Review of Terra Mystica

Terra Mystica Box

game setup

setting up the board

This week begun my journey into Terra Mystica. I’ll start this impression by saying that i loved this game even before the second playthrough.  It was like Hansa Teutonica, but even more advanced!! I love the use of non-randomized favor pools, asynchronous play with different factions, and many paths to victory. This one is going in my plus column, so i’m not going to be objective.

The nitty gritty:
Theme: 9/10  I love how each race has their own strategy and motivation. No one faction feels out of balance with the rest of the game. It has been so much fun just to discover all the different races(i’ve played 7 out of the 14 so far) and try to best compliment their strengths while slowing down my opponents.
Components: 8/10 Big, chunky wooden bits and beautiful player boards/maps. My only complaint was my box splitting down the side after a week. Purple duct tape to the rescue!!
Length: 40 minutes per player the box says 30, but it’s going to take some time to get to that point. Most plays will include one or more new players, playing new factions.
Mechanics : 9/10 What a lovely dance!! The motivation for players to directly compete for space  is great. Each action seems to serve a great purpose. The rivalrous nature of the power actions as well as the map make for tense sessions.

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a look at the player board (a little messy, whoops!)

A little explanation of gameplay: The game involves a number of cultures, each of whom would like to expand their home territory. Each faction has a kind of terrain and the power to terraform surrounding terrains into their own. Each faction also has an inherent ability. This ability ranges from where they build, how they build, and methods of moving up in the temples of various cults.

The game takes place over six rounds. Players spend each turn taking one of seven available actions until they pass. Once a player has passed, they will choose a bonus for the next round and wait until all other players have also passed. Each faction is trying to expand from their initial placements by creating new dwellings, houses and temples. Each new building has a power value. Towns are founded when a player creates a group worth seven points. Towns net an immediate bonus of some victory points and a resource bump.

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mid-game in the first playthrough

In our second game, we used the recommended beginner’s setup. This means we had halflings, mermaids, nomads, and witches. The halflings’ strategies seemed pretty straight forward. The halfling player wanted to terraform and soak up each bonus victory point that they could. The Nomads had an advantage of a free terraform each turn; He went to set up many different townships to turn them into cities in the last few turns. The witches get to set out dwellings on an extra green space each turn. He spammed out the board and worked toward bonuses on the cult track. The mermaids can make cities over river spots. I floundered a lot. I needed to spread out quickly and then work on making cities. I worked on leveling up my player board first, allowing my fellows to corner me out of much of the map.

 When a player builds adjacent to an established building or buildings, the established player will have an opportunity to exchange victory points for power. Power is used to gather any of the basic resources, or to take special actions. This keeps players interested in cozying up to the other players, so they can glom some free stuff as players work on establishing their towns.

 The six rounds of the game feel as if they fly by. Each is marked at the beginning of the game with a bonus marker. Bonus’ are accrued by some means during the turn(such as 2 points for building dwellings) and a cult-track bonus at the end of the round(a worker for every space climbed in the air cult). The end of the game replaces the resource bonus with the end-game scoring for the most connected structures on the map and the highest levels achieved for each cult.

Why is this game so special?

TM is reminiscent of Hansa Teutonica, Eclipse (and a little Settlers thrown in

the cult track to begin

the cult track to begin

for good measure). Terra Mystica still stands on its own, giving players neat interactive play. The 14 different races included are so well-designed. There are literally 100’s of ways to play it.

What’s the rub?

A game with this many decisions can lead to long decision-making. A group prone to analysis-paralysis should be weary. That and my poor, poor game box splitting is the only thing i can fault TM for.

Whatever its faults, this is one of the best designs I’ve played in a while. I cannot recommend this game enough. From what i’ve seen it is selling out everywhere so pick it up if you see it in the wild!!

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2 thoughts on “Review of Terra Mystica

  1. This is the second review of this game that I’ve randomly stumbled on. I’ll have to give it a try when I get back to the states and shipping costs aren’t outrageous.

    It’s interesting what you’ve said about the game’s flaw. I’ve recently realized that one of the “flaws” with the game I’m designing, is that players are given such meaningful decisions, that they feel exhausted by the end of the game, and are too mentally worn out to play another round. It’s interesting trying to balance deep strategic game play with keeping the game casual.

    I like your review style, it’s very insightful :)

    • i don’t mind at all games which wear me out mentally. Dominant Species is my favorite marathon to run after all.

      I encourage games that are mindful of quick decisions and tactics. full strategy games with no means of reaction do cause long and uneventful pauses.

      i cannot wait to see what you’ve come up with!!

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