Tawantinsuyu - A Short Review

Hi all,

I had posted recently that my latest purchase was #Tawantinsuyu: The Inca Empire and there seemed to be some interest in a review.

I haven't had a ton of plays but I figured I could throw down a short review to at least give everyone out there an idea of what it is about.  Perhaps it will pique your interest to investigate further or perhaps it will take it off your wish list.  Either way, that's useful!

Setup

Setup is reasonably simple.  There is a bit of fiddliness with the initial starting workers but nothing worth worrying about.

The interesting part is that each player gets a hand of 8 cards.  They can then spend 5 of those cards and keep 3 as their starting hands.  This is a bit different from the other T games (#Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar, #Teotihuacan: City of Gods, and #Tekhenu: Obelisk of the Sun) which all give you a limited choice of specialized starting tiles to pick from.  

The larger scope of choice gives you a bit of crunch right from the word go.  And there are a large variety of activities you can do with those cards too!  However, all of those choices are hard to figure out on your first game.  Even in subsequent play it might create some analysis paralysis (AP) for players that are prone to it.  For me personally, I REALLY like it!

Solo Setup

For solo setup you use the back of one of the player aids.  (Interestingly every player aid has this on the back so if you create your own cardboard components you could play with 3 other solo players.)

The solo player gets 4 god cards and a bunch of other starting resources.  The aid really lays out the details for all of the steps. However, in a couple of cases I think they could have added a line or two more and I found myself double checking the rulebook for little things I might have missed.

Overall though the solo setup is easy.

Gameplay

I'll say it straight off that I really enjoy the game play.  I've only played three games but I can see I've only scratched the surface.  Looking at the image below you can see that the decision space is huge.  

Things to consider when placing a worker:

1) If you do not place in the top segment right below your priest in the top of the temple you will have to pay food.  The further down and across from your priest the more you pay. Stairs mitigate some of this cost but will give your opponent VP if you use their stairs.  (Which you must do if they are on the side of the temple you are using.)

2) You must have a god card in hand that matches the symbol you plan to use or you can pay 1 gold to use any spot you want. (Gold is a wild resource and can be hard to come by.)

3) The colour of worker you use will give you a specific bonus action.  For some of these workers you want to use them on a space with their colour.  You only have two workers at a time and you can't always guarantee yourself you'll have the right worker you need.

4) You get a bonus action for each worker of the same colour in a connected space.

5) You can only do actions connected to the space where you place your worker and you must distribute the actions you take evenly.

6) If you have a statue and use a god card with the same symbol you get the bonus on the bottom of the card.  

Is that enough for you?  

This is not a dance you are going to get on the first game.  It is hard to know which of those elements to focus on as well.  In some games a ray of light comes down from the game gods and shines on a space and your brain tells you, "That one right there is the best play for you right now!"

That hasn't happened to me with Tawantinsuyu yet.  I can tell where there is a decent play but seeing a great play, or setting myself up for a future great play, is still a work in progress.

Instead of taking a worker action you can instead take two secondary actions.  You can get two god cards, draw two warrior cards and take one, recruit a worker from the nomads for free, or move your high priest and activate the space.

This opens up an entire new section to the game because when you activate a space everyone else may follow.  Do you have the resources to follow when someone else moves their priest?  Should you adjust your plans to take that in to account?  Where do you move your priest to because you want to activate a certain action but your priests position also affects the cost if your workers go roaming.  Some spaces may not be much good for you so you can take a gold instead of the space benefits but the other players can still get the space benefits.

I'm going to skip over the priest actions or this will definitely not be a short review.  I'll just say that there is a lot of strategy around which action to take and when that impacts all the players around the table.  It's a great way to make sure you are looking up and seeing what everyone else is up to.

After all of the meeples are removed from the village the person doing the removing gets a festival bonus and then the festival occurs where a variety of bonuses, payments, and scoring happens.  

As you are limited to only 2 meeples at the end of your turn but you are always allowed to recruit one (and then toss one if you are above 2) the players have some control over how fast or slow the game goes.  Knowing when to rush or slow down the game is another aspect of learning I see here.

The gameplay is an interesting mix.  You have to take the god cards, army cards, and meeples that you acquire and use them the best you can towards the strategy you are trying to take.  

The best rewards are when you go all in for weavings, reach the top of the temple track, get the most conquests, etc.  But you won't always have, or be able to get, what you need to go all the way with some of the scoring.  

