Ender Wiggins
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I admit that when I first got this game as a sweetener in a trade and opened up the box, I found myself thinking: "What on earth is this?" After all, one can hardly escape thinking: "These have to be the most bizarre components I've ever seen!" What would you think if you saw an eccentric collection of components like this inside a game box?



"What are those things?" Exactly! Precisely what I found myself thinking, my dear friends! Well in this review I hope to answer that question. You'll find other reviews here describing the rules of the game-play, so that won't be the subject of this review. Nor will I be focusing so much on the quality of these components, which can be summed up in one word: good. No, what we're worried about is the identification of these components! What are they?! Well let's not waste any further time, but find out!

Game Box

Let's begin with the box itself. These two images come from the official website [http://terakh.com], but all other images (bar one) were contributed by myself:





Looks okay so far, except maybe for some weird drawings. But then we take a look inside the box. The first thing we notice is that the box opens in a most unusual fashion. And then inside we are confronted with an odd assortment of components, jam-packed together:



Some weird triangular boards with strange symbols on them. A collection of most unusually shaped game bits in six different colours with peculiar stick pictograms on them. Six reference cards with strange terms and phrases. Two bags with oddly shaped dice and other seemingly randomly shaped and coloured bits. And to top it off, a square box with even more mysterious contents - 72 magical cards with unusual abilities and eccentric artwork! At first you wonder: "Wait, is this part of joining some kind of cult?" Well let's get to work and look a little closer.

Rule Book

The rule book looks innocent enough, it features the same artwork and text as the game box. Complete, of course, with an advertisement for the official website:



We breathe our first sigh of relief as we open up the pages. It's in English! At least we can read it! And fortunately it doesn't seem to be a manual for joining a cult! What's more, not counting the table of contents, glossary, hall of fame and other such pages of extra paraphernalia, there are only 7 pages of rules! Maybe we can actually figure this out!

Battle Planes

Let's take a look at the individual components, starting with the game board.



"Wait," say the designers, "That's NOT a game board! It's a Battle Plane!" My apologies, dear sirs. How could I forget! So it is! And in fact, for the record, there is not just one Battle Plane, but six of them! Remember, this is a two to six player game!



Fortunately the rule book nicely explains how to set up the boards, depending on how many players are participating:



Oh one thing we haven't mentioned yet. Did you know that Battle Planes have felt on the reverse side? You mean they didn't teach you that in Sci-Fi 101 in university? Well it's true! Just look carefully:



Nothing less than magnificent felt! These are mighty fine Battle Planes, to be sure. But what on earth are those strange symbols and things on the front side of them? It seems that the game designers were reading our thoughts and just knew that we were going to ask that, so they included a reference explanation in the rule book:



Suddenly we find that our vocabulary has expanded further, with the addition of mysterious terms like "Orth Tria", "Infernal Tria", "Aqua Tria", and "Vitale Tria". We can't call them "triangles" now can we? "Trias" sounds much more sophisticated and sci-fi! And don't ask me what an "Orth Tria" means, because I don't know. In fact, I don't think anybody knows. What I do know is that it's the purple triangle in the middle, and that's all that's important, so don't ask further questions about it, okay?!

Units: Inkas

"So what goes on these boards?" you ask, but then quickly correcting yourself: "umm, I mean, Battle Planes?" Good, you're learning fast! What goes on them? Inkas of course! Six sets of six Inkas in fact, in six different colours!



They look like this:



Now don't tell me you don't know what Inkas are?! Pssst, I'll let you in on a secret: I had no idea what Inkas were either. But I have learned that Inkas are either in "Ready" position or "Guard". To switch from one of these "modes" is just a simple matter of flipping over an Inka, and the other mode is on the reverse side:



In the event that we'd forget which of these stick men is in Ready mode and which one is in Guard mode, the rules include a nice little reference picture to remind us:



Units: Elders

Apparently these Inkas live in a far away galaxy on the planet Valgor, and are part of a Terakh race. You don't need to remember that, because there won't be a quiz at the end of this overview. But it would be helpful to know that there are three different types of Terakh. There are Idols, Inkas, and Elders:



