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Terra Mystica» Forums » Strategy

Subject: Quick and Dirty Race Balance Rank/Analysis rss

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Trey Chambers
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This is based off of both my analysis of the game and the general consensus. Formatting helpfully created by Capoeirista in this thread: http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/923271/faction-summary

Keep in mind, the most important thing to consider when choosing a race is not their rank here, but how well they mesh with the round bonuses.

For instance, if the 5-pt Stronghold bonus is on Round 1, it might be a good idea to pick a race that could utilize a turn-1 Stronghold rush to get those 5 extra points (for instance, the Witches or Nomads).

These rankings are how the races would stack up without taking the round bonuses into account.

THE WORSE THAN TERRIBLE

14. GIANTS

Ability: More of a detriment than a bonus, especially early on.
Stronghold: Good ability, but even if you rush Stronghold on turn one, it isn't enough to negate the disadvantages of being the Giants.
Overall: Weak starting bonuses, lack of a useful ability, and nothing to negate these weaknesses make Giants the worst race. In fact, they are so many magnitudes worse than the other races, I gave them their own category of being "worse than terrible".

13. CULTISTS

Ability: Situational and opponent-dependent. If people build away from you, you are in even worse shape than usual. Blech.
Stronghold: Free points are good, and the nature of the bonus allows you to hold off on building your stronghold until the very end, if necessary (in other words, you don't have to rush it to get the full effect).
Overall: Sort of like the Auren, except their cult domination is more unreliable. Not much better than the Giants, they can share the terrible category. (edit: the Cultists received a fix, but I haven't played with the fix yet, so this ranking reflects playing the Cultists as written in the original rules)

THE MEDIOCRE

12. FAKIRS

Ability: Another bad "ability", though not as bad as the Giants. Can be helpful in certain circumstances, such as if you get boxed in. Can help you win largest area. But overall, it's bad because you have to sacrifice a precious resource to use this ability (Priests). The VPs are nice, but you're also losing VPs and power on the cult track using your Priests this way. Contrast with the free VPs from the Halfling's ability.
Stronghold: The nature of their ability means you have to rush temples to even make use of their ability and thus make any use of their Stronghold ability as well. It does little to nothing to get your infrastructure going, and you won't build it until mid-game anyway.
Overall: Same as Giants. Weak starting bonuses, lack of a useful ability, and nothing to negate these weaknesses. You can't even upgrade your spades all the way.

11. AUREN

Ability: None
Stronghold: Not terrible, but fairly meh. And if you rush Stronghold, you're not gaining Priests so you're losing Cult potential there.
Overall: Auren can probably dominate the Cult tracks if they try, but not enough advantages elsewhere to win realiably.

10. WITCHES

Ability: Free points are always good, especially 10 to 15 free points.
Stronghold: Good, but can be messed with since someone can terraform over you before you get to use it.
Overall: Free point ability is good. Nice stronghold power as well. But by the end of the game, I think most races will outpace these advantages. However, in a 3-player game where you can easily build three towns, they are excellent.

9. SWARMLINGS

Ability: Six to Nine free workers is very useful.
Stronghold: Great. Should always rush Stronghold on turn 1 to accelerate infrastructure. You should not pay for more than 1 Trading Post over the course of the game.
Overall: One of my personal favorites. Rush Stronghold on first turn, then your path will be significantly easier, which is important since everything is more expensive for you.

THE GOOD

8. CHAOS MAGICIANS

Ability: Limiting. Intended to be balanced by the bonus favors.
Stronghold: Allows you to do some sneaky blocking maneuvers or grab two Power actions off the jump. Situationally, could be powerful.
Overall: Popular faction because they're fun to play. However, I would argue that their admittedly cool powers do not overcome the very weak starting position in a game that's all about getting the ball rolling in your infrastructure ASAP.

7. MERMAIDS

Ability: Decent. Allows versatility.
Stronghold: Saves you quite a few resources.
Overall: If you use shipping properly, you can really get some nice advantages over other races. But your kind of forced into a strategy that incorporates shipping to get their full effect.

6. NOMADS

Ability: Superb. You can really spread out and get a jump on your economy and largest area.
Stronghold: Very efficient terraform. Great.
Overall: You should dominate largest area, just get a point in shipping or two. Excellent race.

