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Subject: Terra Mystica - the game I want to love, but can't. rss

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Val Teixeira
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Let's just get some disclaimers out of the way first:
a) I've only played this game once, and I didn't have the greatest teacher. Although the important bits were covered, some subtle strategic things came late, or not at all (although these were very minor). Specifically, the ability to ditch a power to move a power up would've made a great impact, but in a way that everyone could've taken advantage of, really - so not knowing this rule until the late half of the game made it pretty zero sum, I think.
b) This is a very subjective opinion that revolves around my gut feel of the game and my personal taste - just because I had certain issues with the game does not make me think that everyone should feel this way.
c) That being said, I came across other skilled gamers who came away from the Terra Mystica (with entirely different playgroups) with the same feeling, so I'm not alone...
d) Having only played once (and a couple of weeks ago) my terminology is pretty weak - I hope you can follow.

I came upon Terra Mystica a good while back, and I thought the idea was clever and I was hoping to someday play it, but I didn't give it much more thought or keep track of it at all. When I was going to BGGcon, I had already seen people talking about it from Essen and was reminded of this 'gem' and I was looking forward to playing it. I finally got a chance to play it (even though, from reading another review, someone was playing it pretty much constantly throughout the event. )

In the game I played there were 3 of us - one of us was the mermaids, one was playing the witches and I was playing the halflings. That probably was the first mistake, as I think having more players makes the experience better.

This leads me to my first issue - why does the board not get smaller with fewer players?! With the rivers dividing the board up nicely, it would be sooooo easy to elimate certain areas when you're playing with fewer players and thus have greater competition for land space.

One of us had played before (the one that taught us) and he played the witches. I won the game with my halflings by about a good 30 points, which is quite a margin in the game. Now, you'd think that with such a large lead I would've had some great strategic ideas. Well, I didn't. I didn't feel like I made any real meaningful decisions, simply because the decisions I made were very, very obvious (at least to me). I know I'm not a super genius at board games (I'm probably very average), so I was wondering why people kept on going on about the meaningful decisions in this game - and I realised it was largely an illusion. You have a plethora of choices you can make in this game, but truly, a lot of that has really been decided for you the moment you pick your race and lay down the bonus victory point tiles.

In the case of the halflings, I quickly realised that, as an over-all strategy, I want to upgrade my spade track as quickly as possible and spread as much as possible. I grabbed the turn benefits and timed my spread according to the bonus tiles, so I was grabbing multiple VP conditions as I spread. Again, not really meaningful decisions- simply looking at the game state and taking the no-brainer options. I don't think I won because my opponent's were bad - although I do think that the person playing the witches did not fully utilise their power. I won completely because of where I sat (i.e. turn order), what race I played, and the timing of the bonus tiles.

This brings me up to the next issue - this game appears to be 'solvable' once the races are chosen, the victory conditions are revealed and the initial villages/houses/whatevers are laid down. This is, in large part, due to the lack of player interaction. The best way I could explain it, is that I think the game could just as easily be played out by a super-computer (Big Blue) as it can be by a human - and that makes the decisions decidably unmeaningful.

As a side note, I did get around to teaching this game to another (5-player) group at BGGcon, and I gave the person playing the witches a few quick tips on how to play them (having seen how the first game was played out). A few hours later, he thanked me, told me he did exactly what I told him, and won the game by a good stretch too (and he also had someone on the table who had played before).

I hope I don't create a flamewar out of this post - I want to like this game. But it feels like it's missing something that makes it fall flat (not enough direct player interaction). That being said, please lay on the criticism (on my criticism) - I won't take it personally. Maybe I just had a bland game of it and it can be so much more - but my gut feeling makes me not want to play it again (because it just took too damn long for a 'meh, it was alright' kind of feel).

Again, my apologies for having an opinion that is probably off-base and wrong - please educate me!
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Andy Andersen
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Good luck. Thanks for your opinion.
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Don D.
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I hope you did not create a flamewar with your post either! I don't think TM has quite the following yet for that to happen, so you may be in luck. We share a similar aversion to the usual flamewar that follows a review like yours.

