Terraforming Mars: Prelude First Impressions Review

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I’m back with another Brian’s Battery review!

Terraforming Mars: Prelude is technically the third expansion for the game but it’s the first I’ve added to my collection. Many people say that this is an “essential” expansion and my own first play through has confirmed this to be the case. 

I won’t rehash base Terraforming Mars but I will explain a little bit about what Prelude adds. Prelude is a small-box expansion that adds a few more corporations, a few new cards, and most significantly, adds a new deck called the Prelude deck. 

The Prelude cards are dealt 4 to each player at the beginning of the game, at the same time as the corporation cards are dealt. Players pick 1 corporation and 2 prelude cards. 

The Prelude cards give additional starting bonuses that help jumpstart your engine. The game I played one of my prelude cards increased my money production by 6 but caused me to lose 6 starting money. A short term loss for a significant long term advantage. 

The addition of the prelude cards helps to get your engine running a few generations earlier and helps give you focus and purpose right out of the gate. The addition also helps to shorten the game considerably. 

Let’s blast off into the review!

(+/-) The art in the game is what it is. Some people don’t like it but I don’t mind it. It’ll never be confused for a beautiful game but it’s thematic and serviceable. I do think the box art is attractive and thematic.

(-/+) The components in this game are notoriously bad. Fortunately the cards themselves are of good quality. And the player marker cubes and resource cubes are nice to handle. I’m particularly fond of the sugar cubes used to measure the terraforming parameters. The main board and hexes used to build cities, oceans, and greenery are good. But the player boards. Man the player boards are awful. You would think a game this good would have better player boards, especially because they are so important to the workings of the game. But it’s something you put up with because the game is so good. 

(+/-) The game manual is adequate. It gets the job done and is decently written. I do feel that the quality is a little bit odd on the manual for some reason I can’t quite pinpoint. 

(++) The gameplay in this game is sublime engine building awesomeness. Each generation you are buying cards, playing cards, undertaking standard projects, or taking actions further your goal of making Mars more Earth-like. 

(++) There are so many cool cards to play. Detonating underground nuclear bombs. Crashing gigantic asteroids into Mars. Ants. Cows. Causing a volcano to erupt. All of them are scientifically.... plausible? Not likely. But In a realm of unlimited resources, sure? I don’t know, but it’s fun to develop your story of how you terraformed Mars. 

(++) The Prelude cards are amazing. It’s so refreshing to have a direction at the start of the game, and an engine that is already running a bit as the game gets started. Definitely an essential addition. 

This game was languishing on my shelf, cold and lifeless for quite a while. But the Prelude expansion has blasted this game back into my playing cycle and possibly into my Top 5? I don’t know. But it’s quite good. Heartily recommend Terraforming Mars and it’s essential expansion Prelude. 

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9 months ago

Excellent review!  We played this for the first time about a month ago and I completely agree with all of your observations.

Supporter9 months ago

Thanks! It’s a fun game. 

Supporter9 months ago

I just got Terraforming Mars in a math trade. I polled people about what expansion that they would not want to play the game without and this was at the top of the list. I've played a couple of solo plays with it now, and I agree. I like the jumpstarted set up.

That said, I haven't done multiplayer so it could change with that, but I doubt it since it helps jumpstart the game and get right into semifull action

Supporter9 months ago

I’ve not played it multiplayer yet. But I can’t imagine playing it without Prelude. 

Supporter9 months ago

Great to hear how much you like it. I'm curious how it will shake out long term with #Underwater Cities

9 months ago

I do not think I would play without Prelude anymore...it just kickstarts the game and allows you to hit the ground running. The game can drag on without it!

Supporter9 months ago

Exactly. I can’t imagine ever wanting to play this game without it. 

Supporter9 months ago

It's awesome to hear this review.  Obviously Prelude is an Essential Expansion.  It feels great to give life to a game that's been in exile for a while.

Supporter9 months ago

Thanks! Yes, it’s nice to make use of a game sitting on your shelf already. 

Linked Games
Terraforming Mars: Prelude
Terraforming Mars