Teotihuacán is an ancient city located in the Valley of Mexico. It was probably the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas and home to many impressive Mesoamerican pyramids. Recently, two games have been published (by the same company), which focus on this city and use the idea of building a pyramid in the game play. One of the games is small and light, and the other is a bit more complex. Let’s start with the simple one first.
Pyramid of the Sun is a game for 2-5 players, ages 8+. It takes about twenty minutes to play, and you can find a copy on Amazon for about $12. The game takes about two minutes to setup and another two minutes to teach. Each player receives a color card and places their token on the scoring track. The base of the pyramid is built from the appropriately labeled cards, and you can determine how big you want the base to be by how many cards you place. Two decks of cards are then shuffled separately (standard segment cards and edge segment cards), forming two separate face-down decks. Each player then draws four cards to form their starting hand, and the game is ready to go!
On your turn, you have two possible actions: 1. Draw two cards (from either deck), and make sure you don’t have more than five cards in your hand. 2. Play as many cards from your hand as you choose to, making sure after each card is played that after you have matched symbols, you either draw one card or score for number of symbol matches. Cards will be played to build a pyramid, and the game ends when the final piece of the pyramid has been built.
Overall, this is a very simple and fun game. In terms of looks, this game reminds me a bit of Pyramid Solitaire. However, instead of trying to disassemble the pyramid, by adding up cards to equal 13, you are trying to assemble the pyramid. It is a fun small box game that turns into an impressive table presence once the game ends and the pyramid is complete. It’s a good, simple game that has you weighing when to play your cards to maximize your score, while keeping an eye on your opponents doing the same thing. It plays quickly enough that it can be played as an appetizer to the main-course game, or can be played multiple times in one night. It can also be enjoyed by kids and grown-ups alike, which is a huge plus in my book!
Teotihuacán: City of Gods is a game for 1-4 players, ages 12+. It takes between 1.5 and 2 hours, and can be found on Amazon for $45-$50. It can be considered a more complex game, so I am only going to explain basic setup and game play, saving the advanced features for discussion at the end.
1. Place the main board in the middle of all players, placing the Light Calendar Disc on space 0 and Dark Calendar Disc on space 10, 11, or 12 (depending on player count).
2. Place a Wooden Building on each space of the Buildings row, except the leftmost space.
3. Shuffle all the Decoration Tiles in a face-down pile and place four face-up on the Action Board. Do the same for the Pyramid Tiles, only placing three face-up on the Action Board.
4. From the Pyramid Tiles, Build the initial pyramid layout based on player count.
5. Shuffle the Discovery Tiles face-down, and then use them to populate (face-up) Worship Actions, the Avenue of the Dead, and major steps of the Temples.
6. Give each player a color token, twelve matching colored discs (6 in supply and 6 on the main board), four matching colored dice (3 in supply and 1 on the board), starting cocoa, and resources/board position depending on what number player they are.
Game Play – On your turn, you will do one of two actions
1. Take a normal turn, which involves collecting moving one of your dice workers and collecting Cocoa, Worshiping, or Performing a Main action on different board spaces. Main actions involve collecting resources (Wood, Stone, or Gold) based on your dice present in the action space, constructing the pyramid, decorating the pyramid, or acquiring technology or building tiles. When one of your dice levels up to the six pip, it is considered to have ascended (died) and that will move the Eclipse track. When the Light and Dark discs (referenced above) meet, you finish the round and Eclipse scoring occurs. After the third eclipse, the game is over.
2. Unlock all of your workers for free. (Note: On a normal turn, you could pay 3 cocoa to unlock one worker. Unlocking them all for free, instead costs your whole turn.
I tried to summarize and simplify what you can do, but I’d recommend watching some YouTube videos to get a better feel for the game, because there is a lot going on!
As the previous sentence said, Teotihuacán has some meat to it, and that is just with the simple setup. For starters, cocoa feels like the lifeblood of this game. It’s not only currency, but it’s also food for your workers. There will be times when you feel like you have plenty, but don’t be fooled. You will be spending it quickly to perform multiple actions or unlock workers to accomplish more. That is the crux of this game. What can I do on a normal turn? Is that enough? If it isn’t, how much do cocoa do I need to spend to increase the ability and value of this turn? After you have that figured out (ha!), you have to decide which worker dice to move, to which spot, and which worker dice to level up to give you the most benefit the next turn? You need to focus on this turn, but you also need to be thinking two to three moves ahead about what leveling up a worker will do for you in the coming turns.
You also need to be paying attention to what your opponent(s) are doing as that could shift what you planned to do into a more lucrative move. Within this game, you will also find that there are multiple viable paths toward victory. It might not seem like it your first time or two playing, especially if the scores are lopsided, but all paths can lead to victory. You can advance up the temple tracks, power your workers to advance them along the Avenue of the Dead, or the most visually appealing choice of building the pyramid.
The presentation of this game in terms of art and components appeals very much to me. It is clean and feels graphically accurate for the period the game is supposed to take place in. I love the giant pyramid blocks and the idea of seeing it grow into an actual 3-D representation on the board. The idea of dice workers with growing strength has been done before, but fits well. The only thing I don’t like about this game is the cocoa resources. I would much rather have wooden pieces for this as opposed to cardboard circles, but I understand that wouldn’t be cheap and could be a lot of extra cost otherwise.
Where this game shines the brightest to me is in the replay value. If you played the basic game several times, you’d feel like you received your money’s worth due to variability based on player position, what strategy you pursued, or when certain tiles came out. However, there’s more to replay value than that. For starters, Action Boards 2 through 7 can be shuffled up and randomly placed on the board over the default Action Spaces. This changes the positioning and order, and makes for finding a different optimization each game. The other large bit of strategy comes from starting tiles a player receives. Instead of getting X, Y, and Z for resources depending on what number player you are, as written in the rule book, instead everyone receives four tiles depicting various resources and spaces on the Temple track. You then pick two of the four tiles and this too will help narrow your focus and guide your strategy.
Overall, I was very impressed with Teotihuacán. It definitely is not one that you should play without some more medium games under your belt, and it is definitely one you will pick up the first time and make some rules errors. You’ll even probably get the pronunciation of the game wrong too, but that’s okay! Like people grow and graduate from reading lighter books to heavier books, I feel the same way about gaming. If you are ready to step out of your comfort zone among light to light-medium games, this would be a good one to do it with.
If you have already played this game, be on the look out for the expansion coming for this game. Unlike many games that add a 5th player to the mix in the very first expansion, this one doesn’t do that. Instead, it adds some asymmetrical player powers, a fourth temple, more pyramid decorations, new ways to build the temple, and the most interesting to me, new rule tile alterations tied to the eclipse. I can’t wait!
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Copyright 2019 Stuart Dunn
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