I agree with you in part and disagree with you in part. I really and vehemently disagree the implication that this game's strategy is transparent. I find it to be chock full of meaningful decisions that do not have an obviously correct choice. Relative to other games, it is on the very high end of games on that aspect.

I do agree with you that it is odd that the board does not shrink. I only played with 5 so I can't say, but it does certainly strike me as odd.

Thanks for adding your opinion.
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Val Teixeira
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dond80 wrote:
I agree with you in part and disagree with you in part. I really and vehemently disagree the implication that this game's strategy is transparent. I find it to be chock full of meaningful decisions that do not have an obviously correct choice. Relative to other games, it is on the very high end of games on that aspect.


Great! I was hoping to come across someone like you! Could you tell me a bit about your experiences and some meaningful decisions you had to make? I could really use the feedback and insight.
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Dave Eisen
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You can love what you want to love. For what it's worth, I was disappointed in my first play but am enjoying it more and more each time.

Where I am going to disagree with you is in the obviousness of the decisions. I see the game as providing 3 core tensions:

1. Build near other players to get synergies based on cheaper trading posts and power leeching or build far away to get easier access to real estate before it's terraformed away and better ability to form towns.

2. Follow your race's preferred path and utilize faction-specific bonuses vs. taking what the game gives everyone in terms of scoring tiles.

3. Build now and get additional income or defer until later to, again, get points from scoring tiles and bonus cards.

This is in addition to the more tactical questions of if and when to sacrifice power tokens, whether it is worth taking the leeched power offered at the cost of victory points, and deciding on upgrades even though that reduces your worker income or money/power income.

I have found that these tensions provide real decisions on basically every turn of the game. I'm hooked.

I cannot argue with your concern about board size with differing player counts. I'm not sure a smaller board is the answer as certain factions really rely on a larger board. But I will agree that it is likely that Terra Mystica will not be a strong game across its full range of player counts. I'm OK with that.
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Clyde W
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So choices in chess are also unmeaningful? Can you define "meaning"?
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Jimmy Okolica
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I have played three 2-player games (one with a variant), a 3-player game and a 5-player game. My experience is the 3-player game is myeh; the 2-player game is unplayable without a variant (and I don't have a satisfactory one yet) and the 5-player game is very good (not great but very good).

I do disagree that there aren't meaningful decisions. If you and your opponents are all able to figure out your races' strategies, then the question becomes who can exploit it most efficiently and, with that, the little gains you can get by thwarting your opponents while advancing yourself, and the relative trad-offs of figuring out who's going to take what power spot when and who's going to pass when and whether to sacrifice power for short term gains and whether to compete on the cult tracks and network bonus or just focus on in-game points and... you get the idea. I do think there's a very good game with higher player counts. I'd suggest trying it again with 4 or 5. It's worth it.
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Dave Eisen
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One thing I've observed among beginners is that they are very busy building up things and find that rather easy, but really do not focus on scoring points. So a quick glance at the board would make you think that they're doing very very well, and yet they have nowhere near the VP total of the leaders.

That's where the non-obviousness comes in: how to score points. Which is a great place for it to be in a board game.
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Edgard Massot
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Well, I really enjoy the game the game with 3 players and up. I don't think it's necessary to shrink the board as you usually want to have a dwelling adjacent to another player to have a cheaper upgrade to trade houses.

Even thought, if you want to keep a corner for you, just do it, it's not a game where the main focus is blocking other players with your buildings. You find the strategy pretty transparent, well it's pretty clear that if you gain 2 VP per dwelling you should be building dwellings that turn. But maybe if you build dwellings on the next turn you will have a lot of workers but maybe you'll be short in coins.

So the key is to balance the points with the development of your civilisation. As soon as you get a faction you can see what is it good at, so obviously the Halflings benefit from having a better spade conversion rate but is there any race that does not benefit from that?

The player interaction is very subtle and apart from taking a power action from your opponent you won't find nothing heavier. This is a game about optimising your civilisation.

