Boardgames 2023

Has anyone here played both Terra Mystica and Gaia Project? Which would you recommend? I’ve been in the mood for a heavy euro game recently and these two are constantly highly ranked on BGG.

They’re both great and pretty much the same game. It depends on how many people you’ll play with and maybe setting if scifi or fantasy tips you in a direction. There is no theme in these games. Personally, Gaia edges out Terra Mystica because of the addition of the tech tree and modular boards. Terra mystica plays more players (5) and my experience with Gaia 3 people is the most I would want to play with plays up to 4. Other than that very similar games and you can’t go wrong with either. Both are on BGA if you want to try them before you purchase.

That’s really cool, I got rid of all my Memoir '44 stuff a while back but I still get the occasional itch to play. I will look it up on BGA, that seems a much better (or quicker, at least) way to play.

Memoir '44 is a game I’ve wanted to learn how to play but just haven’t gotten around to yet. It looks like something I’d dig.

I love Memoir, because it is a wargame, but strips out a lot of the stress and confusion of a typical wargame.

You don’t have to process the whole tactical map each round. You draw cards, and those cards tell you which sector (of which there are 3) you can execute orders, and how many units you can order. Your decision space shrinks down a lot, so you don’t have the pressure of trying to figure it ‘all out’ at once.

Then once you execute your actions, you’re at the mercy of dice rolls. I can imagine some people hating this randomness, but I like it because it reinforces the casualness of the game, and helps keep things moving along in a speedy fashion.

So you get all this wargame experience in really accessible and satisfying fashion.

It isn’t rule heavy, but you do have to learn how different terrain impacts movement, attack, defense and dice rules. Also, there aren’t a lot of units - but how infantry, special forces, armor and artillery also have to be learned. NONE COMPLICATED and that is really it.

The BGA implementation means you don’t have to find the rules or terrain card to understand the difference between a hedgerow and hill - a simple tooltip tells you and the system itself guides on legal actions and consequences (like can you move and still attack, retreating, etc.)

I know you’ll find some Terra Mystica pursits, and they’re a fascinating bunch who shouldn’t be ignored! There’s some wonderful stuff in Terra Mystica, especially for the purists who appreciate it. But for everyone else, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend just going with Gaia Project. It’s such a marked improvement on the basics of Terra Mystica, in how the gameplay is presented, in how you grow your economy, in how you get more powerful as you go, in map expansion. Even just the introduction of Gaia Project’s tech tree, where a lot of the gameplay mechanics are arranged into a simple intuitive scheme, makes all the difference.

So while they’re both solid games, there are just too many modern improvements in Gaia Project with its dramatic smoothing out of the learning curve jaggies, with its faster and more intuitive “game flow”, and with its more consistent theming. I wouldn’t hesitate to steer someone to Gaia Project over Terra Mystica.

About 600 games of TM vs. 3 games of GP probably tells you where my preference is.

Now, despite what Tom says, this is not due to me being a purist. (I mean, of course I am a purist, but that’s not the reason I prefer TM out of the two). It’s that the things that GP does better are all in the parts of the game system that are the least interesting, while the thing where it fails (for me) is the most interesting part.

It all comes down to the map. The board play is what makes TM, and derivatives, something more than a typical Euro economic conversion game. Sure, a big part of the game is investing resources to get stuff that’ll give you more resources. But the meat of the game is understanding what everybody intends to do on the map, when they’re going to do it, and making your plans work with what the other players will do. It’s the races for crucial spaces on the board for either making towns or connecting your empire, maximizing the neighborhood bonuses, etc where the game becomes truly interactive rather than just the typical “I took an action space you wanted”. (And obviously what happens on the map then feeds back into the more abstract economic engine, and the decisions you have to make there.)

The accomodations they had to make to the system in GP to make the modular map work at all make the board play less interesting. The modular maps themselves are fundamentally less interesting too. The fixed maps have been hand tuned for satisfying gameplay, and have this delightful path toward mastery over multiple games that’s just not there when the modular maps basically wipe out your learning from game to game. (Someone could argue that being able to gain that mastery is bad, and part of the skill of the game should be the ability to go in cold to a new random map and play it well. But I don’t know if that’s realistic. Even expert TM players are strikingly bad at correctly judging how a new TM map will play; it’s just really hard to predict what the interplay between various factions should be until you’ve seen it play out a few times. The games are just way more satisfying once everyone’s intuition has been appropriately calibrated.)

GP is undeniably a better cube pusher, but if all you’re looking for is a cube pusher, then is anything from the TM family really the best choice?

Excellent observations, @jsnell, and I was hoping you’d weigh in! That’s the kind of commentary on a board game I wish I could find on the internet without having to wade through all the inane rules questions, desperate justifications for ill-advised purchases, and juvenile cheerleading that make up 99% of the posts at Boardgame Geek. :)

By the way, if you guys enjoy listening to someone who really knows and appreciates Terra Mystica, there’s more where that post came from!

