Review – Terra Mystica
A Fantasy Territory Building game.
Title: Terra Mystica
Year Published: 2012
Designer: Jens Drögemüller, Helge Ostertag
Publisher: Feurland Spiele
Game Time: 90+ Mins
Set-up Time: >10 Mins
Mechanic: Territory Building
How to win: Score the most points.
In the land of Terra Mystica dwell 14 different peoples in seven landscapes, and each group is bound to its own home environment, so to develop and grow, they must terraform neighbouring landscapes into their home environments in competition with the other groups.
Set up takes a bit of time and space. When you’ve done it once it’s easy and it really helps if the players know what they’re doing.
Each player chooses, or is randomly given a a Faction board. I use randomiser cards for this and let everyone choose which of the factions of that colour they are going to play with. Then they will set up their board with the relevant pieces.
Put the Game board and Cult board on the table. Randomly place the Scoring Tiles on the board and put the game end token on the 6th space. You don’t get a bonus in that round so it’s always covered up.
Randomly select the Bonus cards (equal to the number of Players + 3) and lay them out to the side. Put the Town tokens in stacks next to the board and lay out the Favour tiles in a 3×4 Grid.
Put an action token next each of the Game board power action spaces.
Determine the start player and give them the first player marker. The game now starts with a little bit more set up.
Players take their starting resources as displayed on their player board.
In turn order, starting with the first player, players place a dwelling on a home terrain space anywhere on the board.
Then, in reverse turn order, players place a second dwelling on a home terrain space anywhere on the board.
Starting with the last player, players choose a Bonus card to start the game with.
Any Bonus card that was not taken gets 1 coin put on it to tempt you in the future.
Now the game actually begins for real.
The game is played over 3 rounds, divided into 3 phases.
Phase 1: Income
Players take their income from their player board, bonus token etc Anything with the hand symbol underneath it.
Phase 2: Actions
There are 8 actions to take and when you take one of these you pass play on to the next player in turn order.
1 – Terraform and Build a Dwelling
All you do is pay the required number of spades to Terraform an space without a structure into any terrain type. The number of spades you need is different for each race so you nee to check your player board.
There are a number of ways to acquire spades and the cost can be paid in any number of these ways. If you have extra spades can be used to Terraform a different space but only one space may be built on per action. Any gained Spades can be used immediately and cannot be saved for future turns.
If its adjacent to one of your existing structures, you may build on it immediately, or as a later action but other players can claim Terrain tiles without a structure on them so be careful about that.
Take a dwelling from the Left of your Faction board, pay the cost and place the dwelling on space on the board.
2 – Advance the Shipping Track
Pay the cost to move the shipping track on your Faction board.
3 – Lower the Exchange Rate for Spades
Pay the cost to move the spade exchange rate marker on your Faction board.
4 – Upgrade a Building
Pay the cost and take the left most building of the one you are upgrading to from your Faction board. Replace the building you are upgrading and put the old building on the right most space of your Faction board. Buildings must be upgraded in the correct order, also, Strongholds and Sanctuary’s cannot be upgraded, moved etc
5 – Send a Priest to the Order of the Cult
Place one Priest on one of the spaces on the Cult track and advance along the track. These Priests cannot be returned but instead you may return a Priest to your supply to advance one space on any track.
6 – Use a Power Action
Pay the cost in Power and take the action, Slide the action token over the space to show it has been used. Power actions on the board can only be used once per round and are first come, first served.
7 – Use a Special Action
You will gain Special Actions as the game progresses. Each can be used once per round and you slide an action token over the space to show it has been used.
8 – Pass
Even when you pass you still have things to do.
You may pass and take no further part in the round. If your current bonus cards give you a bonus when passing, collect this now. If you are the first player to pass, take the first player marker.
Take a new bonus card from thoese remainging, keeping any coins on it. Place it face down in front of you to show you have passed and return your old bonus token to the middle.
You do not take a new Bonus tile in the 6th round.
When all players have passed, the turn ends
Phase 3: Cult Bonuses and Clean Up
In rounds 1-5, the end of the Action phase is followed by a Cult Bonus and Clean Up Phase. In the new play order, gain one action per scoring token for each number of steps you are on the cult track. If you gain a spade, you may Terraform but not build in this phase.
Return action tokens to their ‘unused’ positions, put 1 coin on each bonus card in the supply and turn that turns scoring tile face down t show that turn is complete.
After all players have passed in the 6th round, players score bonus points.
Cult scoring –
The Highest on each Cult track gains 8 points, 4 for second & 2 for third. You cannot gain points for being on the 0 spot on the track.
For ties, add the points together and divide them evenly, rounding down.
Area Scoring –
Players score for having the most adjacent structures, regardless of power value. The highest number of structures gains 18 points, 12 for second & 6 for third.
For ties, add the points together and divide them evenly, rounding down
Resource Scoring –
Players also get 1 point per unused resource and 1 point per 3 coins.
All 14 Factions play differently, the starting positions you choose for each will be different and you pay through the game will change to make the best use of your Factions powers.
The bonus powers are randomised each game so each round gives you a different target. So even if you play the same Faction every game you still will have to play the game differently each game to maximise points.
So re-playability is great.
I love games where turns are quick. You have 1 action and it moves on so by the time you’ve made up your mind what you are going to do next, it’s your turn again. I LOVE it when games work like that. You’re always involved.
I’ve played the game with 3, 4 and 5 players and felt with 3 players there wasn’t as much toe-trading when building so I would say 4-5 players is best.
While you don’t want everyone to bunch up so no one has room to build, having people build next to you gives you Power.
Usually you gain Power as an action but when a player builds next to one of your structures you are able to gain it, often at a cost of a few points. But the Power bonuses are really strong so you generally want to sacrifice a few points to be able to say, Gain 7 Coins.
Power is also used in an interesting way. You have 3 bowls and you start with power in Bowl 1 and 2. When you gain power you have to move any Power you have in Bowl 1 to Bowl 2 before you can move it from Bowl 3 to Bowl 3. You can only spend Power in bowl 3. It’s a very interesting way of moderating Power usage.
You can remove 1 Power from Bowl 2 from the game to move 1 Power from Bowl 2 to Bowl 3. This is a great way of speeding up the whole Power moving process although you will have less Power overall.
Upgrading buildings is also great. Building a basic Dwelling gives you an extra worker in your income, as you now have a bigger colony and more people. But upgrade that Dwelling into a Trading House and you put that worker to work so your number of Workers in your income goes down, but your coins increase as your Trading House earns money.
Also, Trading Houses are more effective when there is someone to trade with so they have 2 costs, a normal cost to build and a reduced cost should you build adjacent to an opponents structure. This also works along side the Power gaining I mentioned earlier so as much as each Faction needs their space, they need to have some contact with at least one other Faction to get some benefits. I think this works really well.
The Cultist track and using Priests as a resource is something else you need to keep an eye on. This means there are 4 resources (Money, Workers, Priests and Power) but it isn’t overwhelming to keep up with each of them.
There’s far too much to this game that I love to mention here but it’s easy to say that it’s one of my favourite games ever, love it!
I give it 9/10