I know you want to like the game but probably you're looking for something in the game that it doesn't have. But in the end its all a matter of taste, TM suits my tastes very well until now.

Have fun
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Val Teixeira
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dkeisen wrote:
You can love what you want to love. For what it's worth, I was disappointed in my first play but am enjoying it more and more each time.


That's good to know - I'm hoping I fall into the same camp.

dkeisen wrote:

Where I am going to disagree with you is in the obviousness of the decisions. I see the game as providing 3 core tensions:

1. Build near other players to get synergies based on cheaper trading posts and power leeching or build far away to get easier access to real estate before it's terraformed away and better ability to form towns.

2. Follow your race's preferred path and utilize faction-specific bonuses vs. taking what the game gives everyone in terms of scoring tiles.

3. Build now and get additional income or defer until later to, again, get points from scoring tiles and bonus cards.


Yeah, I saw these 'tensions,' but in my game which way to go was made fairly obvious by the races and the order of the scoring tiles.

The first tension is exactly what I told the witch guy to utilise. One of the tips I gave him was to get his fortress as quickly as possible and plant little one off settlements near regions you know your opponent's want to spread to. It was a no-brainer strategic point that I can't see why someone wouldn't do.

The second tension is resolved largely by looking at when you can gain benefits from both the faction specific bonuses and the scoring tiles and try to make everything you can coincide on the same turn. Again, obvious decision. This is why I did what I did with my halflings, because I knew it would set me up for two really great turns where I settled a whole bunch one turn and upgraded a whole bunch the next turn.

As for the third tension, that seems to be the most meaningful one to me - especially when you're playing with lots more players and the players are skilled at counter-acting you, or taking what you want. In that sense, I think the skill may come down to knowing when to pass to utilise getting the best starting benefit to complement your tactics. Still, I rarely selected first, and it hardly seemed to dampen my game. This is one area I'm pretty sure that playing it in a 3-player ruined it for me.

dkeisen wrote:

This is in addition to the more tactical questions of if and when to sacrifice power tokens, whether it is worth taking the leeched power offered at the cost of victory points, and deciding on upgrades even though that reduces your worker income or money/power income.


Possibly, but this is based largely on looking at the game state and choosing when best to do something - it still seems like there is either a right/wrong semi-obvious decision here, or a, 'it doesn't really matter too much' decision. I used my power a lot in my game - I think more so than the other players - yet I didn't feel like any specific decision was really that great or risky or opaque. I did feel I did a better job of using the power track, but that doesn't make the decision meaningful, it just means I picked up onto the obvious decision better than the others.


dkeisen wrote:

I have found that these tensions provide real decisions on basically every turn of the game. I'm hooked.

I cannot argue with your concern about board size with differing player counts. I'm not sure a smaller board is the answer as certain factions really rely on a larger board. But I will agree that it is likely that Terra Mystica will not be a strong game across its full range of player counts. I'm OK with that.


In a way, I'm fine with it too - it's the one thing that actually makes me want to play it again (as I think the short-coming was from the low number of players on a giant board).
 
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Val Teixeira
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clydeiii wrote:
So choices in chess are also unmeaningful? Can you define "meaning"?


Having different, opaque decisions to make, where one strategy or tactic is not obviously superior to another.

Edit: Or various possible tactics that have different ramifications in the long run.

Chess is a good counter-example, because the player interaction is incredibly rich - I take your piece, now you no longer have that piece to work with. Oh, but do I put my piece in a weaker position to do that? Is it worth losing my piece here to make you lose your piece? Those are meaningful decisions and why Chess is not 'solvable' even though there are a set of clearly better or worse strategies and players.

TM, to me, seemed like, well, this is the optimal move at this point, so I'll do that, mixed with, well, this is my race, so my overall strategy is to get this done. Other players messing with your ideal strategy will certainly change things, but only to a very limited degree (i.e. well, that tactic was blocked off, what's the next best move to take).
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David desJardins
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dkeisen wrote:
I cannot argue with your concern about board size with differing player counts. I'm not sure a smaller board is the answer as certain factions really rely on a larger board. But I will agree that it is likely that Terra Mystica will not be a strong game across its full range of player counts. I'm OK with that.


