App Review – Terraforming Mars – Prelude Expansion

Long-time readers of this blog know that I’ve had a kind of love-hate relationship with the app version of one of my favourite games.

While Terraforming Mars is still in my Top 10 games played, the digital version had a bumpy ride after its initial release.

In fact, there was a point where I said that, despite me being in the beta, I was not going to buy the game.

Thankfully, Asmodee Digital has been working to make the game at least meet my demanding standards for asynchronous play.

There are a few issues, but overall it has become an enjoyable experience. (I still have to say, is there any reason that you have to choose your cards in turn order? I don’t see it. And it still needs replays for when you log in to take your turn.)

Which is why I was excited to hear that the Prelude expansion was finally going to be coming to the app!

The game desperately needs Prelude as otherwise it becomes a bit boring after multiple plays.

The Prelude cards on the table.

What does Prelude add to the game? And is it worth the in-app purchase?

Let’s take a look.

(Note: if you want to know how to play Terraforming Mars, see my app review. This is only going to talk about the additions to the game)

Before I talk about the expansion itself, let me first laud Asmodee for a couple of changes in the update that included the expansion that really make the game a lot better than it was.

First, when playing multiple asynchronous games, it used to be that you couldn’t tell which game it was actually your turn in. If you were in four, you’d have to open each one. And then hopefully the order of the games wouldn’t change when you got out!

Now, apparently (I haven’t seen it in action but this comes from a reliable source) the list of your games gives you an indication that it’s your turn in this specific game.

What a concept! Great that they added this, but what took so long?

Secondly, and maybe this was added in a previous update and I just noticed this, but when you steal/destroy resources from another player, it actually indicates which player those resources were taken from.

Previously, you couldn’t tell at all. This is also a welcome change.

But anyway, how about the Prelude expansion?

This is my favourite expansion for the game and the app desperately needed it.

Terraforming Mars - Prelude cards 1
I guess you want to go into Power generation!

While new maps would be great (it is getting a bit boring terraforming the same section of Mars all the time), Prelude gives you a head-start and also a direction for your strategy during the game.

At the start of the game, in addition to choosing your corporation as well as buying some of the 10 starting cards you are dealt, you will be dealt four Prelude cards. These cards will give you a boost in some fashion, either megacredits, letting you boost Oxygen or Heat so that your Terraforming Rating increases, or some other resources or bonuses.

Increasing Energy and Plant production and also getting 2 plants!

You choose two of the four cards to play and then you will play them as you also reveal your corporation.

The tags on the Prelude cards remain in play, so the above card will give you a Microbe tag (in case you need one later).

It can be really sweet when you combine your Prelude cards, your corporation, and a few of your starting cards into a nice combination that will give you a real leg up at the start of the game (like the Helion corporation, which is big on Heat production, also getting Prelude cards that increase Heat).

The expansion comes with five new corporations as well as seven new project cards in addition to the Prelude cards.

The seven new project cards aren’t anything special, but they do add a bit of variety to the whole thing.

The one cool thing they do add (at least the card above) is the “Wild” tag. This tag can be any tag you need, but only when you are performing an action.

Need two Power tags but you only have one? If you have the Wild tag, then you now have two! Same goes for Science, or whatever tag you need.

This only applies when you take an action, so not when you are scoring or anything like that. It does apply to Milestones, though, which is cool.

The prelude cards are where the expansion shines, though.

The base game of Terraforming Mars is great, but if you’re playing the Corporate era (where you only get the production bonuses that your corporation gives you), the beginning of the game can get pretty boring. You might play a card, then you’re done for the generation because you don’t have anything else to do.

That can happen with Prelude as well, but you still have a direction that you’re going. You’re most likely moving up on the production of one or two resources. Or maybe the Prelude cards gave you some extra cash so you can do more on your first turn.

I would not play the game on the table without Prelude (unless I had to) and having it in the app gives it a much-needed shot in the arm.

I have played the app more in the last few days than I have played it in the last few months (one asynchronous game going on periodically).

It just adds that little bit of oomph that the game really needs.

