Board Games, Reviews

Review: Teotihuacan: City of Gods

In this wonderful hobby where we move wood and cardboard pieces across the table, we’ve collectively accepted a decision to designate some games as Euro Games and others as Ameritrash. Whether or not these labels are apt, fair, or even accurate is a topic I’ll leave to the etymologists. I do love a good irony though, so I’m always happy to find Euro Games with decidedly non-European themes. Teotihuacan: City of Gods by designer Danielle Tascini (The Voyages of Marco Polo, Tzolkin: The Mayan Calendar) happens to fall within this designation and naturally I had to play it for myself and see how it stacks up.

How the Game Works

In Teotihuacan: City of Gods, players collect resources to build La Piramide del Sol (The Pyramid of the sun). Players start off with three dice that they use as workers. These dice never get rolled, instead they are used to track your workers’ power levels. Each time any one of your workers takes a main action on any of the eight action boards, they grow stronger. Stronger workers collect more resources and generally make your actions more efficient. Manage to get these powered up workers on the same action board and they yield better benefits.

On your turn you move one of your dice clockwise around the board and take an action on one of the board’s eight action spaces. There are action spaces where you can gain resources (wood, stone, or gold), and action spaces where you can use those resources to build houses along the Avenue of the Dead, add a tile to the pyramid, or decorate the steps of the pyramid. In this way players gain victory points and move up on the numerous tracks on the board. After every player has taken a turn, the light disc moves forward on the calendar track and if it occupies the same space as the dark disk, players have one more round before scoring. There are three rounds in Teotihuacan: City of Gods.

Why It Works For Me

One of the things that Teotihuacan: City of Gods does so very, very well is that it lays out an intriguing puzzle to solve. Moving up one the three temple tracks provides players with victory points, resources, or cocoa. Players can move up on the temple tracks by building or decorating the pyramid, building houses along the Avenue of the Dead, or using any of the four worship spaces on the board. 

Players who reach the penultimate steps on any of the temple tracks will have access to that temple track’s end of game scoring bonus.

The great thing about the three temple tracks is that they can be leveraged to enhance your actions. Let’s say you’re about to activate the Construction action board and you have two workers on that board. Well, having two workers on the Construction board allows you to place two tiles. What if you don’t have enough wood and stone to build twice? Well, you’re a good planner, so you’ve planned out this move, recognizing that one of the three available pyramid tiles on the Construction action board has a green temple icon. And, being the savvy gamer that you are, you know that placing that tile with it’s precious green icon will not only snag you three victory points but also an additional three for matching three of the four icons on the tile with the icons on space underneath.

But wait there’s more! This game is the Billy Mays of board games, constantly offering more and more victory points. Act now and by matching that green temple icon, you’ll move up on the green temple track which in turn gets you the very resources you needed to place another pyramid tile. A move like this can easily garner nine or ten victory points! More, if you’ve managed to snag one of the techs on the Alchemy board that awards victory points for using the Construction board! Call now! Operators are standing by for this limited time offer!

Teotihuacan: City of Gods takes the everyday, euro game mechanism of turning in your resources to build something in exchange for victory points and combines it with the spatial puzzle of optimally placing tiles,

Planning out your actions, budgeting your cocoa supply (spoiler: you’re gonna need a lot of cocoa), all the while looking for actions that will allow you eke out one more ascent up the temple tracks makes for a very satisfying use of your downtime during turns.

I enjoy the shifting conundrum presented by Teotihuacan: City of God’s variable setup. And if you’re into variability, this game has tons of it. Six of the eight action spaces are also included as action boards that can be shuffled to create a unique layout. Nearly every aspect in this game is variable, from the end of game bonus tiles, to technologies offered on the Alchemy action board, each game is a little bit different from the last.

Cocoa Bribes

While players don’t usually block each other in Teotihuacan: City of Gods, you must pay cocoa for every player, including yourself, who has a die in the action spot you’re trying to use. So, you can often plan to take an action, but wind up being unable to afford said action by the time your turn comes around.

