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Jesse Dean
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Orlando
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Terra Mystica, by Jens Drögemüller and Helge Ostertag, is a heavy weight Eurogame intended for anywhere between two to five players. In it players represent one of fourteen different factions, races or organizations that are intent on transforming the world to their liking in order to expand their civilization. I categorize Terra Mystica as a civilization game, but it lacks the conflict systems that are frequently present in civilization games. Instead players come into conflict mostly in the form of indirect competition over shared resources and cutting off your opponent’s ability to expand.

Terra Mystica had a very successful debut at Essen, ending up at #2 on the Fairplay list and doing well on the other trackers. It has seen similar success in the BGG ratings, with an excellent post-convention average rating that has only been rivaled by those of Keyflower and Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar. While initially published only by a new, small publishing house, it was quickly picked up by Z-Man Games for future worldwide distribution and has continued to accrue glowing recommendations and a bit of post-Essen hype.



I first played Terra Mystica at BGG.Con on Wednesday, and the reaction from the people I game with was strong enough that I was able to accumulate eight total plays of the game at the convention with one more afterwards; my review is based on my experience with those nine plays. I received a review copy of Terra Mystica, and an early look at the rules, though I only played one of these games on my copy of Terra Mystica as it did not arrive until after the convention. Otherwise, I probably would have squeezed out another play or two.

Components
Terra Mystica features a large quantity of wooden and cardboard bits. Based on the copies I played with they all appeared to be functional and high quality with an eye towards both a consistent physical presentation and a consistent iconography to speed play and ensure that the game can be played easily across language boundaries.



Some of the physical components are very similar to those found in other popular Eurogames, to the point where certain fans of those games were using the wrong terminology to describe those buildings. Luckily this gave me plenty of reasons to tease that player, so I consider this a benefit rather than a drawback.


Do any of these look familiar?

Coloring, as frequently seems to be the case, is problematic. I had the biggest difficulties telling the yellow and green pieces apart, and thought the brown looks more like a green than the green does, though considering that there are seven player colors, each of which has a strong association with the terrain being depicted, I am not sure what they could have done to accentuate the color differentiation. Additionally, the fact that the terrain tiles are pretty clearly different helps to ensure that color issues are relevant only when comparing victory points or position along one of the four cult tracks.

Beyond that quibble though, I found Terra Mystica’s components to be enjoyable and effective, allowing for clear differentiation of game state while still providing with an attractive, yes clean, looking board.

Terraforming And Terra Mystica’s Core

Terra Mystica centers on three primary currencies, one secondary currency, and one derived currency. The three primary currencies are workers, money, and priests. Workers and money are used for building and upgrading buildings as well as advancing on the game’s two tech tracks. Priests are used for advancing on those tech tracks and for competition in the cult tracks. The secondary currency is power, which is used as a wildcard currency for acquiring any of the primary currencies or in order to generate the derived currency. Spades are usually generated from the other resources used for one of the core actions of Terra Mystica, the one that really seperates it from other games: Terraforming.

The core actions of Terra Mystica are terraforming and building, which are most frequently combined into a single “Terraform and Build” action. When taking this action, players spend spades in order to convert the terrain of a hex that is adjacent to one of their current hex into a different terrain, usually one that matches the terrain that the current player needs for building. The amount of spades required depends on how different the target terrain is to the current one. The difference between terrains is functionally equivalent for all factions except for one, though the factions are differentiated in how easy, and in what manner, terrains are transformed. To further complicate things, how one goes about getting spades varies dramatically depending on the particular game state, and your special faction powers.

This differentiation adds a great deal of tactical and strategic complexity as well as replayability, as being able to terraform terrain is the primary struggle of the game. The basic resources of the game, workers, priests, money, and power, all require buildings to be produced, and most-of the points in the game come from the production of these buildings. When you place buildings you boost your income and unlock special powers. So you need space, and thus you need spades.

