This board game is a 2-5 player game of terraforming and settling the hex-covered board, while you neighbours attempt to do the same. There is no combat in this game – you just have to claim terrain before your opponents do, and try to get the most points in the process.
But wait – resources are limited, and there are several advances in efficiency you can research. Do you grab the terrain now, or use precious resources to gain terraforming efficiency, water travel, or other bonuses first?
There’s also the four cults of the elements, and you want YOUR priests to be the ones to uncover the elemental secrets and gain Power.
For each of the 14 Factions that players can choose from, it’s a delicate balancing act between choices, and only the player whose choices and timing are most optimal will win the game.
Jump to general game strategy!
Jump to specific strategies for each Faction!
Game Explanation and Rules Summary
After choosing a Faction, and the initial placement of two Dwellings, players each choose a Bonus Tile and take turns taking Actions until each player has passed for the Round. Upon passing, you get to choose a different bonus tiles from the ones remaining next to the board that weren’t chosen last time, or from ones that other players turned in after passing.
During an Action, you can Transform a terrain hex and build a Dwelling on it, upgrade a structure (such as a Dwelling) to another type of structure (Trading Posts, Temples, Sanctuary or Stronghold), upgrade your Shipping or Spades, send a priest to the Cult of Elements, or spend Power to use a special action on the game board.
Players have four resources to spend: Priests, Workers, Coins, and Power. Different structures grant different types of resources at the start of each round, in the “Income” phase.
Each time you build a structure by removing it from your Faction board and placing it on the main game board, you reveal, and may now collect as income, the resource(s) beneath that structure. This process is how you build your income. However, as you upgrade structures, the lesser structures that are being replaced, are returned to your game board, thus reducing your income of the more basic resource.
One of the main concepts in the rules is that of “adjacency”, either direct or indirect. With direct adjacency, your structure is immediately next to another player’s structure, with no water or other hexes in between. Adjacency allows you to upgrade Dwellings into Trading Posts for half the cost in Coins, but also grants other players the chance to gain Power as you upgrade.
The object of the game is to get the most Victory Points, and you gain those by building or upgrading structures as per the Round Tiles, or by upgrading Shipping or Spades, or by various means specific to various Factions. In addition, the players that are highest on the four Cult Tracks score victory points at the end of the game, as do the players with the highest number of indirectly-connected structures (either by land, tunnels, flight, bridges, or shipping).
Initial Bonus Tiles
Probably the most valuable initial bonus tile is the Transform Action w/ +2 Coin tile. At a point in the game where no one has efficient transforms, this tile is equal to 3 workers (3w) and 2 coins (2c), which is more income than any other bonus tile. Other good tiles are the +1w, +3 power (3pw), and the +2w +Stronghold/Sanctuary points tile. Basically, early game you will need workers for Transforms, and these tiles are the best ways to get that.
Victory Points vs. Economy
The basic of “how to win at Terra Mystica” involves making moves that get you points (usually by matching the Round Tile), whenever possible. There are a few situations where doing too much in one round will leave you without resources of the appropriate type in future rounds, but in general, you want to take Victory Points instead of going for the “perfect economy”.
This recommendation also means, when it won’t be too much of a disadvantage (i.e. maybe you need coins really badly instead), take the “Dwelling”, “Trade Posts” or “Stronghold” bonus tiles each round. Terra Mystica is a slightly different game, where having the best economy doesn’t relate directly to winning the game – if you don’t take points when you can, it’s unlikely that you’ll pull off a win.
Of particular mention is the “Stronghold Points and Workers” Bonus Tile. This tile is one of the best tiles in the game for points, once you have a Stronghold or Sanctuary.
Burn Some Power
Burn 3-4 power early in the game to boost your economy. This early burn generally means you’ll get an extra priest, workers, coins, or a transform. Having a large power pool can be both good and bad (see discussion below – thanks Peter!), but I’m personally always tempted to burn the power early and grab the resources to build something I otherwise could not.
Some races only start with 7 power in their 2nd Power Pool (per the example above). This often means that you cannot burn 4 power until someone grants you power by building or upgrading adjacent to you.
If you are competing with another race for specific types of terrain, grabbing that terrain before they do takes priority over any other moves, especially if it will box you in or prevent you from getting a group of four hexes to make a city. Don’t make the mistake of “hoping they won’t take it first”.
Although it may seem that you start with a lot of Coins, if you don’t get a coin income of some kind, either by using Power or by building Trading Posts, you will rapidly run out.
Never let your economy “stagnate”. This means to avoid putting yourself in a position where you will have to forego almost a whole round of actions because you are missing one type of resource. Avoid spending too much on one turn “for points”, but then having a shortage or workers or coin income in future round. This often happens to players early in the game, when they upgrade all their Dwellings to Trading Posts, and will leave them with a severe worker shortage for future rounds. In general, you always want to have a worker income of a least three(3), even if you’re getting a lot of Power as income.
