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Terra Mystica – Epic Fantasy Terraforming Meets Crunch Euro Game Mechanics

Terra Mystica – 4 Player Game

Terra Mystica, a strategy board game published by Feuerland Spiele (Capstone Games in the US), is a complex Euro game that’s played over 6 rounds. In this game, players compete to build and expand their fantasy civilization by terraforming the landscape and constructing buildings. Of course, the overall goal of the game is to have the most points at the end. Novel concept, scoring points. Where did they come up with that rule? (Hopefully, my only bad joke here!!!)

With Terra Mystica being my favorite game of all time, it’s time to take a deeper look at why this game continues to top my all-time favorite games list. It’s not just me that thinks of Terra Mystica so highly. Terra Mystica has received many awards including the Game of the Year 2013 from Golden Geek and International Gamer Awards.

Game Specs

  • Players: 2-5
  • Playtime: 90-120 minutes
  • Genre: Action Selection, Territory Control, Variable Player Powers
  • Publisher: Feuerland Spiele/Capstone Games
  • Designers: Jens Drögemüller and Helge Ostertag

Quality of the Game Components

The Terra Mystica box is fully loaded with components. Each faction has its color, with unique wooden components that represent the various structures and track markers required to play. Each has a unique shape required for its function that reminds you of what its “game function” is thematically. While there is plenty of room for upgrade, there is something elegant in the simple design of the wooden components.

The game board is large and beautifully illustrated with detailed artwork that enhances the game’s theme. The game pieces, including the player markers and various buildings, are made of thick cardboard and have a satisfying weight and feel. Combined with the player boards that provide all of the details required to play the faction the elemental tracks for tracking progress are good quality. The artistic design is focused on both a visually pleasing experience, but also to ensure functionality.

The Ice Maidens (Expansion Faction) Player Board

Theme

The theme of Terra Mystica revolves around fantasy factions competing to build their civilizations in a new world. While the game’s artwork and design are excellent, I do not feel the theme comes through. Each faction does have unique faction abilities. Some of these abilities certainly add to the theme of that faction. Yet, while many of these factions are classic fantasy archetypes such as witches and giants, these special abilities do not make me feel like a giant civilization is a giant, massive creature, or that witches somehow are more magical.

Tracks feel more like tracks, and less like your faction is gaining favor with the air magic powers in the world. There is a theme to this game, but you have to dig past the mechanics and the game components sometimes to discover the underlying theme.

Immersion

Terra Mystica is a game in which players engage deeply in the mechanics of the game. The complexity of the game combined with the graphical design of the game doesn’t tend to have players immersed in the overall theme of the game. Most players find it most enjoyable to dive into a game with amazing mechanics.

Yet there are elements of the terraforming of the map, establishing cities, and leveraging their unique faction abilities that make you feel like you are playing any of these fantasy factions as you settle this new world. These elements do come out in their own way. The issue here is that some of the factions don’t feel like they fully come out just on game mechanics alone. Even if the game added a little narrative text describing the factions and their motivations, it would go a long way to some of the decisions behind the mechanics and the various actions.

Terra Mystica on Board Game Arena

Gameplay Experience

Terra Mystica offers a unique gameplay experience that challenges players to think strategically and adapt to changing circumstances. The game’s mechanics are complex and require careful planning, making every turn feel important. While the game’s learning curve may be steep, once players become familiar with the rules, the gameplay flows smoothly. The game’s diplomacy and alliance mechanics add depth and intrigue, making each game unique and unpredictable. However, some players may find the game’s complexity overwhelming, detracting from the overall enjoyment.

Overall Thoughts

Terra Mystica is a high-quality board game that offers an immersive and challenging gameplay experience. The game’s components are of excellent quality and contribute to the game’s immersive fantasy theme. The game’s mechanics are complex but rewarding, providing players with a sense of accomplishment when they succeed. While the game’s complexity may be overwhelming for some, those who enjoy deep and strategic board games will find Terra Mystica to be a satisfying and enjoyable experience. If you’re looking for a challenging and immersive board game, Terra Mystica is worth a try!

