I'm a Terra Mystica expert and content creator – happy to chat strategy!

Strategy

I'm a Terra Mystica expert from Ottawa, Canada. I play primarily on the Board Game Arena platform (webberaj over on BGA). I'm also a Twitch streamer and content creator at https://www.twitch.tv/webberaj.

I exclusively stream Terra Mystica strategy content in 2 formats:

  1. I play in BGA's competitive (open) "Arena" tournament each season, and stream most of those games. As I'm playing, I talk through moves, let viewers knows what I'm seeing in the setup, answer questions in chat, etc.

  2. Every week I stream Open Table which is an all expert commentary stream. Each week I'm joined in voice chat by 3 other Terra Mystica experts from the BGA community. We play a 4 player game and talk strategy entirely openly (even if it throws our own game), while answering questions from chat, just to give viewers a sense of what expert players are thinking about as they play.

A standing offer for anyone interested in Terra Mystica:

  • If you've heard about the game and you're interested, but you've never played, I'm more than happy to teach you the rules and walk you through your first game. I do this all the time with people!

  • If you've played, but you're looking to dig into strategy a bit more seriously and develop your game further, I'm happy to organize a game on voice chat with friends or 1 on 1 whatever works, and talk you through a game, discuss moves, etc.

Okay, so I'm a bit of a Terra Mystica evangelist 😀 but if anyone is trying to get into the game, and I can be of any help, don't hesitate to reach out! I'm very beginner friendly. DM me here or through my community Discord.

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4 months ago

How many games of Terra Mystica have you played to get to the point that you can be considered an expert? What about that game in particular speaks to you so much? 

4 months ago

I think applying the term "expert" to a player has less to do with the number of games they've played and more to do with their ELO (like chess). Board Game Arena (BGA) is, effectively, the home of Terra Mystica on the Internet – almost all competitive players around the globe play on this platform – and they have an ELO system which you might be familiar with if you've spent time on the site (all games have one, but they don't mean a tonne with many of the games).

If your ELO is 500+ you're classified as an Expert by BGA, and so the term comes from that. Usually it takes a couple hundred games or more to achieve an Expert rating, assuming the individual is good at the game. It took me probably 400 games to hit Expert and probably 700 games to hit 600 ELO.

In terms of what speaks to me about the game: initially it was the asynchronous nature of the game. Meaning that, in Terra Mystica, there are 14 factions players can choose from and the same faction can't be played by more than 1 player. So everyone is playing a slightly different game. Next, there's also a tonne of replayability as bonus cards and round scoring are randomized during setup. Every game, a different combination of factions are going to be stronger than others based on these "setup" components. Finally, the specific combination of factions in play (in a 4 player game: which 4 of the 14 factions were selected by players) also changes the dynamic of the game incredibly. Put this altogether and you have a tonne of replayability. At the same time, the game does have just enough predictability in it, that a table of expert players will, oftentimes, agree on which faction is the best, which starting hexes could be selected by players, which bonus cards are apt to be selected in round 1, etc. So the game isn't just 100% variability all the time. There's enough to make it challenging and very, very replayable, but also enough certainly that expert players, after many thousands of games, have been able to develop a form of game "meta" (expectations on what actions certain factions might consider based on particular board states). This makes the game ever so slightly like chess, and becomes fun to discuss post-game in Discord servers and on game boards.

So it's variable, slightly predictable, and very discussable.

4 months ago

How do you feel about the TM expansions, meaning the big ones, Fire & Ice and Merchants of the Sea? I know Merchants isn't on BGA, but possibly you've had a chance to play it IRL.

Likewise, how do you feel about Gaia Project?

4 months ago

I've actually never played Merchants of the sea oddly enough! I'll provide a brief list of the various expansions to Terra Mystica and my thoughts on each. I realize you asked for my thoughts on the major ones only, but once I got writing I just thought it made sense to go through them all. Hope this helps! Let me know if anything is unclear, you disagree with any of my thoughts below or have any follow up questions.

  • Extra maps
    This is perhaps the best thing that the expansions offer. While I certainly favor certain maps over others, they're all pretty great. Revised base is kind of goofy, but the rest I like quite a bit. I'd order my map preference in the following way: Base, Fjords, Lakes, Fire & Ice, Revised Base. Having such a great collection of maps is SO important for replayability.

 

  • Fire & Ice end game scoring
    It's pretty good! Provides some additional variability to the game. For instance, if cluster scoring is in, Witches are slightly less incentivized to build towns. If edge scoring is in, Darkings, Alchemists and Halflings are more interesting in setups where they otherwise might be less good. So it just gives another layer of the game to have to take into consideration. Having said that, I don't really think Terra Mystica needs it, as the base game itself is complicated enough and with the mini-expansion, landscapes and map selection, I have all the variation I need without adding more components to the game itself.

 

  • Fire & Ice factions
    They're okay, but I'm not in love with them. One of my least favorite factions in regular TM are Giants. I find when Giants are in, it adds a higher degree of luck than would otherwise normally be found. Giants don't care which colour hex they dig as they all cost the same, so whether they happen to dig your hex versus mine in round 1 is a big swing in the game. So with giants in I might argue the game is slightly less strategic, less points are scored and RNG becomes more prominent. Why am I talking about Giants here? Because the Fire factions both work kind of the same way. They don't care THAT much which colour hexes they dig, so they're adding in more volatility to the game. Overall, I find their powers interesting, but not craveable in the same way that the base 14 are.
  • Landscapes
    Many of them are actually not designed that well. Halflings', for instance, is effectively useless. Nomads, kinda the same. Having said that, some are great and provide a lot of additional power and flexibility to otherwise harder to play factions. Fakirs, for instance, are perhaps one of the weaker factions in base TM, but their landscape is so powerful that suddenly they're an A tier faction and can excel incredibly in good setups. Dwarves' landscape provides them with additional connection flexibility which arguably reduces swingy-ness/RNG in the game. So, overall, the good landscapes I give a thumbs up to and the bad ones, well, they don't add anything to the game but don't take anything away either. Worse case scenario your faction now has an 18th structure: just consider it a 9th dwelling that, like the 8th, doesn't produce a worker income. No real downside to having them in.

 

  • Merchants of the Sea
    As I mentioned previously, unfortunately I haven't played it.

 

  • Mini expansions
    This is the ship VP tile and extra town keys. They're mandatory for all games as far as I'm concerned. I just consider this "base" TM at this point and not even an expansion.

 

  • Variable turn order
    I'm throwing this in the list because it came out officially in the Fire & Ice set. Once again, I consider this mandatory for all games. Even when playing with beginners, tabletop, I'll grab a piece of paper and some tokens to track this if we don't have the official turn order tracker mat that comes with F&I. It's just so important.

 

  • Gaia Project
    I've played a handful of times and think it's an incredible sequel to Terra Mystica. They've basically taken all of the components of TM and reorganized them in a wonderful way. Gaia Project's "Tech Track" for instance, blends TM's technology advances (shipping and exchange/digging), with the round scoring cult rewards and the cult track into a single game component. Very cool. They've also made coins more available in the game, and workers harder to come by, so the economic pressure in Gaia is kind of the opposite to TM (workers are everywhere, coins are tight). In TM, dwellings are the best building to build economically while Trading Posts have a terrible ROI. It would appear that, in Gaia, it's shifted the other way to some degree: the TP equivalent aren't that bad, and not all dwellings provide you with worker income so they're less good. So although I'm by no means a veteran Gaia player and still like TM more, I think it's a fantastic game and not at all simply a space reskin of the original game.
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