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TERRA NOVA

Reviewed by Herb Levy

(Immortal Eyes/Winning Moves Games, 2-4 players, ages teen to adult, 45+ minutes; $30.95)

 

Exploring a New World is always an exciting prospect. In Terra Nova. the third release from the Immortal Eyes imprint launched by Winning Moves, that sense of exploration is captured as two to four players compete to carve out their own niches in this beautifully produced game.terranova

Terra Nova, designed by Rosanna Leocata and Gaetano Evola, comes with a mounted board depicting a new, unexplored and unclaimed island. The roughly circular island is made up of 8 different types of landscapes over which is superimposed a hexagonal grid. In addition, there are wooden “pioneers” (44 of them) with matching “scoring markers” used to keep score on the board’s scoring track and 80 “border stones”.

All players begins with a bunch of pioneers (13 with two players, 10 with three players, only 8 in a four player game) and, in turn, place one pioneer anywhere on the board until all pioneers are placed. Once the board is seeded, regular player turns begin.

A player must perform three actions (if possible) each turn. Your first action MUST be moving a pioneer. Your second and third actions consist of a combination of moving pioneers and/or placing border stones.

Movement is simple. A pioneer may move in a straight line along one of the hex directions as far as he wants but may NOT jump over another pioneer piece or border stone. You can move the same piece more than once, for example, stopping at a blockage and then proceeding in a different direction for your next action. Or, you can move different pioneers. After moving a pioneer, you may place a border stone on an adjacent space to that pioneer. If you decide to move only one pioneer, you have the option of placing TWO border stones in two adjacent hexes for your next two actions.

Turns continue until a territory is created. A territory is defined as an area enclosed (by border stones or the island edge itself) containing no more than three different types of terrain. Once formed, that territory is immediately scored.terranova2

The player with the most pioneers gets the points. If there is a tie, points are divided (rounded down) between the tied players. A running total of the score is kept on the scoring track. Now, ALL pioneers in the scoring area (whether they scored for a player or not) are REMOVED from the game! Play continues until either all areas have been scored or only one player can move. Any areas completed on the final turn are also scored. The player with the most points wins!

At first glance, it seems that the best way to go is to carve out large areas to maximize points but this approach can be counterproductive due to the way scoring is calculated. Territories with three types of terrain score one point for each space enclosed. Areas with only two terrain types, score TWO points per space. One terrain type territories will net you THREE points per space. This is a simple but effective way to balance scoring opportunities.

While the theme of charting a new world fits, at its core, Terra Nova is an abstract game very tactical in nature. Grandiose schemes for carving out kingdoms are doomed to failure as they are too easy to thwart with a single move. It’s okay to have a plan in mind but the key to victory here is to be flexible and opportunistic. If you see an opening, grab it because it won’t be there later! Possibly the most satisfying aspect to the play is eliminating the pieces of the opposition by trapping them in an area where you dominate. There is no reward for coming in second and eliminating the pioneers of an opponent, pioneers that cannot be replenished, is a key ingredient for victory. That the game plays well with two, three and four players is another strong point in its favor.

Terra Nova is the kind of game that can provide an entryway into Euro style gaming for novices to the genre. It provides enough challenge to satisfy the seasoned gaming veteran too. Recommended. – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -Herb Levy


 

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