Dale Yu: Review of Founders of Teotihuacan

Founders of Teotihuacan

  • Designer: Filip Glowacz
  • Publisher: Board&Dice
  • Players: 1-4
  • Age: 14+
  • Time: 60 minutes
  • Played with review copy provided by publisher

founders of teotihuacan

Founders of Teotihuacan is the followup game to Teotihuacan, a complex 2018 release where players vied over the course of about two hours to be the designer of the Pyramid of the Sun.  This new release is a slimmed down affair, now in a tile-laying game, where players compete to create the best design for said temple. Thematically, the events in Founders takes place at an earlier time in history, while what was to become a magnificent city was yet in its infancy and only few inhabited the area.

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The main board is laid out, and building tiles, temple tiles, worship tiles, pyramid tiles, etc are all set up as per the rules.  The Bonus disks are shuffled, and each action space in use for the particular player count has a random Bonus disk placed face up on it.  All of the resources are placed next to the board as are the tiles not used in setup.

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Each player gets a personal player board which is divided into four quadrants;  also note that the board is double sided with the reverse being an asymmetrical, more advanced board.   Buildings and Temples can only be placed within the two Districts closest to your Architect – a meeple placed on one side of your board.  The 9 space Pyramid area is found in the center of the player board; pyramid tiles can only be placed within the six Pyramid squares closest to your Architect.  

The 4p game is played over 4 rounds, each lasting until all players have taken all the actions they can/want.  Each player also gets 5 action disks which will be used to choose actions.  On your turn, you must either perform an Action or pass. To perform an Action, you place 1 to 3 of your Action disks on an Action space on the Main board that already contains at least one disk (at minimum having a Bonus disk present, but also possibly opponent disks), and carry out the corresponding Action of that space. The Action disk(s) should be placed on top of the disk(s) already on that space, forming a stack. Again, the Action Strength is equal to the total number of disks (whether yours, an opponent’s disks, or Bonus disks) on an Action space.  Each Action space can hold a maximum of 4 Action disks—including Bonus disks.  

Each action space comes with two options – either build a building from the corresponding area just above the action space OR you can gain something from the corresponding green area below the action space.  Also, if you are the first to place on a space (i.e. on top of the Bonus disk), you are able to take the bonus action which was visible until you covered it with your disk – this can happen before or after your main action.  There are three main areas – and I will describe them from left to right, with the top action coming first and then the bottom action.

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1a] Build a building – you can only build a building of size equal to or less than your action strength (2, 3 or 4). It must be placed on your board so it is fully in the allowable area based on your Architect. It cannot overlap any other tile.  Then, place 1 resource matching the building type onto every free orthogonally adjacent space.  Finally, see if you have fully covered a Mask area on your board with tiles, if so, take the most valuable mask of that type from the supply. 

1b] Produce Resources – Add 0 or 1 Resources next to each of your existing buildings on your WHOLE board (not just in your Architect’s Reach) OR add two Size 1 Buildings to your city following the usual rules. You also get to place resources next to these as usual.

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2a] Build a Temple – You can build a temple of any size, but if the size is larger than your action strength, you must pay resources as shown in grey under the regular cost of the Temple for each point you are short.  Additionally, you can substitute 2 Gold for any resource you don’t have.  Resources can be taken from anywhere on your player board. The Temple must be placed within your Architect’s reach, etc. When you place a temple, you take one of the two face-up Worship tiles of matching type.  Again, see if you have fully covered a Mask area on your board with tiles, if so, take the most valuable mask of that type from the supply. 

2b] Make an Offering – Choose one of your worship tiles and resolve it and then return it face down to its stack in the supply.

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3a] Construct the Pyramid – All pyramid tiles are size 4; but you can build so long as you pay the difference.  The cost is 2 Gold and a Wood, plus 1 Gold for each Action point less than 4 in your action. The pyramid tile is placed on one of the six squares within your Architect’s reach. You can also place on top of other pyramid tiles so long as the newly placed piece is fully supported AND all the tiles underneath are within the reach of your Architect.  Receive 2 VPs for building this, and if this was a first level Pyramid tile, take the bonus action that you just covered.

3b] Gain Favor – Move your Favor token to the next space to the right on the track in this area. Take the VPs shown above your new space. You can also swap an unused Worship tile in your area for any one face up Worship tile in the display.

After performing an Action (not when passing), move your Architect clockwise to the next side of your Player board, signifying the end of your turn. This changes your Architect’s Reach for your next turn. After all players have passed, the current round ends. 

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In between rounds, move the round marker to the next space on the track.  Remove 1 Action disk from each player and return it to the box.  Give all other Action disks back to the players.  Reshuffle and place the Bonus disks again.  Refill the building, Temple and Pyramid tiles.

