Terraforming Mars Acrylic Trays

Terraforming Mars Box
Terraforming Mars
Terraforming Mars is a great game! Unfortunately some of the components are somewhat lacking. As part of your goal of terraforming Mars you keep track of production of six different resources (money, steel, and so on). In the regular game this is tracked by placing a colored plastic cube on the appropriate number on your production track. Unfortunately this important information is easily lost by bumping the table, nudging your card, or an invading cat on top of the table. 😯

Fortunately there are lots of options, ranging from 3D printed plastic to wood to laser cut acrylic. Despite the fact that I own an 3D printer I opted to go with one of the acrylic options because they allow me to continue to use the standard play mat without worrying about bumped cubes. I purchased from the Etsy store for Board Game Boost.

I selected the acrylic overlays from Board Game Boost because the person who taught me the game had the same item for his game. I already knew I liked them. The vendor produces two versions. One is just the top layer of plastic that lays flat on top of the original cardboard play mat. It does help the cube bumping issue some, but if for some reason you wanted to pick everything up and move it it doesn’t work. The second version adds a bottom layer. The top layer snaps onto the bottom layer, resulting in your cardboard play mat being semi-permanently enclosed in a protective acrylic shell. It’s a play mat plastic sandwich. 🙂 The second option (top + bottom) runs about $10. The game comes with play mats for up to five players. That means if you buy a complete set, you’re potentially paying more for an accessory than you are for the game! 😯

Let’s talk about cost for a second. Between solo and regular games I have played for at least 15 hours at this point. My goal with any game is to get the entertainment cost down to about what a Blu-ray movie costs. An average movie (new releases are more, older releases are cheaper) on Blu-ray might be about $12-15 and might run 2-2.5 hours which gives me an entertainment cost of roughly $5 per hour. If I can get the same value from a board game I am happy. (I mentioned this concept before in a post about the X-Wing Miniatures game where I have spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars, but played over a thousand hours. It’s worth it in the end.)

Let’s get back to the item at hand. Here’s what the product looks like when it’s delivered, with a regular play mat for scale.

Terraforming Mars Tray Step 1

After carefully peeling the brown protective paper off (Board Game Boost has several YouTube videos to coach you through the process) and assembling the two parts here’s what that looks like.

Terraforming Mars Tray Step 3
Terraforming Mars Tray Step 3

The trays add about a quarter inch of thickness (five of them are over an inch thick) and therefore take extra room if stored in the box.

The Verdict
Despite my whining about the cost and the assembly required and the space taken up in the box…I think these are one of the best investments for my copy of Terraforming Mars. I can guarantee when I pull this game out for a Game Day Lunch people are going to “ooh” and “ah” over these as they really are pretty.

Here’s the glamour shot to prove it. 🙂

Terraforming Mars Tray Closeup
Terraforming Mars Tray Closeup

Why do I like this item specifically?

  1. Preserves the location of cubes during game-play
  2. Protection for the thin cardboard play mat
  3. Semi-permanent – don’t have to fiddle with alignment issues during the game, but can disassemble if needed
  4. Great customer service from the vendor. I cracked one of mine during the assembly process and he offered to replace it at his cost (plus shipping). I am going to try to epoxy / repair what I have first, but it’s great that he’s willing to go that route.

The final reason I purchased from this vendor is they support the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund, which I think is awesome. You can read more about it at the link provided.

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