Yup, just when you think you're figuring this game out, they throw more crazy looking components at you. See, each clan of Inkas has an Elder, which are the oldest and wisest in the clan. There's one for each clan/colour:



Shh! I know that they look like four sided dice! But they're not, okay?! They're Elders! And the numbers are hit points (HPs), to indicate how many lives they have left. Here's seven members of one clan, 6 Inkas and an Elder:



Orbs

"But," you cry, "didn't you say something about a third type of Terakh? Something called Idols?" Yes, yes, I will get to that, but first I need to tell you about Orbs. There's one Orb for each colour:



Units: Idols

See, the Inkas can pick up the Orbs. And when they pick up the Orb, they become an Idol. And an Idol is just like an Inka, but just more powerful. They look like this:



Depending on which edition of the game you have, the different Orbs have different artwork. Pictured below are the 2005 edition, and the 2007 edition:





For the record, I agree that it's a bit silly to call them Idols. I call the Idols "Heroes". And I call the Inkas "Warriors". Just seems to make for a better game, calling them Warriors, Heroes, and Elders, don't you think? Let's face it, we have a hard enough time dealing with the artwork and components without throwing in linguistically foreign curve-balls like "Inkas" and "Terakh"!

But I digress - as you can see, these Idols (= Heroes) all have different names: Guardian, Hydra, Keeper, Ranger, Shade, Sorceress. Different names, and also different abilities. That makes each game different, depending on which clan you are playing, and what clans your opponents are playing. There's a reference card for each Idol showing these different abilities:



Did I say Reference Card? Of course I meant: Spec Card! Why call something a Reference Card when you can invent a new term? Well here are the Spec Cards for each of the six Idols/Heroes, in order:













Fortunately, there's also a Reference guide explaining what the elements on the Reference cards ... errr... Spec cards are about:



"Mods!", you say? "Mana cost!", you say? Don't worry, I was just getting to that!

Mods

Strength mods are little rubber bands that are placed on the Idols (Inkas carrying Orbs - you remembered, right?), to modify their strength. Yup, real rubber bands! What other game can you think of lets you play with rubber bands, or wrap them onto your units? Red rubber bands for +1 to Attack strength, black rubber bands for +1 to Defense strength. They are added whenever your units takes out one of the opponent's Inkas in combat. The mods are very intuitive, as this reference chart clearly shows:



So to sum up, in each clan we have three different types of possible units. Counter-clockwise from bottom left: Inka in Ready mode, Inka in Guard mode, Elder (with 2 HPs), and an Idol (with no mods).



So an Inka is the basic unit, and is either in Ready mode or Guard mode. An Inka can pick up an Orb to become an Idol (or Hero). And an Idol can gain Mods (the black/red rubber bands) to become more powerful. It's not rocket science, is it? It is, however, Terakh science, so don't say you weren't warned!

Combat dice

Still with me? We're far from done yet, because there are still many exciting components to come! I haven't even mentioned yet that every clan comes with an 8 sided die to use for combat:



Combat is determined via various modifiers, and depending on which units are attacking or defending:



Mana stones

Now in order to perform actions like combat and spells, we need a magic resource. In this game it's called "mana". Original, I know! Shhh, just don't tell Richard Garfield, the creator of Magic the Gathering! Each turn a player gets to spend five mana, which are designated with mana stones:



The possibilities for the different actions are listed in a reference chart:



Cast Cards

We haven't even mentioned the Cast Cards yet! (rubs hands gleefully)



They come in a delightful square shaped box.



There are 72 of them altogether, and each turn every player gets to draw a new one from the common deck. They can be played at any time (although usually only used on a player's own turn). There are basically five different types of Cast Cards.



There are only two of the yellow bordered "Terakh Crisis" cards, which have an immediate and drastic effect for all players.



There are also black cards, which can be played at no cost, such as this one:



The other cards are one of three colours, and each have a "rune symbol" which corresponds to the artwork on the "Battle Plane":



These "rune symbols" on the cast cards are a casting requirement. A player must have a unit on the corresponding "trias" (coloured triangle with a rune symbol on the Battle Plane) in order to cast this spell.