After the game has ended, players score additional Victory Points for how well their Districts complement their Pyramid.  For each Pyramid tile, you score points for each Temple of matching color that is in that district.  Each of the four districts is scored separately, and note that Pyramid tiles and Temple tiles that straddle a district boundary line will be scored for ALL districts they are in. The player with the most  points is the winner, ties broken in favor of the player with the most Pyramid tiles. 

My thoughts on the game

The gameplay in Founders of Teotihuacan is filled with interesting decisions – the main thrust of the game is an efficiency exercise.  I’m normally a fan of limited action games – and this game definitely limits the number of actions.  In a 4p game, you start with 5 action disks, and you lose one between each round, meaning that you only have 2 disks in the final round.  At most, you have 14 action opportunities, and that’s only if you never use multiple disks in an action!   There are times when it is worth losing out on an action if you can nab a coveted 4-strength action, etc. But, with very few decision points, you do have to try to make each one as valuable as possible.

In setup, you have some interesting choices that will help you craft your later strategy.  You get to place three pyramid tiles down freely, and this will get you three pyramid bonuses.  You might choose to place them on the temple spaces, as these are a bit harder to make (as you need both the action and resources to pay for them) and you also get random Worship cards which can also help you work towards something.  You could instead choose to place on the production buildings, and this will get you lots of resources to use in the early stages of the game.  Alternatively, you could try to place your pyramid tiles together in order to make it easier for you to place a second level tile on even the first round!  Regardless of where you place the pyramid tiles, also make sure that you put the right color in the right part of the pyramid for your plan…

As the game starts out, you will be able to build production buildings that will then have lots of empty orthogonally adjacent spots for cubes.  As the game progresses, these cubes will be converted into other tiles, and then real estate will become more and more valuable.  There is a bit of fun trying to puzzle out how to fit your pieces together in a way to minimize the one-space holes in the grid.  While you can take the (1b) action to place two 1-size spaces; that’s a valuable action used up to fill in those spots!

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The best way I’ve found to get around this limitation is to use the bonus actions to get free builds or offering actions.  If you’re able to get one of these tokens, you’ll end up with that extra action which seems perfect for things like “place two size-1 buildings”.  Another common use is to take a Gain Favor action to switch a Worship card with a face-up one that really suits you, and then take an extra action to immediately enact the newly gained Worship card.  Otherwise, taking two of your at-most 14 actions seems like a lot to cycle into the new scoring card…

Planning is important in this game – both in knowing your overall strategy as well as knowing where you can build…   Whatever you do, make sure you note where your architect is.  Remember that you generally only have access to half of the board to build on each turn, and you should be quite aware of which quadrants you will have access to in the final round.  There is nothing worse than having your grand strategy fall apart when you realize you can’t place that final temple or pyramid tile on the desired space because your architect is on the other side of your board!

I like the concept of the constantly reducing number of action disks in the game, but there have been times when I feel that only having 2 disks in the final round is a bit anticlimactic.  I can see where the game figures you have enough resources to build that final temple or pyramid piece; paying any penalties in extra resources… or you just need to take a few offering actions to score those last Worship cards.  With the lack of discs, it is not likely that you’ll get a 3 or a 4 strength action, so keep that in mind.  I generally want to do at least one more thing than I have discs for in the fourth round, and while I’m getting used to it, I’d still like a bit more to do in that final round than just 2 things!

The rules are very complete; though the game generally clocks in at less than an hour, the rulebook is an impressive 20 pages!  However, don’t be fooled – the game is honestly pretty easy to grok; this particular ruleset is filled with examples, both text and graphic, and we were able to easily learn the game and did not have any significant questions in our first games.   All of the bonus disks, pyramid bonuses and worship tile meanings are explained near the back of the rules – also eliminating many questions. There is also a pledge and a QR code in the rulebook pointing to an online location for a living ruleset – in case there are FAQs, errata or any other changes to the rules.  This is a feature I wish more publishers would get behind!

The game has had mixed reviews amongst the gamers that I’ve played it with.  I like the streamlined play and the efficiency puzzle.  While there is some competition for the action spaces and the somewhat constrained selection of tiles, once things go on my board, I have my own personal area to try to maximize scoring in.  That sort of game pleases me.  Others have found the game a bit dry for their tastes; but those tended to be gamers who liked the heavier B&D offerings – so to each their own.

Given the shorter playing time, this is way more likely to get continued play on my table than say Tekhenu or Teotihuacan (the original), but I can see why others would prefer the longer games.  If you’re looking for something a bit lighter from the design house of Board&Dice, this would be a good one to try!

Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers

Dan B. (1 play): This is more the sort of thing I like than Board & Dice’s usual offerings, and I liked my one play well enough and would certainly play again. However, I suspect it will not become a favorite.

  • Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
  • I love it!
  • I like it. Dale Y, Steph H, Dan B.
  • Neutral. John P
  • Not for me…

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
This entry was posted in Essen 2021, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

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