It's surprising to me how many games play very differently with different numbers of players. The Great Zimbabwe is another example, even though the board size varies. We tend to think the game should be designed to play "the same" with different numbers of players, but maybe that's not the right assumption.
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Matthew Tadyshak
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Sorry I missed that important rule Val.
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Val Teixeira
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NBAfan wrote:
Sorry I missed that important rule Val.


Ha ha... no problems and don't take it personally. TM has loads of rules & moving parts and I think you did an excellent job of it for having only played it once - in hindsight, I think you did a better job of it than I did. Even if you did mention the rule, I probably would have forgotten it's existence by the time you were done.

I hope to have a game of it with you again soon, so you can prove how much of an ass I am to trash your witchy strategy (and the game).

Looking through the rules - it wasn't the only one you missed... Shock! Horror! surprise But seriously, the ones you missed were minor ones, it was more the lack of strategy advice - and really, what can anyone expect from someone who played once and only learnt the basics of the game.

Edit: In case you're wondering, the other one you missed was that you need to get a 'key' from building a city in order to get to the top level of any cult track. Not that it really made the slightest bit of difference.
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[Edit]

A friend of mine got it and i were really excited to play it. We tried 2 games in a row as a 2 player game and there are tons of things i hate, because it felt as we are missing something in the rules all the time:

1) In both games the player won who had clearly chosen the path to just enhance cult points. (If you lead on all 4 tracks in a 2 player game that is 8VP-4VP=4VP difference *4 tracks=16 victory points you get. Also you gain ton of power, more than in every other part of the game, which helps you to build what you need)

2) The rounds felt odd. Round 1 was mostly over after 1-2 Actions. I played the constructors, which are REALLY low on workers all the time. And so my turn 1 action was mostly terraform and build (3 workers for terraforming a 1 shovel tile and 1 worker+1gold as constructor to build a dwelling). Round 1 over.

3) You need workers AND gold AND priests AND and and and... This game feels like you have too little of everything. Even the path i chose to follow, felt like it was unachievable. Always little to no workers, little to no gold, nearly impossible to get power without a power sacrifice. Building next to other players felt like it harmed MUCH more than it helped me. As constructor i benefit of 2 less gold for a tradepost but they benefit of 3 gold less for a tradepost.

4) The Victory Points for power trade seems barely to be a benefit. If i trade 3 Victory Points for 3 Power i barely got those 3 Victory Points out again for 3 power. For example. When i can get 2 Victory Points in a round for terra forming and i choose the 4 Power action i get 2 Victory Points out of 4 Power which is less than what i traded in before.

5) The whole game felt like this for me. It feels like one of those "where the fuck do i get those 0,75 victory point on average over 6 turns more". Thats calculating and thats not fun. Not for me at least. Of course, it is a pure EURO. yeah i understand it, but i like euros, but this sometimes went too far.

6) To advance terraforming feels like a total stupid action. It costs you 5gold+2Workers+1 priest. This is VERY much in this game. Yeah i get 6 Victory points, but if i would have invested those resources into upgrading buildings i mostly get more out of it, as cities are bonus points like hell and give you tons of resources and temples are amazingly strong because of the tokens you may choose. I totally went for terraforming and terraformed ~6 tiles for 1 worker each per step. I saved over the 6 rounds about 3-4 workers through the advancement of terraforming but had invested 4 to advance it twice. The extra terraforming i got over power actions or the bonus round cards.

7) The constructors seem very weak. The 3 VP for the bridge, which takes me at least till round 3 (build a bridge, terraform, build a dwelling, upgrade to a trading post, upgrade to a fort) to get then a maximum out of 9 points (3 in round 4,5,6 each). The bridge building is of course much cheaper than the power action which allows you to build one, but as the constructors really got a lack of workers because they need to get to dwelling #4 just to advance it into a trading post without loosing their 2 worker income. And 2 worker would mean i spend a full round just building ONE bridge.

