Terra Mysica is a boardgame where Giants beat Dwarves because they filed the proper planning permits first for that vacant block of land and you will fucking rub that shit into his face. Alternatively this is what happens when Sid Meier is told to make a boardgame for "Heroes of Might and Magic" while wasting as many trees as possible.
What is Terra Mystica?
Terra Mystica is a boardgame where 2-5 players vie to build the most space consuming city-state or kiss the most ass of the elemental gods of Fire, Earth, Air and Water. The game itself is pretty much on the Euro side of things without going into the dry, dull, uneventful hell of Abstract games. Standing out from other games, Terra Mystica uses wooden playing pieces instead of plastic ones and has a very thick cardboard playing board and tokens. With its very firm box you're basically playing a game that will kill people if you keep it on your top shelf and require whole forests be demolished for print runs.
Thats fine, but fuck loads of boardgames exist so why should I care?
Well the game is nice.
Thats what people will say, because it is. Despite being a Euro there is strong theme, the dwarves feel very expansionist as they can tunnel under shit. The Mermaids really bring out that feeling of interconnecting along the waterways and effectively monopolizing control of the river trade. Even the Chaos Magicians really capture the feeling of a generic brand version of a Chaos Cult in an otherwise standard fantasy world without daemons. Along with the mechanics comes with the beautiful design. It is beautiful because you will literally memorize the entire rules in two playthroughs if you didn't pay attention and nothing about it clashes or goes against the rest of the game flow.
The goal of the game is to score the most victory points, this is done by completing actions that are worth VPs during the game and building the largest connected metropolis or being the most devout on the cult track. The board is a hexagonal grid with different coloured hexes representing the seven types of terrain and river hexes (which Mermaids cannot actually build on against logic), you can terraform hexes to match your colour so you can build on them, use powers to build bridges and terraform more things, build houses, trading posts, temples, a stronghold and a sanctuary. Bear in mind your opponents can also terraform hexes so get used to being infuriated by having someone terraform a tile and building on it just before you do, cutting you off from your other settlement and being a big middle finger sticking out in the middle of your now fractured domain.
Typical of a Euro there is no direct conflict. You can't attack each other, but you can be a dick by just cockblocking someone with a single precisely placed dwelling, because typical of a non-confrontational Euro you can't remove other player's stuff, so its sitting there, mocking you like a dickpic tattoo someone put on your face when you passed out at some shit house party. You have magic power tokens that can be used to play spells or you can convert them into workers, gold or priests. Your magic power tokens don't run out, normally, instead they cycle into a bin zone which requires you to move them out of first before you can shift power tokens into your ready-to-cast zone. It sounds dreary but it actually works as an effective gate and has you thinking in terms of building a varied income stream of power cycling, workers, priests and gold instead of just focusing on one primary resource and playing to minimize your need for other resources.
There are 7 colour cards, which are double sided resulting 14 factions in total. Thats 2 per colour and barring you from doubling up on a colour by having two players of the same colour in the game. Every colour except Red has a beginner friendly faction and an advanced faction for experienced players. Both Red factions are advanced because they both are very much defined as double-edged swords.
- Mermaids: Blue faction of fish people that relies on maxing the Shipping stat and building a long reaching network. Very noob friendly and if your first game is the standard 4 player intro game, keep an eye on the lucky shit with these guys because they will catch out inexperienced players. Your stronghold power is a once-off, and isn't worth rushing, but it helps you save on upgrading Shipping. Your racial power is fucking overpowered if you started near the centre.
- Swarmlings: Blue faction of Asian communists that has higher costed building upgrades but much higher starting resources and has ways to reduce cost of buildings. Very good at rushing an early town and getting a large blob of workers to play with.
- Darklings: Black faction of... well goblins, not really evil but creepy and theocratic that has some odd expansion advantages, currently has the highest winrate by a small margin in the online community. Other than needing priests to expand, they are pretty good overall, though playing on the cult tracks can jeopardize your plan as it restricts the number of priests you have available.
