Terra Mystica Race Strategies
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I am just starting to play this game, and wanted to have a place to jot down my thoughts on the various races. The strategy forums would seem to be the "right" place to do it, but: (1) I have no strategy (yet), and (2) I find it difficult to organize things in an easy-to-review way there. Instead I will use this list, with one entry per race. Each entry will summarize the key race differences, and whatever strategy seems appropriate.

General thoughts:
- one of the key early decisions is choosing the right race. That depends on the selection and order of Score Tiles, as well as (to some extent) which bonus cards were removed from the game. Some races will want to build specific structures (Trading Posts, Strongholds, Temples, Sanctuaries) earlier -- if those Score Tiles happen to come up for later rounds, you should probably choose a different race?
- use your race ability!
- scores can be close, so those VP rewards from the score tiles each turn cannot be ignored ... Try to time your builds to take advantage of the order and choose a race that works optimally in that order and timing

Please feel free to add your own thoughts to the races -- I will update the main entry as we develop some consensus (although that may take me a while).

Contents
Alchemists
Auren
Chaos Magicians
Cultists
Darklings
Dwarves
Engineers
Fakir
Giants
Halflings
Mermaids
Nomads
Swarmlings
Witches
Choosing the Perfect Race
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1. Board Game: Terra Mystica [Average Rating:8.13 Overall Rank:17]
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GENERIC RACE

Starting Setup
- 3 Workers (W)
- 15 Coins (C)
- 0 Priests (P)
- 12 poweR (R), divided in bowls 1/2: 5/7
- 2 cult advances
- 2 Dwellings (D) to place on the board
- Level 0 on Digging and Shipping tracks

Costs/Income
- Dwelling: 1W, 2C (each provides 1 W income)
- Spade upgrade: 1 P, 2 W, 5 C
- Trading Post
... cost: 2W, 3/6C
... income: #1 | 2 | 3 | 4 = 1R, 2C | 1R, 2C | 2R, 2C | 2R, 2C
- Stronghold
... cost: 4W, 6C
... income: 2R
- Temple
... cost: 2W, 5C
... income: #1 | 2 | 3 = 1P | 1P | 1P
- Sanctuary
... cost: 4W, 6C
... income: 1P
 
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2. Board Game: Alchemist Atlier [Average Rating:5.40 Unranked]
Board Game: Terra Mystica
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ALCHEMISTS

Income
- Trading Posts:
... #1: 1R, 2C
... #2: 1R, 2C
... #3: 1R, 3C (vs. 2R, 2C)
... #4: 1R, 4C (vs. 2R, 2C)
- Stronghold: 6C (vs. usual 2R)

Race Ability
- Trade (any time, any number of times):
... 1VP -> 1C OR
... 2C -> 1VP

Stronghold
- One-time: gain 12R
- Ongoing: gain 2R/Spade

Strategery (see Juho's comments below)
- upgrade to SH early (round 1-2)
- upgrade digging quickly (rounds 3-4)
- race ability and income differences for TP and SH suggest to me that you should go for income-generators = build lots of TPs
- on the other hand, SH income means may not actually need many TPs
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3. Board Game: Aura Poku [Average Rating:4.78 Overall Rank:19218]
Board Game: Terra Mystica
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AUREN

Costs/Income
- Sanctuary:
... cost: 4W, 8C (vs. usual 4W, 6C)

Stronghold
- one-time: gain a Favor tile
- ongoing: as a Special Action, advance 2 spaces on one cult tarck

Strategery (I've never played this race)
- seems like a pretty boring race!
- build SH early (round 1), push the cult track advances? Can time cult advances as needed to gain more power, gain end-of-turn cult bonuses, etc.
- not so good if other cult-lovers (e.g., Chaos Magicians, Cultists) are in the game
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4. Board Game: Chaos Marauders [Average Rating:5.96 Overall Rank:7891]
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CHAOS MAGICIANS