Here are some sample Cast Cards.

An example Cast Card matching the Aqua Tria (blue) on board:



An example Cast Card matching the Vitale Tria (green) on board:



An example Cast Card matching the Infernal Tria (red) on board:



So what does all this gobbeldy-gook on these cards mean? Fortunately the game designers knew we were going to ask that question too, and included a convenient reference:



Stone Art! Did you notice the Stone Art? Of course you did! It really deserves a closer look, doesn't it! Here are some examples of the magnificent Stone Art on some selected Cast Cards. Okay, on second thought, the Stone Art isn't quite magnificent. Perhaps they conscripted a class of Grade 1 students to make these drawings. Even so, it deserves a look:



Can you figure out what those pictograms are depicting? "Impossible!", you say? Well, fortunately all the cards also have names on them that match the "Stone Art" - in just a moment I'll show you a list of the card names if you are really the detective type and want to match the pictures to the card names. But first, some more Stone Art, this time for the three colours with runic requirements matching those of the Aqua Trias, Vitale Trias, and Infernal Trias (ahh, well done! - you remembered that those are the fancy terms for the blue triangles, green triangles, and red triangles!):







Altogether there are nine different Cast Cards in each colour (there are some multiples of the same card), as displayed here:





Before we move onto other components, let's have one final look at some sample cards, showing how Cast Cards can affect Tria of the same color or other colors:





The Cast Cards are a great feature of the game. While the dice-based combat is fun, being able to cast spells and do special actions with these Cast Cards really adds a whole new element of fun and excitement to the game!

Hang in there, we're nearly done!

Gameplay

How does this all come together? Terakh is like a tactical war-game with dice-based combat ... crossed with an abstract ... crossed with elements of Magic the Gathering. Really, it's hard to classify! Just like the components!

First as many boards as players are set up, and players can place one of their units on any "trias" on any of the boards that they choose, in turns, until all Inkas are placed on the board. Then one Inka is converted to a Hero by adding one Orb per player. Finally each player adds their Elder. The Elder will be the target for the opponents to take out, and thus win the game. Here's a sample setup for a three player game:



As the game progresses, players can move their units, attack units of their opponents (using the D8s to determine the outcome of combat), rotate the Battle Planes, or return units to the board. From time to time, they can also cast spells that affect the outcome of combat or other things.

Here we see the Ranger player (green) in a good position in the same three player game, since his Elder is quite well protected, and his Hero (Idol) has one Attack mod.



As it turns out, the Hydra player (red) was even better situated, with an even more powerful Hero:



Although you should know that just like in Dungeon Twister, players can spin a Battle Plane to change its orientation (at the cost of 2 mana, and only if one of their Elders is on that plane - apparently the old geezers among the Terakh are the only folk in the clan who know how to do this).

But back to our game. Things would eventually develop in such a way that the Hydra player could steal the Ranger's Orb, and thus have two Heroes!



Yup, if one Hero isn't enough, you knock out your opponent's Hero, steal his Orb, and upgrade an Inka of your own to have a second Hero! If you manage to get your opponent's Elder down to 0 HPs (Hit Points), you win! An alternate win condition for a multi-player game is that when one player's Elder is eliminated, the strongest player left on the board at that point is the winner.

Directional Coin

How is turn order determined in the world of Terakh? Ah, I knew you were going to ask that! You were wondering about the Directional Coin, right?



How many other games do you know have a Directional Coin? Yes, each round the starting player (determined by highest dice roll) gets to flip this baby, and that determines whether the turn passes clock-wise or counter-clockwise for that particular round.



If you're the kind of person attracted to bright shiny metal objects, then you'll just love the Directional Coin!

Victory Pendant

Believe it or not, that just about the ends our overview of all the components of Terakh. But it seems that the game designers were not quite satisfied that their game would stand out from other games quite enough. Perhaps they thought the components were not sufficiently unusual or odd? So for good measure they included a metal "Victory Pendant", which the winning player could carry over from one game to the next, for extra bonuses.



