I had very low expectations for Terraforming Mars: Prelude. So low, in fact, that I almost expected to dump the namesake cards and keep it around only for the handful extra corporations and projects included in the package. After all, what’s the point of playing an engine-building game if half the engine is already built for you? But it’s not quite like that.
Huge concrete silos rise proud against the stunning American landscape. Factories and warehouses grow alongside a railroad, so infinite that it disappears with the horizon. Science and architecture present themselves as the bringers of a new, modern age where work and industry rule the universe.
In this world, two ideologies fight for supremacy. At least, in theory.
Cards are the heart of Terraforming Mars and understanding them is the key to win. But each one of them is unique and they interact in subtle, different ways. It’s often difficult to gauge exactly how good a card will be in a given game and often cards we thought would be standouts end up not panning out.
But there are some cards that I know I can always count on. Cards so versatile or so useful that will make a game easier or give me a much needed boost. They are the nine best cards of Terraforming Mars:
Powerful aliens meet in Cosmic Encounter. One of them, Chronos, has the power to go back in time and force the opponent to replay a battle if he loses. Another, Zombie, has immortal ships and Mutant always keeps 8 cards in hand, taking more of them from the deck (or his opponents) if necessary. The strangest of them all, the Schizoid, changes the winning conditions of the game itself, forcing other players to try and guess which one he has chosen.
And then, there’s the Philanthropist. Compared to these powerhouses, it not only seems weak, but counterproductive. Why would you want to give cards to your opponent? Doesn’t that help them? Many players glaze over him, dismissing him as a joke or a narrow way to help an ally.
But not only it’s a tremendous power, it’s an insidious one and also a great piece of game design.