Starting Setup
- 4W (vs. usual 3W)
- ONE dwelling (vs. usual 2)

Costs/Income
- Stronghold:
... cost: 4W, 4C (vs. usual 4W, 6C)
... income: 2W (vs. usual 2R)
- Sanctuary:
... cost: 4W, 8C (vs. usual 4W, 6C)

Race Ability
- receive 2 Favors when building Temples or Sanctuary

Stronghold
- ongoing: as a Special Action, take a double-turn (2 actions consecutively)

Strategery
- better choice if Score tiles reward early Sanctuary builds
- cult-heavy; better if Auren/Cultists/Darklings not in game
- will be building temples; need to supplement power/coin income with Favor tiles and Bonus tile selection
- weak Stronghold power; may not need it at all?

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5. Board Game: Carcassonne: The Cult [Average Rating:6.71 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.71 Unranked]
Board Game: Terra Mystica
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CULTISTS

Costs/Income
- Stronghold:
... cost: 4W, 8C (vs. usual 4W, 6C)
- Sanctuary:
... cost: 4W, 8C (vs. usual 4W, 6C)

Race Ability
- whenever at least one opponent leaches power from your build, advance 1 space on any cult

Stronghold
- one-time: earn 7VP

Strategery (I've never played this race)
- build next to other people, obviously (higher player counts therefore better)
- advance shipping to help spread out more quickly?
- advance digging to help build next to other players?
- spreading = less likely to compete for end-game contiguousness bonus; go for cults (also obviously)
- weak Stronghold bonus; build late

 
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6. Board Game: Aye, Dark Overlord! The Red Box [Average Rating:5.87 Overall Rank:5285] [Average Rating:5.87 Unranked]
Board Game: Terra Mystica
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DARKLINGS

Starting Setup
- 1W, 1P (vs. usual 3W)
- 15C

Costs/Income
- Sanctuary:
... upgrade: 4W, 10C (vs. usual 4W, 6C)
... income: 2P (vs. usual 1P)

Race Ability
- spades:
... use priests instead of Workers: 1P -> 1 spade
... earn 2VP per priest used to transform
... CANNOT UPGRADE DIGGING

Stronghold
- One-time: trade 3x workers -> x priests

Strategery (I've never played this race)
- they're all about the priests; will not be able to place many priests on cults early in game (use them to dig)
- upgrade to Temple/Sanctuary early for priest income
- upgrade to Stronghold late


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7. Board Game: Dwarf Wars [Average Rating:6.50 Unranked]
Board Game: Terra Mystica
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DWARVES

Costs/Income
- Trading Posts:
... income:
#1 1R3C (vs. usual 1R2C)
#2 1R2C
#3 2R2C
#4 2R3C (vs. usual 2R2C)

Race Ability
- when transforming and building, may pay extra 2W to TUNNEL: skip 1 hex (land or water) AND earn 4VP
- NO SHIPPING
- for final scoring, Tunneling does connect buildings

Stronghold
- ongoing: TUNNELING only costs 1W

Strategery
- need to build dwellings quickly for the W income
- tunnel as much as possible for the VP
- upgrade Digging late, if ever; ideally, should be tunneling to hexes that don't need to be terraformed
- upgrade to Stronghold mid-game? Earlier to facilitate tunneling?
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8. Board Game: Engineer [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Terra Mystica
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ENGINEERS

Starting Setup
- 2W (vs. usual 3W)
- 10C (vs. usual 15C)
- 12 power: 3/9 (vs. usual 5/7)
- cults: None (vs. usual 2 cults)

Costs/Income
- Dwelling:
... cost: 1W, 1C (vs. usual 1W, 2C)
... income (W): 0,1,1,0,1,1,0,1,1 (vs. usual 1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,0)
- Trading Posts:
... cost: 1W, 2/4C (vs. usual 2W, 3/6C)
- Stronghold:
... cost: 3W, 6C (vs. usual 4W, 6C)
- Temple:
... cost: 1W, 4C (vs. usual 2W, 5C)
... income: 1P, 5R, 1P (vs. usual 1P, 1P, 1P)

