In Ares Expedition, the combination of the simultaneous play, taking more Actions per turn the more players you have, and additional players pushing the Ocean, Oxygen and Heat tracks to completion quicker creates one of the oddest sensations....the MORE players who are playing, the less amount of time it actually takes to play! I'm not sure if it is creating a wormhole or ripping apart the very fabric of the space/time continuum, but either way, I'm here for it. For instance, my first game was a teaching/learning at two-players. We ended up finishing up at roughly two hours and fifteen minutes. So, I looked at that fantastical “plays at 60 minutes” on the side of the box with serious doubt. My second game was also a teaching game but this time at three players and it wrapped up in one hour and forty five minutes. We then tried a four player game, once again with a new player, and it finished up at an hour and fifteen minutes. Hmmm, maybe that playtime isn't pure fantasy.
Ares Expedition takes the framework of Terraforming Mars and condenses it down. Sure, it still has a “board” but it is basically saying “That's just for scoring, the game is all about the cards in front of you.” And playing cards does give the best feeling in Terraforming Mars, whether it is slamming an Ice Asteroid into the planet for a one-time boost or cranking up TM or Heat production a notch so that it pays off later.
As I briefly mentioned earlier, one of the new mechanisms is that you only take the Phases/actions that the players select at the beginning of the round. They are: Development, Construction, Action, Production, and Research. Or, as you will find yourself calling them: Play a Green Card, Play a Red or Blue Card, Take the actions on your card and/or a standard action, Gain money and resources, and Draw some cards. This adds a bit of indirect interaction with the other players where you try to guess which phase they will be choosing so that you don't all pick the same phase. At the same time, you still want to pick one that the bonus action (whoever plays a Phase gets a bonus or boost for that action) benefits you in the best way. Of course, you still get those moments when everyone picks the same phase or you speculate someone will play a phase you need to take and then no one picks it for the current round. Factor in that you can't pick the same Phase two rounds in a row and it adds that certain, if not interaction at least anticipation, to the game.