Terra Mystica review


Those who know me know that my favorite boardgames are Puerto Rico and Agricola, called Eurogames, not only because of the development teams, but the style of play and lack of dice and luck.  These games are all about PLANNING, and for some reason they hit home.  So when I heard about Terra Mystica recently (yes I know it’s a 3-year old game) I thought I would get it.

I watched a couple of videos on how to play it and then with 3 others played our first game last night.  It’s important to note that 3 days ago, I actually played a game of Puerto Rico and Agricola, so they were fresh in my mind.

This game is DENSE. There is a lot going on.  We each picked our faction, not knowing much and figured that this would just be a learning game.  Who cares who wins, we are simply trying to figure out these magic bowls!  (Magic bowls are a mechanism that the game uses for using and recycling power/energy)  After 3.5 hours, we called it a night, I think everyone except one us was interested in playing again.  Here’s what I think, after just one play through, so it’s not a fair judgement until I play it a few more times and really learn the subtleties of the game.

  • Terra Mystica is a BIG game.  The iconography and symbols are a kin to Seven Wonders, the first time you have no idea what’s going on.  there are no words, which is good if you are printing in many languages, but for a first timer, it takes a while to just understand what’s going on.
  • Learning curve is STEEP.  Playing with new players for the next 5 times as I introduce this to friends might be a slight form of torture.  There’s just so many things and options to explain, plus those tricky magic bowls!
  • Terra Mystica doesn’t have the interaction like Agricola and Puerto Rico.  You do things and you are paying attention to your fellow players, but it’s not at the level as the other two games.  In Puerto Rico and Agricola your move will screw-over your neighbor and Terra Mystica you are more autonomous.  So you can be in your own little world, to a minor degree.
  • I love, love the faction board.  It is super fun to see how things on your board change and how is illustrates your income and potential.  Brilliant.
  • Theme is cool, but not super-rad.  I love fantasy, but it’s not really needed in this game.  It could have been anything.  When I did something it was cool, but it didn’t knock my socks off, like getting some sheep babies or shipping some Indigo.  Maybe I needed some combat, or someway to take over players dwellings, something to make me say “Oh SNAP!”
  • Victory Points.  VP is a Eurogame thing and I’m cool with it, I don’t know if I like that you receive the Victory Points right then and there.  We all knew who was in lead and sometimes you couldn’t change it.  If the game made all victory points secret until the end, that might have made for a more suspenseful game.

I enjoyed the game, I didn’t feel like it was going to knock off my favorite games right away, but I definitely will need to play it more to really understand it and appreciate it.  There was something about P.R. and Agricola that once i played it the first time I was in love with it and I had to buy it.  Terra Mystica was not that way with me, I liked it, but I’m not head over heels.

Let me play it a few more times and then I’ll give my final word.

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