Let us know what you think of Terra Mystica. Is the original Terra Mystica your favorite of the series, or is Age of Innovation or Gia Project your favorite?

Interested in more from WiscoDice? Check out these articles:

Top 5 Ways to Use D&D 5E Skills as a Player

Far too often at our D&D table, I see the players struggling to overcome challenges and encounters, often opting for brute strength and attacks. The game rules are indeed very combat-focused. Often overlooked are the skills on the character sheet. Skills like Insight, Religion, Nature, Arcana, and more. As a Dungeon Master (DM), I will give you my 5 top tips for using Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition skills as a Player.

I have been a Dungeon Master running Dungeons and Dragons games since the early 90s back in D&D red box days. I have dabbled on the player side of the screen from time to time, but I always enjoy the game best when I am sitting behind the screen. With that experience, I have a lot of experience with how players deal with various encounters and role-playing challenges.

1. Always Let the DM call for a Roll

If I had a nickel for every time someone told me, “I roll a perception check,” I would be wealthy indeed. Even better, when I call for someone to do a perception check I watch several players at the table say that they are also rolling for perception. This is exactly what you should NOT do as a player. The DM’s job is to tell you when a roll is appropriate for you to make, not you as the player.

Ok, you have heard that, but you don’t want to miss out because your character has a great bonus in that skill and you know the player that just asked doesn’t. Well, that player told the DM they are actively doing the thing. It might be that the Difficulty Class (DC) that the DM set was so low that there was still a reasonable chance that the player they asked to roll would fail while your character doing the same thing would have succeeded. Don’t just assume you need to roll, tell the DM you would like to do the thing as well and see how they respond.

Example: Sara, a Fighter with a perception bonus of +4 tells the DM they want to look for traps as they walk down the corridor. The DM sets a DC of 15 and asks for a Perception Check. Before Sara even has a chance to roll, Bradley who is playing a Cleric with a 15 Passive Perception says they will also look for traps and goes ahead and rolls while Sara is rolling.

In the example, the DM never called for Bradley to roll. That player just assumed that they would have to roll and went ahead. However, Bradley’s Passive Perception would have been enough to pass the required check. Not only was there no need to roll in this case, but Bradley may well roll poorly and risk not seeing the trap that their passive perception would have rolled. Let the DM call for the dice roll before you assume you need to roll.

2. Be Descriptive in Your Actions

Too many times, players will say ‘I am rolling an Insight check because I don’t believe them’ or ‘I am rolling an Arcana check because this looks like magical stuff’. Not only is this not role-playing, but it also goes in the face of the first point. Instead, by imagining what your character senses and interacts with the environment and then describing that interaction you provide the entire table with more information. Indeed, a good descriptive action of what you are doing may provide additional information on the results of that activity that wouldn’t have come just from a chuck of the dice on a skill check!

Example 1: Sara, a Fighter with a +7 bonus to Intimidation, announces I am going to intimidate the goblin.

In this example, Sara has not provided anything descriptive to the table. Just, I am doing X and we’ll see what the outcome is. We do not know what the player’s intention or desire is. This leaves it to the DM to interpret and determine the result. This ultimately may leave the player getting an outcome that wasn’t intended or desired. In the example, we don’t know if the character is trying to get the goblin to submit, spill information, or do a dance.

Example 2: Sara, a Fighter with a +7 bonus to Intimidation, tells the DM, “I point at the Goblin with the tip of my sword and growl at the Goblin to submit or deal with my blade.”

In this second example, the player describes how they intend to intimidate the goblin. It’s clear to everyone what is happening, including the other players at the table. This description leads to a more vibrant scene and helps demonstrate the character’s personality to all others playing the game and works with the roleplaying aspect of the game!!!

