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Teotihuacan - City of Gods


Daniele Tascini

Board & Dice (NSKN Games)
Schwerkraft Verlag

No. of Players:

G@mebox Star



G@mebox author Ralf Togler writes about the game:

One of the highlights of SPIEL 2018 from my point of view was Teotihuacan City of Gods. Since the release of Praetor and Progress the Romanian publisher NSKN GAMES has made a clean sweep to the bigger publishers. With their games in the mystical Mistfall world, their excellent game developments and the great graphical illustrations, they have created a lot of interesting and challenging games during the last years. Of course, this development has not remained hidden, and consequently NSKN GAMES has nowadays ties with a lot of other companies that sell their games in other countries. The German versions of their new big games, for example, are published by SCHWERKRAFT-VERLAG. And then, of course, there is now the merge with Board & Dice...

But, enough with the opening words, let's see what Teotihuacan City of Gods is about. Let me begin with the title: Teotihuacan, that's an ancient city in Mexico (I must confess that I had to look that up, thanks be to Wikipedia that was quickly done...). The town was once one of the largest cities in South America and even one of the largest in the whole ancient world. A lot of Pyramids bordered the city's ways and places, as you can they still see in the ruins today. Typical for an ancient city, there was a lot of worshipping as well as hatching plots, at least we are told so. And more Pyramids had to be built. At the zenith of the city, several mighty noble houses competed for the leadership by donating, planning, worshipping for the city's glory, all this with a skilful merchandising to cover the expenses. And this is what Teotihuacan City of Gods is about...

Like in many other games from NSKN GAMES there are a lot of variable action tables, benefits and minor option tiles, all of them you are drawn randomly during set-up. This will make sure that no game of Teotihuacan City of Gods will ever be the same as the game before. The players have to adjust their strategy to the drawn possibilities and the highly modular gameboard. However, there is also a standard set-up already printed onto the game board. In Essen, Blazej Kubacki from NSKN Games (who is also one of the game developers) told me that this set-up should be OK for the first 6-7 games, before players want to adjust something. So, you can forget the more complex set-up and concentrate on starting the game. And indeed, up to now and after some playtesting, I have not missed anything with the standard set-up. But it is great to have options for the future.

But there is still a lot to learn, because the possible scoring mechanisms are manifold. The most impressive element on the board is definitely the Pyramid area. Depending on the number of players there are different patterns to build up the starting point of the Pyramid, but in each and every case, the Pyramid tiles to do so are drawn randomly, so the Pyramid will never look the same.

As said, there are a lot of different ways to score: players can earn victory points for further building up the Pyramid or by decorating it. The better the new tile fits to the existing ones, the more victory points are granted. Another possibility to score is to influence nobles by building houses for them and advancing on the Avenue of Death. And finally it is always good to worship to the gods (there are three different divinities in Teotihuacan, each with his or her own temple).

An interesting element of the game are the worker dice. Similar to last year's Dragonsgate College the value of a die determines what you can achieve with this worker. But in contrast to the other game, the dice in Teotihuacan City of Gods are not rolled, but must be developed. And once they reach a power of six, they ascend with the result that the player receives victory points and resources and the worker die comes back with a power of 1 again (a new worker is born). This mechanism we have also seen before in one of the earlier games from NSKN GAMES: Praetor, maybe you still remember that.

Speaking of resources, I have to mention that Cocoa, a kind of currency in the game, is often needed and a limiting factor. As a result, you can not only go for victory points, but you must also care for maintaining supplies. And there is not only the Cacoa, there are also other resources like wood, stone and gold, before you can reach to the top.

So let us see how all this works together: The huge board of the game shows us the eight different action tables along the edge. This is the place where we move along with our worker dice, three of them for every player at set-up. In the middle of the board the huge, impressive Pyramid is built with the help of all players by activating an action on one of the action tables. And next to the Pyramid, on the one side we can find the temples, where we can climb up with our game pieces, while on the other side we find the track for the Avenue of Death and the supply of the houses for the Nobles as well as the Calendar track that determines the round end.

Basically, all you do in your turn is to take one of your unlocked workers from an action table (some actions lock the workers until they are unlocked again), move the worker die clockwise 1-3 action tables further, and perform an action on the target action board. There are always several options to do so, some cost you cocoa, for some you need resources and still other are free. A lot depends also on how many dice you have on that board and how many other players have dice there. There are action tables for collecting new resources, for moving up in the temples, for constructing the Pyramid, for building the houses for the Nobles and for achieving new technologies. Some actions even can bring you new worker dice, so you have more options to choose from. Of course the value of the die is also very important as it determines the output of your action. Basically the higher the value, the more experienced the worker and the higher the output.

You can score by taking actions, but also very important for scoring is the eclipse that also ends a round. This eclipse triggers a scoring phase and it happens exactly three times, before the game ends. Then the progress on the Avenue of Death, the contribution of the player to build up the Pyramid, and the skill to collect different masks from various actions is rewarded. And finally a player has to pay his workers during the eclipse, if he doesn't want to loose victory points. Teotihuacan City of Gods is really well done with a lot of different things going on. I think that it will take some time, before you find a clear strategy to win the game. But the game also condones the one or other bad moves. There is always a second best alternative.

Teotihuacan City of Gods reminded me at once of Tzolk'in, and indeed, Daniele Tascini is one of the authors who is involved in both games. But I think that it is the better game, because I think it can be played faster. I always hated those down times in Tzolk'in, when other players were calculating their best moves to score. The ranking and the scoring possibilities seem to be clearer in Teotihuacan City of Gods, but the ways to score are still very manifold.

Confronting Blazej at Essen with my fears, he assured that they kept that fact in mind. As a result they designed the action phase of a player as simple as possible. As said, it is only one move to make with a worker die and performing the resulting one action. Not five actions in a row, but only this single action. Still the game is complex and a game duration of approximately 90 minutes should be scheduled.

Anyhow, the size of the board and the components (especially the Pyramid tiles) are really impressive, maybe it is even a little bit overwhelmed with all those different areas to act, build and score. Tzolk'in once was our convention hit. And I am already quite sure that Teotihuacan City of Gods will again easily stay up in the Top Ten of SPIEL 2018 and a long time after. What a great game!

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Copyright © 2018 Ralf Togler & Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany