Ring Side Report- Board Game Review of Terra Mystica

Game- Terra Mystica

Producer-Z-Man Games

Price- ~$80

Set-up/Play/Clean-up- 45 minutes/player 2-5 players

tl;dr-  An awesome, deep, fantasy terrain-control game. 95%

 

Basics- Vie for dominance in a world of magic!  In Terra Mystica, players take the roles of different fantasy races each trying to control the world.  Players have to terraform each type of terrain to make it the proper type for their race so they can build on it with each terrain type costing different amount to terraforrm.  Players select an action, then the next player selects an action and so on.  Play continues until someone passes.  That person becomes the first player next round. And, each turn when someone passes, they select a round power for the next round.  Each turn, specific effects give the players new ways to score points for that round only.  On a player’s turn a selects one of several actions.  Building a dwelling on a hex provides more workers for the next turn.  Players can advance a shipping track to build further down rivers.  Players can develop more efficient ways to terraform.  Another option is to upgrade buildings.  Upgraded buildings can unlock race specific abilities, get money each turn or get cultist units/divine favors (one turn or many turn bonuses).  However upgrading building causes those building to go back to the building track on a player’s play mat covering and removing whatever resources that building used to provide each turn.  On a player’s turn a player can send cultist to the cult tracks.  Players can also use power to gain more resources, terreform, or change the board in other ways.  Power is represented by three circles on your player board filled with purple circles.  Players can spend power in the third circle which sends it to the first bowl.  When you gain power, you move power from the lowest bowl to the next bowl.  Thus, power builds up slowly and has to be managed carefully.  And as a final action, players may gain extra actions via game effects and they can take those actions.  After everyone passes, each turn a card shows extra resources each player gets based on how many cult points they have in a specific cult each turn.  After six rounds, the player with the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd largest connected area on the map gain points, and the players with the most, second most, and third most points in each of the four cults also gain points.  Player with the most points wins control of the world.

 

Mechanics- There is a lot going on in this game, but I really liked it.  This game is almost a point salad game as lots of actions gain you extra points, but not quite as the action that gains you points vary each turn.  This game also makes you think a lot about resources and your next turn.  Want to gain more money?  Build a trading house, but now you get fewer workers to use that money.  What priests?  Upgrade your trading house, but now you don’t get money or workers.  That level of resource management is amazing.  However, the game doesn’t have any way to punish the leaders.  If one player is really good at that kind of thinking, they will dominate the game.  Also, some players tend to think the cult tracks are a real drag or its just a pasted on mechanic for the game.  I didn’t feel that as I felt the four cults all brought different mechanics and theme to the game.  In terms of mechanics, this game isn’t perfect, but it is really close! 4.5/5

 

Theme-This game is a hardcore eurogame, so you would think there wouldn’t be much theme.  Now to be fair, this game has much less theme then say Arkham Horror, but there is a lot here.  Every player board has beautiful pictures showing your race, and the player board also has different mechanics to each race.  Some races don’t terriform like others.  Dwarves don’t use boats, but they can tunnel just like a dwarf should do.  I played the cultists, and my power was to get cult points when I helped others.  And honestly, I did feel like a cultist.  In the instructions, each race gets a nice section describing them with no mechanics at all.  That’s a nice detail.  It wasn’t perfect, but unlike some eurogames, it’s got loads of theme. 4.5/5

 

Instructions- This game has a thick book, but it’s well done.  It’s fairly well broken up, and has lots of examples.  Another great thing about this one is there are red text sections where specific rules are explained.  As hard and deep as this game was, I didn’t have to run to Board Game Geek for my play through to understand the rules.  That’s the mark of a 5/5.  5/5

 

Execution- This game is $80.  That’s a lot, but you get a lot in this game.  Every players gets loads of wooden pieces (what would a eurogame be without wooden cubes and houses!?).  I would have liked more details in the pieces, but each color goes with a double sided play board.  So, green can either be witches or Forest Women.  The cardboard is nice, chunky pieces.  I love that.  Honestly, this game is physically awesome. 5/5

 

Summary- This game isn’t perfect, but it is a lot of fun.  If you want an extremely deep strategy game that is deceptively simple, then this is your game.  I love what I saw.  I would like a mechanic to punish the leader so those who don’t have the strategy background can get ahead, but barring that, you will really enjoy this game! 95%

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