If we go with standard (albeit simplified) terrain types, we have a base to work from when figuring out how the Seven States interact with and generate different types of power. We have the broad, flat plains, wild woodland areas, resource-laden highlands, rich, fertile marshes, and powerful, rushing rivers. Each terrain type comes with inherent advantages and disadvantages.

Plains are large and open, but vulnerable to attack from all sides (including up and down). Woods are dense and difficult to build in, not to mention they conceal many foes. Hills provide resources and protection, only to those willing to work hard to gain them. Marshes are breeding grounds for all kinds of life, including many harmful ones. Rivers provide a valuable network of connections, but can’t be easily stopped.

Since The Settlers of Catan is the more realistically grounded (compared to Magic, I mean), I figured using similar resources as the basis for the Natural state would be a good starting point. Woods provide lumber, hills provide metal, marshes provide clay, rivers provide fish, and plains provide grain. Together they provide food and building materials, but also build sites and opportunities for trade connections.

After that, we want some kind of hierarchy of needs, or a web of dependency for each terrain type. Collecting all types should be possible, but there need to be inherent advantages and disadvantages to each. I thought an approach to this that combined both Magic’s concepts and the Chinese elements would be interesting.

Woods > Marshes > Plains > Hills > Rivers
Trees drink swamps, swamps flood plains, plains surround hills, hills block rivers, rivers wash away trees.

Hills > Marshes > Rivers > Plains > Woods
Hills block swamps, swamps dilute rivers, rivers divide plains, plains choke out trees, trees cover hills.

You could kind of look at it like each of Magic’s colors overcoming both one of its traditional allies plus one of its traditional enemies, while simultaneously being overcome by one of its allies and one of its enemies in turn. It’s really just another incarnation of the rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock system. It honestly doesn’t matter the configuration or justification, only the consistency.

If you’re going to say that Hills beat Rivers and Swamps, it’s okay to justify it by saying that it rises above and block both waters. You just have to stick with that story and not allow for variations from the main theme. It’s when you say that its justification really allows water to erode Hills away that you lose your internal balance.

For the moment, the point is the balance, not the in-game justifications for the balance. Ideally, you want your balance supported by your justifications, and it continues to be important the farther you get from the core. You have to maintain balance no matter the justifications. The game breaks when balance is lost.