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Subject: Gaia Project - Farts of Wisdom rss

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Maria Fennimore
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New Jersey
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Gaia Project is a great game, but sitting in the long shadow of Terra Mystica we must be asking ourselves: Is being a great game enough?

Terra Mystica, the 2012 game from Jens Drogemuller and Helge Ostertag, is a semi-abstract game of expansion and development focused around building towns for one of the fantasy races that inhabits the land. While the rulebook tries its hardest to inject flavor and story behind the pushing of wooden cubes that make up most of the game, ultimately it developed a reputation as a brain-burner. Players ended up spending most of their time doing sums in their heads rather than imagining the actions of their supposed race. This did not, however, hold Terra Mystica back as it is hailed as one of the greatest games of its type and rocketed into BGG’s top 10.

Gaia Project uses the same action selection mechanic as Terra Mystica and takes it into space, replacing the familiar fantasy races with 14 new and unique aliens. Gone are Terra Mystica's coins and worker cubes, with money and workers now being represented by trackers on the individual player boards. However, Gaia Project fills the space it just saved with new resources and bits, leaving it with the same, or even more intense table-sprawl as Terra Mystica. Terra Mystica was about changing the map to match the preferred terrain of your race. This theme makes more sense when applied to the colonization of planets and helps Gaia Project’s efforts to be a little juicier than its predecessor. In Terra Mystica, the changing of terrain was represented by shovel icons, making one wonder “what shoveling process could change a desert into a mountain?” In Gaia Project, terraforming is done by planet-sized engines which must be earned in advance, giving a more appropriate weight to the grand undertaking of changing an entire ecosystem. That said, teaching the new system of terrain changing is more difficult than before, especially for those who have never played Terra Mystica.

Another questionably themed mechanic from Terra Mystica, the Cult system, has been replaced by technology tracks. These have also been updated so that the bonuses each track gives are now specific and themed. The economic track gives extra production and the research track grants even more knowledge points to be used for further technologies. In Terra Mystica, the fire track gave you power, and the water track gave you... also power. The new tracks make the process of choosing advancements a matter of personal preference, whereas, in Terra Mystica, only relative positioning mattered. In Gaia Project, there is a benefit to advancing towards the more extreme bonuses available at the top of each track, even if your opponents have ignored that track entirely.

Most importantly, the board is now modular, giving a different map and forcing different strategies every game. If you were tired of the fighting over the same spaces in Terra Mystica game after game, this is a welcome relief. The modular board also lends itself to a cleaner 2 player experience.

On the potentially petty side of things, the new components are more detailed and shiny, because they’re made of plastic. This change in components makes perfect sense for a game whose location has been taken from the edge of the wilderness to the edge of space, but the weight and tactile appeal of Terra Mystica’s wooden pieces cannot be overstated. While Gaia Project is unquestionably a more polished object, this polish removes some of the charm present in Terra Mystica.

Overall, Gaia Project is a blast to play and a worthy successor to Terra Mystica, it just isn't necessarily a must-buy for Terra Mystica players who are still enjoying the original game. Gaia Project presents a similar puzzle with the same level of player interaction present in Terra Mystica. Slight changes to the rules represent an overall improvement, but whether this improvement is worth the price of an entire game will depend on the reader’s budget.

For images and more short reviews please check out @BoxFartBandit
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Robert
Germany
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I paid 100 Geek Gold so that you can read this! :-)
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Nice review!

Regarding the wood-vs-plastic topic: I'm still on the fence between the wooden abstract buildings of Terra Mystica and the detailed heavy-duty plastic buildings of Gaia Project. I guess plastic buildings would suit TM less than wooden buildings would suit GP.

Out of curiosity: does somebody know which type of material costs more? Most of the wooden pieces of TM are not specific to the game (only the strongholds and maybe the sanctuaries have an "unusual" form not found in other games) which may reduce their price, whereas the GP plastic buildings clearly are custom-made (and in a very nice quality - also the other pieces are shiny and look like they'll last forever).
 
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Space Trucker
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Nice review, I share your conclusion!

Some comments/nitpicking on specific details:
BoxFartBandit wrote:
While the rulebook tries its hardest to inject flavor and story behind the pushing of wooden cubes that make up most of the game, ultimately it developed a reputation as a brain-burner. Players ended up spending most of their time doing sums in their heads rather than imagining the actions of their supposed race. This did not, however, hold Terra Mystica back as it is hailed as one of the greatest games of its type and rocketed into BGG’s top 10.
Partly I agree here. TM is definitly very appealing to player who love optimizing. But that view is a tad to narrow for me.
There are some actions/activities that players in general like very much (collecting, building things up, seing things grow). TM (and Gaia, too) strongly address the 2nd and third part, which I believe is the 2nd reason why it's so successful. Starting with 2 little buildings and ending with >10 partly big ones feels rewarding.
(That's not my personal thought, I borrowed the general idea from a popular German reviewer and "Spiel des Jahres" jury member).

BoxFartBandit wrote:
the Cult system, has been replaced by technology tracks. The new tracks make the process of choosing advancements a matter of personal preference, whereas, in Terra Mystica, only relative positioning mattered.
Cults in TM are not that simple, in roughly the first 2/3 of the game the variable cult bonuses are much more important than relative position.

BoxFartBandit wrote:
In Terra Mystica, the changing of terrain was represented by shovel icons, making one wonder “what shoveling process could change a desert into a mountain?” In Gaia Project, terraforming is done by planet-sized engines which must be earned in advance, giving a more appropriate weight to the grand undertaking of changing an entire ecosystem.
Terraforming of normal homelands in Gaia is still done with shovel equivalent actions. The new planet sized engines are a completely new mechanic which is eclusively used to force the new purple "Trandimensional Planets" into your dimension, turning it into a green "Gaia Planet".
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Chris Ruf
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Acworth
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Haven't even read it yet, but thumbs up for the title.
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Maria Fennimore
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DocCool wrote:
Regarding the wood-vs-plastic topic: I'm still on the fence between the wooden abstract buildings of Terra Mystica and the detailed heavy-duty plastic buildings of Gaia Project.


Thank you! I am with you on that fence. While I enjoy the tactical feel of playing with the Terra Mystica pieces, I also love the look of Gaia Project. What a hard life I live sitting on a fence between two great games.
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