The most straightforward, the brute force method if you will, to get spades is to turn workers into them. At the beginning of the game all races, except for the darklings that use a single priest, use 3 workers to transfer a terrain tile a single step. It is possible to reduce this conversion ratio to as low as a single cube by paying, in cubes, money, and priests, to advance along the spades “tech” track. I have typically found this to be a little bit too costly, but faction abilities, as always, can change this calculus. The second main way to do this is by using power in order to take the limited, “one spade and build” or “two spades and build” actions. These are useful, particularly early on, because they enable you to expand without having to spend a lot of your useful early cubes. The third main way, and probably the best one in the early game, is the round bonus tile that gives you a terraform and build action that does not cost any resources. The final main way is through bonus spades that are available on round markers for advancement on cult tracks.



The diversity of ways you can use resources to terraform, and how the value of these resources will fluctuate based on the faction players are playing, the current board situation, and player’s individual resources is in my mind what really makes Terra Mystica interesting and worthwhile to play. This need to change the terrain and expand reverberates through every other part of the system and really makes it shine. This is not to say that terraforming is the be all and end all to the system. It is not, but questions of how, when, and where to terraform are all central to the central ideas and conflict in the game.

The Vagaries of Terrain
Terra Mystica features seven different types of terrain, with two factions associated with each terrain type. The terraforming “distance” that each terrain has to all the others is identical regardless of the faction you are playing, with the exception of Giants, so it is very easy to identify how many terraforming steps are required in order for an opponent to transform one terrain into another. Individual terrains are indistinguishable beyond how they are associated with particular factions on the terrain wheel.



In addition to the seven terrain types, Terra Mystica also features river hexes. These serve as a barrier of expansion, but one that can be overcome. Most factions have the ability to develop ship building technology, which allows them to ignore a number of river hexes when determining adjacency for the purposes of construction and end game scoring. Bridges have a similar effect, but makes hexes adjacent in all respects.

The Building System
Terra Mystica has a foundation of five buildings that are used to differentiate player’s incomes and abilities. Most of the different factions have identical incomes for the majority of buildings, but there are enough differences to keep things interesting. Additionally, the value of each resource varies depending on the faction’s abilities. Most of the buildings have round-based scoring opportunities associated with them, but the fact that only a subset of the per-round goals are used in any individual game can dramatically impact their relative value even more; a game where there are two round bonuses for building trading posts will have a different building character than one where there is none.

Dwellings are the basic building block of the Terra Mystica economy, providing the white cubes that represent the game’s workers. Workers are required for every building and technology in the game, and all buildings are ultimately upgrades from a dwelling base. However, more advanced buildings do not usually provide workers, making it so that the factions constantly need to provide new terrain to place additional dwellings and provide more of the precious workers required for continued expansion and victory points.



The next step in the building process is the trading houses, which produce money, the other resource required for every building and technology in the game, and power, which I will explain in more detail below. While all the factions have dwellings that produce workers, and almost always just produce a single worker, trading houses have a bit more variety, with the exact quantities of power varying depending on the faction in question as well as, for some factions, how many are already on the board.

After the trading house, real upgrade choices emerge as players can choose to either build the faction’s single fortress or build one of three available temples. The exact characteristics of a fortress vary dramatically depending on the faction constructing it. All provide some sort of income, most provide some sort of ongoing special ability or action, and a few provide a powerful one-time bonus. Because of the varying opportunities available from fortress construction the decisions that are involved in when you want to build the fortress are part of what makes playing each faction unique. Some factions have a much stronger motivation to build the fortress early than others, and identifying when it is appropriate to follow that motivation and when it is not adds a bit of texture to the game that I appreciate.

Temples provides priests, which are used for cult advancement as well as the spade and ship building technology, as an ongoing income as well as one of the games 12 different favor tiles, each of which provides a different capability or bonus. All of the tiles provide for progression on one of the four cult tracks, but the amount varies based on the tile. Most of these bonuses are continual, in the form of income or bonus victory points for construction, but there are a few that provide more conditional bonuses or simply allow a player to gain more of an advantage on one of the temple tracks at the cost of a special ability. Temples provide the primary opportunity for early special power differentiation beyond fortresses, and frequently, due to their lower cost, they are superior to the fortress. Temples also open up the opportunity to build the single available sanctuary, which provides another favor tile but also provides the ability to construct a town with less total buildings.