It's strategic play mixed with tactical which really enjoy.

Solo Gameplay

I found the solo player initially a bit fiddly but after the first play I realized that the back of the player aid really does have everything you need...except it could really use a bit of a flow chart.  Some arrows pointing between sections to help remind people which order to evaluate things would be super useful.  A minor complaint and I'm sure someone will come out with a flow chart or something at some point.  

First evaluate if the solo players priest can do any of the priest actions.  If so it will do that. 

To place workers rolls a special 6 sided dice with one 1, two 2's & 3's and one 4 on it.  Then take the actions in each section corresponding to the number.  Move the number that many spaces.

It's an interesting way to doing things and I think it works quite well.  

You'll need to read the bottom of each section carefully because sometimes the solo player gets army cards or other bonuses after the action.  It also gets bonuses depending on which worker it gets.

It has instructions for the priest actions and follow actions which are pretty clear.  There was at least one or two questions I had to go online to resolve however. 

The solo player has a few exceptions on scoring around weavings and god cards which you have to be mindful of but mostly scores the same as the player.

Components

Generally speaking the components are good.  It's hard to go wrong with wooden meeples and resources with nice thick cardboard for everything else.

The god cards and army cards are small size cards which I sometimes don't like but in this case I think it keeps the game footprint small.  Depending on your strategy you could have a lot of army cards on the table and a lot of god cards in the offer so using the smaller card size keeps things small.

Which is great because this leaves space for the large board where all of the action happens!

One thing it doesn't have is a big attention grabbing component. #Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar has the gears, #Teotihuacan: City of Gods has the pyramid, and #Tekhenu: Obelisk of the Sun has the Obelisk.

It's not that it's needed.  Just an interesting observation.  In a way the board with all of the placement spots is it's own attention grabbing component. 

Final Thoughts

I'm a big fan of all of the T games I've played up until this point. #Tawantinsuyu: The Inca Empire still feels like a T game but man does it mix it up as well. #Teotihuacan: City of Gods is my favourite of them but I could see Tawantinsuyu in the running for top prize after I get more plays in.

I think this game will require multiple plays until things really kick in as it's hard to take it all in at once.   (I didn't even cover coquest or army cards in any detail which have their own things to consider!)

I would recommend this game to anyone who likes taking in a LOT of information and then having to make a decision.  If you or another player in your group is AP prone you'll need a lot of patience around the table for sure. 

I'm not AP prone at all and in fact I'm happy to think about something for a reasonable amount of time and then go with my gut.  However, with this game I was definitely finding I had to take a lot longer to decide what to do and if I want to setup some really GREAT moves it would take a lot of thinking time.  And while there is time to think on your opponents turn(s) what they do could cause you to have to rethink everything for your turn again.

All of that said, it's a super crunchy set of interconnected actions that forces you to be tactical while trying hard to be strategic. 

I really enjoyed it.  

Solo Final Thoughts

The nice thing about a solo mode is that you can take all the time you need to find the best move you can make without worrying about leaving others waiting. 

The solo player somewhat felt like they were mimicking another player.  It won't snatch up a good spot from you unless a bunch of luck factors are against you but it does throw meeples out on the board, remove god cards, participate on conquest etc.  

After the initial learning game it feels pretty easy to run.  I did end up making notes for some tricky questions and putting them in the box as I know I'll forget them if I don't play it again soon.  

The bot difficulty at the default level is fine.  I won both of my solo games against it fairly handily.  Luckily there are ways to bump up the difficulty which I might look in to in future plays.

Multiplayer is still my favourite way to play it but you can get some of the same feelings through the solo mode.  If you really enjoy solo modes I think I can recommend this one.

 

 



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Supporter12 months ago

I'd like to play this one... but someone else teach me haha

12 months ago

The board looks very interesting, I'm intrigued

Premium User12 months ago

It's definitely different from the usual I think.

12 months ago

yeah, the more I look into it, the more interested I am

Premium User12 months ago

Thanks for the review! I agree with your thoughts on the lack of attention grabbing components. I don't think it needs one as the boards have grabbed my attention enough! 

Premium User12 months ago

Agreed.  The huge play space is definitely an eye grabber!

Supporter12 months ago

Wow, I have to admit I've never even see pictures of this one. When did it come out? Did the Obelisk one come out before or after this one? Any game designed by David T. with a solo mode needs a good look because he designs some amazing solo modes.

