By Kate Thompson
I may have mentioned this before, but Terraforming Mars is one of my favourite games. Ever. It should come as no surprise, then, that I purchased the new Prelude expansion as soon as it came out. I’ve played it several times since, and now I would like to review it for you!
What’s In the Box?
This expansion contains:
The corporations and project cards are always welcome. They add variety to the game, and this is definitely a welcome shake-up for those who play the game frequently. However, the meat of this expansion is obviously the prelude cards! So… I’m going to start with those.
At the beginning of the game, each player will receive four random prelude cards along with their ten project cards and two corporations. They will then choose two of the prelude cards to play. Each of these cards will give some kind of benefit to the player. Many of them boost one or two resource productions. I like the prelude cards for two reasons:
More Synergy Opportunities
Just like you can choose the best corporation by looking at your project cards to find synergies, you can choose which prelude cards to use based on the corporations and project cards you have available. Finding the best synergies in the cards you happen to get is pretty much the thing I like about this game, so an expansion that makes that process more rich and diverse appeals to me.
Boosts/Speeds the Game
The prelude cards give a pretty hefty boost to the first few turns of the game, and from my experience, this speeds up the overall play time of the game. This is especially true if you are also playing with the Venus Next expansion. That expansion introduces the world government phase, which can also speed up the game if players choose not to terraform Venus.
The new corporation cards are powerful and interesting. They are especially welcome since the selection of corporations was much more limited than project cards, for example. So, any increased choice with corporations will make a big difference. It is always fun to try out a new corporation, and they were creative with coming up with unique corporate abilities that feel powerful.
I also enjoy seeing new project cards added to the game, but there is a bit of a downside to mention here. Unlike the corporations, the number of existing project cards is very high. Including the base game and Venus Next cards, there were already more than 250 cards in the project deck. So, while it is exciting to shake things up by adding seven new project cards, it’s fairly unlikely you’ll actually see or use them in any given game. A related issue is that every time new cards are added to the project deck, it becomes more and more difficult to achieve any given synergy. For example, if you are interested in collecting a specific kind of tag, the more cards there are in the deck, the less likely it is that you will draw the projects with that tag. Remember that creating these synergies is one of my favourite aspects of the game!
There are two potential solutions I can think of to this bloated project deck issue:
One of the rule variants allows you to draft new project cards each turn rather than simply drawing four random project cards. Using this mechanic will help you sift through more cards, allowing you to find more of those synergies. Drafting does tend to increase play time, which is the reason we often don’t use that method. However, as I mentioned above, the prelude card boosts could offset this, so if you don’t typically draft, it might be a good practice when using the Prelude expansion. One other thing to consider is that drafting doesn’t work as well with only two players.
Something I have contemplated is whether the project deck could be pruned in some way when new cards are added with expansions. Perhaps there are some project cards from the base set that could be removed from the deck to maximize the probability of fun synergies occurring. I haven’t tested this out yet, but theoretically, you would want to remove cards that don’t have a clear place in any known synergies. So, you would want to keep cards that have relevant tags (e.g., Jovian tags, plant tags, power tags, etc), animal cards, floater cards, or anything else that might synergize with any other cards, milestones, or awards.
So, What’s the Verdict?
This is another solid expansion to Terraforming Mars. If you love the game, you’ll enjoy this expansion. It’s a small, simple, affordable expansion, but it really does add something new to the game, and I’ll be playing with it from now on.
I’ve tried this expansion with the base game, as well as with the Hellas and Elysium expansions, and with Venus Next. The integration feels pretty seamless!
I have also, of course, played the solo variant with the Prelude expansion a few times. This expansion actually includes a solo variant variant where the goal is to achieve a TR of 63 rather than the usual goal of fully terraforming the planet. In addition, any time you are playing a solo game with the Prelude expansion, you are only allotted 12 rounds to complete your goal rather than 14 (this is because of the boost you get from the prelude cards). I've still quite enjoyed the solo variant with this expansion, and have found that it is still challenging, but definitely still achievable!
Have you tried Prelude yet? Let me know what your thoughts are!
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