Underwater Cities vs. Terraforming Mars: worst components face-off

I just received Underwater Cities. In many ways it looks heavily inspired by Terraforming Mars which is one of my favourite solo games. At first glance I see thematic, mechanical, and commercial similarities:

  • We are colonizing Mars in TM, colonizing the sea in UC.

  • There is card-driven engine building in TM, and card-driven engine building in UC.

  • My friendly local game store is selling TM for 65 euro, and UC for 60.

As soon as I opened the (flimsy) box of Underwater Cities, I noticed it follows TM in one more aspect: bad component quality. I knew to not expect recessed boards, as these come with the UC expansion. Still, I couldn't help but feel bummed at what 60 euro amounts to, just as my heart sank when I first unboxed TM.

And then the question arose: which game does it better? Or rather, worse? Is TM the king of crappy components and UC a pale imitation? Or does UC manage to offer even less value for money? Join me as I set them up for the ultimate component quality face-off.

1. Rulebook

Underwater Cities has a beautiful rulebook. Good glossy paper, lots of illustrations, nice to the touch. The Terraforming Mars rulebook looks like a pamphlet by comparison. Cheap paper, not many images, the bare essentials.

We have a clear winner in this category: Terraforming Mars

2. Player boards