Terraforming Mars Prelude Expansion: Adding the ‘Elon Musk’ Phase

Terraforming Mars: Prelude is exactly what I look for in an expansion from a game that I already love. It adds depth and diversity, without making the game more complicated.

It fixes some of the (alleged) issues in the base game, by guiding players with their early game strategic choices and gives a boost to the notoriously slow early game. If you like Terraforming Mars – the 2017 breakout boardgame blockbuster from Fryxgames – then you should buy Prelude. End of review.


The expansion introduces:

  • 35 Prelude Cards
  • 5 Corporation Cards
  • 7 Project Cards

It’s a big tick from me for both the Corporation and Project additions. Thematically, these cards fit the early stages of terraforming a new planet. We added the Corporation and Project cards to the base-game without hesitation, and they slot right into place without complications. From multiple plays, these seem entirely compatible with every other expansion, and add diversity and replayability without any complication. Win all round.

The real meat (slash dome-farmed meat alternative) of this expansion is the Prelude Cards. The Prelude cards add an additional step at the beginning of the game, where you essentially get to choose some of the projects that your corporation has been up to prior to embarking on the race to terraforming glory. Maybe you’ve perfected an experimental synthetic ecology, found an eccentric sponsor, built an Orbital Construction Yard (!), or successfully run a corporate space agency.

This phase of the game we have affectionately come to know as the “Elon Musk” phase, for perhaps obvious reasons.

Mechanically, players are dealt four Prelude cards, of which they choose two, at the same time that they choose their corporation and starting project cards. This allows players to streamline their strategic choices at the beginning of the game, and typically provides a resource or production boost. Many of the Prelude cards also include science and construction tags, which in turn gives players a head-start on some of the more resource intensive projects that usually don’t appear until late in the game.

What is great about this expansion is that it adds no further complexity to the learning or teaching the game – it can be easily included for first time players. In fact, it has the advantage of helping first time players to make strategic choices from the outset, by giving them a bit of direction for their opening game choices. This is especially useful if you play with the optional card drafting mechanic. We’ve found that even beginners are able to identify Prelude cards that work will with the engine-building bonuses of the  corporations, or complement their opening hand. It gives the players more control over their strategic choices, without adding levels of complication that might otherwise paralyze new players.

The other real selling point is that is speeds up the opening turns, and the game overall. Terraforming Mars is a fast moving game for what it accomplishes, and will typically be over and done within 2 hours. That’s a real sweet spot for almost every-one I’ve played this game with. But it is fair to say that it can take a little to get the game moving for the opening turns, when you don’t have enough money or resources to fund the cooler projects and your production is just getting off the ground. The prelude cards provide a genuine kickstart to your game, and the value of creating exciting in the opening turns of a game shouldn’t be under-estimated.

Terraforming Mars: Prelude is a light, easily-incorporated expansion that we will never again play without. It adds depth, diversity and strategic guidance to a game that didn’t really need these things, but is frankly better for it. It does this without adding complexity or bloat, and actually reduces the game time.

A must have inclusion for Terraforming Mars.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: