There's been a recent glut of eco-themed board games but Igan Mich's Terraternity stands out from the crowd both for its unique combination of mechanics and its educational detail.
You play using four experts, each with their own particular capabilities. The game takes 2-4 players, so if you play with four each player will take a single specialist. But, even with fewer players, you still use all the specialists. The aim of the game is to make countries around the globe carbon neutral. That means 'activating' country cards, making use of and trading the resources they produce and using them to build renewable energy power plants. That sounds like a rather preachy theme, and of course it is. Games with this theme mostly just preach to the converted but Terraternity benefits from being built around a solid body of research. There are cards for countries across the globe, large and small, and for each there are details on that country's energy signature so that, while playing, you're sure to learn a great deal of political and physical geography. The cards even bear an OCR code that you can scan with your smartphone to learn even more about the country's geopolitics.
But Terraternity isn't just a well-researched educational worker placement, resource management euro game; it adds into the mix a simple but clever dexterity element. Throughout the game, players will be placing out black cubes that represent CO2 output. You'll generate cubes whenever you activate a country card and even while building a renewable-energy power station. The neat trick here is that the cubes have to be added to an ever-growing stack that's piled onto a cardboard construct. You're not allowed to touch the cubes already placed, so each turn becomes an increasingly delicate exercise in dexterity. And when, sooner or later, the tower of cubes topples, it's a disaster! Players face a Disaster card which will make life more difficult for them, tho' it may hit some harder than others. When you hit five Disasters, it's game over for the planet and everyone loses.
In our Board's Eye View plays we've especially enjoyed the physical tension of Terraternity's dexterity element, tho' it makes the game extra challenging! Terraternity can be played either semi-competitively or as a fully co-operative game - and thematically it works best as a full co-op. We're used to co-op games with disasters turning up at regular or irregular intervals, as per Pandemic (Z-Man), so it's refreshing to have a game where the avoidance of disaster is seemingly in our own steady hands... When your renewable power plants produce green energy, you can choose to use it to offset carbon so that you don't have as many black cubes to stack. You will quite literally have to balance the choice between the positive benefits of levelling up and reducing the risk of cascading carbon disaster.
Tho' the dexterity element is Terraternity's standout feature, designer Igan Mich clearly doesn't want to find it excludes people from play. The game is currently on Kickstarter and one of the stretch goals is a wooden cup into which the carbon cubes can be placed. Eventually, of course, the cup will runneth over to trigger those Disaster cards but it'll offer an option that makes the game more readily playable by, for example, older players with less steady hands.
We've focused here on the full board game but Terraternity also comes in a pure card game version. This retains the carbon cube dexterity challenge and uses broadly similar country, energy and action cards but without the worker placement and resource management aspects of the board game version. There's no central board and no specialists to deploy, making for a shorter, simpler but still challenging 2-6 player game.
Terraternity is on Kickstarter right now. Click here to check out the campaign for both the board game and card game editions.