Board Games, Podcast, Reviews, The Five By

Teotihuacan: City of Gods (Solo)

This review of Teotihuacan: City of Gods appeared in Episode 88 of The Five By. The following is the script I used when recording the podcast, and, as such, there might be some discrepancies between the text and audio due to editing for time and flow.

Teotibot, your AI opponent in the solo mode in Teotihuacan: City of Gods is controlled by a set of tiles and two dice.

Hi, I’m John Gonzalez and today, I’ll be taking a look at the solo mode for Teotihuacan: City of Gods, one of my favorite games from 2018. Teotihuacan was designed by Daniele Tascini and published by Boards & Dice. David Turczi, the designer of Anachrony and Dice Settlers, among other games, designed the solo mode for Teotihuacan. Teotihuacan: City of Gods was covered by Meeple Lady in Episode 60 of The Five By. Check out her review for a detailed look at the game.

In Teotihuacan, players lead noble families to victory by contributing to the construction of la piramide del sol. Players take turns moving their dice workers clockwise around the board, taking actions and collecting resources. The more dice you have on that action board, the better the yield. Once your worker has performed the main action on an action board, it levels up and you note it’s progress by adjusting the pip value on the die itself. Having stronger workers yields better results.

When a worker reaches level six, it ascends: you move up your token on the avenue of the dead track. The die then returns to the first action space on the board, and you gain one of five bonuses.

Resources are mainly used  to build or decorate the pyramid by using the decorations and construction action boards.The wooden tiles that make up the pyramid are glossy and chunky, and once the pyramid is built, there is an undeniable table presence that often compels passersby to stop and take a look.

Placing tiles on the pyramid has a satisfying puzzle-like quality. Matching up any of the four icons from the tile you are placing to the icons on the pyramid floor or other tiles underneath scores you a victory point for each match. And, if the tile you’re placing has an icon that is red, green, or blue and you match it to the icon underneath, you also go up one step on the temple track of the same color. If you’re a fan of tracks in your euro-style gaming, then Teotihuacan: City of Gods has you covered. 

Finding ways to capitalize on taking actions and moving up the tracks is a very satisfying puzzle. It’s this interlocking system of actions, mechanisms, tracks, and resources that keeps me coming back to Teotihucan: City of Gods.

When first playing the game you have to be mindful that you aren’t skipping any of the game’s numerous steps and  procedures. Collecting gold at the gold deposit, for example, requires that you pay cocoa, collect the gold, power 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. 

Solo

So, how does the solo version for Teotihuacan work? Well, I’ll try to convey it in the time remaining. Game setup for the solo mode in Teotihuacan is similar to the two player version. Placeholder dice workers are set up around the board, and like in other worker placement games, they’re there to make your life a bit more difficult. Just like in the multiplayer game, performing the main action on any of the seven action boards requires a cocoa payment, one cocoa for each other player that’s on that action space– including yourself! Having these placeholder workers sitting on action boards increases the cost of performing actions. Sure, these placeholder workers move and the end of two of the three rounds in the game,  but that means that you’ll have non-player worker dice just hanging out on spaces you’re trying access for a bunch of turns. Your opponent in the solo mode, on the other, hand likes to move,

Enter Teotibot, Teotihuacan’s AI opponent. Teotibot is controlled by a set of seven tiles, six of which are cleverly arranged in a pyramid pattern, three at the bottom, two in the middle, and one at the top. At the start of the game the tiles are arranged at random and the seventh tile is placed to the side.

On teotibot’s turn you roll two dice and the result tells you which one of the seven tiles is activated. You carry out the action and then refer to a set of two other tiles that tell you which one of Teotibot’s action pyramid tiles moves up to fill the newly vacant space. The empty spot at the bottom of the pyramid is then filled with the tile that was set aside. Got it? No? No worries. It’s a bit difficult to describe, but Teotibot’s action pyramid, in action, is a pretty effective method for guiding your AI opponent’s actions. Carrying out the actions, however, involves several steps.

Just to give a brief example, Teotibot’s actions relating to constructing the pyramid involves checking to see if Teotibot has the required resources, carrying out the action, marking the points earned, and advancing Teotibot’s token on the pyramid track, giving the bot two more points (this represents the average number of points a player would score by matching up tiles when placing the pyramid tile). Then, you have to move Teotibot’s token up one of the three temple tracks, gaining resources along the way. Finally, Teotibot’s worker powers up, possibly triggering it’s  ascension. If it does ascend, you move Teotibot’s token up on the avenue of the dead track. If, on the other hand, the bot is not able to carry out the action because it lacks resources, it gains those resources, powers up a worker, and it moves one or two spaces forward. I’m honestly getting a bit winded just talking about all the steps involved.

Taking actions as Teotibot follows a similar process as taking your own turns. Sure, Teotibot’s action Pyramid provides some automation and randomness to how the AI opponent works, but you’re still very much responsible for carrying out those actions, It’s a sometimes taxing endeavor in an already complex game with a litany of procedures and steps. But what saves the solo mode in Teotihuacan: City of Gods, is that in its complexity, it manages to offer an AI opponent that stays competitive. Teotibot builds the pyramid, it moves around the board, taking up spaces and raising the cocoa cost of actions. It races up the temple tracks toward end-of-game bonuses. In short, Teotibot does a pretty decent job at simulating an opponent. If you already have it on your shelf and you’re looking for a solid and challenging solo experience, give it a spin…just make sure you have a couple hours set aside. 

For The Five By, I’m John Gonzalez. You can find me on Instagram and twitter as bookofnerds. Thanks for listening.

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