Before experiencing the Terraforming Mars: Prelude expansion for the first time, I ended up watching Tom Vassel's review of it. Not to mention, I had often read in forums nothing but positive reviews about this expansion for an already fantastic game. I was excited to finally dive in myself for the experience. What could possibly be so great about an expansion in this small box I wonder?? 🤔
You open up this tiny magical box and inside are some cards, and a two page manual, that's barely half the size of the base game manual (dimension wise). 😮
And here is the full extent of the manual. 2-pages. So in total, for only $20 CDN the Prelude expansion gives you;
-7 new project cards to put into the main project deck
-5 new corporations
-35 prelude cards
-A new solo variant
That's your expansion. But I still don't understand why there's such fantastic reviews? That's not that much and it just sorta 'fits into the base game'...
And there is the simplicity and beauty of the Prelude expansion.
I played with the Prelude expansion twice yesterday; Once in the late morning and again after dinner. It hooked me immediately. This little, inexpensive expansion adds to an already fantastic engine building game! I completely understand why the reviews are so positive. 😀
Let's Get to the Planning Shall We?
I played using the original solo variant where you try to complete all 3-terraforming projects within a set amount of generations. In the base game you get 14 generations to try to do so. However, if you're using the prelude expansion you only get 12. 😮 Sorry what!? Your thoughts are same as what mine were when I was reading the rules; "Well that sucks! The original solo game is tough enough" (for me anyway).
Ah, but it IS very fair. Let me set the scene for you...
You're a coporation who has been given the task of terraforming the red planet so that we humans can inhabit the planet and thrive. Seems reasonable eh? In the base game, your corporation begins their generational work right there on Mars. You start from scratch. But wait a minute; If humans are planning to do this, would it not make sense that there would be a little bit of pre-planning and possibly help to get your corporation started BEFORE trying to terraform another planet???? I mean, it is somewhat of a big undertaking wouldn't you say? Why yes, that WOULD make sense!
And that's where Prelude does just that. 😁
In Prelude, the solo setup is the same, except that you place a gold cube next to generation 12 to remind you this is your timeline to complete your terraforming projects. You choose your corporation (I used the new Vitor corp. for my first play yesterday), you deal your usual 10 project cards to research and keep or not, and you also deal 4-prelude cards (pink). These cards help your corporation PREPARE for their upcoming projects for generations to come, rather than getting there and saying; "Ok, I guess we better get started." 😏 Depending on your draw, these prelude cards can really work well off each other, and even with your corporation. In game-1 I chose "Donation" and "Business Empire" as my prelude choices.
The prelude cards basically help give you, the head of your corporation, more direction in HOW you're going to approach this massive undertaking of terraforming the red planet. You also get to enjoy the amazingly smooth engine building of TM, right from the first generation since the prelude cards give your corporation more to start with (hence why you get less time to get the job done). In Tom Vassel's review he mentions that the Prelude expansion speeds up the game by a generation or two, and I'd have to agree now that I've experienced it.
Terraforming Mars is easily the smoothest engine building game I've played in my couple years into the hobby. I don't know why or how it's such a smooth feeling engine builder, but it just is and I love that aspect of the game. The Prelude expansion simply enhances that mechanic in a smooth, wonderful way! You get to experience it right away, rather than building to get to that feeling a couple generations in.
I didn't win game-1 (typical) but I loved the experience with the expansion. It fits so seamlessly into the base game. Kudos Jacob Fryxelius. Wow!
Game-2 was a very close one and I almost pulled it off with only 2-temperature bumps to go for full terraform status. Here was my corporation (another new one) and prelude cards in game-2:
Notice how some prelude cards also offer some additional tags as well. Again, just another preparation BEFORE getting the terraforming going. I love it!
I found that my solo games using the original variant were finishing with higher TR ratings using Prelude compared to when playing with just the base game. But the puzzle aspect to the solo play is still very much there. Just as I mentioned, you get to enjoy the smooth engine building mechanic even more with this expansion!
The NEW solo variant
The Prelude expansion's new solo variant offers a different approach to your solo terraforming project where your focus is reach a terraform rating (TR) of 63 in the 12-generations (the usual 14 if you're playing with just the base game). You'd place a gold cube on 63 TR and go for that target, which would put a different focus into your game for sure! In addition, there is a new standard project added when playing with this new solo variant; BUFFER GAS. This standard project costs 16 Mega-Credits which allows you to increase your TR by 1 each time. My goal is to play through the remaining three new corporations, and then I will jump into this variant to give it a try.
I've heard and read so much about how this expansion is a MUST for TM fans, and I'm so happy to have experienced WHY for myself. For such a small price tag, this expansion seamlessly fits into the game, enhances the already great game AND provides more opportunity for fun and variety. I love that I can sit down to play TM and now have options of how I want to approach the game's overall goal. 😎
I highly recommend that anyone who owns Terraforming Mars, should NOT do what I did and wait so long to purchase this inexpensive expansion!!! Open a new tab right now to wherever you typically purchase your games, and order it. You will not be disappointed. 😉