5. ENGINEERS

Ability: Situationally powerful.
Stronghold: Good point potential.
Overall: Like the Mermaids, they have some powerful potential but you must make situational use of their abilities to take advantage.

THE AMAZING

4. HALFLINGS

Ability: Free points while doing things you would be doing anyway (using spades). One of the best, if not the best ability. Oh, and your stuff is cheaper too.
Stronghold: Good but not amazing. Balances slightly the awesomeness of their Ability but also synergizes with it so it doesn't really hold them back much (if at all).
Overall: Great race with infrastructure help AND free VPs.

3. DWARVES

Ability: Amazing.
Stronghold: Makes an amazing ability even better.
Overall: You should win largest area with the Dwarves. They are like the Fakir but without debilitating costs.

2. ALCHEMISTS

Ability: Great for those times when you're just one or two coins short of accelerating your infrastructure. Also, could get you a couple of extra VPs at the end game.
Stronghold: Possibly the best Stronghold power. Allows you to dominate the Power actions and have great versatility using Power conversions.
Overall: Stronghold ability lets you do some amazing things.

1. DARKLINGS

Ability: The Priest cost (and thus, the potential loss of Cult VP) is offset by the free VP for terraforming.
Stronghold: Some good versatility at the end of the game when you build it and convert all those saved up workers.
Overall: Their Ability and Stronghold don't intially seem extremely sexy, but together it just works beautifully.

Slight caveat: 1-4 are really kind of interchangable, they are all really amazing.

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Curt Carpenter
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Very nice!

I'm still fairly new to the game, having only played a couple times. But Giants did appear to be especially weak. I'd be interested to hear if there's anyone who has played a lot and feels Giants aren't as bad as they appear, meaning you'd feel ok about your chances to win playing Giants against equally strong players.
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Ben
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Really surprised to see the Alchemists so high on your list. Their average scores using Juho's moderator is almost identical to the Witches (and similar to both the Mermaids and Swarmlings).
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Dave Eisen
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curtc wrote:
Very nice!

I'm still fairly new to the game, having only played a couple times. But Giants did appear to be especially weak. I'd be interested to hear if there's anyone who has played a lot and feels Giants aren't as bad as they appear, meaning you'd feel ok about your chances to win playing Giants against equally strong players.


Giants shine only in fairly specific situations. The main thing to look for is that they generally find a single shovel to be worthless so you want to have the bonus card that provides a shovel out of the game and, ideally, the scoring tiles which give cult bonuses of shovels out of the game too.

But they do fine when they do fine. Very powerful stronghold bonus for a faction with a modestly priced stronghold. They are not as generally strong as the halflings or darklings, but they can be good in the right circumstances.

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Ben
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curtc wrote:
I'd be interested to hear if there's anyone who has played a lot and feels Giants aren't as bad as they appear, meaning you'd feel ok about your chances to win playing Giants against equally strong players.


Against equally strong players, I usually think selecting the Giants hurts my chances relative to other races that are probably available.

But I think the Giant's handicap is tolerable. If I'm an experienced player at a table of less-experienced players, I would still expect to win as the Giants. In fact, I usually select a race like the Giants or Fakirs in such circumstances just to hold myself back a smidge.


Edit: To demonstrate what I mean by a "tolerable" handicap, here are the scores from one decent-but-not-great player in our group over a recent 5-game stretch (all 4-player):

Nomads 118, Nomads 107, Giants 103, Swarmlings 99, & Mermaids 78.

The random variance associated with a given game (particularly the simple issue of whether the player was playing well that day) is likely a larger factor in victory than whether they chose the Giants. Only over lots of plays will the Giants' inherent disadvantage bear itself out.
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John Smith
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I'm surprised the Fakir get rated so low when they have essentially the same power as the Dwarves. Admittedly, I've only played once but I didn't find priests to be that hard to come by. Personally, I think you'd have to work even harder to gather enough priests to gain the spades you need, but as I said I've only played once.
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Dave Eisen
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PlatinaD wrote:
I'm surprised the Fakir get rated so low when they have essentially the same power as the Dwarves. Admittedly, I've only played once but I didn't find priests to be that hard to come by. Personally, I think you'd have to work even harder to gather enough priests to gain the spades you need, but as I said I've only played once.