I am really interested in what fans and especially more experienced players have to state about that critism.
 
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Philipp Ottensamer
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NoxMortem wrote:
I played the constructors[...]

No, you played engineers

But anyway, I too think the cult track seems a bit powerful. One should be able to pull off a win without having to invest in "religion".
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Ben Hodgson
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I managed to win with Engineers yesterday.
Key problem: Early game lack of worker cubes, and thus terraforming to get more settlements->workers is difficult.

What seemed to work: Taking a +3 power role card got me up to 12 power in bowl 2. I burnt 6 to get the 2 spades power action and terraformed two spaces. Built 2 settlements.

Also, building temples was great as the second temple gives you +5 power per turn, so with my reduced power pool and the +4 power per turn favour I was getting a good power cycle going. The +1 power & cube favour was also useful.

I built the fortress last turn with 3 bridges for 9 vp, but it would have been nicer to build it sooner. Sadly, could not afford to do so at that point. I think it is nice if you can get it working, but building up a good economy and taking cult track bonuses ASAP (esp for free spades) is defo worth it.
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Val Teixeira
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I've been playing a game or two of Kingdom Builder recently (with the Nomads expansion too) and it has some similar elements to TM. This made me realise another element of interesting choices that's completely lacking in TM.

For those who know KB, you can skip this paragraph. For those of you unfamiliar with KB, it has a similar area control mechanic to TM, where you are laying down houses on hex-grid spaces to control the land. You can't build on enemy houses (or move/destroy them).

Now the key advantage that KB has over TM is that there are some key locations that players want to control - specifically around castles and areas that grant special abilities (as well as certain areas depending on what victory card conditions there are). This forces player interaction, as some locations will only grant special abilities to the first 2 people who get there, or the 'gold' (VP) to the person controlling that specific section of land.

This dynamic is largely absent in TM. With the terrain types jumbled up fairly well, there isn't really places that are worth more than others to control - especially not across all players - making them not worth fighting over.

The only crucial decision in TM, in this regard, is how close to get to an opponent's settlement, and when to join up with them (for cheaper trade/warehouses or what-ever they're called). Otherwise, barring one or two races, it's pretty much - I'm interested in these lands, and you're interested in those - and there isn't really much reason for us to compete. Again, this seems largely true of smaller games where the competition for any land isn't much of a factor. More players puts more strain on the limited amount of spaces available to build on and expand into, but then it's more about the initial placement of settlements (and the path of least resistence of the given races), and less about the actual moves of players.

Again, this, to me, gives the sense that TM is 'solvable' to a large extent. It's mostly a matter of figuring out the best way to utilize any given race - and once you figure out a race's strategy there is no more Mystica and all that's left is the Terra of playing a game with nothing more to offer. I will admit that some races do have a more aggressive approach - I'm looking at you Giants and Nomads - and can really mess around with another player's dynamics (and, really, they should at every possible turn). Any game that has neither of those two, though, has much less player interaction, and thus, much less interesting decisions to be made (once you've figured out the best strategy).

EDIT: I was thinking that it would be much more interesting, for example, if they had 'Wild' spots on the board that anybody could terraform into their home terrain for free - giving players something to actually fight over. Or perhaps locations that give players power when they occupy them or upgrade on them, etc. Anything that would make certain locations more attractive than other locations to ALL players would make the game much more interesting, IMO.
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Jimmy Okolica
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TheNameForgotten wrote:
I've been playing a game or two of Kingdom Builder recently (with the Nomads expansion too) and it has some similar elements to TM. This made me realise another element of interesting choices that's completely lacking in TM.

For those who know KB, you can skip this paragraph. For those of you unfamiliar with KB, it has a similar area control mechanic to TM, where you are laying down houses on hex-grid spaces to control the land. You can't build on enemy houses (or move/destroy them).

Now the key advantage that KB has over TM is that there are some key locations that players want to control - specifically around castles and areas that grant special abilities (as well as certain areas depending on what victory card conditions there are). This forces player interaction, as some locations will only grant special abilities to the first 2 people who get there, or the 'gold' (VP) to the person controlling that specific section of land.

