In Terra Mystica, different tribes fight for power. They try to please their gods the best they can and create as large an empire as possible. Each player controls one of these tribes. Each nation has its own particular characteristics. Witches only want to live in the forest and can fly, while giants only feel at home on bare plains and can work extremely hard.
At the beginning of the game, most nations have two settlements (chaos wizards only start with one settlement). Players may then perform actions in turn to increase the welfare of their peoples. This way they can upgrade settlements by building the simple house into a trading house (which can be upgraded further). Another possibility is to expand your settlement to adjacent areas. However, this isn’t always easy, first you have to make the land ready for development for your people. The greater the change (from swamp to desert is a lot more difficult than from swamp to forest), the more difficult it is.
In addition to building, players can also invest in shipping (then you can build on the other side of a river) or good tools (which makes preparing the land for development easier). The players can also honor the gods.
For all these actions you need money, manpower and/or priests. Of course you get a starting supply at the beginning of the game, but after that you have to collect it yourself. At the beginning of each round, your structures yield different combinations of inputs. For example, a house (settlement) yields one worker and a temple priest. A nice thing is that at the beginning of the game you have all your pieces on your own board in front of you and that as soon as you remove a building you see what you get.
Besides money, manpower and priests there is another resource in the game, namely strength. How much power you have is recorded on your game board. Three circles are depicted on the board. The power is shifted between these circles (from 1 to 2 to 3 and then again to 1). The power you have collected in circle 3 can be used for interesting extra actions. If you have collected strength (for example because you have built trading houses that generate 2 strength each during the income phase), you first move all strength from scale 1 to scale 2 and only then may you move strength from scale 2 to scale 3. You can also gain strength if another player builds on a space that borders directly on one of your buildings (but then you have to give up victory points) or by honoring the gods.
During the game you can be rewarded with victory points for certain achievements. Each round there is a performance (building settlements, building a trading house, etc.) for which you immediately receive points. Also for investing in shipping or good tools you get points immediately. At the end of the game there is a final score where you get points for who has the largest area and who honored the gods the most.
Terra Mystica is a game for real enthusiast
Terra Mystica is a beautiful game, but a very complex game. There are a lot of elements that all play a role that all interlock in an ingenious way. It can be tough at first to figure out the rules, but once you know it, everything falls neatly into place and the game is well put together. It is also a very abstract game.
The basic game contains 14 different tribes that all differ from each other (and for those who want even more variation, there is an expansion with new tribes). So every time it is a new challenge to figure out how to make maximum use of the people under your care. If you choose a nation that scores points for preparing land for building, then you probably “choose” more often to prepare land than if you have a nation that rewards you for building trading houses.
Terra Mystica is a game for real enthusiast. It is beautiful, but not suitable for people who occasionally play a game. They will get lost in the possibilities and amount of rules. But if you’re a lover of challenging games and don’t shy away from a lot of complexity, Terra Mystica is the place to be.