Teotihuacan: A Short Review

#Teotihuacan: City of Gods like many of the other T games is a mixture of various game types.  I would describe this one as a "dice worker rondel" game and my favourite of the T games.  (This includes #Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar, #Tekhenu: Obelisk of the Sun, and #Tawantinsuyu: The Inca Empire. You can see further reviews here for Tawantinsuyu & Tekhenu.)

I believe that and were interested in a quick review so let's take a closer look at the game!

Setup

Teotihuacan has my favouriite board of the T series.  It's certainly a very busy board but after the first play it becomes quite clear.

There are 8 spots around the board where the dice workers will move to do certain actions.  The left middle is the temple tracks, the right middle is the eclipse tracker and the path of the dead, and in the centre is where the pyramid will be built.  The game includes boards for spots 2 - 7 which allow you to shuffle where they are on the board which can adjust strategies.

To setup the board you place out the technology tiles:

Set out the noble houses and the eclipse trackers.  The white is on 0 and the black one will depend on the number of players:

Bonus tiles and discovery tiles on the temple tracks, discovery tiles at the various worship spots and the palace as well.:

Decoration tiles:

You will also setup some pyramid tiles in the contruction spot and the pyramid will have some starting tiles based on the number of players.

Here's the setup board:

Next up players get thier starting resource tiles and an amount of cocoa depending on where they are in the player order.  They pick 3 unique places on their starting tiles to place their three starting dice:

For this game I decided to try for masks as I had one to start with and there were a lot on the board.  I also grabbed the tile with 3 cocoa and 5 wood. Along with the stone I could have a strong contruction strategy.

The 4th worker goes in the ascension area of the board.  (More on that later.)  For a game with less than 4 dummy dice are also put on the board.

How do you play?

On your turn you can move a worker or unlock any number of locked worshippers for free rather than the normal 3 cocoa cost.  

On a normal turn you take one of your dice and move it around the board clockwise 1 - 3 spaces.  When you get to the space you can do a couple of things.

1) Collect cocoa.  You add up the number of colours of dice in the spot you are landing on and you get that much cocoa plus one.  (So a minimum of 1 to a maximum of 5.)  

2) Worship: You place your worker in the worship spot in the space (not all spaces have them), spending 1 cocoa to kick out any worker already in there, and then you can take one of the two worship actions or both by spending cocoa (spending cocoa to do things is going to be a trend here). The worship actions will usually include a bump up the temple track as well as a discovery tile.  To take the discovery tile you must be able to pay for it.  Your worker is now locked there until you unlock it.

The palace has 3 special palace worship spots along with a discovery tile.  The palace worship spots gets more powerful depending on the power of the dice used.

3) Main Action: Here is where the meat of the game comes in and things get interesting.  First of all, you must pay 1 cocoa per colour of dice in the area you are going to, including your own, before you can take the main action.  (So 0 - 4 cocoa.)

The strength of the action you can take typically depends on the number of your dice in the area plus the lowest numbered dice.  When the action is completed you will increase the value on one or more of your dice, potentially triggering an ascension.  

With a 1 power dice you can't even get a wood on the forest tile.  You get one cocoa and the worker gets bumped up to power 2:

On the next turn I moved my power 2 worker in from the technology area, spent 1 cocoa as there was one colour already there, and got 2 wood.  With a third 2 power dice I would get 3 cocoa and 3 wood and 2 upgrades.  Things start really getting strong as you move up in power and dice numbers.

The actions are:

- Gather wood, stone, gold: The amount of goods you get depend on the strength of your dice.

- Gain technology: Spend gold to get benefits!  Better or more dice allow you to get the second tier techs.  If other players get a tech you already have you score some victory points.

Because I had that starting gold and I am going to try a building strategy I took the tech that allows me to get an extra wood, stone, or gold whenever I acquire those resources.