This dynamic is largely absent in TM. With the terrain types jumbled up fairly well, there isn't really places that are worth more than others to control - especially not across all players - making them not worth fighting over.

The only crucial decision in TM, in this regard, is how close to get to an opponent's settlement, and when to join up with them (for cheaper trade/warehouses or what-ever they're called). Otherwise, barring one or two races, it's pretty much - I'm interested in these lands, and you're interested in those - and there isn't really much reason for us to compete. Again, this seems largely true of smaller games where the competition for any land isn't much of a factor. More players puts more strain on the limited amount of spaces available to build on and expand into, but then it's more about the initial placement of settlements (and the path of least resistence of the given races), and less about the actual moves of players.

Again, this, to me, gives the sense that TM is 'solvable' to a large extent. It's mostly a matter of figuring out the best way to utilize any given race - and once you figure out a race's strategy there is no more Mystica and all that's left is the Terra of playing a game with nothing more to offer. I will admit that some races do have a more aggressive approach - I'm looking at you Giants and Nomads - and can really mess around with another player's dynamics (and, really, they should at every possible turn). Any game that has neither of those two, though, has much less player interaction, and thus, much less interesting decisions to be made (once you've figured out the best strategy).

EDIT: I was thinking that it would be much more interesting, for example, if they had 'Wild' spots on the board that anybody could terraform into their home terrain for free - giving players something to actually fight over. Or perhaps locations that give players power when they occupy them or upgrade on them, etc. Anything that would make certain locations more attractive than other locations to ALL players would make the game much more interesting, IMO.


I agree that much of the placement on the main board lacks interaction (although don't forget that not only are trader houses cheaper but being next to another player let's you get power when they upgrade/build next to you). However, there is interaction on the cult tracks, on the special actions, on taking of temple/sanctuary bonuses, taking of towns and passing for starting player/desired bonus marker. While the competition is much more limited with only two or three players, with 4 (and especially 5), there's a decent amount of interaction in all of these areas.
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Butterfly0038 wrote:

I agree that much of the placement on the main board lacks interaction (although don't forget that not only are trader houses cheaper but being next to another player let's you get power when they upgrade/build next to you). However, there is interaction on the cult tracks, on the special actions, on taking of temple/sanctuary bonuses, taking of towns and passing for starting player/desired bonus marker. While the competition is much more limited with only two or three players, with 4 (and especially 5), there's a decent amount of interaction in all of these areas.


And that is sad... cry

As I said before, I think my feelings stemmed mostly from playing it with only 3 players. The lack of scalability is very unfortunate and unforgivable - it would only take a few relatively minor changes to make the scalability much better - and the focus should be more on competition on the board and not on all the outside bits and pieces. All the interesting choices are off-board stuff and all the on-board choices are pretty lame - which is really, really odd. To me, this game seemed to fall short of it's potential.

Then again, you'll probably see an expansion or some variant rules come up in a while that will fix all this and people will (again) think it is the most awesome thing ever.
 
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Dave Eisen
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TheNameForgotten wrote:
Butterfly0038 wrote:

I agree that much of the placement on the main board lacks interaction (although don't forget that not only are trader houses cheaper but being next to another player let's you get power when they upgrade/build next to you). However, there is interaction on the cult tracks, on the special actions, on taking of temple/sanctuary bonuses, taking of towns and passing for starting player/desired bonus marker. While the competition is much more limited with only two or three players, with 4 (and especially 5), there's a decent amount of interaction in all of these areas.


And that is sad... cry

As I said before, I think my feelings stemmed mostly from playing it with only 3 players. The lack of scalability is very unfortunate and unforgivable - it would only take a few relatively minor changes to make the scalability much better - and the focus should be more on competition on the board and not on all the outside bits and pieces. All the interesting choices are off-board stuff and all the on-board choices are pretty lame - which is really, really odd. To me, this game seemed to fall short of it's potential.

Then again, you'll probably see an expansion or some variant rules come up in a while that will fix all this and people will (again) think it is the most awesome thing ever.


