Terraforming Mars Prelude is the brand new mini expansion for the incredible science fiction, engine builder board game. Designed by Jacob Fryxelius, with art from Isaac Fryxelius, Prelude futhers the concepts explored by corporation cards. Not only are new corps and projects added into the mix, before the game begins Prelude cards are chosen to kickstart players’ engines. FryxGames has confirmed that this expansion works with all currently available expansions or just the base game. However, what does another card type do to the much loved terraforming experience? Let’s find out!
Alongside regular setup, when players receive corporation and project cards, each player receives 4 cards from the new prelude deck of 35 cards. Prelude cards are played before generation 1 though are technically included as part of it. These are unique ways for the players’ engines to be boosted. For example, starting with an additional +3 heat production and 3 heat resource cubes or starting with 3 titanium, 3 plant and a whopping 8 steel. Most, like the latter, which titanium and steel wise can be considered as starting with 25 additional megacredits, opens the door for higher cost cards to come into play sooner.
From the 4 prelude cards players must choose 2 each. These effects are then added to that players, as long as the player can afford it. The cards themselves have no cost but some do have conditions. Such as, if Galilean Mining is taken the player would gain 2 titanium production but have to pay 5 megacredits. From here on the gameplay works as normal, with no further additions or changes from this mini expansion. The jumpstart seen from the prelude cards is reminiscent of the difference between the regular and hard modes from the base game; where players start with 1 production of each resource rather than none.
While much more impactful than a simple +1 boost to production, these cards are not hugely game changing – instead being more of a slight dynamic shift. Due to players having more from the offset the overall generation count of games has on average been lowered. Potentially, this could see the longest term strategies dwindling in successfulness; though nothing confirms that games will be shortened. The most noticeable change is that players are keener to play point scoring cards in earlier generations, rather than focusing solely on resource production – something that can see victory points rise more than the global parameters.
5 new corporations cards are included in Prelude, with only one requiring the rest of the Prelude expansion content. The standout corporation when taking into account a potential shift towards point scoring cards is Vitor. Starting off with 45 megacredits, Vitor’s ongoing effect is when the player pays for cards with non-negative victory points 3 megacredits is earnt. On top of this, the player gets to freely fund an award as their first action, giving everyone around the table something extra to aim for. While the rest are effective corps this affect stands out as a strategy changing one.
Valley Trust is the corporation that requires the Prelude cards to be used, so if you’ve removed them for a teaching game it’ll have to go to. Starting with the least amount of megacredits, 37, this corp has a trick up its sleeve. On the first turn the player gets to draw an additional 3 prelude cards and choose one to keep, reaping the reward. For science tag fans this corporations ongoing effect is -2 megacredits of the cost of science tagged projects, making it more of a viable strategy regardless of what board you’re playing on.
7 new project cards are added into the mix, certainly skewed towards the cheaper end of the project spectrum. The highest cost is only 15 megacredits, 4 of the cards have no requirements whatsoever and 2 even have max parameter requirements. Those with eagle eyes may notice the ? tag on the “Research Coordination” project card in the pictures. This is the only project card that has this symbol so it’ll rarely come up, unless you often churn through the entire deck. Rather than being a new type of tag, the ? allows the owner to count if as any tag type they wish. This is balanced by the ? tag not triggering effects when it comes into play or counted during final scoring. Nevertheless, it can be used to secure a milestone or have the required tags to play another project.
As with other expansions Prelude does instil a wave of replayability. This is not from the minute number of new corporations or project cards. The Prelude cards themselves generate the differences from game to game, and with 35 included you’ll have to play a few games to have even gone through the new deck. On top of this with each player playing only 2 each game (3 if someone is the Valley Trust corp) then it’ll be a long time before a single player has had a chance to try them all! This being said none have stood out from any player around the table as game breaking. The only no brainer picks have been when they align well with corporation cards.
Terraforming Mars isn’t exactly a beginners game, especially with the inclusion of card drafting. While Prelude gets players’ engines going before the game begins it wouldn’t be fair to start a new player off while including this expansion. As an extension to the base game the difficulty is not increased, however for a new player the impact of the choice in front of them would have no weight. Unless another player seriously steps them through their prelude cards, explaining each and every possible benefit beginners simply won’t have a measure of what could be good for them. After a game or two throw prelude into the mix and those same players will fair much better.
Terraforming Mars Prelude is much more of a light touch, to speed up the initial generation rounds, than a brash change. While fans will surely welcome the chance to get the game to the table easier, even those whom used to be on the fence may find Terraforming Mars more to their liking with Prelude. With the drop in generation count the game length is sometimes shorter than before, though this isn’t a huge drop. However, those whom disliked the slow pace to the early rounds, due to limited resources may love the influx of resource caused by Prelude. For me, Prelude will be used in every non-introductory Terraforming Mars game going forward, something not the case for the Venus Next expansion.
[Editor’s Note: Terraforming Mars Prelude was provided to us by Asmodee UK for review purposes. The game is currently available on 365 Games for £17.99. It is also available from local UK board game stores, find your local store here]