Interview: FryxGames’ Jonathan Fryxelius talks Prelude 2

The surprise reveal of a second Prelude expansion for Terraforming Mars last week was met with widespread excitement online, with the as-yet-unreleased box soaring to the top of BoardGameGeek’s Hotness tracker of the most popular trending games.

FryxGames said the expansion would include five new corporations, cross-expansion effects for the Venus, Colonies and Turmoil expansions, and prelude cards with ongoing effects and actions, which differ from the existing ‘one-and-done’ variety from the original Prelude box.

As well as speculation on the new corporations and mechanics of the cross-expansion prelude cards in the set, one question has been on the lips of many since the announcement – is it -really- just going to be called Prelude 2?

FryxGames’ Jonathan Fryxelius told BoardGameWire, “Yes, Prelude 2 is the name we intend for the product.

“It is an appropriate name based on what it is and what can be expected, and it helps customers understand that they should get the first Prelude before getting this one, as the prelude cards in this expansion shouldn’t be used all by themselves, but should be combined with the original prelude cards to get a complete set.”

Terraforming Mars designer Jacob Fryxelius has said, though, that while Prelude is officially required to make use of Prelude 2, that recommendation has to take into account up to five players using just the base game with no expansion – and that in most cases just using Prelude 2 on its own should work.

He said the Kickstarter for the game should be launched within the next couple of months, with hopes it could be within the next month.

Prelude 2 will have the most utility when played with all the other Terraforming Mars expansions, however – in fact, Jonathan Fryxelius said the decision to create the new set was “mostly based on feedback from the community that people want more cross-expansion content”.

He said, “We always made our expansions completely modular, so it would be easy to add in or remove an expansion, but we also listen to this feedback and make this exception for those who long for more Venus, Colonies, and Turmoil-related cards.”

Playing with all Terraforming Mars’ large expansions – Venus, Colonies and Turmoil – will allow Prelude 2 owners to include all 5 new corporations, 25 prelude cards and 24 new project cards, while at the other end of the scale, just using the base game would allow players to add the five corporations, 16 of the preludes and none of the extra projects.

With the release of the Terraforming Mars Big Box in 2021, there was speculation that not only was FryxGames finished with expansions for the game, but that the company might start work on a second edition of the 2016 base game, perhaps with updated art and bundled with the cards from the original Prelude expansion.

Jonathan Fryxelius told BoardGameWire, “We can never exclude the possibility of more content being released, but we will not likely introduce any new major mechanics for the game.

“We felt that Turmoil was the last major expansion in that way, but that we will likely continue to explore the current concepts more over time.”

He continued, “The topic has been raised several times, but for now, we’re not pursuing a second edition.

“There are some balance tweaks we would make in some cards and corporations if we were to make a second edition, but they are quite few actually.

“Some images could make do with an update, but the overall art direction would likely not change. A lot of people don’t realize that we achieved almost exactly what we wanted with the art in this game, mimicking the art style of science magazines and early science fiction novels which inspired the game – these mediums have always used the image style which best portrays the topic, rather than a unifying style which works good with some topics but worse with others.

“Since this game spans everything from small microbial life to large space shuttles, from the everyday media coverage to distant future projects, it makes sense to use different art styles for different project cards.

“For us, this enhances the theme of realism, and that’s exactly what we aimed for. You get the experience of living through generations on the Red Planet, bombarded with the wide variety of news articles with stock photos, scientific projects with blueprints and 3D renderings, futuristic concept arts, and every now and then some more personal image with easter eggs and some small world-building elements.

“It is not the prettiest game, but it feels real.”

Prelude is not only the best rated Terraforming Mars expansion, but also the biggest selling, with about 200,000 copies sold to date.

The card set was released in 2018 as a reaction to player feedback that games were sometimes taking up to five hours to complete – well above Jacob Fryxelius’ expected two-hour play time.

FryxGames turned to Kickstarter for its Terraforming Mars releases from the 2019 Turmoil expansion onwards, using the crowdfunding platform for the Big Box storage solution and for spin-off titles Ares Expedition and Terraforming Mars: The Dice Game.

Some commenters online have questioned the need for FryxGames to take the Kickstarter route for the Prelude 2 expansion, given the original game and first Prelude expansions’ popularity.

The Terraforming Mars base game, for example, has been produced in about 700,000 copies across ten printings, and translated to more than 25 different languages.

Jonathan Fryxelius said, “Kickstarter has become a major platform for marketing new releases, planning print run sizes, and offering exclusive content.

“Although Terraforming Mars products don’t really need to be crowdfunded, the product is still very much helped by the added exposure, feedback, and knowledge of print run size which we will get from a campaign.

“We also want to offer some other items as addons to the campaign which may be difficult for our end customers to obtain from retail chains, like promo cards.”

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