Board Game Reviews: Terraforming Mars Prelude

The box cover for Terraforming Mars: Prelude, a small expansion for Terraforming Mars. It adds prelude cards that speed up the game and give players different starting positions. (Nikhil Vyas)

A while ago, I reviewed Terraforming Mars, which is a complex strategy game about buying project cards, managing resources, racing to milestones and awards, and placing tiles on Mars to get the most points. In this review, I’m going to take a look at an expansion for this game, Terraforming Mars: Prelude, so if you don’t know how to play Terraforming Mars, read my review on that game first before reading this.

Terraforming Mars: Prelude is a small expansion that attempts to speed up the game. Its main additions are prelude cards that give players additional resources and production to start the game. The expansion also includes a few new corporations and project cards. Let me show you the new cards and share my thoughts on the expansion.

How to Play

Examples of prelude cards. They have tags in the top right corner and an immediate effect in the bottom of the text box. (Nikhil Vyas)

When setting up the game, there are some new project cards and corporation cards to add to the corresponding decks. You will also shuffle the deck of prelude cards.

The only new rules in the game are introduced by the prelude cards. At the start of the game when players choose their corporation and starting projects, players are also dealt four prelude cards. Based on the corporation and projects players keep, they will choose two of the four prelude cards to keep. Prelude cards will give players additional resources to start the game with, such as resources, production, cards, terraforming rates, and tiles to place on the board.

If you enjoyed the Terraforming Mars solo game, this expansion also has rule adjustments to balance the solo game when playing with prelude cards.

Final Thoughts

This expansion does not add much, but it is an essential expansion to Terraforming Mars. The prelude cards give you a lot of production or global parameter progress that would otherwise take a generation or two to achieve, cutting the game length significantly.

The five new corporations included with Terraforming Mars: Prelude. (Nikhil Vyas)

Besides game length, the expansion also gives players a more asymmetrical start. The corporations were a great part of Terraforming Mars because they provided players different special abilities and starting resources. These corporations guide one’s strategy a little bit, but with the prelude cards, players can get started on their strategy right away or try to specialize in more areas.

Overall, I only have positive things to say about Terraforming Mars: Prelude. It adds to the asymmetrical starting positions, shortens the game length, and all the cards appear balanced. I never play Terraforming Mars without this expansion, so it is clearly essential and gets a 10 out of 10.

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