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Terraforming Mars: Prelude Expansion Review

Quick Look:

Designer: Jacob Fryxelius
Artist: Isaac Fryxelius
Publishers: Stronghold Games, Fryxgames
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 1-5
Ages: 12+
Playing Time: 90-120 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

Terraforming Mars Prelude Expansion by Stronghold Games Box and cards

This review discuses the Prelude expansion for Terraforming Mars. With that in mind, I will assume that you, fair reader, are familiar with the base game of Terraforming Mars.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s dive into this!

Terraforming Mars’ Prelude expansion is a small-box expansion (which even fits in the main Terraforming Mars box!) that provides a few more corporations and Project cards, but the kicker is the new Prelude cards that join the fray.

Terraforming Mars Prelude Expansion fits inside the main box!
There's something to be said about a box that fits inside of another box.

The Prelude cards are used before the actual game of Terraforming Mars begins, and these cards are a way of jump-starting your corporation by providing certain benefits, such as starting the game with plant production, titanium, extra cards, or other perks.

Before I played Terraforming Mars with the Prelude expansion, I assumed that jump-starting players’ corporations would speed up the game. While that is a possibility, it doesn’t always work like that (and that’s just fine with me). It is nice, however, to begin the game with something going for you, rather than using the first number of rounds to try and start producing things. 

Terraforming Mars is one of my wife’s favorite games (am I lucky or what?), and one of the things she mentioned about the Prelude cards was that it made the early game not feel so painful. I’ll agree that sometimes, depending on what gets pulled and/or drafted from the deck, the opening rounds can slog on, with limited options from which to choose. With the Prelude cards, things start happening faster, and it’s wonderful.

Now that I have Prelude, I don’t think I’ll play another game of Terraforming Mars without it included. The rules are super simple and add maybe thirty extra seconds to the setup.

Another nifty addition that came with Prelude is the alternate solo rules. I enjoy solo games quite a bit, and Terraforming Mars is one of my favorites to play by my lonesome. Now, with an official alternate win condition for solo mode, my gameplay options have increased! Instead of completing the global parameters, the new goal is to reach a terraforming rating of 63 within 14 generations, or within 12 generations if playing with the Prelude cards. Likewise, if playing with the regular solo rules with Prelude cards, you must now complete the global parameters within 12 generations. I was quite happy playing Terraforming Mars solo as it was, but with this new goal, I’m excited to find some alone time and give it a go.

New solo rules with the Terraforming Mars Prelude expansion.

A few new cards come with a Wild tag, which does nothing when played or during final scoring, but when other cards are played that require or provide benefits from certain tags, this Wild tag can net you a lot of awesomeness. Just thought I’d throw that out there.

Setup and Gameplay:
During the setup of the main game, players are also dealt four Prelude cards. After players have chosen a corporation and paid for their initial project cards, players take turns—in player order—revealing the two Prelude cards they have chosen to keep, and they return the two unwanted Prelude cards to the box.

Once Prelude cards have been revealed, players follow the instructions on the cards, thus giving their corporation a little jump-start in production, resources, or other bonuses. Prelude cards act like green project cards in that they remain in play with their tags visible. Prelude cards cost nothing to play, so there is only benefit that comes with them.

A look at some of the Prelude cards in action for Terraforming Mars Prelude expansion

Theme and Mechanics:
Thematically speaking, the Prelude expansion goes right along with the theme of Terraforming Mars. There really isn’t much else to say about it. Mechanically speaking, it’s just an extra step at setup and provides free perks to your corporation. Sweet and simple, just the way I like things.

Artwork and Components:
The artwork is the same type of artwork that appears in the main game. Some people aren’t a fan of it, but I think it’s kind of neat.

The Good:
  • Bolsters initial production, which helps make the early part of the game more interesting
  • New corporation and project cards
  • Wild tag on a few new cards
  • Very easy to understand how to use this expansion
  • Doesn’t add much time at all to setup or gameplay
  • New solo variant
The Bad:
Really, there’s nothing wrong with this expansion (that I could find). It’s small and simple, but it gets the job done. If this isn’t the type of thing you were hoping for in an expansion, then you might consider leaving it alone. But for many others (myself included), this will be a welcome addition to the game.

Final Thoughts:
In the end, Prelude is a fine expansion. It’s nothing earth-shattering (or Mars-shattering), but it certainly shakes things up in a good way.

Players Who Like:
Hmm, let’s see. If you like games, like, uh, Terraforming Mars, you may want to check this out. If you don’t have Terraforming Mars, might I recommend looking into that, as well?

Check out Terraforming Mars: Prelude Expansion on:


About the Author:

Benjamin Kocher hails from Canada but now lives in Utah with his wife and kids. He's a freelance writer and editor, as well as a budding game designer. An avid writer of science fiction and fantasy, it comes as no surprise that his favorite board games are those with rich, engaging themes. When he’s not writing or playing games, Benjamin loves to play ultimate Frisbee, watch and play rugby, and read the most epic fantasy books available. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminKocher and read his board game-inspired fiction at BenjaminKocher.com.

Check out Benjamin's reviews here.
Terraforming Mars: Prelude Expansion Review Terraforming Mars: Prelude Expansion Review Reviewed by Benjamin Kocher on December 04, 2018 Rating: 5

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