- Designer: Moreno Vogel and Stefan Kraft
- Publisher: Treeceratops
- Players: 2
- Age: 8+
- Time: 30-40 minutes
- Played with review copy provided by publisher
Treeceratops is a newer company, and we have played their previous release, Darwin’s Choice, a few years back. Their most recent game is called P’achakuna – set in the Andes Mountains. You and your opponent are traders, and you are trying to deliver wool and dyes to the far flung villages in the mountains. The goal is to the first to deliver to all seven villages, collecting yarn of a different color at each, and thus be able to create your own colorful costume!
The mountainous landscape is build on the paper board – 54 different terrain tiles are placed on the board; each tile having some flatland as well as some raised mountain areas. Place the tiles matching the illustration shown on the board to start. For each of the villages (one at each of the 6 points of a hexagon as well as a central spot), draw a demand tile – noting that it should not be white nor matching the color of the space.
Each player gets a llama of their color (white or black), and both start in the central white village with a white resource on its back. It is important to remember that the white llama only moves through the valleys while the black llama only moves in the mountains. The White player will go first, and as compensation, the Black player gets a brown resource.
The game is played in a number of rounds – with each round consisting of 4 phases. A player will complete all 4 phases before the other player takes a turn.
A] Rotate – You can pick up and freely rotate any one tile (so long as it does not have a llama on it nor has a rock on it). It is possible to rotate the tile 0 degrees (that is, you don’t rotate it). You can rotate additional tiles at the cost of 2 Resources per additional tile. Mark all tiles chosen this turn with a Rock; the other player cannot rotate these tiles on their next turn.
B] Move – Move each of your llamas that is not on a Village at least one tile. You can move to any tile so long as you follow an uninterrupted path in your color to the destination tile. If you cross a village, you must stop there.
C] Trade – for each llama that is on a Village, you can trade. If you have a resource that does not match the color of the village, you can sell it. If it is not on the Demand tile, you discard the resource. If it is on the lower part of the Demand tile, you sell it and add that resource to the player’s personal supply. If it is on the top of the Demand tile, you sell it and take 2 of that resource into your supply. In all cases, remove the Demand tile and place it in the discard area (not back in the bag) – signaling that you can only trade once per turn in a particular village. If you receive a Resource that you do not yet have, put it into a slot on your player board. In a village, you can also buy a llama – in return for any 4 Resources, you can get a llama of your color in that village. You can have up to 3 llamas total.
D] Refill – Refill any empty Demand slots by drawing a new Demand tile from the bag, again making sure that the Demand does not match the color of the village (white is OK now). If the bag is empty, then return all the discards to replenish. Any llamas that are empty (i.e. just sold their resource or just bought this turn) are refilled with a resource matching the color of their current village.
The first player to have one of each of the 7 resources (not brown) on their board wins. There cannot be a tie.
My thoughts on the game
P’achakuna is a challenging puzzle of a game. Players are entwined in a tight battle, trying to pick up and deliver the resources efficiently. You have to both figure out how to efficiently change the pathways on the board to suit yourself but also figure out how to race to the cities/demand markers efficiently as well.
You get the chance to freely rotate one tile each turn, and it can be quite advantageous to rotate more than one; but the cost is high! It requires 2 Resources to do this, and you win when you have one of each of the 7 colors – so it can definitely impede your progress if you spend too many of your resources. Also, a second (or third!) llama can be quite useful, but the cost of 4 llamas is also not cheap.
From the start, I usually try to see how I can get to any city with a minimum of turns; as the start, you can’t have a demand tile that has the white resource that you have; so you just want to trade out as soon as you can. Then, it’s time to figure out how to build up your resources in your supply – whether it is for another llama or for increased rotation; you’ll need resources. If your opponent leaves you alone, you can sometimes bounce back and forth between your initial stops fairly easily; but if the demand tiles don’t work out, you’ll need to branch out eventually… In the end, in order to win, you have to visit all of the villages at least once, so the game ends up being one of efficiency – how do you get to all the places faster than your opponent?
Our games so far have started with some speculative paths, and then players settle into a rhythm, carving out their own paths which they later branch off to head to new destinations. Interestingly, our games start out peaceful, with players really trying to just make their own paths, but then they devolve into more aggressive actions where you try to carefully time your disruptions to your opponent’s path.
Many turns go quickly, as you have goods on your llamas, and they each have a destination where they need to go. As long as your opponent hasn’t screwed up your path, you can take a turn quickly. However, there can also be turns where you really have to sit and puzzle out how you’re going to get to your destination(s). It’s important to consider what resources are carried by your opponent as you might be racing to get to the same village; and if so, you’ll want to prioritize the movement of that llama and/or stop your opponent’s llama from making much progress. Here, the use of the rocks will allow you to make a tile rotation which your opponent cannot undo on his next turn – this is quite important to remember in your planning!
P’achakuna is a beautiful game, and it has been made with both the environment and the subject matter in mind. The word itself translates to “textiles” in the Quechua language; that used in the Andes. The game is supported by Suyana, a Swiss NGO fighting for sustainable improvement of lives in areas such as Bolivia and Peru. Each game includes a bag woven by locals, with the workers getting fairly paid for their labor. The publisher also tries to makes games in a sustainable fashion, claiming that this product is carbon neutral.
The bits are great, though I’ll admit that it did take about 20 minutes to punch and glue together all of the pieces. And, I do wish the llamas had a slightly wider back as the resources often fell off the backs of the animals (or maybe it’s just my fat fingers).
P’achakuna gives players a challenging 2-player game where things are not as simple as they appear. There are two starting maps to change things up a bit, though honestly, I’m pretty sure that each game is going to turn out different anyways due to the random selection of the goal tiles; you’re likely not going to make the same paths each game.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Dale
- Not for me…
The art is by Finnish digital artist Johanna Tarkela, an experienced illustrator (her animals are gorgeous), but a newcomer to board game work. I’m hoping we’ll see more of her work in future games. You can see her work here: https://johannatarkela.com/
Thanks for sharing this Mikko. I agree with your hope that we see more of her work in future games.
Dale, thanks for the review. Great subject matter for the game and I am glad the executed it well.