-Build a noble house: The nobles spot allows you to spend wood to build noble buildings.  This moves you up on the avenue of the dead and scores you points.  More workers means you can get more points

- Decorate the pyramid: Spend gold to lavishly decorate the pyramid!  Gain extra points if you can match the symbols you are covering up with those on your decoration.  Gain moves up the temple track if you can match a coloured symbol.  More workers means a gold discount.  This advances you on the pyramid building track.

- Contruction: Last but not least, put another tile on that pyramid!  The tiles all cost 2 stones but the higher up you place them the more wood it costs to get them up there.  More workers means more builds at a time but make sure you have the resources to do it! This also advances you on the pyramid building track.

Temple Tracks

The temples are another way to get some good points or eek out the resources you need.  Each move up the track gets you something whether it be points, cocoa, resources, or a discovery tile.  The top of the tracks get you a special scoring tile and some extra points but only one person can be at the top!

Ascension

If a worker ever hits power 6 an ascension occurs after the action is completed.  The sun moves closer to an eclipse (which means the game length is variable depending on how many ascensions you get.) and you then get to pick a bonus.  This includes the 4th worker, cocoa, points, and moves up the temple track. 

The ascended worker starts at the palace at power 1.  You also move up on the avenue of the dead.  Thematically the worker died and was buried and a new worker has taken their place.

Eclipse

When the white disc hits the black disc an eclipse is about to happen.  Finish the current turn then everyone gets one more turn to prepare.  During the eclipse you must pay your workers in cocoa.  1 for a 1 - 3 power workers and 2 for a 4 - 5 power worker.  If you can't feed them you lose 3 vp per worker.

This creates an interesting juggling act.  You want high powered workers for big gains but you don't want them around during the eclipse or they cost a lot of cocoa which can be used for taking actions.  Being able to time your ascensions correctly is pretty important!

The eclipsealso causes scoring to happen.  You score for mask sets, spaces moved on the avenue of the dead, and the pyramid build score.

The eclipse disc moves down the track a bit making each round a bit shorter than the last.  

End Game

The game ends after the third eclipse or after the last pyramid tile is built which might force the third eclipse a bit early.

Most points wins!

Didn't get close to finishing the pyramid in my two player solo game:

Gameply Impressions

As I have said before, I really enjoy this game and it's definitely my favourite T game. 

I find it's a constant tension around cocoa.  Is it worth it to pay a bunch of cocoa to take an action in that crowded space now or do I wait?  Or is it better to collect cocoa on that space instead of taking the action?  When is the eclipse going to happen?  Can I ascend my workers to get them to low power quick enough or do I go off strategy to get some cocoa to make sure I don't lose the VP for not feeding my workers?

If you suspect another player is going for a power move sliding one of your workers in there might be enough to ruin their plan by increasing their cocoa costs.  But is it worth it for you to do that? Depends on the situation. 

Sometimes it's not worth doing that big power action because having a ton of a given resource doesn't gain you anything if you can't use it.  You want to take enough actions to gain enough resources to take your actions with maybe a bit left over in case you have to adjust things.  But to win the game you need to take actions to turn those resources in to points.  So it's a constant tension around not wanting to be 1 stone short for your big construction turn but also not ending the game with 5 stone just sitting there because that means you probably wasted a turn.

And that is the trick of this game.  You must always be planning ahead 3 or 4 turns at least because it takes time to build up your dice to high power and to get enough of them to the space to take a big action. 

At the same time a lot can change in 3 or 4 turns so you have to have a tactical plan ready if things go wrong.  What can you do that will do the least damage to your long term plan and get you good results right now?

The game has a lot of replayability.  The board has one set of locations but the game let's you mix up locations 2 - 7 which can greatly alter the board strategies.

And of course I've barely touched on the technology, discovery tiles, and palace tiles which can change up the strategy of a given game quite a bit.  

This game has a lot of depth and variability that should keep you coming back to it again and again!

