Friday, 8 April 2016

'Terra' - A decent board game where you learn stuff!

I like board gaming. I like all sorts of board and card games, but tend to prefer the 'Euro style' strategy board games, good two player games and fun party games. There's a rare class of games I'm always on the look out for though, and that's a decent game where you learn something new. Now there's plenty of so called educational games out there that are popular with schools and teachers but to be honest they're usually pretty awful. There either basic roll and move games with a pasted on theme and no meaningful decisions, or they info dump knowledge onto kids which puts them off completely. Some basic trivia games are alright, but I like it when they do something more interesting than just firing off a succession of questions.

Which brings me nicely to 'Terra' a board game from noted board game designer Friedemann Friese. This is all about geographical knowledge but rather than just testing your trivia knowledge - do you know the capital city of Peru etc - it gets you thinking about geography, and a bit of history too.

The board is quite simple - it's a map of the world, dividend into many different regions, and there are also three number lines, a distance line, a date line and a general number line. Each round, a question card is shown, and players take it in turns to place cubes on the board which they think correspond to the correct answers. It helps if I show you a card.

When the card is in the card holder, only the top card half of the card is displayed. It will display the name of something, a place or a thing, along with a photo. In this case it is 'Sunsphere'. Below the photo there's three questions you can answer. One is always the Area, i.e. where on the map this is, the other two will be some other measurement or date - in this case, the diameter of the sunsphere, and the year when the World's Fair was held here.

Players take it in turns to drop one of their cubes on the board, either in an area, or on one of the number/date lines, until everyone has passed. Then players get 7 points for each correct answer, or 3 points for each cube that is close, i.e. adjacent to a correct area or zone on a number line. Careful though, if you get incorrect answers, you might not get all of your cubes back.

The second half of the card displays the answers, and some additional information. This only gets revealed when everyone has passed.

There's 200 cards in the game, which may not seem a lot, but you only actually play with 6 cards in each game, so it should last you a while. What I really like is that it really gets you thinking about the topics, and even if you don't know the answer, you can have a guess, or tag along with another player who you think does know the correct answer (you can only have 1 cube per space, but you can get points for playing adjacent, and sometimes, the answer will cover several spaces).  We played this with just two of us, and it was a good game. I can't wait to try it with more players though, as I think it would provoke more discussion and debate, which can only enhance the game.