17 Aug 2013

First Time Playing: Terra Mystica

Wednesday night is table-top night for me. This is when my table top club has its game night, and I try to make it every time. The club has a collection of games that we use, but people are also welcome to bring any of their own, which happens quite often. The way we decide what games to play is through bringing forth suggestions and voting. We vote on the two games we would most want to play and whichever games get the most votes, those are the ones we end up playing. 

This Wednesday, one of the games winning out was Terra Mystica, a game that most of us hadn't played before. From the sheer number of different pieces, tiles, resources, scales and the like, I could tell this game would require some time to familiarize myself with. And I was right.

As you can see the game has a lot of pieces and options to keep track of

Each player chooses a race to play, each which comes with different set-ups in terms of amount of active power (versus passive power) and player advantages. In addition to this, there are two versions of each colour, so you could play either with a race advantage or race disadvantage (from what I could tell). Each colour comes with player pieces representing five different types of buildings you can build (starting with houses, which can be upgraded in different ways depending on what rewards you wish to gain), as well as pieces to mark scoring and the level of your abilities. Just setting up the game is confusing at first.

The board is a mixture of tiles representing various types of land meant to build your buildings on, however each player can only build on the type of land associated with their race. However, they may use resources to terraform an adjacent tile to become their own type of land.

There are also advantage tiles that each player chooses before each game round. When you start a game round, each player receives the number of different resources shown on their race board. Each player may only play one action at a time, but there is no limit to how many actions a player may do each round (but each action cost resources depending on what you wish to do). When a player no longer can (or wants to) play an action, they end their own turn by giving back their advantage tile and choosing a new one (it cannot be the same as they had last). When each player has chosen to end their turn, the round is scored (different rounds have different criteria in terms of how players may earn advantages or points), the player who chose to end their turn first is the first player in the new round. There are total of six rounds in a game.

This game really isn't for gaming newcomers (not saying it isn't fun, just that you are better off familiarizing yourself with some other titles before taking on this one). There's a lot of information to retain and it takes a long time to explain (and even then you tend to be confused). While this isn't a worker placement game, I would still recommend getting some experience with that genre as it helps you familiarize yourself with the type of strategies you need to apply in this game. The buildings you put on the map help you earn rewards, which you could utilize in following rounds by upgrading your buildings or abilities. This is not unlike the utilization of workers in worker placement games (like Tzolk'in - the Mayan Calendar or Bora Bora - neither of which are all that newcomer friendly, I'm afraid, but if you are familiar with those, then you will more easily adapt to this game).

Then there's the aspect of playing as a particular race and each player having different advantages in the game, as well as the concept of power (or you could call it magic). There are other games that I have played which utilizes this concept, but I think newcomers could benefit from having played Phenomena (a more newcomer friendly game with the concept of playing as different races and utilizing and balancing a limited amount of magic).

The map (main board) itself will feel very similar to the one in Kingdom Builder. I wouldn't really link the games as they take very different approaches to building, but having said that, I think I still would recommend newcomers to familiarize themselves with Kingdom Builder long before taking on Terra Mystica, as it is a much more newcomer friendly game and a very good introduction to strategy games.

To sum it up, it's a fun game, but Terra Mystica definitely shouldn't be the first one you try. There's simply too much to keep up with right from the start and it takes you a while to really get into it.

No comments:

Post a Comment