Fakirs have two serious defects:

1. Their stronghold is very expensive.
2. They start with only 5 power disks in bowl 2 so are unlikely to get one of the good power actions on turn 1. Maybe they are expected to burn 3 to get a priest once they've gotten a power from adjacency, but it's a hard start.

Current conventional wisdom is that the fakirs are in fact decent in low player count games. They're more likely to get the power action turn 1. And they are able to control a LOT of yellow terrain. But in the usual 4 and 5 player games that I play, I cannot see ever choosing them other than to amuse myself.
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mojo shivers
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Personally, I would rate the Nomads higher. I've played them 4 times and won 3 of those, and came in second the other time. My strategy each time has been fairly simple, aim for three cities by game end. They are one of the only races in the game that can reliably achieve this.

Initial placement of their three starting huts is key. You want to place them next to your opponents to get the cheap workhouses, but you also want to have an outlet to build out from without running into anyone else. Conversely you want either to hook two out of the three up for a quick-start city, meaning place two of them relatively near each other, or you want all three far apart so that you have room to grow three cities out from them while having a clear plan to make them indirectly adjacent eventually for the end-game scoring.

Like the Giants' ability being able to convert desert tiles free is a versatile power. I usually terraform away from the other players and build cheap 6-power cities, using the favor tile which allows this. That coupled with linking up the cities for largest chain and utilizing the bonus tile which gives five points for cities has been pretty dominant when I play them.

I definitely wouldn't go to them if the the bonus for cities is absent from the game or comes too early. If it does fall in turns 4-6, however, Nomads are usually who I go to should they be available.
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Dave Eisen
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mojo shivers wrote:
Personally, I would rate the Nomads higher. I've played them 4 times and won 3 of those, and came in second the other time. My strategy each time has been fairly simple, aim for three cities by game end. They are one of the only races in the game that can reliably achieve this.


Three towns is achievable by most factions if the situation is right. Most 5 player games are, among other things, a race to see who gets the third city and, perhaps more important, who gets locked out of the second one.

Mermaids, witches, nomads, and swarmlings have perhaps a leg up in getting three towns: in the first three cases because of the natural ability to spread out and the swarmlings because of their additional resources and early building capacity. But if you don't watch them closely, even the chaos magicians are a threat to get three.

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Mat Thomsen
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My worst score so far was when I played the Giants so I will agree with you there.
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Matthias Reitberger
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3 Towns with the Witches in a 5 Player game only happens with weak oponents. The goal can only be to get a second town. The only race that has a good potential for 3 cities in a 5 Player game are the nomads.
Largest Area with the dwarves isn't granted, you can easily get cut off and get nothing.
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charlie riegle
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A possible fix might be to bid victory points (secretly?) to choose colors/races.
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Riku Riekkinen
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Well to me bids (at the end VPs) would look like this:

Giants: 0VP
Fakirs: 6VP
Auren: 9VP
Cultists: 12VP
Chaos Magicians: 15VP
Swarmlings: 15VP
Engineers: 18VP
Witches: 21VP
Dwarves: 21VP
Alchemists: 24VP
Mermaids: 24VP
Halflings: 24VP
Nomads: 27VP
Darklings: 30VP

Although the list is different from shampoo's list its alarmlingly close. I have some calculative basis for this, but the project has been frozen for a while.
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Ben
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Riku Riekkinen wrote:
Well to me bids (at the end VPs) would look like this:

Giants: 0VP
Fakirs: 6VP
Auren: 9VP
Cultists: 12VP
Chaos Magicians: 15VP
Swarmlings: 15VP
Engineers: 18VP
Witches: 21VP
Dwarves: 21VP
Alchemists: 24VP
Mermaids: 24VP
Halflings: 24VP
Nomads: 27VP
Darklings: 30VP

Although the list is different from shampoo's list its alarmlingly close. I have some calculative basis for this, but the project has been frozen for a while.