Towns are both a direct result and a motivation for building a bunch of buildings in the same vicinity. Each building has a power rating of either 1, for dwellings, 2, for trading houses and temple, or 3, for fortresses and sanctuaries. When four buildings, or three if one of those is a sanctuary, which total 7 in their power rating are built directly adjacent to each other or adjacent by way of bridge, then they instantly form a town. This provides a number of bonuses, the biggest of which an immediately acquired town/key tile which gives victory points as well as a onetime bonus in the form of one of the game’s four resources or one advancement on each of the cult tracks. These keys also give access to the top spaces on the cult track. Each player may achieve the top position on no more than one cult track per key, tying success on this track to the ability to expand compactly on the board, as if two players are fighting for dominance of one track, then the winner will be whomever is able to get the first key.

The Laws of Power
Power is one of the four main resources in Terra Mystica, but it is the only one that does not directly pay for anything personal. Instead it is used primarily to generate resources of the other three types or to compete for shared actions, called power actions, that are each available only once per round and are accessible for all players. Power is strong, but also flexible; rather than having to wait until next round to get access to money, a priest, or worker cubes players can spend power in order to get them right now. Power actions provide the ability to get these resources at a more effective conversion rate (for example a priest costs five power normally, but only three with a power action), in exchange for losing some flexibility in time, as the opportunity to use them is lost if another player grabs them first.

Power income is also different than income of any other type in that it is a bit indirect. Rather than receiving a set amount that you can spend every single turn, there are three different “bowls” that hold power, and power can only be used if it is in the third bowl. Otherwise power simply moves to the next bowl, with power moving from the third bowl to the first when it is used, but only moving from the second to third after all the power in the second bowl is emptied out.

Players start with twelve power, divided between the first and second bowls, but have the ability to permanently remove some of their power in the second bowl from the game in order to move power immediately from the second bowl into the third bowl. It is always a good idea to do so, but the question of “How much?” is frequently ambiguous, particularly as a new player. During my plays I regularly found myself on the cutting edge of power burning, going down to six first and then five, but it was only rarely that I felt constrained by this; usually I did it because of a lack of power income either from my own generation or due to a lack of neighbors. In situations where one or both of those were not a problem, 7 or 8 seemed like a better number.

In addition to buildings and favor tiles, players can also get immediate, rather than beginning of the turn, one-time power income from advancing along the cult track or from players building next to them. The cult track income is based simply on straightforward passage of certain indicated milestones, but the bonuses from player construction results in more deliciously symbiotic relationships.

Whenever one player builds or upgrades next to another, the second player has the option to sacrifice victory point in order to get power income based on the power ratings of the buildings that the second player has next to the new construction. The power income is equal to the power rating of the adjacent buildings, and the victory point loss is equal to that number minus one.
This leads to all sorts of interesting incentives, as players are encouraged to build so that they are adjacent to their opponents, not only for the opportunity to block off their expansion but also because it allows them to gain a direct benefit from their opponent’s further constructions. It is not always a good idea to take advantage of this benefit though, as the victory point loss can add up rather quickly, but having the option available is helpful, and the victory point to power ratios on the lower end of things are frequently valuable enough to make leeching fairly common.

Cultishness
There are four cult tracks, each associated with one of the cult tracks, that are available for players to advance. Advancing on its own provides some limited benefits, in the form of one time power infusions, but the secondary benefits are the real reason to focus on cult track advancement.



The first of these advancement benefits is victory points. The first, second, and third place bonuses for position on the tracks can be helpful, but frequently not any more significant than points that are earned during the game. The second benefit is an additional form of income that varies depending on what round tiles are randomly determined at the beginning of the game. Each of these gives you a bonus amount of currency, or a free spade, for every 1, 2, or 4 spaces up a cult track you are. These bonuses can be significant, and it seems that skilled play will frequently be related to how effectively you are able to advance up the cult tracks, and squeeze out these bonuses, while still effectively keeping with your larger game plan.