- Alchemists: Black faction of mad alchemists that can burn VPs for gold and vice-versa, good for beginners, is probably the only faction that doesn't struggle with stockpiled gold in the 6th turn. Only they can turtle on gold income and win. A big point to remember is that their stronghold's ability is a once-off boost and then a small income bonus. You're not showered in all that stuff every turn.
- Nomads: Yellow faction of camel riders that is very noob friendly, starts with an extra dwelling on the board so with good planning you can get an early town going or setup a big network in low player games. Your stronghold power isn't bad because you start with three dwellings but would suck if you started with only two like other factions.
- Fakirs: Yellow faction of magic carpet riders that is probably the least played due to be weak, anyone with experience in boardgames can see the reason why: its pretty clear that in the original design these guys were unstoppable hence the released board is laid out in a way to make their racial trait and stronghold power less dominant, overnerfing them. They're not shit so much as requiring a lot of skill to play and having certain matchups that are going to suck. That said, their win rate isn't significantly behind others.
- Chaos Magicians: Red faction of crazy wizards who come the closest to being evil. Very theocratic and will rush holy sites for a very strong economy, but start with only a single settlement that they can place last to ensure they don't get fucked over by nomad players. Not a faction for beginners, their stronghold power is either really good, or fucking unusable shit, where you stand speaks volumes about how paranoid and how much of cockblocking dick you are. If you are playing them, the best piece of advice is to rush a Sanctuary in turn 1-2 if you can; so you get 4 Favors early (2 for the Temple and then 2 for the upgrade to Sanctuary because your racial trait means you get two instead of one) to prop up your economy.
- Giants: Red faction of big dudes duhhhhh... Have the benefit of always paying the same cost for terraforming to their colour regardless of whether it would be cheaper or more expensive for others in a similar position. Tradeoff means that starting in a place with what would be normally optimal terraforming options is going to piss you off, on the other hand you can start in a place that would suck and it doesn't matter because you're still paying the same, then you realize that you were being stupid the first time because you can't pay the lower cost regardless so suck it up and play because there is no way you can be forced to pay more for terraforming.
- Witches: Green faction of noob friendliness. Their racial trait makes it a good idea to focus on getting towns up and running and their stronghold ability isn't terrible if you can leverage it well. Also lets you cockblock for a free action a turn if anyone thinks setting up near a forest is a good idea.
- Auren: Green faction of.... something... They lack a racial trait, but based on the hex layout for forests they tend to be a Cult-based faction with slightly better options than other religion focused factions. Their stronghold power is pretty much going to carry them, but they suffer in a match up with Cultists and Chaos Magicians who are also cult-based and have better ways to suck the dicks of the Four Gods.
- Halflings: Brown faction of noob friendly smug shits. Their racial ability means they can build up a massive stack of VPs early and then in the late game have a second burst of VPs with cheaper terraforming and their stronghold.
- Cultists: Brown faction of religious nuts, pretty much plays the cult tracks for the win. They love to build close to other players and can get a pretty solid advantage in crowded games. Lategame cultists will pretty much force an irritating choice on anyone next to them because expansions will push them into the 10th slot on each track pretty quickly.
- Dwarves: Grey faction of your favourite alcoholic, bearded, midgets with a thing for mining. Very strong on territory plays and can build good networks very easily thanks to tunnelling being really good. Doesn't have a shipping track at all, but they get to bypass most issues with adjacency. Not as noob friendly as other factions but still pretty easy to pick up the game with.
- Engineers: Grey faction of little dudes who probably should be called Gnomes, but whatever. Collectively have a boner for bridge building and may actually end up building more than 3 bridges, they can build pretty good networks like Dwarves but still have a shipping track to ignore. They have cheaper stuff than other factions but gimped starting resources and meh income. Although not capable of playing the Kiss God's Dick game, they do benefit from getting a temple up for the Favor to supplement their income issues. They aren't "hard" to use, but you do need to plan your initial placement better than just BRIDGE FOR THE BRIDGE GOD! CIVIL ENGINEERING FOR THE CIVIL ENGINEERING THRONE! Also an overstepped point about their stronghold power is that they get VPs for every bridge they own when they end their turn, its not a once-off thing.