Premium User12 months ago

This one came out a couple of weeks ago. I found out about when I was looking up Tekhenu but found this one instead somehow. #Tekhenu: Obelisk of the Sun came out before this one  by a few months. 

Generally speaking I like his solo designs. For complex games they are usually not too fiddly and do a good job of approximating another player. 

Supporter12 months ago

Kinda strange to have two T games come out at the same time? I've heard next to nothing about this one and tons about the Obelisk one. 

Premium User12 months ago

I agree that it's unusual.  

Tekhenu was designed by both Daniele Tascini and David Turczi. 

Tawantinsuyu only lists David Turczi.

When looking at some questions on the BGG forums David refers to other people in several cases for rule clarifications.  So the impression I get is that maybe he did the overall design but other people tested and hashed out the details?

Alternately perhaps they had Tekhenu in the can for a while but didn't get it out the door for whatever reason so the two of them came out close together.  

Either way, I'm happy to have some more T games to solo so I can get my physical board game time in. :)

Supporter12 months ago

Yeah! I'm definitely going to have to pick one of these up. Just don't know which one. 

Premium User12 months ago

It's a tough choice as they are all good but they are all different really.  It is up to what you like in your games I suppose.

 

Supporter12 months ago

Honestly I'm leaning towards this one. But that's without doing any research really at all. 

Premium User12 months ago

I'd check them out in TTS or some other online site to compare.  I don't think you can go wrong though.

Supporter12 months ago

Any thoughts on which one has the best solo mode?

Premium User12 months ago

Hmmm.  I have limited experience with them solo so consider this a preliminary opinion.

Tzolkin doesn't have an official solo mode.  I played a variant once so I'll leave it off.

Out of the remaining 3 I've played I would suggest Teotihuacan as best follow pretty closely by Tawantinsuyu and Tekhenu.  I think Teotihuacan feels most like playing another player without being overly taxing to run. 

i found Tekhenu the hardest to run of the 3 and Tawantinsuyu felt the least like I was playing another person.  Neither of them are bad but Teotihuacan is just a bit better. 

 

Supporter12 months ago

Ok yes that meshes with what I've heard too. Thanks for the information!

Moderator Level 112 months ago

I have yet to play any of the famous "T" games.

I have always been worried that for solo play they would get to be pretty fiddly. Is that a legitiment thought or no?

Supporter12 months ago

I haven't played any T games either.

Premium User12 months ago

Tabletop simulator has a bunch of them along with tabletopia if you are a member.  Good way to check them out before you buy. 

Supporter12 months ago

I have a hard time using those programs. If I'm going to play computer than I'd just rather play computer. 

Premium User12 months ago

Fair enough.  I use them to play with my board gaming friends while maintaining social distancing.  It's certainly not as good as being in the same room with them and playing a physical copy but it's what we have for now. 

They aren't too bad once you've played a game or two but if you are going to play solo then physical is the way to go.  

Supporter12 months ago

My group has done that as well. We actually played an entire Imperial Assault campaign over TTS back in the spring. It was fun, but just not the same. 

Premium User12 months ago

Also #Teotihuacan: City of Gods at least is on Board Game Arena. I'm not sure if it's one of the free games or not because I have a premium account, but I will say the implementation is wonderful.

Premium User12 months ago

Good call out!

Premium User12 months ago

I find that some aspects can be a bit fiddly for the first play or two but then things run smoothly. They tend to abstract out enough of the decision making so it doesn’t get overwhelming. 

As an example, when the high priest moves and activates instead of trying to figure out which other secondary action to take you just give them an army card.  God cards are not useful to it and taking a nomad every time would speed up the game a lot so they keep it simple.  

They also abstract weaving a great deal as well. 

Still the first game I made a lot of errors.  And if I left it for a long time before playing again I might make the same errors hence I wrote down some notes for future me. 

Bottom line, for a game of this complexity the solo mode is not too fiddly.  

Premium User12 months ago

Errors happen for me my first plays regardless of whether or not a game is complex or not. I attribute it to my excitement to play - might miss some rules just because I'm itching to give it a shot.

Premium User12 months ago

True and my second play was way smoother.

I try to keep it relative to a middle weight game.  It's a lot more fiddly than playing #Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale or #Villagers solo for example even after you've learned the ruleset.