The Factions
A lot of games like to claim differentiation by providing a number of different special powers or abilities that players can start with or acquire, but frequently this difference ends up being minimal. The Scepter of Zavandor, designed by one of Terra Mystica’s co-designers, is particularly guilty of this as the differentiation available is pretty easily erased, and at most encourages the players to go down slightly different tracks. Terra Mystica’s differentiation however is both meaningful and real. Each of the different factions plays differently, and the wide variety of provided special powers, starting resources, fortress abilities, and building incomes results in deeply meaningful strategic and tactical considerations; you are unable to play different factions in the same way without seriously undermining your ability to succeed.

I claim no true knowledge of factional balance at this point in time, but my first impression is that they seem to be fairly balanced, though some factions seem to be tougher to play than others. These are frequently the ones that are the most different from other factions too, which I think is mostly a plus; once players are becoming a bit more familiar with the game they can provide themselves with an additional challenge by playing the giants or the engineers.

Even with the more “standard” races though, there are a lot of options and a lot of interesting nuances that I find both refreshing and fascinating. The only real areas where I think that they effectively failed are in making the special powers a little bit too similar as they did with the dwarves and the fakirs. Both of these races ignore the shipping track and can use resources to skip over one space when building new dwellings for the cost of resources, and in exchange for victory points. The fact that one uses cubes and the other priests does change strategic decisions a bit, but it does make them lose a little bit of luster in relation to the other factions which each have more easily distinguished special powers, even if these special powers move along some of the same axes.

Winning Terra Mystica
Terra Mystica is a most victory point game, with a significant number of ways to get victory points during the game and two further sources of victory points at the end of the game. In-game victory points are largely defined by the round token, each of which indicates which actions will give victory points. Individual factions have additional ways to gain in-game points too, and both favors and the bonus tiles provide additional opportunities to gain significant victory points over the course of the game. Frequently the biggest individual source of victory points are from building large, contiguous sets of buildings called towns that provide said victory points as well as a one-time infusion of resources or advancement on the cult tracks.

At the end of the game victory points are awarded to the player who is able to build the largest connected settlement, with smaller numbers being awarded to players who get the second or third largest settlement. Similar, tiered scoring is given to players based on their relative positions on each of the cult tracks.

All of these sources of victory points are important parts of winning, and complete specialization in any one area is virtually impossible. In order to win you will need some combination of the varieties of in-game scoring as well as some quantity of end of game scoring, though the particular configuration will vary from game to game as well as from faction to faction. One thing that is important to note however, is that this is not the sort of game where you can freely ignore points for the majority of the game and dash towards the finish in the last round or two. Players will need to constantly make trade-off decisions between when going for victory points or further resources is more necessary, and when it is important to compromise long term plans for victory points that are only offered during specific rounds. The best players will be able to weave these specific round victory points into their long term plans, and build an overall strategy around them.

What Works and What Does Not Work
Terra Mystica is a deeply satisfying game, particularly for players who enjoy optimization-focused heavy eurogames. There are interesting decisions to be made throughout the arc of the game, and the relative value of particular actions grow and shrink both based on such a large variety of individual factors that the game has a great deal of replay value. This variation in valuation is, I think, more significant in Terra Mystica then they are in many other eurogames. The game is complex, but it feels that even with mastery of the rules you will not master the game itself, as there are so many different ways to explore and manipulate the system, particularly when you add in the influence of other players. If you like to play games regularly and in depth this aspect is gamer catnip, and is part of the reason I expect to play Terra Mystica even though I consider it “very good” rather than “one of the best.”

