Terra Mystica is a Board game that came out in 2012 and is published by Z-man Games. This article is not intended to be a play by play tutorial on the game, but offer the game basics and my thoughts.

One board game category I am always looking to find games in, are games that are deep without taking half the day or longer to play. I have nothing wrong with long deep games (SM Civilization: The Board Game), however I only have a select group of guys who have the time to play them. I love finding games that still give me deep strategic options, while being able to keep game play time down to a minimum. That brings us to Terra Mystica!

Terra Mystica is a game for 2-5 players, and takes about 30 minutes to play per person (according to Z-man), however I have noticed that for 2 players it only takes about 45 minutes total, and for 5 players, it is possible to get to 3 hours if there are a lot of indecisive players. My group and I play with time clocks to manage this, so it is not an issue. The object of the game is to score the most victory points after the end game scoring is complete.

The board is made up of many hexagons that consists of 7 different terrain types, spread around randomly. The main board is also used to keep track of power moves you can make, round bonus scoring, and victory points. Each player chooses between 14 different factions (each terrain type is home to two factions). Each player then gets a personal player board to keep track of all of their buildings and different types of income.

There is no luck in this game, so it comes down to pure strategic decision making. Each round (there are a total of six of them)  a player chooses an individual bonus tile, and can take one of 8 different actions, which most commonly consist of playing one or more of your buildings on your own terrain, terraforming other terrain into your own, or upgrading existing buildings. Based on what buildings you have built will dictate the kinds of income you get the next round. Each round has its own tile with a specific bonus that everyone can get if they choose to take advantage of it. So if a player can get an individual bonus tile that rewards trading houses built that turn, and also builds them on the same turn that the round group bonus rewards trading houses being built, you can get some big combo points.

Each person is allowed to take only one action at a time, going around in a circle, until everyone passes, and then the round is over, everyone picks new individual bonus tiles, and the next rounds group bonus tile is used. Once all six rounds have passed, players are rewarded bonus points for having the biggest cities, and for their placement on the cult track. Most victory points wins.

The cult track is a separate board that consists of 4, 10 space religious tracks (fire, water, earth, and air). Throughout the game, you can do various things to move you up the different tracks in order to gain round end bonuses, and victory points at the end of the game.

 This game has so many options, and it heavily rewards thinking ahead and having a game plan. It is relatively easy to figure out what your opponents will do, so it is important to take that into consideration when making your own decisions. You will not win this game unless your decisions build off of each other. You need to score points through out the game, instead of relying on the end game bonuses, that always seem to help you less than you thought they would. The game has a lot of rules and although they make sense once you have been playing a few rounds, it is definitely daunting at first, so give it some time! I would encourage anyone who is a pretty frequent board gamer to check this game out and give it a shot. All of the game art and components are very well made and should last for a long time if they are taken care of.

In the future I hope to post a tutorial on how to actually play the game and offer some strategy tips. Please comment below and let everyone know what you think about the game!