The DM now has a choice. Is the goblin particularly cowardly and easily intimidated, so much so that the DC would be so low that a roll is not required? Perhaps the goblin has another reason to be brave and hold up to the player’s character. It’s now on the DM to adjudicate the situation with a response. The player has set the DM up to determine whether a dice roll is necessary. After all, we all know dice are fickle creatures and are known to fail us when we need them most!

Additional examples of descriptive actions are:

Arcana Check Example: “I open my spell book and dive into my notes and memories trying to puzzle out any clues to how this magical fog exists.”

Insight Check Example: “As a player, I am struggling to trust what this NPC is saying. How much do I trust what the NPC is saying is true to my character?”

3. Skills Reflect Abilities and Knowledge You as a Player May Not Have

As a player, you may be playing a character that has an extremely high ability score and skill in some facet of the game that you as the player do not have. There will also be encounters, where things don’t present as obvious to the player but the character may have additional knowledge. In these situations, it’s always a great idea to find a way to leverage your skills to learn more information.

Example: There are 8 talking human skulls set into a wall and they tell a riddle to the party that needs the players to know a key piece of campaign world history to be able to solve. Cealadorn, an elven bard with a +9 bonus in History, would likely know this piece of history to the campaign world. However, Cealadorn’s player does not ask any questions and is confused about how to solve the puzzle.

In the above example, this would have been an excellent opportunity for Cealadorn’s player to look at their skills and ask the DM if in all of the history books and stories he has heard they knew anything about the world history of the riddle. Again, not asking for a roll here gives the DM to say, you definitely know about the cataclysm…here are the juicy details or ask for a history check.

While these checks are more situational, the advice is always to think, “Does my character have a skill that may apply to the situation?” Even if you are unsure, it’s always safe to ask. Sometimes, it might be a stretch. It is up to the DM to make a ruling. At those times when there is a success or failure some of the best stories about D&D games come about!

4. Find a Way to Use a Skill that isn’t Perception or Investigation in Every Session

It’s easy to fall into the trap of only ever using Perception and Investigation skills during a D&D session. After all, in a game of hidden traps, magical threats, and exploration these skills are necessary. Players are so much on the lookout for these things, that I find the players are far too often looking for a combat solution to whatever the challenge is in front of them. Fireball is NOT always the answer!!!

Example: Sara, a level 7 fighter, steps cautiously into the next room of the dungeon. In this 20-foot by 20-foot cobblestone room, there is a single goblin digging through a pack looking for something. The player for Sara’s fighter decides that the pointy end of her sword is the solution and attacks.

In this example, Sara will likely quickly dispatch the goblin and get some loot from whatever was in the pack the goblin was searching. However, seeing a lone goblin in a room and Sara’s player knowing the rest of their party is right behind Sara could decide to interact differently with the goblin. Perhaps the goblin knows what is ahead in the dungeon or where the big bad is lurking. If we revisit this example looking first at the character sheet for Sara, we see Sara is pretty good at Intimidation with a +7 bonus. Feeling confident that she can intimidate the goblin Sara’s player announces they smash down the door, sword drawn and pointing at the goblin, and demand the goblin tell them about what lurks ahead.

Finding clever ways to discover more information while keeping more players alive and successful in the game can be more beneficial than attacking. While combat is a key part of the game and this example may end with combat with the goblin it’s a chance for the player to do more with the encounter. Any chance to avoid taking damage and overcome the challenge will improve the player’s chances of survival in the game!!!

5. Find Creative Ways to Use Your Skills

Up to this point, the points discussed are common issues seen at D&D tables. This last one takes a player to the next level by finding new and creative ways to apply their character’s skills. I don’t want to advocate for players to come up with ridiculous reasons, that is a quick way for a player to get on the DM’s bad side. Rather, how can you, as the player, use an existing skill you are good at and apply it to the situation in a new and unique way?

Example: Sara, our 7th-level fighter, peeks around the corner to see a goblin rummaging in a sack in the next room. Quietly, Sara turns to the rest of the party and indicates what is ahead. Cealadorn, an elven bard who is also 7th level, considers for a moment. Cealadorn’s player asks the other players what they think if their character attempts to throw their voice into the room as Cealadorn tells the goblin to bow before their goblin god.