The game is very cocoa-centric, it’s the coin of the realm, um, the chocolate coin of the realm, that is. At the end of every one of the three rounds in the game, you’re responsible for paying your workers: one cocoa for workers that are levels one through three and two cocoa for your level four and five workers. Can’t pay? Well, you lose three victory points for every cocoa you’re short. You’ll be tempted to purposefully power up your level five workers to have them ascend and be reborn as level one workers, thereby reducing the amount of cocoa you have to pay. It’s a workable solution, but sometimes you won’t want to do that because every time a worker ascends, the wooden disc that is tracking the round moves forward, shortening the time you have to pull off that profitable move you might have been planning the whole round!

Alternatively, sometimes you’ll want to hasten the end of the round and ascend one worker, move up the Avenue of the Dead track, collect a Discovery tile that allows you to power up two workers and trigger two more ascensions, moving the round tracker another two steps forward. If you love stringing together actions, gaining resources, and finding efficient chains, you’re gonna love Teotihuacan: City of Gods.

Locking in your a worker at the worship action slot allows you to climb the temple tracks but it also momentarily takes your worker out of play.

Drawbacks

There are some aspects of Teotihuacan: City of Gods that might push away some gamers. There are lots of tiny steps to remember while taking your turn. Unless you’re spending your turn collecting cocoa, you’re going to have to be mindful that you aren’t skipping certain procedures. Collecting gold at the gold deposit, for example, requires you to remember to pay cocoa before taking the action, collect the actual resources by referring to a matrix, and then powering up your worker or workers. If while powering up, your worker ascends, then you’re going to have to walk through the ascension process and complete four additional steps (one of which involves choosing from 5 different rewards). It’s a lot to keep track of and the game doesn’t include any player aids to help you keep track of all the minutiae. While all these steps and procedures make aren’t too oppressive, it does make the game a bit longer than expected.

Aesthetic appeal

Teotihuacan: City of Gods is an eye-catching game. Every time I’ve played it in a public space, I’ve had people stop by and ask about the game. Some might find the board to be too busy, there’s a bunch of non-essential art on the giant board, but once you understand what’s essential and what’s not, you’ll find yourself appreciating the elaborate and intricate art that depicts a sort of pastiche of the actual Teotihuacan site.

From the chunky wooden tiles of the pyramid, to the useful iconography on the busy but gorgeous board, Teotihuacan: City of the Gods looks stunning on the table. 

The intricate board in Teotihuacan: City of Gods might look a bit busy but most of the action takes place on clearly defined action spaces/

Solo Mode

Included in Teotihuacan: City of Gods is a solo mode designed by David Turczi. The solo mode is based around a set of tiles that tell you what to do on Teotibot’s turn. On Teotibot’s turn, you roll a pair of dice and use the results to select a tile from Teotibot’s delightfully thematic tile pyramid. After carrying out the action, you remove the used tile and refer to a pair of tiles that tell you how to re-arrange Teotibot’s tiles… and then you rearrange the tiles that tell you how to rearrange the tiles. Playing with Teotibot introduces even more procedures, but it’s a very clever way to handle the solo mode.

Final Thoughts

Teotihuacan: City of Gods implements many of the same Euro game staples that define the genre. On paper, as a list of mechanism, you’d probably be hard pressed to pick it out from a line-up. Yet, there’s something in Teotihucan: City of Gods that I truly enjoy, and it’s this: it rewards attention to detail. While it’s possible to do okay in the game by going around the board and gaining the resources you need to do any of the three construction actions, the game nudges you to look for ways in which to capitalize on sundry little bonuses on the board. Teotihuacan: City of Gods thrives when players are setting off chain reactions and scoring tons of points. While it takes a play or two before the game really opens up, once you make that connection between carrying out actions and making those actions carry you up the temple tracks, Teotihuacan: City of Gods really sings. I highly recommend it to players looking for a medium weight game.

Thanks for reading! If you’re interested in learning more about how to play Teotihucan: City of Gods please check out Geeky Gaymer Guy’s excellent video review.

Interested in the solo mode? Check out Meeple Overboard’s excellent solo playthrough video. Chris does an excellent job handling the daunting amount of bookkeeping involved in playing with Teotibot.


Teotihuacan: City of Gods is published by Board and Dice Games (formerly NSKN Games), designed by Daniel Tascini, featuring art by Odyseas Stamoglou, and features a solo mode by David Turczi.

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