Those are much higher scores than I would have expected. I would definitely take the Giants and a 30 VP headstart over the Darklings, assuming a setup that (dis)favors both races equally.

I trust your analysis, but I would have thought the full spread would be about half that. Darklings -15 vs. Giants would be a much tougher choice for me.
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Curt Carpenter
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Riku Riekkinen wrote:
Well to me bids (at the end VPs) would look like this:

Giants: 0VP
Fakirs: 6VP
Auren: 9VP
Cultists: 12VP
Chaos Magicians: 15VP
Swarmlings: 15VP
Engineers: 18VP
Witches: 21VP
Dwarves: 21VP
Alchemists: 24VP
Mermaids: 24VP
Halflings: 24VP
Nomads: 27VP
Darklings: 30VP

I think I will play with my variant from now on. And I wlil keep this list handy. meeple
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Juho Snellman
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Riku Riekkinen wrote:
Although the list is different from shampoo's list its alarmlingly close. I have some calculative basis for this, but the project has been frozen for a while.

I would be curious to hear the details of your method. The Nomads in particular seem rather overvalued.

FWIW, if those faction weights were applied to the online game results after the fact, the end result would be even more unbalanced than with no adjustment at all (Nomads only winning 6% of their games, Giants winning almost 40%). I ran an optimizer to find the bids that generate the most balanced outcomes with the current data set. The results are:


giants = 0
auren = 4
fakirs = 5
cultists = 6
witches = 8
alchemists = 10
chaosmagicians = 11
swarmlings = 12
nomads = 14
mermaids = 15
dwarves = 17
halflings = 18
darklings = 24
engineers = 27


This is of course not a very rigorous method, since it doesn't take into account things like the setup, the player quality, or any metagame effects caused by bidding. And I'm sure some of these suggested bids are off badly for a skilled player due to certain factions being misplayed by the masses. But a 25-30vp range certainly seems reasonable.
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Riku Riekkinen
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Actually I see the stats from online games as enchansing my views about faction balances. Mostly the difference is that my spread is slightly higher (going to 30). But I've seen quite many bid developments and the perceived bids from large masses have always been smaller than bids given by "expert" players (= results from tournament final rounds). Its because in large masses there are what I call "noise games". Noise games are games played by rookies. They drive the perceived average closer to balanced as they give quite random scores.

For alchemists, whiches & nomads the highest scores we been able to get have been with temple start. However I must admit I did give witches & nomads a bit extra, since those have been successful in our games. In fact nomads score higher in our games than darklings (or any faction) & more steadily. I just couldn't give them more as I can't rationalize it. I'm willing to say I probably put too much for them (I would actually bid in most cases for nomads, not for darklings... they are my favoured faction, if I mean to win).

For the 0 bids giving more balanced stats than my bids, I again blaim partly to noise games. As my bids are closer to the "right" calculated bids, the highly raised giants win % after incorporating them means to me that giants would win those games where no-one has an idea how to score high (=scores are quite even). Also I believe giants are currently chosen only, if the scoring clearly is on their side. So average giants game has more advantageous tile setup & start position than average darklings game.
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Riku Riekkinen
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Oh and for engineers, I believe it has rather small # of games & most of them by expert players. I still can't believe its even nearly the "best".

Also in all games there is strategy evolution as long they have existed. There are no actully true values. They keep evolving fast for quite long time and then slightly almost indefinetly (or at least the opinions of them will).

However to keep all factions appearing frequently even in games where people think selecting faction is a part of the game (as it should be I believe). The factions could be a bit closer to each other. Bidding has its own problems. I would actually prefer flat VP score given to factions ( like that from online games... maybe engineers modified ).
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Juho Snellman
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Yes, the two lists are very similar. And my numbers definitely aren't "true" values, just a result of optimizing a still too-small and imperfect data set.

So I was mostly wondering whether by "calculative basis" you meant "computation from first principles" rather than "computation based on results". I was hoping it was the former, since I've been thinking a bit about how to value various resources and special abilities early on, and haven't found a good approach :-)

The Witches are the faction that I feel is most off in my numbers -- I find them almost impossible to lose with, but clearly something is horribly wrong with how most people play them. Agreed that the Nomads should play a temple opening (the special ability is the extra dwelling, not the SH). But in games I've seen where they use a proper opening, they still seem average at best.
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Ben
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Riku Riekkinen wrote:
Mostly the difference is that my spread is slightly higher (going to 30). But I've seen quite many bid developments and the perceived bids from large masses have always been smaller than bids given by "expert" players (= results from tournament final rounds).