Race Ability
- as a Special Action, spend 2W to build a legal bridge

Stronghold
- ongoing: when passing each round, earn 3VP for each of your bridges connecting 2 of your structures

Strategery (played this once, poorly - 2nd game)
- build dwellings (near coasts) early to generate workers
- build bridges!
- upgrade to SH early/mid-game to maximize VP earned
- start with lots of power; burn a bunch on turn 1 for double spade, play a bunch of dwellings
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9. Board Game: Faqir [Average Rating:4.85 Unranked]
Board Game: Terra Mystica
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FAKIR

Starting Setup
- 12 power: 7/5 (vs. usual 5/7)

Costs/Income
- Stronghold:
... cost: 4W, 10C (vs. usual 4W, 6C)
... income: 1P (vs. usual 2R)

Race Ability
- max Digging level = 1
- when transforming and building, may pay extra 1P to skip a hex and earn 4VP (CARPET FLIGHT)
- in final scoring, structures a Carpet Flight apart are considered connected

Stronghold
- ongoing: CARPET FLIGHT allows you to skip 2 hexes

Strategery
- little power in round 1 ... set up for a lot of leeching?
- build temples/sanctuary early (round 1) for the P income
- build SH mid-game: it's expensive, but the income and extended range are nice
- need many workers: build many Dwellings quickly, with Carpet Flight (+4VP) if possible
- ignore cults for most of the game, since you will have to use Priests for Carpet Flight
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10. Board Game: Giant Gorg [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Terra Mystica
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GIANTS

Costs/Income
- Stronghold:
... income: 4R (vs. usual 2R)

Race Ability
- transforming always costs 2 spades

Stronghold
- ongoing: as a Special Action, get 2 free spades (may build dwelling by paying usual cost)

Strategery
- round 1 upgrade to SH
- use power actions and SH to dig (not workers)
- upgrade shipping
- get close to opponents, transform terrain they need to red
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11. Board Game: Berserker Halflings from the Dungeon of Dragons [Average Rating:5.79 Overall Rank:12936]
Board Game: Terra Mystica
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HALFLINGS

Starting Setup
- 12 power: 3/9 (vs. usual 5/7)

Costs/Income
- Advance Digging Track: 1P, 2W, 1C (vs. usual 1P, 2W, 5C)
- Stronghold:
... cost: 4W, 8C (vs. usual 4W, 6C)

Race Ability
- earn 1VP per spade used

Stronghold
- one-time: get 3 spades (may build dwelling on one of these hexes by paying usual cost)

Strategery
- advance Digging quickly
- dig!
- better choice if Dwelling scoring bonus in early rounds
- can build SH late (or never?)
- lots of power available Round 1: burn to get spade power action, or whatever is needed?
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12. Board Game: Mermaid Rain [Average Rating:6.24 Overall Rank:6277]
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MERMAIDS

Starting Setup
- Shipping starts at level 1, can go to 5 (vs. usual 0 and 3)
- 12 power: 3/9 (vs. usual 5/7)

Costs/Income
- Stronghold income: 4R (vs. usual 2R)
- Sanctuary cost: 4W, 8C (vs. usual 4W, 6C)

Race Ability
- May skip 1 river space when founding a town

Stronghold
- One-time: advance 1 step on shipping track for free

Strategery
- spread out ASAP -- on turn 1 (therefore better with D scoring bonus)
- a lot of power available at start of game; burn as needed to help spread out quickly (nice if you can get a bonus with +3 power on turn one, which allows you to burn 6 to take the double-spade and build! Nicer still if you leach some power first, of course)
- advance shipping to spread out more
- SH power not so great ... maybe build late in game, IF SH bonus in play
- try to form 3 towns using race ability, timed to town bonus card
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13. Board Game: Nomad [Average Rating:5.93 Unranked]
Board Game: Terra Mystica
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NOMADS