It doesn't do a whole lot, but it has a high coolness factor!

Conclusion

So there you have it. In my mind, Terakh is an outstandingly strong contender for the Most Unusual Components Award:



As for gameplay, it's best described as a sci-fi themed war game on an abstract map with dice driven combat and magic cards that modify and affect outcomes (not unlike the way cards function in War of the Ring). "An abstract with tactical dice based combat and magic cards?" I hear you ask, puzzled. Yes, it's a bizarre concept, but it actually makes for a surprisingly fun game, so don't let this bizarre collection of components deter you too much from exploring Terakh!



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The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596
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Anselmo Diaz
United Kingdom
Crawley
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Amazing review. The most comprehensive I've ever seen on this site( or any site, really).

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Ender Wiggins
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Thanks for the positive encouragement. It was a challenge to figure out how the game worked and what everything was for, given the unusual components, so I hope this review helps speed up the process for others, and conveys some of the basic concepts of the game in pictorial form - it's nice to know that my efforts in writing the review were appreciated.

Edit: I realize that folks have to scroll up a LONG way to give a thumbs up, so my thanks go to all those who took the trouble to do so.
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Chris Hillery
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Well done! And now I'm sort of sad I didn't pick this up when it showed up on Tanga a few times...
 
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Diego Mascheroni
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Wow !

I've been always intrigued by this game.

Thanks for the great review.
 
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Paul Boos
United States
Falls Church
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Outstanding review, now I am sorry I haven't bought this yet. One thing, did you notice the back that it said choking hazard for 9 and under? How strange...
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Carl
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Most impressive review! I look forward to more in the future.
 
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Anthony DuLac
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Blaine
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Thank you for the high-quality review and pics. I donated a wee bit of Geek Gold to you for your hard work. Good deeds should be rewarded, after all!
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Daniel Val
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Oh crap... One more game I HAVE to buy, now.

BTW, excellent review and wonderful macro pictures. Congratulations!
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Confusion Under Fire
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Warrington
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When you approached this game did you hear feint drumming sounds at all?
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Gregory Bay
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GREAT REVIEW and a most intriguing game.
 
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"You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him fill the balloons."
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EndersGame wrote:

So to sum up, in each clan we have three different types of possible units. Clockwise from bottom left: Inka in Ready mode, Inka in Guard mode, Elder (with 2 HPs), and an Idol (with no mods).





Shouldn't the caption for this photo say "Counter-clockwise" (or "Anti-clockwise" for the Brits) ?

An excellent review. Now I want to own the game just for the cool components, never mind how it plays!

(Edited to insert photo and correct typo.)

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Ender Wiggins
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claymore_57 wrote:
Shouldn't the caption for this photo say "Counter-clockwise" (or "Anti-clockwise" for the Brits) ?

You are correct, thanks for pointing that out! Change made.
 
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Aaron Watson
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Ceej wrote:
Well done! And now I'm sort of sad I didn't pick this up when it showed up on Tanga a few times...


I second this woe. Super great review! Simply reviewing the components gave me a great idea how the game plays out.

I encourage you or any one else to continue this visual and unique way of reviewing a game!
 
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Chris
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Though here at journey's end I lie in darkness buried deep, beyond all towerrs strong and high, beyond all mountains steep, above all shadows rides the Sun, and Stars forever dwell: I will not say the Day is done, nor bid the Stars farewell.
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I can see why it's called a "creative" strategy game. I like how they put a lot of creativity into the components and the odd names of everything. Would you also say that the gameplay is creative? What I mean is, are there creative game mechanics? Does Terakh allow for creative decisions for the players?
 
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Patrick Curlin
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Wow! what an outstanding review - I doubt I will play this game, but the review was certanly fun to read. Keep up the good work.
 
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Eric Leslie
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As others have said, a superb review. Just convinced me to pick it up on Tanga (where it is currently $18, for anyone who reads this really soon).
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Ender Wiggins
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Darth Headbutt wrote:
I can see why it's called a "creative" strategy game. I like how they put a lot of creativity into the components and the odd names of everything. Would you also say that the gameplay is creative? What I mean is, are there creative game mechanics? Does Terakh allow for creative decisions for the players?

