- Designers: Daniele Tascini and David Turczi
- Publisher: Board&Dice
- Players: 1 – 4
- Time: 60-120 min
- Played with review copy provided by Board&Dice as well as online
Tekhenu is the highly anticipated fall 2020 release from Board&Dice – a company has become known for its complex strategy games – such as Teotihuacan. Tekhenu is the next in that line, and just picking up the box, you can feel from its heft that it’s going to be a heavy game indeed! In this game, players are set in Ancient Egypt and are working on building the temple of Amun-Re. They will use dice from the board, which are surrounding a huge obelisk; it will be important to note the location of said dice as it will matter whether they are in the full sun or if they are in the shadow of the obelisk.
I should start by saying that the game does seem quite involved from even the first glance at the rulebook – the darn thing weighs in at 32 pages! However, despite that – once you learn their mnemonic for the overall game structure, a lot of things fall into place quickly and easily. I’ll recap the rules to give you a feel for how the game plays, but there are a lot of finer details that can wait until you play the game yourself.
There is a large board which has a number of areas. In the center is the large stand-up obelisk, with a rotating wheel around it. There are six wedges around the obelisk, one each for the six main gods in the game. The temple complex is in the upper right corner with a 5×5 grid of spaces within, surrounded by building spots on the outside. The happiness track is near the bottom and the card market is further beneath that.
Each player also gets their own board which has a large set of scales on the right. Buildings are found in a row at the top and statues at the bottom. The left is dominated by an area to track your Production levels of the four main resources in the game.
In setup, 3 dice are rolled for each of the six sections around the wheel. Each player gets 2 Decree cards and keeps one of them. The Starting cards and Destiny cards are placed face up on the table and these are drafted – these determine starting resources as well as tiebreaker status for later in the game.
Now, to the game itself… To copy straight from the rules:
- 2 Rounds = 1 Rotation
- 2 Rotations = 1 Maat Phase
- 2 Maat Phases = 1 Scoring
- 2 Scorings = 1 Game
Or… in 1 Game, there are 2 Scorings, 4 Maat Phases, 8 Rotations and 16 Rounds total.
In each round, players take a single turn (in order of their standing on the turn order track). You choose a die from the board, but it must be either “Pure” or “Tainted”. You can never choose a “Forbidden” die. There are 5 different colors of dice in the game, and the status of each color is determined by whether that color is in the Sunny, Shaded or Dark area – all based on the shadow of the Obelisk. It will take a few rounds to remember which color does what – but there is a helpful chart on the player aid – I’d recommend leaving this out for everyone to refer to. There are three lines in each section around the obelisk to give you room to arrange the dice to easily see the status of each.
The chosen die is placed on the scales on your player board, pure dice on the left (white) side and tainted dice on the right (darker). Then you take an action with that die – either producing resources based on the color of the die or taking a God action based on the location from where you chose the die. You also have the option of using Scribe tokens at this stage, spending one to alter the pip count on the die by 1 or 2 or spending exactly 2 to take an Anubis action and take any die on the board (Regardless on which section or what status that die has) and do ANY God or Production action. If you do this, the die is placed under your scale.
The possible God actions (briefly)
- Horus – Build one statue for the cost shown on your player board. You can build it for a God, placing it on one of the 18 spaces around the obelisk wheel, the actual location based on the die value. Now, whenever someone takes the God Action where your statue is placed, you’ll get a small bonus. If you build it for the People, you put your statue in the Temple Complex/workshop area and these statues will score you points.
- Ra – Build one Pillar in the Temple Complex, taking a pillar base tile based on the value of your chosen die. This tile is then placed in the Temple complex – you are allowed to rotate it as you wish – and then you score points for buildings in its row/column as well as for matching colored sides with adjacent tiles. You may also get a bonus action depending on the status of the Ra segment of the Obelisk wheel.
- Hathor – Build one Building around the Temple complex. Pay the cost in bread as shown on your chosen space. Then look at the row/column of your building and score VP for each of your pillars and take 1 resource depicted in each empty space. Finally, move your Population marker ahead equal to the number on the die.
