Game Length: 2-3 hours, depending on players
Best enjoyed: With 3 to 5 players up for a deep strategy game with lots of planning ahead
Terra Mystica is a complex Euro-style strategy game where each player controls a race of fantasy creatures attempting to colonise the world. Each race has a different preferred terrain, and the players will need to terraform the land before they can colonise it. Compounding issues, you’ll need to deal with your opponents, who are all trying to claim the same land as you are – but trading partners are always handy, and as they develop next to you, they’ll contribute to your economy. You’ll be flooded by difficult choices all game long, and the player who can ride these waves the best will come out on top!
Terra Mystica has a large number of small rules that need to be learned before the game is attempted. The first time you play, expect to spend about half an hour learning the game before you even start. Once learned, the rules are fairly intuitive and reinforced by iconography on the board and tokens, but even so the vast amount of choices available to you on a turn-by-turn basis can be overwhelming. If you don’t have someone around to teach you the game, make sure you watch a few videos and carefully read the rulebook beforehand!
Winning Terra Mystica will take careful planning and resource management, as well as predicting the actions of your opponents. Can you wait for a round to terraform that swamp, or will someone else beat you to it? Should you upgrade to your Fortress this turn, or spread out with more basic settlements first? Do you build next to your opponents and get the advantages of free power and cheaper trading posts, or try to build out in another area so you’re not competing for space? You’ll be making these choices all game long, and constantly making and changing plans.
Terra Mystica owes much of its appeal to the variety present in the box. For each of the seven terrain types there are two races on the double-sided boards, making a total of fourteen races – each of which will give you a different perspective on the game. In each game, there are also turn-based building rewards that will be randomised, meaning that in some games players will be rewarded for getting the higher level buildings immediately, and in others they may want to expand out as much as possible first. Together with the 14 different races in the game, this results in different play experiences from game to game.
Terra Mystica, as a complex game with a lot of choices available, does tend to get bogged down when there are a lot of people playing. Slow players can be particularly frustrating, and the level of planning required for Terra Mystica will see some games drag on for hours – make sure to plan your turn before it comes round to keep the game flowing! Terra Mystica works well from 3 to 5 players, but expect 5 player games to take a lot longer.
Plotting your course and trying to see it through in Terra Mystica is very satisfying, and the game is an engaging intellectual challenge. If you want a thoughtful Euro-style strategy game with lots of options where you’ll need to plan ahead, Terra Mystica makes an excellent choice.