Board game Terra Mystica rolls onto PC

Terra Mystica

I’m not a big board game lover, but friends who are keep telling me there’s two in particular I must try. There’s The Resistance: Avalon, a game about figuring out other players’ identities, and Terra Mystica, a strategy game. As it happens, the latter has dropped on PC this week. So now I have no excuse.

In Terra Mystica [official site] you control one of 14 factions, each with their own unique ability, and the idea is to transform the landscape of the board so that you can build the type of structure that’s specific to your faction. Rab actually wrote about the cardboard version on this site back in 2014, calling it “superb”.

Here’s Rab’s summary of the game:

“Each player is one of a whole bunch of races with special abilities. The objective is to terraform and settle land across the board. You build little houses, then upgrade those houses into temples and strongholds and such. Houses spit out workers and temples spit out priests. Trading houses spit out money. As you change your dwellings and buildings, your race’s economy shifts. You need to balance your expansion to ensure you can pay for everything you want to do.”

It’s won a heap of awards, including placing first at the prestigious Deutscher Spielepreis, the German Game Awards, and it’s currently ranked number four on BoardGameGeek’s list of best games.

The PC release of Terra Mystica is made by Digidiced, who previously brought it to pocket telephones. It will include the Fire & Ice add-on free when it launches later this year, introducing Yetis and Ice Maidens, which sounds pretty damned cool to me.

If you fancy it, it’s £7.69/10,49€/$10.49 on Steam, which includes a 30% launch discount ending on Thursday. The physical board game is £56 on Amazon.

10 Comments

  1. Kefren says:

    Avalon works well at parties, because you can play when tipsy (as long as one person knows the rules and can explain them clearly), and it scales well over large numbers of players, without taking too long to play or requiring everyone sitting around a board. Also, the box is small and transportable. Rab did a review on this very site once, which persuaded me to buy it.

  2. dbsmith says:

    I’ve gone through the tutorial twice. I’ve read the pdf rulebook. I’ve played 5 or so games. I understand the rules. I’m not a complete idiot when it games to boardgames.

    That being said, I have ZERO idea how to play this game well.

    • Benkyo says:

      I’m also new to the game. It’s all about the VPs. You get just enough economy to scrape by, and you scoop up all the VPs you can, all through the game.
      F’rinstance, I played a game as Witches, and the first turn bonus was +2 VP per dwelling. I figured out a way to get 5 dwellings built in the first turn, by burning power, so I did it. Next turn, got a temple for the +3 VP per trading post bonus. After that I just built 3 towns while trying to max the VP bonus each turn. I didn’t build a stronghold all game.

      The thing I can’t wrap my head around is how to calculate, on the fly, exactly how much of everything you’ll need next turn to do what you want to get done, and how to get that income. Just have to wing it…

      • Kitsunin says:

        You’ve got it, I’d add that race selection is pretty important once you’ve gotten past the stage of just wanting to try ’em all out. It’s how you ensure the strategy you go for (which should be heavily influenced by the scoring tiles) will work, since different races will benefit more from building different buildings.

        For instance, if you aren’t planning to build your stronghold (which you maybe shouldn’t if that scoring tile isn’t out) Witches will usually be a weak choice, since their very powerful yet cheap stronghold is their greatest strength. If the bonus tile for founding towns is out, a race like Halflings or Mermaids will be much more effective without a stronghold.

    • chuckieegg says:

      Terra Mystica seems to exist by using every mechanic from modern board games except dice throwing. Race selection from Smallworld, town building, map and landscape editing, worker placement, economy balancing with wood, gold and workers. Each player has a chunky game mat, and then theres an entirely different mat to keep track of priest placement. The designer of the player screen has done well to show everything in one place. Except for the priests.

      It is a notable game. I don’t know about superb. Its more that if you understand the 20 page rulebook to follow this game, all other boardgames will be a cinch.

  3. Chris says:

    Terra Mystica is a fine game, but it’s not something I’d call superb or is necessarily the greatest game to port to computer. I’d love to see something like Mage Knight or Gloomhaven or some such game that has a good deal of complexity the computer can help track (figuring out combat options in Mage Knight can be crazy tricky).

    • JB says:

      I would love to get hold of digital Mage Knight. As it stands, I’m creeping ever closer to buying the boardgame.

      • Darloth says:

        I bought it, and it’s fun.

        It’s got a lot of complexity and while the initial “how do I play” is fairly simple, it takes a bit of practice before you get good enough that the seemingly impossible harder goals are actually possible if you just set up for them just right.

        But, unfortunately, the setup is lengthy and huge. It takes an entire reasonably sized table for just one person, and ideally a BIGGER table for any sort of multiplayer. The cards demand sleeving as well, after only half a dozen games mine were looking a bit tatty.

        As such, I think it would be ideal for a digital version that handles all the rules and tokens and bits, and I hope one eventually exists. There’s a vassal module, and probably at least one TableTopSim module somewhere, but they’re just as fiddly as the physical copy except now you’ve got weird interface quirks as well.

      • Edgewise says:

        Mage Knight is far from my favorite board game, but I must admit that it would work better on the PC than the tabletop. The core mechanics are interesting, but for a game about wizards throwing fireballs, the pace is decidedly Euro-style multiplayer solitaire.

  4. Diziet Sma says:

    My feelings about this are somewhat complicated. I own the board game but never get to play it; to the point where if it was a larger box I’d have sold it already. I like TM so buying the PC version is a no brainer for me. I get to play against AI/People whenever I want to. I do have issues with it however, but I’ll persevere and won’t refund it:

    – At least at 4K the text is way too big, wasting space, it possibly is at other resolutions too. For example tutorial dialogues occlude useful information; sometimes the very thing they want you to click on. They can be dismissed by clicking away but it makes things less intuitive. Some text doesn’t fit in the view given for it.
    – I think due to the origins of this version the UI is inappropriate for PC. Everything is hidden behind other screens and icons. This makes it far harder to keep the state of play in mind as you go.

    Due to the above I’m actually finding it far harder to play than the real thing. Constantly clicking around trying to get the information I want to make an informed decisions, then back to where I can make that decision. I’ll persevere.

    To those on the fence:

    – If you like Terra Mystica but don’t get to play it enough; buy this. It will scratch the itch.
    – If you like digital board games and have never tried Terra Mystica; give it whirl but be warned that going through all the tutorials and playing one game of it may push you over the refund window.
    – If you’re not in either of the above categories it’s hard to recommend. The UI is opaque and highly touch oriented, there aren’t any digital bells and whistles here. There are zero concessions to the digital realm in terms of streamlining the UX.