Starting Setup
- 2W (vs. usual 3W)
- 3 dwellings (vs. usual 2)

Costs/Income
- Trading Posts:
... income: 1R2C, 1R2C, 1R3C, 1R4C (vs. usual 1R2C, 1R2C, 2R2C, 2R2C)
- Stronghold:
... cost: 4W, 8C (vs. usual 4W, 6C)

Race Ability
- 3 starting dwellings

Stronghold
- ongoing: as a Special Action, transform any adjacent terrain (but not across bridge) to desert for free (may immediately build by paying usual dwelling cost)

Strategery (I've never played this race)
- upgrade to SH round 1 to start Sandstorming
- build Ds early
- build TPs in mid game (better coin income)?
- can build (3 if low player count?) towns near end of game
 
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14. Board Game: Swarm [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Terra Mystica
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SWARMLINGS

Starting Setup
- 8W (vs. usual 3W)
- 20C (vs. usual 15C)
- 12 power: 3/9 (vs. usual 5/7)
- cults: 1 step each (vs. usual 2 cults)

Costs/Income
- Dwelling:
... cost: 2W, 3C (vs. usual 1W, 2C)
... income (W): 2,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,0 (vs. usual 1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,0)
- Trading Posts:
... cost: 3W, 4/8C (vs. usual 2W, 3/6C)
... income: 2R2C, 2R2C, 2R2C, 2R3C (vs. usual 1R2C, 1R2C, 2R2C, 2R2C)
- Stronghold:
... cost: 5W, 8C (vs. usual 4W, 6C)
... income: 4R (vs. usual 2R)
- Temple:
... cost: 3W, 6C (vs. usual 2W, 5C)
- Sanctuary:
... cost: 5W, 8C (vs. usual 4W, 6C)
... income: 2P (vs. usual 1P)

Race Ability
- receive 3W when creating a town

Stronghold
- ongoing: as a Special Action, upgrade a Dwelling to a Trading Post for free

Strategery
- build/upgrade costs are higher, but so are incomes
- upgrade to SH quickly (round 1) to generate coins and power, pay for other stuff
- a lot of power at start of game; burn to take power actions?
- will generate a lot of power during game; use power actions to dig and build
- prefer town bonuses early, and build (3?) ASAP for the worker bonus

 
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15. Board Game: Ghost Castle [Average Rating:5.42 Overall Rank:20782]
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WITCHES

Race Ability
- earn 5VP when creating a town

Stronghold
- ongoing: as a Special Action, build a Dwelling on any unoccupied Forest hex (no transformations this turn) for free

Strategery (I've never played this race)
- build SH round 1, spread out to get close to everyone and leach power
- can found towns late in game by connecting far-flung hexes (by bridges and/or digging/building)
 
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16. Board Game: Choice [Average Rating:3.75 Unranked]
Board Game: Terra Mystica
Snooze Fest
United States
Hillsborough
North Carolina
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We love our pups!! Misu, RIP 28 Nov 2010. Tikka, RIP 11 Aug 2011.
Avatar
Microbadge: I play with Yellow!Microbadge: Chocolate Chip Cookie loverMicrobadge: Hot Food loverMicrobadge: I love salty foods!Microbadge: I love Yorkies!
So, how does one choose a particular race at the start of the game?
- Look at the Scoring Tiles to see when you will be rewarded for building/upgrading, and pick a race that works similarly.
- Look at the Bonus Cards: which ones are out of the game? Which races do better with/without those cards?

Races That Like To Build Dwellings Early
Dwarves
Engineers
Halflings (round 2, after advancing dig?
Mermaids
Witches (round 1, if swim bonus card in play)

Races That Like End-Game Towns
(Chaos Magicians)
Mermaids
Nomads

Races That Like Upgrading to Strongholds/Sanctuaries Early
Alchemists
Auren
Giants
Nomads
Swarmlings
Witches
 
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