Components

In general the components are good.  I LOVE the board and the colours of the game.  The wooden components are fine.  They aren't basic cubes or anything.  The cardboard is thick and is good quality.

My only complaint is the cocoa.  I don't like that they used cardboard for that.  I think little wooden or plastic beans would have really been nice.

But for sure the best component is the pyramid.  It looks amazing completed on the board and the feeling you get when you select a tile that exactly matches what's underneath it is great!  Putting the capstone on top is a great feeling! 

The Rules

There is a LOT of little details going on in this game.  I feel like I have it down now but it did take a little while. 

The rulebook itself is pretty good but on the initial read and play (both multiplayer and solo) I did find a couple of things confusing.  Now when I read it it all makes sense to me but it isn't what I would call a "beginner friendly" rulebook.  

I think some of it is that things like Ascensions and Eclipses don't happen at set times so they are in their own section.  For me it made it hard to get the overall flow to the game at first.

I don't think the rulebook is bad it's just mostly par for the course for these complex games.

Solo Impressions

Much like Tekhenu, Teotihuacan uses a pyramid of actions.  You roll two dice to determine which action is taken and then the direction tiles tell you which actions move up to replace the action taken.  The seventh action is then put in at the bottom and the direction tiles are adjusted.

Playing the game definitely felt the most like playing another player out of all of the T games.  It was a little fiddly at first to remember all the steps that may happen with each tile but as many of them follow the same rules just in different areas it quickly becomes pretty quick to run. By the time I ended my first game I wasn't looking at the manual much at all.

There are a variety of ways to adjust the difficulty as well if you find it too hard or easy.  In my last solo game I managed to beat the bot by 1 point on the standard so it's pretty well balanced for me at least. :)

Final Conclusion

Teotihuacan remains my favourite T game and one of my favourite games of all time.  The constant tension between your strategic plan, the cocoa limitations, and having to tactically respond to what the other players do is right up my alley. 

I look forward to many more games of this in the future!



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18 months ago

There is something about that board that keeps me from getting interested.

While it seems on the level with #Paladins of the West Kingdom, the latter pulled me in. 
Is it the usage or absence of colour?

 

Premium User18 months ago

Not sure.  Art is very subjective.  

For me the Paladins board is probably the worst of the kingdoms games but I love the rest of the art in all three games.   Neither view is right or wrong. :)

 

 

 

18 months ago

very true my friend!

Certainly not stating i's bad artwork or style, not at all.

You can never please everybody with artwork!

It is part of the exprience

experience=very subjective and personal

it's good but not "for me good" :D

 

Premium User18 months ago

For sure.  Even if you did think it was bad I wouldn't think it a problem.  

I agree though, part of the modern designer board game hobby is the art aesthetic.  Certainly a great game can have a poor artwork and style but nowadays we get to expect both which is awesome.  And if we don't like one there is 100 more to check out!  :)

18 months ago

I think I'm starting to hit that weird faze were I just want to buy some games because they look really good. This one is giving me that vibe that I would love to have it just to display it if not more. Great write up. Covered a lot here.

Premium User18 months ago

Yeah, sometimes it's nice just to like something and get it.  Nothing wrong with that now and then!

Moderator Level 119 months ago

Very nicely done and a good flow of information descripting the game.  I haven't had the chance to teach this one to Becky but I think she will enjoy it once I do.  This is one of my favorite games and I like the challenge of the solo experience.  

I agree with the beans needing an upgrade and will likely lacquer some coffee beans at some point to use with the game or purchase a Top Shelf Gamer upgrade.  I think for me I struggle to remember to move the eclipse token each ascention.  I had to double check that gaiing cocao didn't "Age" a worker during my playthrough as I couldn't remember.  

Great game and one I might tap for the next boardgame evening. 

Premium User19 months ago

Yeah, my first solo game I missed more than a few rules but with a couple of multiplayer and another solo game under my belt the last game went really smoothly.

