Let’s Get it Started: Terraforming Mars Prelude Review

One sentence review:  Prelude gets the game going faster and results in a shorter game.

Does this sound good?  If so, get Prelude.  If you think the game is perfect at its current length, then don’t bother with it.  Personally, I like it a lot, and would prefer to play all future games with Prelude.

Full review:  To say I love Terraforming Mars is an understatement.  In my blog review, I called it the best game of 2016, and I stand by it.  I love it so much, I asked Stronghold Games to let me run a GenCon tournament.  They agreed.  The tournament included Prelude, so between playing it and running a tournament that included it, here are my impressions.

What is Prelude?

Prelude consists of 35 prelude cards, 7 new project cards, 5 new corporations and 1 new solo card.

Project cards:  The project cards aren’t anything spectacular, but RESEARCH COORDINATION includes a “Wild Card” tag.  When playing an action, such as a project card or a milestone, it can be any tag, which is handy.

Corporations:  The main one to note is Vitor.  It’s effect reads:  “When you play a card with a NON-NEGATIVE VP icon, including this, gain 3 M€.”

We found this effect VERY powerful.  We tweaked it to say, no card with a fraction may be included, so  no PETS, no SEARCH FOR LIFE, no Jovian tags, etc.  After this tweak, some STILL thought it was too powerful and should be excluded, though I don’t agree.  The other corporations are solid, but I still think some of the better ones are in the original set.

Prelude Cards:  This is the main thing you get with Prelude.  Every players gets dealt 4 Prelude cards, along with their 2 corporations and 10 project cards, but selects only 2 Prelude cards to keep.  After everyone announces their corporation and the cards they’re keeping, it is immediately followed by a new phase in which Player 1 reveals and plays his 2 Prelude cards, followed by Player 2, etc.

Prelude cards are essentially free project cards that you play right away.  Compared to your average project card, they are VERY powerful.  For example:  ORBITAL CONSTRUCTION YARD:  Increase your Titanium production 1 step.  Gain 4 titanium.

Because they’re powerful, they can either A) Mitigate the advantages of one corporation vs. another or B) exacerbate the advantages of one corporation over another.

Despite the possibility of B, I find them to be a lot of fun.  There are instances where the exact right combination of corporation with 2 Prelude cards can almost hand a victory to a player straight away.  But at least it’s a shorter game, right?  I also found that most of the time they don’t have this effect, and instead help players define their strategies and get the game moving.  4-player games were regularly concluding in 2 hours.  I think this is better for both new players as well as experienced players.  You’re adding more cards and more fun to the game, why not add it?

Verdict:  Prelude is such a good addition to Terraforming Mars that I’d rather not play another game without Prelude.  I definitely recommend it.

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