So what holds me back from considering it “one of the best” is how much amount of relative time is spent in solo optimization puzzles rather than in considering how other player’s plans will affect your position and how to take advantage of their anticipate moves. Part of this is because there are only a few places of intersection. Competition over map positions is the most obvious one, but there is also some competition for spots on the cult tracks and for particular bonus tiles. These are real and significant sources of interaction, and what other players do is important to your decisions in Terra Mystica, sometimes dramatically so. However, these interactions are not what you spend most of your time on. Instead you spend a lot of time on deciding how you want to spend your resources; whether you want to upgrade an existing building or expand your territory, or work on advancing on cult tracks, or whatever. I find this stuff to be entertaining, otherwise I would not like building games as much as I do, but it is not the sort of thinking that pushes a game from “very good” to “fantastic” for me, and is the primary reason I am not able to build as much enthusiasm for Terra Mystica as I have been able to get for my favorite releases of previous years.

Conclusion
I like Terra Mystica a great deal, but have been unable to quite reach the point where I love it. It is an extremely impressive and clearly well designed game. All of the intricate parts work together quite effectively and while I wish more of your time was spent focusing on what other people are doing rather than building your empire, I do not think this will detract from the game’s general success and popularity. In fact I think it will only add to it and make Terra Mystica one of the most successful and popular releases of 2012. If you like heavy eurogames then this is a game you should definitely play.

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Frank Hamrick
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Have only played it twice, so I'm by no means an expert. In my very limited experience with the game, however, I felt constant tension from what others were doing. I felt that almost every thing everyone did in some way had an effect on me. I was in a race with another guy for the largest end-game connection, although he was no where near me geographically. I also felt I was in a race with others for the best terrain - not getting blocked; in a race on the cult tracks; in a positioning war to get the best turn bonus tiles for the next turn; in a race with everyone for the special powers. What everyone was doing was very important to me.

So, I mildly disagree with your assessment that what others did was not a major factor in your decision-making. Am sure with more plays I will have a better idea - but for now, I give it that "fantastic" rating you mentioned. Now, if only my copy would finally be released from customs. It's been there two weeks today!
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Dave Eisen
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Nice review, Jesse. You captured the game effectively and with useful visuals.

I'm going to agree with Frank. I think your focus on personal internal optimization rather than more confrontational interplayer factors is a reflection of general inexperience with the system, understandable given the number of dimensions which need to be considered. I am hopeful that there is an even richer gaming system present once we have all gotten our 30 or 40 plays under our belts.

I do not agree with you regarding Das Zepter, by the way. I find different starting positions drive me down different paths for the entirety of the game and do in fact give different game feels. But that is not something to debate at length in this forum. And I am not claiming that the differentiation is as substantive and as permanent as it is in Terra Mystica, which seems to have raised this to an art form.
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Rick Scholes
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Thanks Jesse. I look forward to your reviews and have been waiting to read your review of TM because this is so much "my type of game" that I ordered it from Europe, a rare event for me. Good review of what is to me a great game. It is exactly what I want in a game, except that it doesn't have railroads.

After only one multi-player play, but after spending many hours thinking about the game mechanics in order to devise a solo variant that realistically simulates player interaction, I agree with your review by more than 90%. My difference from your opinions that may be of use to others, is that I LIKE the repeated calculation of resource allocation. "Mathy" types need to view your "good vs. great" opinion through the lens of their own desires.

I believe TM will remain at least a "9" for me. If I play it to death it may not be a "10" but until I know the intricacies of playing each faction it is my game of the month, or of several. My interest in other Essen 2012 releases has markedly decreased.

In a multi-player environment the actions of other players can hide some of the powers of each faction. As with the round tiles, each game, even when playing the same faction, will present different interesting decisions. And, if made correctly, those will only lead to more such decisions every minute of the entire game.

There is no "coasting" in this game. Your attention must be focused on every decision or you may well lose. It will take time for AP prone players to find the "perfect" move. That is an enjoyable decision space. It is also a reason for playing solo.