As I said in my review, Terakh is really a unique mixture of wargame (tactical dice-based combat), abstract, and MtG type spells. It's this combination of different elements that makes it interesting.

Creative and strategic decisions? Well, obviously in any game where combat is determined by rolling dice, there's a definite element of luck, and the player that wins won't necessarily be the one that is the best player. But certainly players will have to play strategically in the way that they choose their actions, place and move their units, utilize the unique strengths of their Hero (=Idol), and capitalize on opportunities presented by Cast Cards as they come up.

One of the game's strengths is that each player gets five mana per turn, and it is entirely up to the player as to what actions they will choose for that turn. This is probably where the biggest tactical and strategic choices have to be made, as well as the actions relating to movement and attack. I suppose you could still lose even if you make good decisions, if you get hosed by bad luck. But on the whole the game seems well-balanced, and good decisions would tend to get rewarded, while poor decisions give the opportunity for your opponent to wrest the initiative.

It's not pure strategy like chess or Go, and to me that's what I like about the game: a weaker player still has a chance of getting an upset win if everything goes his way. Both players will need to make the most of the opportunities that chance gives them, and play creatively and carefully. In that respect it's a good blend of strategy and luck, which arguably increases the game's replay value.

For some good comments on the extent that Terakh allows for strategic gameplay, consult these reviews:

Terakh - A pleasant surprise by Matthew Weekes
Review: Terakh by Tom Vasel
Terakh: an original interesting game by Zom Bee

It may be of interest to know that in The Tom Vasel Awards for 2005, Tom Vasel declared Terakh as the runner up for "Most innovative game of the year" behind Deflexion (which got first place because it has lasers).
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Chris Hillery
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It's on a Tanga again right now - $17 this time. "Just a few left!", it says, although it's been up for a few hours. I grabbed a couple!
 
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D V
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At Tanga again, this time for $15.
 
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Sight Reader
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Best review I've ever seen - it feels like watching "Stargate". I'm worried it might be too complicated or run too long for my non-gamer friends.
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Scott Johnson
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$13.99 at Tanga today.
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Nello Cozzolino
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Best review I've ever seen
 
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Simon Woodward
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EndersGame wrote:
Mana stones

Now in order to perform actions like combat and spells, we need a magic resource. In this game it's called "mana". Original, I know! Shhh, just don't tell Richard Garfield, the creator of Magic the Gathering! Each turn a player gets to spend five mana, which are designated with mana stones:



Fascinating review. Although I must point out that Richard Garfield didn't come up with the word "mana", he stole it from the Maori (the indigenous people of New Zealand). A rough translation would be "intrinsic authority". Which fits ok with it's usage in M:TG I suppose, although it's sort of weird hearing a Maori word used in a fantasy setting. It's an everyday word here in New Zealand.

cool

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D. Quinn Nix
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manukajoe wrote:
Although I must point out that Richard Garfield didn't come up with the word "mana", he stole it from the Maori (the indigenous people of New Zealand). A rough translation would be "intrinsic authority". Which fits ok with it's usage in M:TG I suppose, although it's sort of weird hearing a Maori word used in a fantasy setting.


Actually, it was the sci-fi/fantasy author Larry Niven who first "stole" the name and concept of mana from the Maori people of New Zealand, for his 1978 novella, The Magic Goes Away. (And then, more than likely, Richard Garfield "stole" it from Niven, and not directly from the Maori.)

According to Wikipedia...

Wikipedia wrote:
Fantasy writer Larry Niven in his 1969 short story "Not Long Before the End" described mana as a natural resource which is used or channeled by wizards to cast magic spells. He expanded on this idea in other works, notably his 1978 novella The Magic Goes Away. Mana is a limited resource in Niven's work, a fact which eventually will lead to the end of all magic in his antediluvian fantasy setting when all mana is depleted.

Many subsequent fantasy settings (role-playing games in particular) have followed Niven in his use of mana.
 
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