There are few games that I hold in as high regard as I do Terra Mystica. I believe it to be one of the most tactical, replayable and enjoyable games out there and so could not wait to get my hands on the Terra Mystica: Fire and Ice Expansion, which seemed to offer even more variety, tactics and replayability to the game. It did not disappoint!
Offering new game boards, end game scoring options and factions, Fire and Ice adds new levels of variety. This ensures that no two Terra Mystica games are alike. Nothing appeals to me more than a game which you cannot imagine ever tiring of. The Fire and Ice expansion cements Terra Mystica’s status as this type of game.
So, What’s New?
The first new component is a double sided game board. Admittedly one side of this board is slightly underwhelming. It features the same layout of hexagons as the original board with just a few terrain spaces swapped, presumably offering a slightly more balanced game.
Another minor difference is the mention of the conversion of 3 money to points in the scoring segment of the board. In contrast, the other side of the board offers a completely new layout. This features six collections of hexagons divided by rivers rather than four as on the original board. Using this board really feels like a new experience. It is sure to shake up your usual strategy with your favourite faction. In terms of component quality, the new board is the same high standard as the base game.
The expansion also comes with a cloth bag and token for each faction, as well as a Turn Order board. The Turn Order board replaces the base game’s Starting Player Marker. It adds a whole new element of tactics to the game. In the original game, turn order was simply clockwise from the starting player. Fire and Ice's turn order is now dependent on the order in which players passed in the previous round. This is because they move their faction token to the first open space on the Turn Order board. The merits of this addition are immediately clear. Players must now consider carefully when they will pass based on how early they wish to play in the next round.
An early pass in the previous round can ensure that you are able to claim the Power action you need before any other player can get to it. While a tactical pass has always been part of Terra Mystica, be it to secure first place in the next round or the Bonus Card you need, Fire and Ice adds a new intriguing element to this. Thus ensuring every decision made will affect your game.
The cloth bag and faction tokens also offer an easy way to deal out factions at random. Players can randomly draw a faction from the bag. Fire and Ice also introduces an optional auction mechanic for selecting factions at the beginning of the game. Each player starts with 40 points to bid on the faction they would like. The selection being of those randomly drawn from the bag equal to the number of players. This is an interesting concept if there are particular factions which some players believe are better than others. Although, I tend not to use this variant. While some factions are easier to play in general I have always found most factions to be relatively balanced. Nonetheless, this is an interesting concept which is worth trying out.
Fire and Ice also offers new ways to score at the end of the game with four new Final Scoring tiles. These tiles are much like the Area scoring, awarding 18, 12, and 6 points to 1st, 2nd and 3rd respectively. Also similarly to Area scoring, they concern the placement of structures.
The Greatest Distance tile awards points based on the distance between each players farthest apart connected structures.
The Stronghold and Sanctuary tile is similar, but awards points to players in order of the greatest distance between their connected Stronghold and Sanctuary. The Outposts tile rewards players for connected structures on the border spaces of the map.
Finally, the Settlements tile scores players based on the number of connected settlements they have. That is individual structures or collections of directly adjacent structures (interestingly this is identical to the scoring at the end of Clans of Caledonia). One of these Final Scoring tiles is used in addition to the regular Area scoring and Cult scoring. This is a really interesting addition to the game, particularly in games with factions which tend to dominate Area scoring.
The New Guys
Finally, and most excitingly, Terra Mystica: Fire and Ice introduces six new factions to the game: the Ice Maidens, Yetis, Dragonlords, Acolytes, Shapeshifters and Riverwalkers!
The Ice Maidens begin the game with a favour tile of their choice. Their Stronghold awards them 3 points per Temple when passing.
The Yetis pay one fewer Power for each of the Power actions on the board. Their Stronghold allows them to take these actions as many times as they wish (assuming they have the Power to pay). This is regardless of whether they or someone else has already taken the action.
Choosing the right Favour Tile can give the Ice Maidens a great early advantage, while the Yetis can play a great game focused entirely around using power.
The Dragonlords remove Power tokens to terraform and regain Power each time they gain a spade. It also applies when they build their Stronghold which allows them to take Power tokens equal to the number of players.
Acolytes terraform by spending either 4 or 3 Cult points depending on whether they are terraforming another player’s Home terrain or not. Spades allow them to move up the Cult tracks. As well as their Stronghold allowing them to move one more up the track for each priest they use on it. Both factions are very original and the interesting ways in which they terraform demand inventive new tactics and playstyles.
Shapeshifters gain Power tokens from the supply. Other players take power due to their building activity or move power when they chose not to. All while their stronghold allows them to change their Home terrain, either by spending 5 Power or removing 5 Power from anywhere on their Faction board.
Finally, the Riverwalkers unlock types of terrains on which they may build by removing priests which are places on their Terrain cycle each time they gain any, they are limited by the fact their structures must be placed next to a river and must be built according to the players shipping value; their stronghold just allows them build two bridges for free.
The shapeshifters are a brilliant faction. A sneaky change of their Home terrain in the last round can lead to some rapid expansion and last minute points. Riverwalkers can expand quickly as the game goes on, but must be careful not to be blocked in.
The asymmetry of Terra Mystica is one of my favourite features of the game. It adds so much replay value, so the addition of more factions is very much welcomed.
There are so many new and interesting additions to the game within this expansion. By far my favourite is the new factions.
Fire and Ice allows experienced Terra Mystica players to once again experience the challenge and enjoyment of using a faction for the first time. Having those extra 6 factions in the mix just adds to variety and replayability of this game. I will always have these factions available for play. Just as I will always use the cloth bag for selecting factions and the Turn Tracker board rather than the Starting Player Marker.
The new boards and Final Scoring tiles make for interesting variants. I am not sure I would use them every game.
Regardless, Fire and Ice is a fantastic addition to an already brilliant game. While I wouldn’t necessarily claim this expansion is essential, it unquestionably adds a great deal of variety and replayablity to the game. It is a great purchase for any Terra Mystica fanatic like myself.