Rick Scholes
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Chris Linneman
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Great review! I've been waiting for this one since you posted your post-BGG.Con blog. The thing that intrigues me most about this game is the replayability resulting from the huge number of factions and how different they actually are. Do you have any opinions about the relative strengths of the factions from the games that you played? And do you recommend using the pre-determined setup for our first game?
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Kris Moulton
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I played with Jesse in his first game and we didn't bother with the starting setup due to colour blindness issues. I have played 6 times, almost every game with new players, and have not yet used the starting setup. I would say with experienced gamers, randomly picking races works just as well. In either case it will take a play to fully understand the implications of the starting location selection and some of the differences in the races.
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Alex Peters
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bankrupt wrote:
but after spending many hours thinking about the game mechanics in order to devise a solo variant that realistically simulates player interaction


Hi Rick,

Interesting fact you are stating here. I have been working on a solo variant myself staying as close to the original game as possible. The most difficult part for me is how to make the power engine work in a solo game. Apart from that, a few times I had the same "decision making feeling" I always have in my multiplayer games. That having said, this really is a multiplayer game, and the best I have ever played. My first 10 ever although I realise it is not everbodies cup of tea. You have to like to "waste" your time on a heavy game.
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Chris Linneman
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krismoulton wrote:
I played with Jesse in his first game and we didn't bother with the starting setup due to colour blindness issues. I have played 6 times, almost every game with new players, and have not yet used the starting setup. I would say with experienced gamers, randomly picking races works just as well. In either case it will take a play to fully understand the implications of the starting location selection and some of the differences in the races.


I'm not sure I like the idea of randomly picking races. If we don't play the starting setup, I'd like to pick in order as the rulebook says. This is because I fully expect some factions to be weaker than others given the other factions in the game and the VP bonus tiles present. So I wouldn't want to get hosed in the beginning by a random faction draw. The appealing thing about the beginner setup is that you don't have to force newbies to choose between 14 factions they know nothing about.

Hoping to play my first game tomorrow with Patrick!
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John Brier
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QBert80 wrote:
The appealing thing about the beginner setup is that you don't have to force newbies to choose between 14 factions they know nothing about.


The rules also offer an intermediate setup where each player is dealt a board and may choose which side to play.

In my group we also didn't bother with the beginner setup and just did random without worrying about balance issues. I think it really takes a handful of plays (or an overly enthusiastic player) to be able to pick your own faction. The intermediate setup is a nice segue.
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Jesse Dean
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Pound for pound, the amoeba is the most vicious predator on Earth!
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Chris, I am planning on writing an article about Terra Mystica in my blog next, specifically on the factions.

I have not actually used the beginner set-up, but frankly I find most of the factions good for new players. The only ones I would actively avoid are the Chaos Magicians, Cultists, Engineers, and Giants. I would also be very careful in ensuring that players of the Dwarves and Fakirs know that they do not get to use their distantly constructed dwellings to get the town bonus as people were confused about that multiple times.

Jesse
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dan williams
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Outstanding review! Can't wait!
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Rick Scholes
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The factions Jesse just mentioned may be difficult for beginners but they are not "weak." My highest score so far was while playing Chaos Magicians.

Regarding re-playability, I think any player would have to play a faction at least three times just to decide on the best strategy for that faction. [And that strategy would not always be the best as so much is dependent on what other players do.] So, at least 42 games before you have any chance of feeling any "sameness." Then you will want to play more because of differing strategies depending on the other factions in a particular game and which of the two to [perhaps] four best strategies for that other faction is being employed. TM does not have as many combinations as provided by Agricola's many add-on decks but there are quite enough to justify TM's purchase price.

Obviously, to me at least, the expansion this game will deserve, and hopefully receive because of its popularity, will increase that re-playability. Thus it should include more factions. [I vote for railroad engineers though I'm thinking about a variant that introduces useful track laying for all factions. Age of Steam / Steam tiles are the correct size.]

Regarding solo play, I have a power sharing mechanism that seems to work well but I haven't tried it with all the factions so I'm not ready to discuss it. Part of the "fun that could become a problem" with this game is that each tweak in a potential solo version has to be tested for all 14 factions. Lots of enjoyable time to spend doing that but it will be a while before I'm willing to share.