Cult Track – the 3-Rank Squares
There is one square on each of the cult tracks where you can put one of your priests and get 3 ranks on that track. If the Round Tiles are indicating bonus resources for a cult track, try to get an early priest and claim those ranks. If the 3-rank spaces are still available by turn 3-4, try to grab them before other players do, even if it means sacrificing power for a priest.
Although it may seem that workers and money do more for your economy, don’t discount the value of having a priest income for at least half the game. Priests benefit economy in terms of efficiency and shipping upgrades, and can even be used as additional workers. Furthermore, the power, victory points, and round bonuses you can gain via moving up the cult track should not be underestimated.
After you found a town, you should try to grab one of the 8 or 9-point tiles (or the 12-point tile from the Expansion set, as shown above). Both of these are especially good, because not only do they give you lots of points by themselves, they also help a great deal with your Cult scoring. It is often advantageous to found an early town just so you can grab one of these tiles!
>>>Furthermore, having a large power pool is actually disadvantageous, because power won’t become “useable” again as quickly <<<<<
Nice article, but this is absolutely wrong and only valid as long as during the start phase bowl 1 is still filled.
After that the Power in bowl 1 (and afterwards in bowl 2) only depends on your power usage from bowl 3 and not on the total number of power chips in your bowl system. Try!
Thanks for the comment. You’re free to disagree, and maybe you’ve misinterpreted me, but there ARE situations where having less overall power chips can allow your power to be available for use again earlier (because you don’t have to wait as long for power to move from bowl 1, to 2, to 3 again before you can use it), and thus be able to take advantage of opportunities by buying things with power where you couldn’t otherwise. For example, say you really need money and the 7-coin power square is available for once, when it was always taken by another player earlier in the game. If you’re still waiting on power because you spent it earlier in the game and your chips are mostly in bowl 1 with a few in bowl 2, there’s nothing you can do.
I DO agree, that if you’re playing a race, or playing with a strategy that involves a lot of power gain, having less power chips can hurt you, because you’re forced to spend it or lose it, possibly spending power inefficiently.
Maybe I’m not correct, but I still think under “normal” conditions there is no difference between 12 power and 6 power existing within your system as after primary emptying bowl 1 the circle of spending power (bowl 3), receiving power (bowl 1 to 2) is equal and only depends on your amount of consume.
Example: After a primary emptying of bowl one you have the following scenarios (bowl1/2/3):
0/12/0 -> get 4 pw -> 0/8/4 -> spend 4 -> 4/8/0 – get 3 pw -> 1/11/0 – get 3 pw -> 0/10/2.
Now the same for 6 pw in your system:
0/6/0 -> get 4 pw -> 0/2/4 -> spend 4 -> 4/2/0 – get 3 pw -> 1/5/0 – get 3 pw -> 0/4/2.
In my opinion the circulation refers only to the amount of pw-stones you move during your action processes, the others are functioning as a burning reserve.
Now both scenarios with excessive pw income while having pw in bowl 1:
2/10/0 -> get 6 pw -> 0/8/4
2/4/0 -> get 6 pw -> 0/2/4.
2/10/0 -> get 8 pw -> 0/6/6
2/4/0 -> get 8 pw -> 0/0/6.
The next moves are consumes:
0/6/6 -> -4pw -> 4/6/2 and
0/0/6 -> -4pw -> 4/0/2
No difference at all.
Your example does not consider that all the power in bowl 1 I consumed before and got a benefit of it and is not dig in the ground unfortunately. And it is has to be usable again, you must gain power income whether or not you have a large amount of power stones.
ONLY the starting power of bowl is an iron ball on my feed. But once loaded to stage 2 bowl the circle only depends on power consume and gain. I didn’t find a scenario where it is otherwise. If you give me an example, I would be glad and would consider this in may next game (perhaps I will win, finally :-))
All the best, Peter
Thanks for commenting, but I think you’re using a very specific scenario where the two situations are the same. Let’s take a different example, where you’ve just spent all your power:
12/0/0 –> gain 4 power –> 8/4/0 — gain 4 power –> 4/8/0
6/0/0 –> gain 4 power –> 2/4/0 –> gain 4 power –> 0/2/4
… in both situations, I gained 8 power, but in situation #2, with less power pool, there’s already 4 power available to use again.
If I keep going:
4/8/0 –> (can’t spend power) –> gain 4 power –> 0/12/0
0/2/4 –> spend 4 power –> 4/2/0 –> gain 4 power –> 0/6/0
Now we’re in the situation you describe, and as long as we spend power as we get it, yes, the effects are the same for both pools because pool 2 is simply a buffer as you point out. In effect, we are in equilibrium. But once that equilibrium gets disrupted again, the bigger power pool lags. Mind you, to get that lag, we have to accumulate a lot of power, not spend it, then cash in a big power windfall! So I’m not sure it’s really a disadvantage to have a big pool, except that early gains from burning the power in the first place can have a significant effect later in the game (either because of points or income gained).
I’m personally always tempted to burn the power…