In this example, Cealadorn’s player is thinking about how they can use their high-performance skill (throwing their voice) and high deception skills to have a chance at making the goblin more vulnerable to the party. Creatively using a player’s skills can create unique situations, allowing the players yet another way to deal with an encounter with less potential violence.

Putting It All Together

Character skills are critical to play a character in Dungeons and Dragons. With these Top 5 Ways to Use D&D 5E Skills as a Player you will find new ways to explore the environs, interact in social encounters, and overcome those nasty creatures more effectively while tapping into those precious resources like spells and hit points less.

Let us know how you use these skills to better your gameplay at the table.

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Episode 120: Top Pros and Cons of Gaming at Different Locations

In Episode 120, join Consey, Justin, Matt, and Suzanne as they discuss what they enjoy and aren’t so fond of with gaming in different environments.

Download the Episode Here!

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Kickstart Monday: Fantastical Townsfolk and a Printable Mansion

Welcome to Kickstart Monday! This is our weekly series featuring 2 or more crowdfunding projects that have caught our eye. We scour over platforms like Kickstarter, Gamefound, and Indigogo to find interesting projects.

This week on Kickstart Monday, while Justin takes the week off, I thought I would take a slightly different route. We’ll look at a couple of projects that will get your 3D Printers humming. Don’t worry, for those of you who don’t have a printer, at least one of these you can order the physical models!

Fantastical Folk – Townsfolk Miniatures

Fantastical Folk – Townsfolk Miniatures by the creator known as the Artisan Troll is a 3D printing project for five unique, fantasy versions of various townsfolk that might show up in your fantasy game. There are options for just the Digital STLs or to order the physical prints of the models!

From the half-orc (or full-orc) butcher, halfing barmaid, or the Dragonborn blacksmith some cool additions help fill out the normally human townsfolk miniatures that are so often in our collections.

Whether you are a Game Master for a Fantasy RPG, a modeler looking to create a cool diorama, or you just think these miniatures are cool, make sure you check out this project.

Mansion #2 – Printable STL Files

Mansion #2 – Printable STL Files from creator Little Dragon Miniatures has created a very cool mansion that can be used in a great many worlds and settings. What’s great about a terrain project like this is its versatility. Whether you are running a fantasy RPG to a modern miniature game, this piece can look good and be functional for a great many games.

This project is only being offered as .STL files, so if you don’t have a 3D printer I apologize but you’ll need to find someone to print this for you. However, this mansion is modeled with the ability to print it with all of the interior rooms. That gives you the chance to model up interiors for whatever your gaming needs are. From a miniatures player perspective, I love the fact that the upper levels have open flat spaces so I can have miniatures continue the fight on those upper levels.

Whether you are an RPG player, Fantasy, Modern, or even a Sci-Fi gamer I think you can find ways to use this project in your games. Make sure you check out this project.

Did we miss your favorite project?

Thank you for checking out this week’s Kickstart Monday! If you find these interesting or want some attention on a Kickstarter or other crowdfunded projects that you would like to read more about please share your thoughts with us via our social media or email.

Stay informed when new Kickstart Monday projects come out by following us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and following the #KickstartMonday hashtag.

Kickstart Monday: The Tomb of Gyzaengaxx and Ostia: Pirates Expansion

Welcome to Kickstart Monday! This is our weekly series featuring 2 or more crowdfunding projects that have caught our eye. We scour over platforms like Kickstarter, Gamefound, and Indigogo to find projects that interest us.

There are certainly some exciting projects out in crowdfunding land. Let’s take a look at a couple of games that we think you should check out.

The Tomb of Gyzaengaxx

Our first project this week is a new offering in the Gooey Cube line of adventures for Dungeons and Dragons fifth edition. Their new Kickstarter is for The Tomb of Gyzaengaxx, an adventure and campaign setting made in collaboration with Luke Gygax the son of Gary Gygax.