I'm less than satisfied with my mechanism for the cult ladders. We all have our crosses to bear.
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Kris Moulton
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QBert80 wrote:
krismoulton wrote:
I played with Jesse in his first game and we didn't bother with the starting setup due to colour blindness issues. I have played 6 times, almost every game with new players, and have not yet used the starting setup. I would say with experienced gamers, randomly picking races works just as well. In either case it will take a play to fully understand the implications of the starting location selection and some of the differences in the races.


I'm not sure I like the idea of randomly picking races. If we don't play the starting setup, I'd like to pick in order as the rulebook says. This is because I fully expect some factions to be weaker than others given the other factions in the game and the VP bonus tiles present. So I wouldn't want to get hosed in the beginning by a random faction draw. The appealing thing about the beginner setup is that you don't have to force newbies to choose between 14 factions they know nothing about.

Hoping to play my first game tomorrow with Patrick!


I shouldn't have used the word randomly. The new players I played with mostly had little or no prior knowledge of the game, so picking one because they like the colour or name was essentially random. Drafting is definitely the way to go if you have some knowledge of how the game plays out. The scoring tiles definitely do have an effect on the strength of some of the races but on a first game, if you haven't studied the game, it is difficult to choose strategically with much confidence.
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Chris Linneman
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doubtofbuddha wrote:
Chris, I am planning on writing an article about Terra Mystica in my blog next, specifically on the factions.

I have not actually used the beginner set-up, but frankly I find most of the factions good for new players. The only ones I would actively avoid are the Chaos Magicians, Cultists, Engineers, and Giants. I would also be very careful in ensuring that players of the Dwarves and Fakirs know that they do not get to use their distantly constructed dwellings to get the town bonus as people were confused about that multiple times.

Jesse


Eagerly awaiting your blog article!

Unfortunately your "actively avoid" list excludes both red factions. What to do with a player who likes red?

Seriously, thanks for the tips
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Rich P
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QBert80 wrote:
Unfortunately your "actively avoid" list excludes both red factions. What to do with a player who likes red?


Give them brown and tell them their glasses are dirty.
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Dave Eisen
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QBert80 wrote:
doubtofbuddha wrote:
Chris, I am planning on writing an article about Terra Mystica in my blog next, specifically on the factions.

I have not actually used the beginner set-up, but frankly I find most of the factions good for new players. The only ones I would actively avoid are the Chaos Magicians, Cultists, Engineers, and Giants. I would also be very careful in ensuring that players of the Dwarves and Fakirs know that they do not get to use their distantly constructed dwellings to get the town bonus as people were confused about that multiple times.

Jesse


Eagerly awaiting your blog article!

Unfortunately your "actively avoid" list excludes both red factions. What to do with a player who likes red?

Seriously, thanks for the tips


I don't understand why Chaos Magicians are a poor first choice. Looks like the obvious thing to do --- follow your faction benefit and build temples --- is the right thing to do.

What's the problem here?

I do agree that Giants are a poor choice if only in that they don't give a good flavor of the game. If all terrains are the same, well, not as interesting.
 
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Rick Scholes
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Playing Giants to a win seems to me to require more aggressiveness than a beginner is likely to embrace. There is almost no hope, possibly none, of winning by using the "plain vanilla" initial approach of paying three workers per spade to terraform & build.
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Chris Linneman
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bankrupt wrote:
Playing Giants to a win seems to me to require more aggressiveness than a beginner is likely to embrace. There is almost no hope, possibly none, of winning by using the "plain vanilla" initial approach of paying three workers per spade to terraform & build.


Yeah, seems to me like Giants should rush for Stronghold, then start terraforming other players' 1-spade hexes into wasteland
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Dave Eisen
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bankrupt wrote:
Playing Giants to a win seems to me to require more aggressiveness than a beginner is likely to embrace. There is almost no hope, possibly none, of winning by using the "plain vanilla" initial approach of paying three workers per spade to terraform & build.


