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Subject: Terra Nova: An Introduction rss

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James Smith
Australia
Ashburton
Victoria
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“Oh you bastard!”… “Oh you bastard!”… “Oh you BASTARD!!” Those three words essentially sum up Terra Nova. Terra Nova is a fantastically brutal game by Rosanna Leocata and Gaetano Evola for two to four players that generally plays in under an hour.

The aim of Terra Nova is to hedge out areas of the board and to score points based on the size of the areas you have control in. The board is sectioned into blocks of terrain areas and these areas are laid over a board of hexes. Sounds simple enough and the beauty of this game is its simplicity.

Players begin the game by placing their colonist meeples, placing one a turn on vacant hexes on the board. Once the players have all placed there colonists the meaty part of the game begins. In essence there are three actions that can be made the first must be to move a colonist, colonists move in straight lines along the hex grid and must move at least one space. The second and third moves are a combination of choices between moving a colonist or placing a fence which can only be played on a just moved colonist (the second and third action can be placing two fences on the colonist moved in action one), so the combination of moves allowed is limited. Often during the game you will be wishing that you can make four moves during your turn as there is just so much you wish to do. Having this restriction of three actions makes every move crucial and really adds to the vibrancy of the play as the game does not stagnate. The fences are hex shaped pieces and cover the terrain pieces they are placed over. This is a wonderful thing, rather than having fences that border the hexes, the pieces themselves cover the hex and as such, rule that hex out of scoring and encroach on the areas being created as the game progresses.

The excellent twist on this simple concept is that players get bonuses for having majorities in areas that represent fewer terrain types. An area that is made up of one terrain type scores three points per hex, an area of two terrain types scores 2 points per hex and an area of three terrain types scores one point per hex, an area that has more than three types of terrain is not scored until it is dissected into an area of 3 or fewer terrain types. Interestingly the different areas of terrain are not the same shape or sizes, this means that there are certain spots that will be more desirable to colonise and after a few plays, it becomes evident which terrains people prefer to use as terrains to be covered over by fences to maximise the area being sanctioned. The great balancing act in this game is to try to maximise the area, whilst minimising the terrain types. When areas are closed off, they are immediately scored and the colonists within the area are removed from the game. This leads to problems where in the final rounds players may have significantly fewer pieces on the remaining disputed territories and find it difficult to have majorities in areas.

The game ends when there are no areas left to score or when all but one player can move. The latter ending mechanism is another interesting twist as you cannot corner the final colonists of a player and freely segment the areas to maximise points, another of the subtle balancing acts this game offers.

This game scales quite well, although it becomes more chaotic with more players, not just in the fact that majorities are harder to achieve, but also in the number of colonists used. In a two player game each player has 13 colonists, in a three player game each player has 10 colonists and in a four player game each player has 8 colonists. So although the increase in players results in less colonists for each person, the greater the number of players the greater the number of total colonists in the game, making for less free space and making it increasingly harder to get large areas.

Now returning to the brutal reality of this game, this game can wreck lives, think of the games that are nice and simple such as Coloretto and Blokus, fluffy and ingenious… yet delve into the game and you realise that these games are fiercely contested games that are never far away from physical violence! Terra Nova went to the same School of Hard Knocks as these two games. There are many instances where you can make a move not so much for you own benefit, but rather to directly hinder the other player’s efforts. Another great aspect to the game is that you can never take the foot off the gas and cruise to an easy victory. This is due to the structure of the game, if you score for an area early in the game, that leads to fewer pieces at the end of the game and so most likely your opponents will reel in the deficit. Ultimately the more skilled and opportunistic you are with your scoring the better off you will be, so a skilled player is definitely rewarded in Terra Nova.

In conclusion I think that this game is a really nail biting and fun game, I tend to enjoy games where there is a bit of cut and thrust, Terra Nova has this in spades and all in a game that can be played in as little as 20 minutes, although it is more likely to be played in about 45 minutes. This game should appeal to players who enjoy games such as Coloretto and Blokus, where you can indulge (maybe a bit too much) in being a git. Terra Nova would be excellent as a game to introduce people to the boardgaming hobby as the rules of play are very simple, but the strategies can be developed and grown. This game may not appeal to people who do not like playing against people who are prone to analysis paralysis as this game can get bogged down with players trying to search for the maximum benefit from there three actions. I think that Terra Nova is an elegant game and to use the old adage is simple to learn, yet difficult to master.
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Plainwell
Michigan
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Mi cabasa esta muy verde
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Fantastic review! I just received this game and played it for the first time this afternoon with some colleagues during lunch. I would echo your review word for word, including the very especially the first 9 words
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Laurentiu Cristofor
United States
Washington
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Great review!

I purchased this game many years ago as an impulse buy - I don't remember exactly the circumstances, but a discount may have been involved. I played it a couple of times and then I put it aside and that's where it stayed all these years. This weekend I gave it another try, expecting a dry abstract experience, but I was surprised by how dynamic and fun the play was.
 
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