Terra Mystica is not a hybrid. It may look like a griffin, but in reality it is just a lion wearing an eagle mask. The artwork on the box, the promise of asymmetric play and variable player powers all point towards a synthesis of American and European style games. In reality this is a Euro to the bone, and a heavy one at that.
It is beautiful. The artwork, by Village artist Dennis Lohausen is stunning. The quality of the components is first class. The wooden pieces beg to be caressed, handled, tossed from hand to hand and even, at a push, placed on the board. This game isn’t cheap, but in terms of what you lay on the table your money is well spent.
The game play is challenging. It is a delicate balancing act between limiting your opponent’s expansion, but encouraging them to build enough so you can cream off their juicy, juicy power. It is passive-aggressive player conflict at its tooth-grinding best.
It is in the individual races though, that this game demonstrates its genius. The races aren’t balanced; not even in the slightest. This should be a negative, but for a game as complex as this, it is brilliant. Jens Drögemüller and Helge Ostertag have designed a game with a built-in handicap mechanic, that limits players with more experience without patronising those, who are sat at the table for the first time. Making some races easier to play than others levels the playing field in a simple, unobtrusive way. That doesn’t mean that the game is easy, but it won’t smack first-time players in the face so hard, that they don’t want to come back.
Is this game really about Dwarves and Chaos Mages? Absolutely not, it is about optimisation and building an efficient engine, but it is about those things in an incredible way. The races offer massive variety and once you’ve developed an understanding this game is a challenge that is a pleasure to confront.
Terra Mystica is not a hybrid; it is a thorough-bred and one that you should jump on the back of, as soon as you get the chance.