- Bastet – Advance your Happiness marker for the cost of 2 Papyrus. Then collect scribes if the die value you chose is low enough. As you move ahead on the track, take any bonuses as you cross them.
- Thoth – Get cards from the market. The area of the market you can choose from is determined by your standing on the Happiness track. The die value determines the cost of your card as well as how many cards you can take.
- Osiris – Construct one Building as a workshop/quarry. The value of the die tells you which row you can build on, the cost is always one Happiness space. Depending on the placement, you will advance your Production markers as indicated and gain some resources.
If you choose to produce resources: Based on the color die you chose, take a number of resources equal to the die value. Compare this number to the current position of the associated Production marker on your board, and any resources gained in excess of your allowance are tainted and placed on the right side of your scales on your player board.
After two full rounds, there is a Rotation – the Obelisk wheel is rotated one section clockwise, symbolizing the movement of the sun around the Obelisk. In each of the two new Shaded sections, draw a number of dice equal to the number of players, roll them and then put them into those Shaded areas, making sure to denote the status of each die (Pure, Tainted, Forbidden).
MAAT PHASE – In every second Rotation (when each player has 4 dice on their player board), there is a Maat Phase – this occurs just after you rotate the obelisk and before you draw new dice. In this phase, each player determines the balance of their scales – remember you have been putting your chosen dice on the left if they were pure and on the right if they were tainted… Using the values of the dice, with Pure pips being positive and Tainted Pips being negative, sum up your dice and subtract an extra point for each Resource you made in excess of your allowance – this determines your Maat score. If desired, you can use Faith tokens (Valued 1 point each) to change the balance. Place your marker on the Maat track, and then if you have a negative balance, you possibly take a VP penalty. These markers are then transferred to the Turn Order track with the player with the best balance going first and the furthest player away from zero balance going last, ties are broken in favor of Ankh number on your Destiny card. Then most everything is removed from the player boards (the 4 dice, excess Resources and Faith tokens, Destiny cards, etc). Now return to the rest of the ROTATION.
SCORING – In the second and fourth Maat Phases, a Scoring takes place just after the new turn order has been set. The following things are scored:
For each of the 4 Resource districts, 3VP to the player with the most game pieces in each
- For the Temple Complex, score 1 VP for each building and Statue, then score each pillar (1VP per Building and Statue in the same row and column)
- For Statues – score 1/3/6/10/15/21 for 1/2/3/4/5/6 Statues
- For Happiness – 3VP per yellow triangle icon passed by their marker
- For Production tracks – 2 VP for each marker on the topmost position
- For the Building Row of the player board – score any visible VPs
- For Bread – lose 3VP for each Bread visible on the Building Row they are unable/unwilling to discard a Bread token for
GAME – The game ends after the second scoring. There is a final bit of scoring to take place. Each player may now score up to 3 Decrees; though you are limited to scoring only one Decree per type (icon at the top of the Decree card). Finally, 3VP for being first in final turn order, 2VP for being 2nd in turn order. The player with the most points wins; ties go to the player with the most scribes.
Thoughts on the game
Dale Y – I’ll admit that this is pretty close to the top of my personal comfort zone for game complexity. As the years go by, my desire to play the longer super-complex games has waned, and I’ll admit that the combination of an Italian designer and Mr. Turczi had me a little concerned as both are generally known for complex games. However, after a double readthrough of the rules, I found that while there were a lot of rules in the 32-page rulebook, it all came together fairly well once I understood the overall framework of the game.
Don’t get me wrong, the game is certainly complex, but not so much that you can’t get a feel for it after a few turns. For me, it was remembering how the different colored dice acted in the varying amounts of light – but I simply kept my player aid card nearby and referred to it frequently.
There are a lot of different things going on at once that make each of your sixteen dice decisions interesting. First (and foremost) is getting the action or resource that you really want – this is a decision that is dependent on both the location and the number of the die. But, you can’t forget about the balance on your board; I have found that getting to go earlier in turn order definitely leads to better choices when picking dice, and I would be loath to squander a chance to improve my turn order standing. Finally, because this is a competitive game, I would also be watching what my opponents are trying to do (well, at least the next person in turn order) – because if I had two equal choices and one could screw over the plans of that player, then I’d certainly take it. And if that wasn’t enough; any time that I have two scribe tokens, watching out for a clever play with the Anubis action – as this lets you take any die (including Forbidden ones) and take any action – can flip momentum quickly.