The Kickstarter has two major offerings, The Tomb of Gyzaengaxx “Mega-Adventure” and the Environs of Gyzaengaxx campaign setting. The Tomb of Gyzaengaxx is an adventure for players levels 6 to 8. The setting is described as “lampoony, mysterious, and grimdark”. In the land around the tomb, players will discover the village of Etholmm and perhaps hear the terrifying rumors surrounding the tomb. They may also stumble across the wicked village of Blum full of nefarious characters. The tomb itself, which was once the keep of the wizard Garold Gyzaengaxx before his disappearance, is full of monsters, puzzles, traps, darkness and mysteries for the players to uncover.

The adventure also serves as an homage to Gary Gygax, the creator of D&D and is filled with references and Easter eggs related to the beginnings of D&D and the history of TTRPGs. And true to form for Gooey Cube, the adventure includes detailed maps, handouts, artwork, NPC portraits, magic item cards and special Gooey Rewards cards.

The campaign setting the Environs of Gyzaengaxx expands on the adventure offering new locations, dungeons, villages, NPCs and plenty of side tales and quests for players to explore. Included in the box set is an immersive lore book, 2 new character classes, 2 new races, and many new spells, magic items and monsters. On top of this Kickstarter backers will get the unlocked stretch goals which at the time of writing include new classes, races, spells, magic items, as well as some  files for 3d printable miniatures and digital tokens for virtual tabletops.

The Tomb of Gyzaengaxx adventure stand-alone is available for $65 and the Campaign Setting on its own is $140. A bundle with the Adventure and campaign setting can be had for $200. Digital only copies are also available for each of these. Also worth noting is that all pledges are for the collectors editions that will only be available through Kickstarter. The campaign for The Tomb of Gyzaengaxx will run through March 25, 2024, so you will need to get your pledge in before then .

Ostia: Pirates Expansion

Our second project this week is the Ostia: Pirates Expansion from Uchibacoya on Kickstarter.

Ostia is a 1 to 4 player strategy game set in the Mediterranean in 103 A.D. centered around the port of Ostia, an important port in the ancient Roman Empire. In Ostia, players will command a fleet of ships sending them to explore other countries, establish trade routes and bring food and commodities to the people to gain the favor of citizens and nobles.

Players take actions using a mancala mechanism moving their ships through six distinct sections on their player board. Each section provides resources and/or actions. The player gathers resources for each ship in a section they choose then moves those ships placing a ship in each section clockwise and taking the action of the section where their last ship is placed. Players can build and upgrade ships, move their fleet to new locations, trade, build bases in different ports and supply food to the citizens and nobles.

In the new Pirates expansion for Ostia, exploration and trade have become more dangerous as pirates now patrol the seas around trading ports. Players must now equip themselves with weapons and legionnaires to repel the pirate threat. These new dangers aren’t without their rewards though, defeating pirates will gain you valuable treasure. Players can also expand the city of Ostia by building new buildings and must manage their reputation in the market of Trajan.

The campaign for the Ostia Pirates expansion offers a variety of pledge levels for backers including the opportunity to get a copy of the base game. If the Pirates expansion is all you need it is available for $39 with the standard pledge  but you can upgrade to the deluxe pledge for $64 and get deluxe metal components. The Basegame+Pirates pledge will get you just that, a copy of Ostia and the Pirates Expansion for $87. Further options are available that include additional expansions and upgraded components.  Sail on over to the Ostia: Pirates Expansion campaign page before March 26, 2024, to check out all the options and make your pledge.

Did we miss your favorite project?

Thank you for checking out this week’s Kickstart Monday! If you find these interesting or want some attention on a Kickstarter or other crowdfunded projects that you would like to read more about please share your thoughts with us via our social media or email.

Stay informed when new Kickstart Monday projects come out by following us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and following the #KickstartMonday hashtag.

Also checkout the latest articles from WiscoDice:

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