Terra Mystica

How to play / win
Players seek to build structures and improvements to gain victory points. Each faction has slightly different special abilities. Additionally, other special abilities can be gained through building, a draft of special actions each round, and a randomly determined bonus for each round.

What I liked
I appreciate a game with a set end game. In this case, you have six turns and it almost doesn’t feel like enough time to do everything so one has to be focused to achieve those goals. There are several different mechanics to gain victory points with multiple resource tracks (workers, priests, elemental cults, the faction special abilities, and the purple power track that feed into being able to do special additional actions). It may sound like a lot to keep track of, but once you get into playing the whole thing makes sense and I would totally be willing to replay this and explore how different factions work.

With this I took issue …
Starting position can be very crucial, particularly when it puts you into a direct competition for the grabbing of land. It isn’t a deal breaker but more of something you want to be aware of during the initial set up.

Other games I was reminded of …

  • Settlers of Catan – Terra Mystica feels like Catan on steroids. Building, resource management, and a land grab race.
  • Scythe – There are many similar mechanics with each faction having slightly different special abilities, the importance of land control, and gaining special bonus actions, but Scythe also features combat as a means to achieve victory points.
  • M.U.L.E. – A highly underrated board game that was based on a computer game, with resource management and land development and the option of a ‘alien special ability’.

What else we played …
We also got in a game of Pandemic – 10th Anniversary Edition. There were small changes to some of the Roles, likely from feedback and playtesting on the different editions in the intervening years. I’m a fan of the Pandemic line overall.

The Anniversary Edition has a more subtle color set, with a map in pastel tones and the color set of the location cards being more subdued (instead of the entire card being red, blue, etc., it’s a single stripe of color). It also has plastic figurine for each role. The big selling point is the gorgeous first aid kit game box with shaped spots for all the pieces.

We went to a games night at a co-worker’s house and played Chez Geek and 5 Minute Dungeon. Chez Geek really showed its age with some of the cards like ‘Rent a movie’ (with the image of a VHS tape) but still fun for all those same aspects that endear folks to the Munchkin games. 5 Minute Dungeon is a furious game with Dutch Blitz like energy as players throw down cards and race the clock to overcome enemies, obstacles, and monsters. You really want to download the timer app. It’s free and worth it.