Terraforming Mars has five jam-packed expansions with even more on the way! Finding one that is good is easy but figuring out which one is the best requires a little more research into what each expansion brings to the table.
Since it’s release, Terraforming Mars has been a massive hit and has a stronghold as one of the top board games out right now. Its expansions don’t fall short of the expectation that the base game sets. They add a ton of content to an already great strategy game.
All of the expansions for Terraforming Mars are compatible, meaning they can all be used with the base game at the same time. Although one could, we would only advise using a few expansions simultaneously. It gets a little difficult to shuffle all of the cards together.
Major Terraforming Mars Expansions
Here is the order that the main expansions for Terraforming Mars came out:
Let’s dive into the details of each expansions.
#1: Terraforming Mars: Prelude
The Prelude expansion includes:
- Prelude cards
- Additional corporation cards
- New project cards
- New solo variant
It’s obvious that the prelude cards are the centerpiece of this expansion, and for good reason. The addition of prelude cards eliminates some of the slogs of getting an engine going. They also help plan out the strategy going into the game.
A lot of Terraforming Mars players consider this the top expansion to get for the game for the increased strategy and because it speeds up the start of the game.
#2: Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium
This is the first expansion of Terraforming Mars and It is the most simple of all the expansions. The only two big additions in this expansion are the Map of Hellas and Map of Elysium. Some smaller additions include new awards, milestones, placement rules, and bonuses.
The maps of Hellas and Elysium are on a double-sided board so this expansion also doesn’t take up much space. With that being said, don’t let the size of the expansion fool you because it is a great expansion for the base game.
The new awards and milestones are relevant to the regions of Mars that the players are exploring. The Elysium map offers Olympus Mons, the highest peak on Mars (and the rest of the solar system). Meanwhile, Hellas puts you in reach of the south pole.
This expansion sticks to the root of the game and gives more of the Terraforming Mars goodness.
#3: Terraforming Mars: Colonies
Although this was the fourth expansion released for the game, it was the first to add any new rules to the base game. Along with those rules are a few new components. Here’s everything included in the expansion:
- New project cards
- New corporation
- Additional set of rules
The new rule additions add depth but are light enough that new players can be introduced to them immediately. Additionally, the new rules give a new competitive element with the new colonies which add another way to obtain resources.
This definitely isn’t an essential expansion for the game but will add some new strategy to the game. However, unlike the expansions listed before this one, it won’t be missed if you play without it.
This expansion is best for those who play Terraforming Mars very regularly and need something fresh to add to it.
#4: Terraforming Mars: Venus Next
Venus Next was the second expansion to be released for Terraforming Mars but the first to really add anything besides a new map to the game. Here’s what you get in this expansion:
- New corporations
- New cards
- Venus board
The Venus cards and board work separately from the rest of the game and the cards are inexpensive compared to their benefits which make them good for progressing during the mid-game.
Since there are few cards that increase production for Venus, it slows down the engine building a little and lengthens the game.
On top of all of this, we have some new milestones: Hoverlord and Venuphile. For being the first to have 7 floaters and having the most Venus tags on cards at the end of the game.
Overall, this expansion is a great way to add more of the stuff that makes Terraforming Mars fun, and pretty much anyone that enjoys the base game will at least like having this one thrown in. If you want some more depth on this expansion here’s a great review by The Dice Tower:
#5: Terraforming Mars: Turmoil
Turmoil is the latest expansion to Terraforming Mars but, although it is a fantastic expansion, it is described on the box as an “expert expansion”. This expansion was built for hardcore fans of the game and isn’t really the best choice for anyone just looking to buy an expansion to freshen up the base game. Here’s everything the expansion offers:
- New corporations
- New projects
- New Global Events card type
- Terraforming Committee politics mechanic
Compared to the first four expansions, Turmoil adds new rules and mechanics (like the political committee) which adds more complexity to the game. However, the jump in complexity isn’t overwhelming.
Overall, this expansion is best for hardcore fans of the Terraforming Mars series that have tried out the other expansions.