Gaia Project is the newly released “spiritual successor” to Terra Mystica. The designers did not hide the fact that it was going to be a new and improved version of their highly ranked original game. They made “Terra Mystica” in space and the hype has been very real. Now that it’s out, just how improved is it? Short answer? Tons. Long answer?

1. The Fat Got Cut: I’ve played an insane amount of Terra Mystica. I have the app, the Steam version, and my own physical copy with a fancy insert that I love to show off. I love the race on the cult track, each player waiting for the right time to sacrifice his Priests but not wanting to be left behind. The race for the scarse favor tiles and the chess match of which spaces on the board you take and when. Loved it. All of it.

But I didn’t realize how much fat could be trimmed until Gaia Project. They combined the Cult Track and the favor tiles into a board and wove the mechanics together. Then they trimmed the round bonuses into ONLY bonuses that happened during the round and not after. Making it simpler but still providing the same incentives of things to do during a round. They didn’t include any terrain tiles except for one special one. This cut down on about 10lbs of cardboard and a lot of table space.

The game is LEAN. And it feels amazing.

2. Set Up Variance Increased: Terra Mystica had 2 maps but only if you had the expansion. Gaia Project‘s map is modular so the possibilities are multiplied by a ton. Each piece, of which there are 7 in a two player game and it goes up from there, can be rotated in any way and some are even double sided.

Not only that, all of the technology tiles which are basically favor tiles are attached entirely randomly to different tracks which change their overall functionality. Add all of that to the usual round objectives and bonus tiles and each game should feel like a brand new challenge and a puzzle that’ll burn your brain.

3. More Points, More Routes: Gaia Project is an absolutely perfect example of a point salad. Points per building, points for specific round bonuses, points for being high on different tracks, so many points for everyone that Oprah should sponsor it.

With the addition of new mechanics, resources and action spaces, the ways you can score and navigate this point puzzle seem endless. Want to build that big building but don’t have the resources? Use an action space, burn power and convert it, build a research station to gain a tech tile which raises you up the track that gives you power cycle and instant resources. Don’t like any of those? Burn your power, build satellites to finish your federation, gain the bonus tile for it that gives you workers then spend 3 Q.I.C.s to re-score it for double the value!

See what I mean? It’s amazing.

4. Faction Design Space: This is the last thing I’ll mention because I feel that it was Terra Mystica‘s biggest strength. Each of the factions were always so unique. The mermaids can sail much further, the giants can terraform consistently and the darklings use priests when everyone else uses workers.

Gaia Project takes this further. Swapping the position of the big buildings, allowing resource conversions that are otherwise impossible and manipulating the power pool in new and innovative ways. Each of the 14 factions feels genuinely unique. There are some that are clearly meant for a more basic and straightforward approach while others are incredibly specialized but each of them have their own identity and I’m very excited to master them.

I have more to say but my group has just finished setting the game up and I have to beat my high score. 167. Can you beat it?

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