Gameday First Play – Terra Mystica
No messing around, this is a very very good game.
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 neighboring landscapes into their home environments in competition with the other groups.
Terra Mystica is a game with very little luck that rewards strategic planning. Each player governs one of the 14 groups. With subtlety and craft, the player must attempt to rule as great an area as possible and to develop that group’s skills. There are also four religious cults in which you can progress. To do all that, each group has special skills and abilities.
Taking turns, the players execute their actions on the resources they have at their disposal. Different buildings allow players to develop different resources. Dwellings allow for more workers. Trading houses allow players to make money. Strongholds unlock a group’s special ability, and temples allow you to develop religion and your terraforming and seafaring skills. Buildings can be upgraded: Dwellings can be developed into trading houses; trading houses can be developed into strongholds or temples; one temple can be upgraded to become a sanctuary. Each group must also develop its terraforming skill and its skill with boats to use the rivers. The groups in question, along with their home landscape, are:
- Desert (Fakirs, Nomads)
- Plains (Halflings, Cultists)
- Swamp (Alchemists, Darklings)
- Lake (Mermaids, Swarmlings)
- Forest (Witches, Auren)
- Mountain (Dwarves, Engineers)
- Solitude (Giants, Chaos Magicians)
Proximity to other groups is a double-edged sword in Terra Mystica. Being close to other groups gives you extra power, but it also means that expanding is more difficult…
I’m not going to get into how to play the game because it’s a big big game. Although, there is a lot to do and bear in mind, turns are lightening fast and the game moves very quickly.
Joel Eddy at Drive Thru Review gives the best game play description that I have found. It’s enough to learn how to play the game as I found out.
There are a few things I liked about it.
After playing as the Giants in my first game I was very curious how the other 13 factions play. Each felt quite different for each player and their individual special ability caused jealousy around the table from every player.
The Scoring tiles and the Bonus cards will differ game to game too for added replayability.
Although the game was just over 3 hours which included set-up, walk though, a few tender initial turns each and a lunch break, each players action was lightening quick. There’s only really 8 actions to take on your turn and if you remove those you just can’t do due to a resource shortage you narrow down your options, removing AP.
For a fairly heavy 5 player game your turn came round very very fast.
It’s not direct but it’s not too ‘dick-ish’. You can build to block off an opponent as much as you can leave everyone alone.
The mechanic of Trading Houses costing less to build when adjacent to another players hex not only makes sense thematically, but it makes you get cosy with a neighbour and prevents 5 solitaire games on a single board.
Being near another player can also help you gain power.
Speaking of which…
Power is balanced, to spend it you need to earn it. You have 3 bowls and your power starts split between bowl 1 and bowl 2.
If there are Power tokens in Bowl I, for each 1 Power you gain move one token from Bowl I to Bowl II.
Once Bowl I is empty, for each 1 Power you gain move one token from Bowl II to Bowl III.
Once all Power tokens are in Bowl III, you cannot gain further Power.
Spent Power goes from Bowl III to Bowl I and the cycle continues.
It’s interesting and not something I have seen before but it works really well.
You start on 20 points and gain/lose points as the game progresses. Points are gained from such a wide variety of activities that if your race is weak at 1 or 2 of them they will be strong in others. It’s always my favourite way of doing things.
So, I’ve already said it’s a very very good game but I don’t think I will et through this year without buying it. Although it has a couple of things in common with Smallworld, it’s very different but will be replacing it in my collection.
Terra Mystica, go now, buy!