Makes sense.

I think the reason I envisioned the difference being smaller is that there is pretty clear stratification of talent level in our group. I'm now at 30 face-to-face plays and, regardless of the factions chosen, I expect Charlie to win with ~150 points, I will come in with ~125 points, Jennifer will come in with ~105 points, etc.

In other words, race selection has seemed to have bad a smaller effect on scores than tale t level. The mistake of that logic of course is that we are selecting races to maximize our chance to win. So I'm only likely to select, say, the Witches over the Halflings in circumstances where I expect the Witches to score more. So the fact that my scores are relatively consistent regardless of race doesn't tell me much about how much stronger one race is than another in isolation.
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Trey Chambers
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Is anyone else slightly disappointed in the race balance?

And I don't mean that they are imbalanced, I would argue that with this many assymetrical factions that would be impossible. But I'm disappointed that they are so imbalanced, you could realistically argue that some factions need as much as a 30 VP handicap to keep up with others.

That seems so huge that it astonishes me that they weren't balanced more in testing before release. I'm glad the expansion is adding some kind of bidding system.
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Curt Carpenter
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Shampoo4you wrote:
That seems so huge that it astonishes me that they weren't balanced more in testing before release. I'm glad the expansion is adding some kind of bidding system.

You don't need to wait for an expansion to use that.
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Trey Chambers
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curtc wrote:
Shampoo4you wrote:
That seems so huge that it astonishes me that they weren't balanced more in testing before release. I'm glad the expansion is adding some kind of bidding system.

You don't need to wait for an expansion to use that.


True but my group doesn't houserule much, not to mention events and conventions where you're playing with strangers. It would be nice for there to be something more official.
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Shampoo4you wrote:
Is anyone else slightly disappointed in the race balance?

And I don't mean that they are imbalanced, I would argue that with this many assymetrical factions that would be impossible. But I'm disappointed that they are so imbalanced, you could realistically argue that some factions need as much as a 30 VP handicap to keep up with others.


I'm not at all disappointed with Terra Mystica; and I don't believe that there is a 30 point handicap to some factions. I think the numbers are biased because the best players avoid certain factions.
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Jan B.
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Shampoo4you wrote:
Is anyone else slightly disappointed in the race balance?

And I don't mean that they are imbalanced, I would argue that with this many assymetrical factions that would be impossible. But I'm disappointed that they are so imbalanced, you could realistically argue that some factions need as much as a 30 VP handicap to keep up with others.

That seems so huge that it astonishes me that they weren't balanced more in testing before release. I'm glad the expansion is adding some kind of bidding system.


Terra Mystica is the best game I played since Agricola.

Having said that, I was kind of disappointed when I saw the first race stats from Juho's PBF manager. Not because some races were better than others (that should be expected with 14 races), but because some colors were significantly better than others. You have four competitive colors (black, grey, blue, brown) and three uncompetitive colors. As of right now, here are the color stats for avg scores:

black 119,33
grey 115,04
brown 114,70
blue 113,99
green 110,74
red 109,50
yellow 109,33

This concludes that the players last to chose a race are scewed ;)


BUT...

Nomads clearly rock; fun and competitive race. I consider this race result for yellow to be a combination of very much 4 & 5 player games (Fakirs are only good with small player counts) and inexperienced players chosing Nomads (same thing happens to Chaos Mages, Witches and Halflings a lot).

And then there is the - for me - kind of new aggressive opening strategy for green and red with shipping, which kind of changes the outlook for those colors.

So if you want to win you have to go with best race avaiable and that is most likely a race from the first four colors (except Culists ;) ). But after that you still have a very good chance to evaluate if red or green is any good in this game and I consider them competitive with the dwelling-heavy opening.

And the other reason for hope are the not so bad statisctics for last and 2nd to last players in 4 and 5 playyer games. They have comparable average scores to first players.
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