Review: Terra Mystica for iOS Board Game Conversion

2017 is shaping up to be the year of the board game digital conversions, with the very popular Terra Mystica ($9.99) being yet another physical board game making the leap to the virtual digital realm. Does the game capture the essence of the source material while taking full advantage of gaming on iOS? Read on to find out.

Related: Review: Tokaido for iOS Board Game Conversion

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Based on the original five-year-old board game of the same name, the iOS release of Terra Mystica has been a highly anticipated conversion for some time. The app applies the same rules and iconography as the board game source and its presentation will be instantly recognizable and playable by Terra Mystica fans. The game is essentially a distilled version of Civilization with a fantasy theme. Acquire land and resources, build dwellings, deploy workers, and develop trading houses, strongholds, temples, and ultimately, a sanctuary. The more you have accomplished, the higher your points. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins.

The game can have up to five players, includes several "Easy AI" characters for local play and supports Game Center friends for online matches. While learning the game is not too difficult, the copious amounts of iconography used throughout the game will take some time to get comfortable with. Fortunately, the game includes a detailed five-part tutorial as well as a link to the twenty-page Terra Mystica game manual from the original board game. There is no doubt a lot to learn before mastering the game, but anyone who has played a Civilization-style game in the past should be able to achieve a fair amount of competency within the first hour of gameplay. There are also a number of tutorial videos available on YouTube to gain a better grasp of the game mechanics and winning strategies.

Terrra Mystica Main Playfield

I commend Digidiced, the developers who brought the game to the iOS platform, for achieving the delicate balance of enhancing the source gameplay without altering the look and feel of the source material. Terra Mystica purists will appreciate the identical reproduction of game art and components. Those looking for some sizzle will appreciate the delicate animation flourishes that characters and interactions receive. There is a lot of information packed into a limited screen space on the iPad (especially true on an iPhone), yet Digidiced has employed the use of slide out gesture panes to keep everything well organized. It will take a couple games to be acclimated to the iconography and location of all the game elements but once you do, you will be zipping around the screen like a wizard.

Terra Mystica Detail Screen

I did encounter a few non-critical bugs during my initial play throughs, most of which were eradicated with a patch released days after the game was launched. The more difficult AI character options were listed as "Coming Soon" at the time I submitted this review. I hope that  Digidice will release these missing AI players soon. I suspect the developers opted to collect game metrics from their player base to better tune the AI of these advanced levels, but I cannot help but feel the game is not complete with just these placeholders promising better challenges to come later.

Smarter Terra Mystica AI Opponents Coming Soon

Final Verdict

Overall, if you are a fan of the board game, Terra Mystica for iOS is a must buy, even with the harder AI player agents coming soon. For those who enjoy a casual board game, Terra Mystica may be a bit overwhelming. If you enjoy expanding your gaming experiences with new challenges, it may be worth considering, especially if it goes on sale from its relatively not cheap $10 asking price at launch.

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Mike Riley's picture

Mike Riley is a frequent contributor to several technical publications and specializes in emerging technologies and new development trends. Mike was previously employed by RR Donnelley as the company’s Chief Scientist, responsible for determining innovative technical approaches to improve the company’s internal and external content services. Mike also co-hosted Computer Connection, a technology enthusiast show broadcast on Tribune Media's CLTV.