This is probably a dumb question, but does anyone use a card shuffling machine to assist with this hobby?

I’ve seen it discussed in board game circles, but only as a bad idea. Apparently card shufflers can damage cards over time, which doesn’t really matter with easily replaceable standard decks, but could be a real problem with board game cards.

I figured that would be the case. I don’t care much about that issue, to be honest, but I also think it’s kind of dumb to not just shuffle the cards myself.

You mean besides the hands attached to my arms? I don’t mean to brag, but I’m internationally registered with the Schpiel De Jarl Association of Boardgamery as a card shuffling machine, if you know what I mean.

Other than that, Bruce Geryk once sent me a mechanical card shuffling contraption that I think was intended as a white elephant gift. At least I hope so, since it didn’t survive the move. The biggest problem with it wasn’t that I want to shuffle the cards, but that it was so noisy I could hardly hear the cards being shuffled, which is almost the whole point of shuffling cards!

This is exactly how I feel about BGG nowadays. So much cheerleading and purchase-justification that it is hard to find actual critical opinions on it. There are plenty of Terra Mystica vs Gaia Project threads on there, but they are all very biased depending on which page they are posted to!

After posting my question yesterday, I ended up roping a friend into learning and playing GP on BGA and we enjoyed it so much that I order a copy. Sorry @jsnell, we’ll play TM at some point as well!

I was surprised how well some of the mechanics were integrated with the theme in GP. I had heard that these games are basically themeless euros, but quite a few mechanics seemed to make sense thematically. My only complaint from our play is that it seems like there isn’t very much blocking or other interaction, and I’ve heard that TM is better in this regard.

Now onto my next challenge — actually teaching this game to other new players!

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I played the new version of Thunder Road the other day. Its the latest of the '80s throwback games being put out by Restoration Games (Fireball Island, Dark Tower). I loved the original as a kid, and I think it may have been the first game miniatures I ever painted. The new version was definitely a lot of fun, and in-the-moment I was tempted to pick up a copy- there’s at least one online store my friend pointed me to that still has the All-in Chrome edition in stock. But it’s $180, and that seems a bit much when I consider how often ot would actually make it to the table. The basic version is in stock at my FLGS, for $60, but it’s pretty basic and this game seems like one of those ones that you’d want to have all the add-ons for. Let’s hope my friend doesn’t sell it on any time soon.

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Ah, yes, that satisfying pffffffffffpht. I’m pretty good at the riffle shuffle and bridge with a standard deck of cards but no way am I doing that with an Arkham deck.

I used to do a careful, time-consuming shuffle in my hands, just lifting and gently mixing them by the edges. Then I saw a Sleeping Gods video where the guy just dealt the cards out on to the table in random numbers of 3-6 piles, then combined the deck, cut it, and repeated a few times. So much better!

Played Stranger Things the Upside Down with my kid last weekend. It was over in 15 minutes because my kiddo didnt want to wait and gear up and headed to the Upside down and tried to save Will…got hit for 4 fear after losing the try and then the Demogorgan materialized into her space and gave her another 5 fear and it was over. 15 minute loss…BUT, it was fairly fun and she wants to play again but with a bit more patience and build up of items and using some of Eleven’s powers. Basic family fun game.

We played some Maracaibo for the first time. Rules explanation took soooo long. I was already bored. Then we played 3 hours of point collection and I really envied the guy who LITERALLY fell a sleep midway through and needed a wake up call every time it was his turn. He almost beat my score for 3rd place… must had some nice tactical dreams… eh, moving on, never going to play that one again. So bone dry. The theme does not come through at all…

So I received my physical copy of Gaia Project the other day and managed to get a few guys together to play it. Shortly afterwards, I bought the digital version on Steam (it was on sale!). In total, I’ve probably played the game about six times already, which is probably the most I’ve ever played a heavy game like this within a single week!

It has been a long time since I’ve fallen for a game like this. I’m usually not a big fan of these kind of super-complex euro games, but something about GP makes it really satisfying to play. It has a really good mix of short term and long term decision making. There is not much direct interaction, but there is still plenty of indirect interaction, in the form of denying other players planets/tech tiles/special actions. I think that the existence of this kind interaction becomes much more apparent the more games I play.

The game has no cards or hidden objectives. Everything is laid out clearly on the table and visible for all players at all times. Since all objectives are shared by all players, it’s a matter of figuring out how to leverage your alien race’s rule-breaking special abilities to outplay the other players. The sheer variety of races to play (14, I think?) makes each game feel very different.

If there’s one complaint I have about the game, it’s that the game is a beast to teach to new players and it really requires a couple plays to really grasp the interactions between its mechanics. There are also a bunch of small rules that didn’t make sense the first time we played the game, which make it harder to learn. That said, I think any potential streamlining of this games rules would take away what makes this game special.