Thursday, June 6, 2019

20) Terra Mystica

Welcome to Dice Spotlight! I’m your Gamemaster, Jonathan, here at Connexxions Cafe. This blog highlights different games that we have at the Cafe that you may want to check out. Maybe you’ll discover a new favourite!

When I mention the “heaviness” of a board game, what do you think I’m talking about? It’s not the actual weight of the game. A simple way to describe it is the relative amount of decisions and things to think about throughout the whole experience. Think about “Sorry” the board game. You have 4 pawns to get to your home and you have to watch out for the other players. On your turn, draw a card and decide which pawn to move. Yes, there are a few more rules than that, but that’s general idea. It’s an example of a “light” game.

Today, I want to talk about my favourite board game in the heavy section, Terra Mystica. But just because it’s heavy, that doesn’t mean it’s hard to learn! It’s got a fantasy theme and an aesthetic that I personally love, but that’s not the main reason to love this game. The role of heavy games is to give you a grand puzzle to solve, while reacting on the fly as other players inevitably make a play that affects the game state. There are so many satisfying inter-working pieces in Terra Mystica that I enjoy myself every time I play and with 14 different races, there are tons of things to experiment with as well!

Okay, open the box, pull out all of those chunky wood pieces. Then you got the player boards, the gameboard, and some tokens. Oh, there are some more token! And some more...And some more....oh gosh, did I make a mistake in choosing this game?

Now now, don’t you worry yourself! Let me have the game set up with a touch of Gamemaster magic! VOILA
(shhh shhh, it’ll all be taken out in post-editing)

See, a beautiful setup! Yes, it does look intimidating. In fact, I live for that kind of look you just gave! Oh, I wish I had camera...

Anyway, a lot of heavy games are just multiple simple systems mashed together in a complex salad. The main challenge comes from figuring out the optimal plays to make on your turn. 

Take this first system. At the start of each round, every player will take one of these bonus tokens, which will give you some sort of benefit during that round. It might give you extra money or workers. Or it might give you a temporary boost to your shipping so you can travel farther. During your turn, you can pass and return your bonus token for a new one. The first one to pass will go first in the next round. Did that make sense?

Let’s do another one. All of the game’s races have a preference of terrain. Like the Nomads prefer the desert or the Witches prefer the forest. You’re only allowed to build structures on that specific terrain, so you need to terraform (change) some environments around you. Look at this wheel. This race likes the Wastelands (red), but is next to forest. So you count how many shovels you pass (2) and that’s how many you need to terraform it. You can travel both clockwise and counterclockwise. Each shovel costs a certain amount of workers.

Now it’s time to build structures. You always start with a dwelling, but then it can get upgraded through a mix of workers and coins. 

Dwelling -> Trading Post -> Temple -> Sanctuary
                                         -> Stronghold (trading post can either become a temple or a stronghold)
Adding more buildings reveal more resources to get each round and upgrading them uncovers different resources but covers others.

To prevent this article from getting too long, I’ll stop there. But I hope my point came across! Some of these “complicated games” are actually not too tough to learn because all you have to do is split it into parts and it becomes MUCH more manageable. I realize this has been a lot less about what makes Terra Mystica a great game and more about heavy games in general, but that’s because I really want those who are interested in an engaging puzzle to put aside those fears of how tough it looks. Find someone that knows the game and let them help you understand how it works. Feel the thrill of trying your best and being proud with what the game let you accomplish. That’s what happened to me and it’s a big reason of why I fell in love with board games.

I have something important to let you all know, but first of all, thanks for reading! I've loved writing about games that are fascinating to me and I really hope it's helped some people learn about some cool little gems in the cafe! 

With all that said though, unfortunately my time in Edmonton is coming to a close. I will be moving back home to Ontario starting in July. I've had so many good experiences working at Connexxions and have got to meet some incredible people that have stopped by.

But just because I won't be there anymore, doesn't mean the cafe's any less fun! All the games I've talked about will still be there and throughout the past couple of months, I've been going through as many games as possible with the other employees so that they can help you just a much as I have been :) So, come visit the cafe at 12644 137 Ave, Edmonton! There are some wonderful people there who are willing to help you in all your game needs.

Jonathan, signing off.

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20) Terra Mystica

Welcome to Dice Spotlight! I’m your Gamemaster, Jonathan, here at Connexxions Cafe. This blog highlights different games that we have at ...