Expansion? Probably not. Community suggested variants? Yeah. Probably. As there always are such.

But this is not a conquest game with heavy board interaction. It just isn't. That's fine for many of us and seems to be what the design team intended. Might not be your cup of tea and that's going to be the case for someone regardless of what game it is.

I'm pretty happy with Terra Mystica so far precisely as written.
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dkeisen wrote:

But this is not a conquest game with heavy board interaction. It just isn't. That's fine for many of us and seems to be what the design team intended.


I agree with you, but I think some of the problem comes from the pre-hype being that it was an area control game and it isn't. It's listed as an 'area enclosure' game and I guess that's true, but it's only a small portion of the game. I'm not really sure how to categorize it beyond "variable player powers" but i think it's helpful to not have new players approach this game as an area control game because that leads to letdowns.
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dkeisen wrote:

But this is not a conquest game with heavy board interaction. It just isn't.


I agree - it isn't and it shouldn't be a game with heavy board interaction. But neither is it a game with no board interaction - and the little that it does include makes me wonder what they were aiming for. If you're going to put in some board interaction, you may as well put in some that will really make the choices interesting. Making one type of building cheaper and giving a little bit of power in exchange for VP's is not really fascinating choices.

dkeisen wrote:
That's fine for many of us and seems to be what the design team intended. Might not be your cup of tea and that's going to be the case for someone regardless of what game it is.

I'm pretty happy with Terra Mystica so far precisely as written.


I can agree with you - tastes may vary. This is a major subjective concern of mine because:
A) I feel it could easily have been handled better - and perhaps in a way that wouldn't have even impacted the game you've come to enjoy. Especially with the smaller size board - it may affect some races, yes, but if you knew that, you could just elect not to play those races in a smaller game, there are plenty to choose from.
B) I don't have a big game collection (under a dozen games) or much of a game budget to speak of - although I'm slowly building it up. For me, having games that can only really suit a very specific number of players (other than 2) is pretty much not going to happen. Most of my board game time is spent at a FLGS where I have little control on the number of players available or their interests. This means that even if I had the game, I'd be less inclined to take it over games that have a broader interest group and/or better scalability.

But, as I stated when I started this post - this is a very subjective opinion based on very little experience. I'm not out to say whether the game is good/bad for everyone - I'm pointing to a very specific set of circumstances and saying it fell flat to me and this is why I think it did.

I guess I should also mention that I think you understand where I coming from as well, but for the benefit of others, and further conversation, I'm putting my opinions in plain view. Your points are very valid - and I think this game would be great at the 4/5 player mark. I'm just not entirely sure why they didn't think of scalability issues - especially seeing that it's pretty obvious that the game loses a lot when you only play it with 3 or *shudder to even think about it* 2. I thought that perhaps I had missed something, but the responses show the common theme that you need at least 4 to have a good competitive game of this.

You (and many others) may be fine with that, because you have a different board-gaming situation to me. For me, it puts this game solidly in a game I want to love, but can't.
 
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I'd imagine once everyone is really good at the game, the on-board interaction increases.
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Butterfly0038 wrote:
dkeisen wrote:

But this is not a conquest game with heavy board interaction. It just isn't. That's fine for many of us and seems to be what the design team intended.


I agree with you, but I think some of the problem comes from the pre-hype being that it was an area control game and it isn't. It's listed as an 'area enclosure' game and I guess that's true, but it's only a small portion of the game. I'm not really sure how to categorize it beyond "variable player powers" but i think it's helpful to not have new players approach this game as an area control game because that leads to letdowns.


This too - I must admit I fell for this trap. That being said, it doesn't bother me if it isn't an area control game - but I'd argue similar points with the term 'area enclosure'. In a 3-player, I don't really feel that much 'enclosed'. As you said - it's a small portion of the game - so small, in fact, that I would've said it would be better to ditch the central board and the few player interaction abilities and rather leave each player with their own board/kingdom. That way the focus would truly be on building up your kingdom and looking to score points instead of giving any illusions of being an area control/enclosure game.
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