Good point. The idea is easy enough to understand. But a beginner is going to have a tough time pushing the aggressiveness the way it requires. Sacrificing power, ignoring distractions, etc.
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Rick Scholes
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Chris has what I think is the best strategy. Giants is one of the factions in which it makes sense to upgrade on the "spade track."

Alex, This exemplifies a type of play that is difficult to emulate in a solo game: the benefit gained by more or less directly attacking other players. Each different pair of opposing factions may have a unique pair of optimal strategies for this so the "AI" must have an arsenal of as many as 13 different attacks for each faction the human player could be playing.
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Chris Linneman
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I played my first game this evening!

Unfortunately we could only manage 2p. We picked factions. Scoring tiles were:
2VP/spade; $1/earth
2VP/dwelling; 1 priest/4 water
3VP/trading post; 1 spade/4 air
5VP/stronghold/sanctuary; 1 worker/2 air
3VP/trading post; 1 spade/4 water
2VP/dwelling

I picked the Halflings, thinking the spade bonus looked good, and also because I remembered they seemed good when I looked at them on the Geek. Later I realized the Halflings would have been better if the spade bonus came later because I only got to use it once in the first turn.

My opponent picked the Witches, I think because he was familiar with them since he played them in his first game.

I managed to win by 4 points, which is really close considering our scores were over 120. One thing that surprised me was that sacrificing power (which I did early down to 6 power) wasn't as useful as I had expected. It basically limited me to 1 power action a turn, since I could never have more than 6 power at once. I had 10 power income at one point, so this was really wasted. A lot of times I didn't bother gaining power from my opponent's builds since I would get it all in my income phase anyway, but not enough from his builds that I could use it immediately.

Overall it was better than I expected as a 2p. I enjoyed the flavour of our factions. I immediately upgraded my spade technology, since it is so cheap for Halflings and I figured I would be using it a lot. My opponent went for spreading himself around the map and Town-building. He managed to get three Towns in the end to my one, but I got the largest network bonus as well as 3 of the 4 cult tracks.

Neither of us used shipping much. I upgraded mine once almost as an afterthought. I don't think shipping is as useful for Halflings as for some factions because getting your spade cost down to one worker means you don't need to reach for your cheap spaces as much. It's better just to pay an extra spade (and get a VP!) to terraform what's next to you. I think my opponent would have benefited from focussing on shipping, though, in order to connect his disparate Towns for endgame scoring.

I wanted to play again immediately, but we didn't have time. I think this game is going to have a lot of replayability and will see the table a lot if my game group is willing.

Oh, and the production quality was top-notch. Really impressive.
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Kris Moulton
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I played a game using the alchemists the other day and didn't sacrifice any power. The stronghold ability gives a one shot 12 power which is most useful if you still have it all. I had good power income so I decided to keep it all since I would be cycling it fairly fast. I didn't win but it wasn't due to lack of power. It seems that sacrificing power is very situational and the benefit is very short term, getting a bit of extra power when you need it, and rarely much of a long term benefit.

Shipping also seems to be underused in my games so far. I think in a 5 player game it may be more useful to get out of being surrounded. It could also be very useful for one of the races that can create more than 2 groups easily.
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Chris Linneman
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Yeah, I'm not sure if it was worth the short-term benefit or not. It just seemed like I had no power and not much way to get any of it at the beginning, so I sacrificed since I didn't think it would really hurt me in the long run. Then I got a 4 power income favour tile and started building trading posts and my stronghold and wished I had the power back...
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Chris Linneman
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I want to add also that the downside to playing the halflings is that I don't want to play any of the other factions now. Paying $1 instead of $5 for upgrading the spade track was such an amazing discount.
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Anders Gabrielsson
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Excellent review! Your discussion of the mechanics is exemplary, and the analysis is solid (as far as I can tell after my five plays).

Me, I find the amount of interaction to be just right. For this type of game I tend to favor more indirect interaction (as is the case here), and I think if there was more direct conflict the complexity of other parts of the game would have needed to be reduced to limit the risk for analysis paralysis.
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