still use a lot of work.

They really need to fix the “have to choose the cards in turn order” thing, though. It’s incredibly annoying! And notifications still aren’t working, so we’ve resorted to a texting group to let people know when it’s their turn.

It’s a fun game but it could be so much better.

(Edit 12/10/19: Asmodee has released a patch on all platforms. 

TM Updates

Still no word on the other issues, especially the weird order of choosing cards, but this is definitely a start!

(Edit 12/6/19: Apparently Asmodee has responded to some negative iTunes reviews by saying they are working to make the asynchronous experience better. If they do, I will certainly report that here and maybe even buy the thing.)

Original post below


When Asmodee Digital announced that they would be producing an app for one of my favourite games, Terraforming Mars, I was ecstatic.

When it came out on Steam, I was reasonably happy but the game had some issues.

When the iOS beta opened up, I eagerly joined it. By this time, some of the issues had been addressed (the initial 15-day timer for online multiplayer games was horrible, but now they had added a 30 and 45-day timer which made asynchronous play a breeze).

I was pretty happy, though acknowledging that there were still issues that needed to be addressed.

Unfortunately, during the beta, developer Lucky Hammers closed their doors and Asmodee had to take over the app. I’m not sure if that’s the reason for the lack of improvements, but nothing major has really changed in the two updates (I think) that happened after Lucky Hammers was gone.

The app released on Wednesday, December 4, and it apparently still has all of these issues.

Terraforming Mars Mobile
It’s good to know what colour you are, but everybody else?

Terraforming Mars mobile is available for $11.99 CDN (I’m not sure what the US price is, but maybe $7.99 or $8.99?) on iOS and Android.

I am not one to complain about the pricing of apps. I know these apps cost a lot to develop and it’s a shame that the culture on iOS and Android is that games should be $5 or less or they’re “too expensive.” (Some consider $5 too expensive)

I love premium apps and will gladly pay for a good one.

But $11.99 is way too much for me to be feel comfortable paying with these issues (not to mention the potential issues that a number of people have mentioned regarding cards not working correctly, which I haven’t verified but it’s troubling to hear).

What are these issues?

Keep in mind that these are all online multiplayer issues, as I haven’t really played the single player against the AI much and I’m more interested in online multiplayer anyway. These have been issues since the beginning and Asmodee has received plenty of feedback about them.

No Notifications

Notifications were working for a little while but now they’re not again. I don’t know if Asmodee hasn’t renewed something with Apple or what, but even when they were working, I seem to recall that you were never notified that you had received an invite to a game.

Meanwhile, if you invite somebody to a game, it disappears from your list until everybody has accepted the invite. Really hard to keep track of.

Weird card-selection

What does this mean? It means that when the generation ends, the game lets you pick your new cards to purchase.

However, if it’s not technically your turn, then every time you log in you will be asked to buy your cards again.

After experimentation, we’ve discovered that it’s still going in turn order. So if the turn order is Purple-Green-Yellow, then Purple has to pick their cards first.If Green logs in, they’ll be able to purchase their cards, but they’re not actually choosing their cards until Purple does theirs first.

Once Purple has chosen, then the next time Green chooses it will stick.

That is terribly inefficient and also very misleading.

Will this be an issue when you draft cards? Do you have to draft in turn order too? Sadly, I haven’t played a multiplayer draft game, so I can’t confirm.

It wouldn’t surprise me, though.

No Turn Replays

This is par for the course with Asmodee. For some reason, they just do not want to show us what the previous player(s) did. Thankfully there’s a turn log, but that’s not really sufficient.

I don’t really understand this because Ticket to Ride has wonderful replays (though sadly that app has its own issues)This is especially bad because sometimes what everybody else did affects you.

(Edit: I’ve been told that Ticket to Ride replays aren’t that great. I’m going by memory as I haven’t played that in a while and thought they were good. I guess I’m wrong!)

Are you the Tharsis Corporation? Then your income goes up every time somebody plays a city. Or, perhaps somebody played an event that destroyed your plants. Other than them just not being there any more, you have no idea what happened.

Multiple Games and not knowing which one has a turn

Even when notifications were working, there was no way to determine which of your games you had a turn in, if you were in more than one. You had to check each one individually.

Add to that, the order of the games on your “Resume” menu seemed to change each time you went back to it, so you had to be very careful which one you checked. You might end up checking the same one again!

I can’t confirm that the “moving games” thing in the menu is still happening, as I’ve only been in one game at a time recently. However, I can confirm that there is no way to determine who’s turn it is in one of your games without actually loading it.

Can’t see events played (part of the “no replays” issue)

When you’re playing Terraforming Mars at the table, when an event is played you see what it is and what the effects are. They then go face down and you can’t ask to look at them again.In the digital game, events don’t show up in the Turn Log. It just says “Event.”

I understand that’s because you can’t ask to see them again, but we need to know what was played so we know what effects happened! This would be solved by having actual replays, of course.

This is all killer when you primarily play a game multiplayer.

I’m thankful that Asmodee did actually include asynchronous play, as I know their attitude has been that it’s not actually needed.

However, half-assed implementation does not help.

Sadly, as much as I love this game and as much as I did enjoy being in the iOS beta, this one’s going to be a pass for me, at least for now.

Thankfully, now that it’s fully released on all platforms, multiplayer should be cross-platform so I can continue to play it on Steam and perhaps see if these issues are ultimately fixed.

I’m not holding my breath, though.

10 Comments on “Why I Won’t be Buying Mobile Terraforming Mars

  1. Pingback: App Review – Terraforming Mars – Steam – Dude! Take Your Turn!

  2. Pingback: Terraforming Mars is in mobile beta – and it’s decent! – Dude! Take Your Turn!

  3. Thank you for these observations. This game, and the gamers, deserve so much more than what Asmodee has given with this build. Unfortunately, if other Asmodee titles are any indication, there probably won’t be much effort put into addressing these issues. It is time for Asmodee to get out of the app business and leave development to companies that actually care about their products.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m starting to agree with you. Sadly, they seem to be one of the major players (Dire Wolf Digital and Digidiced being the main other two).

      I would feel a lot better of Playdek got Labyrinth out!!! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  4. A fair and reasoned take on the situation. But I expected nothing less.

    The latest updates to the game engine as documented on Steam do show the fixing of “edge” case problems with the gameplay so there is development effort being applied to the game. Making the consistent failure to implement fundamental async “Quality Of Life” features even more vexing.

    Async games are quite possible if the players have a way of notifying each other … but, as you say, when you pay a premium price you expect to get a premium product. So disappointing/frustrating.

    btw It’s not your turn in our last beta game …

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Rob!

      I do my best.

      It’s not my turn? So I shouldn’t check? Got it. 😛

      Edit: I did just check, and it’s still Purple’s turn.

      So you were right!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Prelude Coming to Terraforming Mars on Steam December 8th – Dude! Take Your Turn!

  6. Pingback: App Review – Terraforming Mars – Prelude Expansion – Dude! Take Your Turn!

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