I don’t think that I’m ready to give this one a rating yet though. Only one play online so far, and I’ve played a solo game at home with my physical copy – but then real life intruded and I was not able to finish. The online implementation is pretty good as far as those things go, but I know that I personally have a lot of issues with playing online – not being able to easily see what is going on, especially looking back at the card market, etc. I’m sure that many of those issues would be resolved by simply playing the game as intended, with the physical pieces, with everything in plain sight. So far, I have not been chased away by the apparent complexity, and the box time of 60-90 minutes leads me to believe that it will flow quicker once I’m more familiar with the game.
The player color choices are… different, and man, they look really similar to me – especially the pink and the orange…
For now, I cannot rate it as I don’t think that I’ve played it enough yet for a firm rating, but I still want to play it again, so that should tell you at least that I’m intially positive on it. However, I felt is was better to talk about the game in advance of Spiel.digital, and I know that a number of other OG writers have played the game, so I’ll let them comment here as well.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Alan How: Following on from the very successful Teotihuacan the next game in the series was on my automatic playlist. My experience of this is that it’s far more difficult to get into then its predecessor for a number of reasons. Firstly the breadth of choices when you take a die and the number of considerations you have to bear in mind that mean that no option is straightforward in my limited experience.
Secondly, the presentation of the board while working reasonably well, needs to be explained to each player and the obelisk obscures the view of some element of the game so I have removed it from play. It looks great but you need to peer round it to see everything and that slows down play.
Thirdly the cards that can be acquired need to be known by each player as they provide helpful benefits but they’re only really visible from one side. A similar aspect applies to the tiles for the pillars, as the iconography on these tiles needs to be understood without you needing to refer back to the rule book for more detail. And it’s easy in your first game or two to miss something, such as the colour of the bonus to match.
I thought the player aids were helpful but were not the ones that I would’ve designed for the game. It would be useful if there was an A4 sheet explaining how you acquired specific resources or made progress on the different tracks. I’ve seen this in other games and thought that this was a very useful device to help players learn how to make progress rather than having to figure out the sequence themselves which is really helpful in more complex games.
Despite these issues, as I expected, I enjoyed the game though I think it’s more complex to get into then many other games partly because of the range of options, partly because of the different ideas (which are good) and partly because I think the player aids are not as good as they should be.
I’m looking forward to playing the game with more people, but I know that on the first play they will be as overwhelmed as I was. I hope this won’t deter them from more games as it is interesting to explore the range of ways to make progress. In the meantime, I will play the solo version to see if I can improve my own plans in this interesting game. My rating is after two plays but after one play it would have been like it. You need an extra game or two to realise how good this game is in my opinion.
I’m now excited to see the third game in the series Tawantinsuyu: The Inca Empire, which is due out in the next month or two. If it delivers as well as the first two T games, I’ll be very happy.
Dan Blum: Like Dale I’ve only played one game online, so I don’t really have a firm opinion as it is definitely not a game that’s easy to play that way unless you want to take all day doing it; there are just too many things to look at. That being said, I liked it reasonably well for this sort of game, but it’s a sort that’s not my favorite. I do like it better than Teotihuacan so far, and I’d be willing to play it again, but preferably in person.
Craig Massey: I’ve played once face to face. The game feels more complicated than complex which is concerning. The dice balancing a great concept that I was most excited about, but felt that it had little impact on overall decision making – a missed opportunity. The obelisk looks fantastic, but it gets in the way of seeing what is on the other side of it. Pulling it off the board all together seems the way to go. The cards, both in terms of acquiring them and their function added a helping heap of complication. The text was terribly small, leading myself and another player who were sitting on the opposite side of the board and reading them upside down to ignore them. A second play most likely will happen, but I’m not in a hurry to make it so.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!: Alan How
- I like it.
- Neutral.: Craig M.
- Not for me…
- Abstaining for now – Dale