I had thought about lacquering coffee beans but I am sure someone would tell me that "cocoa" is actually chocolate and not coffee.  Doing some googling I see that top shelf gamer has an upgrade pack.  It's not badly priced at all but shipping to Canada would likely push it out of what I am willing to pay.

Moderator Level 119 months ago

Ya know, you are right. Someone would surely make a riot out of something like that. 

Premium User19 months ago

Not me though.  I still might do the coffee beans.  Way cheaper than buying those other upgrades!!!

Moderator Level 119 months ago

Wow, awesome review! I love all the photos! Helps that the board is very pretty, haha. I've been mildly interested in this one at various points. I don't think I'll be picking it up any time soon, but it's still on my radar. Perhaps if I develop a greater desire for solo gaming.

Premium User19 months ago

Thanks!  Yeah, I enjoy the board now that I am comfortable with everything on it.  My first glance at it was at a convention several years ago and my eyes were swimming!  It didn't help that the person teaching it didn't do a great job mind you.

I have several games that I leave "on my radar" that I have no impetous to get right now but if I saw them on sale or something I would pickup right away.

I am not a huge solo gamer.  I prefer the social interactions.  I get a lot of board games in digitally with my friends online but I found I was missing the tactile aspects of board gaming.  It's made me much more of a solo gamer and it gives me more options on days when I am looking for something to do.

Moderator Level 119 months ago

Yep that's pretty much where I am with solo gaming. And currently, I'm able to play games once in a while, so my need for solo gaming is pretty low.

Moderator Level 119 months ago

Awesome write up as always! My fiancée has this on her ever growing list of games she would prefer to never play again lol. I'm planning on having her play it for my birthday next week. That is of course reliant on whether or not can save the day for her and learn this quick and play me on board game arena lol. Study up! 🤣

19 months ago

Next week.  Ok now I have a deadline lol.  Happy early birthday!

Moderator Level 119 months ago

About 8 days now. Tick tock.. LOL

Thank you!

Premium User19 months ago

Thanks!  

It's a tricky one to get all the rules right on the first go.  So don't be surprised if you review how you played later and find out you did somethings wrong.  (And definitely review the rulebook post play to catch those types of things.)

Board game arena helps a bit as I believe it handles a bunch of stuff and logs the steps so you can review it to see what it did.

I hope it all goes well!  Enjoy!

Moderator Level 119 months ago

Oh yeah we definitely did a lot wrong our first couple plays. But honestly for us that's most every game.And I love the BGA implementation. That undo button is so clutch.

19 months ago

Oh good it has an undo button. There are a few games I play on BGA that don't have one and I'm always wishing for one.

Moderator Level 119 months ago

At least it did when it was in beta. I'd imagine it would still have to because it would be nearly unplayable without at least for me. It's one you're going to want to bust out your calculator for 🤣

18 months ago

Lol hey I love my calculator.  But play #Clans of Caledonia with me sometime.  You'll see what I mean.  =P

Moderator Level 118 months ago

I would love to! Just gotta learn the rules. But it's been on my wishlist since people on her hyped it up for me. I'll try to learn them today and start a game unless you don't want to have 2 games going at once haha

18 months ago

Go for it! I usually have around 8 turn based games going on at any given time haha.  I just try not to do 2 of the same game at once. 

Moderator Level 118 months ago

I should wait to actually be somewhat competitive. And I'm still waiting on you to learn Teotihuacan 

18 months ago

Just start it after you learn the rules.  I will do some completely off the wall strategy I haven't been brave enough to try before. 

And I will watch some videos this weekend I promise haha.

Moderator Level 118 months ago

Okay I will! And I gave you an eye roll emoji because it was my knee jerk real life reaction to reading your broken promises LOLOL

Premium User19 months ago

Yeah, there's always something we get wrong every game. If we get nothing wrong I get paranoid.

Moderator Level 119 months ago

This. Absolutely this. It's even spilled over into simpler games. Reading is hard sometimes