Friday, 22 August 2014

Terra Mystica - Not terror forming!

After spending the week learning the rules to Terra Mystica, including a three way game against myself, I was pleased that James allowed himself to be talked into trying it out.

I won't bore everyone by explaining all the rules. I'll do it by explaining some of them instead. The game pits different mystical factions against each other in bid to create the biggest settlement and the most influence on the cult track consisting of the elements earth, wind, fire and water. It's played on a regular board covered with hexes and different terrain types. There are 6 randomised rounds in a game which have differing scoring conditions and each round is made up of three phases.

Phase one players choose their bonus tile for the round and collect income, in the form of workers, money and power. You then get to spend those resources in phase two by alternately taking one of 8 different options from terraforming and building (Changing hexes to your factions territory so you can place dwellings on), Upgrading your buildings, Upgrading your terraforming ability, Upgrading your shipping, selecting power options, selecting special actions, using a priest to improve your standing on the cult tracks and ending your go. You can perform as many of these options, in any order as long as you have resources to perform them. Passing order determines turn order for the next round.

Phase three is tidy up time, scoring bonuses and selecting new bonus tiles for the round.

And around you go, 6 times, until you can do no more and then the end of the game is triggered and final scoring takes place. There is a bit more to it than this of course but this is the essence of the game which appears to be complicated but really isn't!

So to our inaugural game. We chose the two recommended starting factions, James - Witches, me - Alchemists and set up our boards, gathered starting resources, placed our starting dwellings and dived straight in with no appreciation of any strategy. Only James cottoned on to a very effective strategy early on, being, to score points from the round bonus each turn. I busied myself with developing the cult tracks thinking that the 8 point bonuses for being first in each at the end of the game would make up for it. However, this thinking was a bit fuzzy as second place in the tracks scored 4 points. In a similar vein the scoring for largest settlement was 18 points but then second place was 12. I wasn't scoring heavily enough and James was racing round the track. After the first turn, James had built his stronghold (The biggest piece) and had a bonus each turn of placing a dwelling in one of his territories. As his influence on the board grew so did his ability to gather resources from his factions board.
Our end game board

I did rally later on by taking a few bonuses but James was just far enough ahead to not suffer any reverse at the final scoring.

James - 107
Chris - 87

Our verdict on it was mixed. Certainly we didn't feel that it was particularly suited to two players. Too much space and not enough interaction. Once you got going it was simple enough, without the need to much rule reviews. The symbols on the board and faction boards become quite explanatory fairly quickly. We both felt that as the game was building to a final climax, it sort of petered out as we both realised, slowly, that we were out of actions and the game had actually finished. Also, in our game, it didn't take much mental arithmetic to realise who had won.... Having said that, it's just the sort of game I like. Loads of scoring opportunities, lots of options per turn and a feeling that you are building something! James may reserve judgement until our next three player night.


  1. Blimey well done for taking the plunge Chris and James. Andrew and I set it all up, looked at each other across the table after a page of rules and packed it away again (in our defence we did play two new games on the same day (although one of them was Camel Up)). I too like the lots of options - Stefan Feld games come to mind - but does it seem like too many? It sounds kinda nuts!

  2. It really isn't when you boil it down. It seems huge because in any one round you can score from 6 or 7 things. Like Concordia, when you explained the rules to me I was a bit "great - what the hell am I supposed to do!" After two rounds I had mostly worked it out.

    It's definitely a game with depth. I look forward to exploring it and then bringing it back to teach you guys :)