That being said, the AI could still use some help. At least one of the AI players is always doing Standard Projects at the beginning of the game for no apparent reason. One of them desperately wants the “3 greeneries” milestone and does Standard Projects to gain that.

The addition of Prelude doesn’t seem to have broken anything, though. Given the history of the app, that’s a very nice thing to see. There don’t appear to be any real bugs with the inclusion of the new cards.

One thing I have to mention, though, as it really irritated me when I discovered it.

If you want to include Prelude content when creating the game, you have to do a little work.

There’s a really obvious “Prelude” button to push to include the Prelude cards.

However, if you want to include the corporations and project cards, you have to scroll down and click “Prelude” for each of those options.

Otherwise, the game will leave out the corporations and the project cards.

It would be nice to have a “one click to enable it all” option, and since I’m not used to scrolling on the “Create Game” screen, it didn’t occur to me to check that. My first couple of games included the Prelude cards but not the other parts of the expansion.

The five new corporations are really cool too.

Robinson Industries lets you spend 4 Megacredits to increase your lowest production by one. That can be quite handy!

Cheung Sing Mars (pictured further above) lets you spend 2 less Megacredits when playing a Building tag.

Valley Trust is pretty cool, because in addition to paying 2 less Megacredits for Science tag cards also lets you draw 3 more Prelude cards and play one of them.

Point Luna starts you with 1 Titanium production and also allows you to draw a card when you play an Earth tag.

Finally, Vitor has you fund an award for free as your first action. I hope you have an idea of what you’re going for! It also gives you 3 Megacredits whenever you play a card with a non-negative Victory Point icon. It counts itself, so it gives you an extra 3 Megacredits right off the bat.

This expansion just adds a bunch more variety, which the game sorely needs.

Terraforming Mars: Prelude is an excellent expansion for the game and Asmodee Digital has done a bang-up job implementing it in the app. The additions made along with the expansion make the game even more playable.

I actually anticipate playing Terraforming Mars a lot more with this addition to the game.

I can’t wait for the next expansion(s) to be added, but in the meantime if you’re interested in Terraforming Mars in digital form at all, you have to get this expansion.

The Prelude expansion is available on Steam ($7.99 CDN), iOS and Android ($5.49 CDN).

Here’s a final map from my most recent game with the expansion! I lost by 2 points as Robinson Industries. *sniff*

I was Robinson Industries

Thank you to Asmodee Digital for providing me with a Steam code in order to review this expansion. I did buy it on iOS though

12 Comments on “App Review – Terraforming Mars – Prelude Expansion

  1. Are you able to start a async game without staying in the lobby yet in ios with TM ? , wish Asmondie did async better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I honestly don’t know.

      You can start async games with friends very easily and you don’t have to be logged in at the same time. Just send invites.

      That’s all I do. I haven’t tried to start any async games with random people.

      My guess is that it probably hasn’t changed if that’s the way it’s always been, though.


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  3. We added Prelude to our real-life games of Terraforming Mars (way back when that was a thing that could happen) and found that it really opened up the fun in the early game.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I totally agree (as I’m sure you gathered from the review LOL). I enjoyed the game by itself, but when Prelude hit, it was almost like I didn’t know what I had been missing until I had it.

      Liked by 1 person

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  7. On the iPad the Prelude expansion seems to mess with the way the app renders the UI. Suddenly, after every action, every section of the UI disappears and reappears. For example, say you take an action that increases your energy generation. Well, the income bar disappears. Then it gets rendered again. Then the new number appears. And not in some kind of fast flicker, no, this takes about half a second.

    Every single time you take any action.

    I like the content of the Prelude expansion, but the implementation on iOS is so bad, I’ve requested a refund. Truly atrocious. I can’t imagine how production works at Asmodee, but I suspect the entire codebase of the Terraforming Mars app is basically garbage at this point.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s weird. I have not had that problem at all, and I play on both iPad and Steam (same asynchronous game, not at the same time). Playing on the iPad has presented no problems for me whatsoever.

      I would definitely submit that as a bug report if you can. That shouldn’t be happening.


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