Tuesday 29 June 2021

Completing The Crew

Now that I am a paying subscriber of BoardGameArena.com, I can play the 11th mission onwards in The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine. Allen, Han and I continued our campaign, and spent four game sessions completing it. We patiently played every single mission, never skipping any. Some of them were pretty tough and required multiple attempts. Some had unusual tasks which could not be represented by the game components. We had to read extra rules to be able to play. The basic game mechanisms didn't change. It was the conditions we had to fulfil that were very specific and unusual. These missions were usually the more interesting ones, and required new thinking. None of us were experts in trick-taking games. It was fun to work out the strategies as we progressed through the missions. 

We played about 10 missions per game session. We only played The Crew and not other games. This was a comfortable pace. If you plan to play this as just one of a couple of games in a game session, you can probably do about 3 to 5 missions, as openers or closers. 

In this particular mission, we had to play the 9's without them winning any trick. This was an interesting challenge. We tried to exhaust certain colours in our hands, so that when someone else led with that colour, we could play our 9's which were in another colour. This was a mission in which we had to tread carefully. 

As we progressed to the higher missions, we had more and more tasks. The highest was 10 tasks, which meant one of the players had to complete four tasks. We tried to have each player focus on just one colour as much as possible. This helped. 

The game becomes quite challenging with 10 tasks! 

Friday 25 June 2021


The Game

Havana is the capital of Cuba. The game Havana is a sister game of the game Cuba, but they are by different designers. Just same publisher. Havana was released in 2009. I was looking for low complexity games to play with younger daughter Chen Rui during school holidays, so I borrowed this from Allen. 

The game comes with many different buildings. At game setup you randomly draw twelve and arrange them like this. At the top right corner of a building tile you can see the point value. At the bottom you see the resources required to construct the building. Your goal in the game is to be first to construct enough buildings to reach a certain victory point total. At any time, you may only construct the leftmost or rightmost building of a row, i.e. there are only four available at any one time. When you construct a building, the one next to it becomes available. When there are only two buildings left in a row, you draw four new ones and stick them between those older two. So you'll get a full six-building row again. 

Resources in the game include cubes in various colours, cash and workers. Grey cubes are rubble and they are inferior compared to other cubes. During game setup some resources will be randomly drawn and placed at the centre of the table. Every round, three cubes and $3 will be added to the pool. Players will compete to collect resources from the table. 

The core mechanism of the game is the players' action cards. Everyone has the same set of 13 cards. They are numbered from 0 to 9. Each action card specifies what you can do with it. At the start of the game, everyone simultaneously picks two cards to play. You form a number with your two cards, e.g. 1 and 9 makes 19. You always make the smallest possible number. Your number determines your turn order. Smallest goes first. 

When you prepare for the next round, you pick an action card from your hand and cover one of your current action cards. Once everyone has done this, the new cards are revealed and everyone creates his own new number, which will determine the new turn order. The old action cards being covered are discarded. You will keep playing your action cards until you have only two remaining in hand. At that point you take all discarded cards back into your hand. 

The action cards let you do all sorts of things. The most basic type of action is to simply gather resources from the centre of the table. Some cards let you steal resources from other players. Some cards protect you from such stealing. When you steal, you normally only steal from players later than you in turn order. This is one reason why turn order is important. The other reason is the early bird gets the worm. If you are slow, there may not be many resources left at the centre of the table. 

The Play

So far I have only played the 2-player game. The 2-player game is more aggressive, since there can be only one victim for the attack cards. Between gathering resources and stealing resources, I chose the former, because I didn't want to play too nasty. Also if you are quick enough in gathering resources and spending them, your opponent won't be able to steal much from you. Once resources are converted to buildings, the buildings are safe and cannot be taken from you. 

The pace of the game is influenced by what kind of resources the buildings require, and what kind of resources get drawn from the bag. There are many resource types, so most of the time what the buildings need and what is available do not coincide. You will need to patiently gather resources. If a good match comes up, you probably want to snatch it up quickly and build before your resources get stolen. 

I went with the early bird strategy most of the time. It mean getting the resources earlier. It seems to be very advantageous going first. Sometimes I even used my 0. The 0 card does nothing. You are effectively sacrificing an action for the sake of (hopefully) going earlier. Sometimes it is worthwhile. 

It is important to think about the turn order for the next round. If your opponent has 5 and 6 in play now, and you know she still has the 0 in hand, then you know she may go as low as 05 next round. If you are determined to go earlier, you will need to make 04 or lower. When you pick actions, turn order is important but not the only consideration. You also consider the cubes and cash on the table, resources in your opponents' hands, and the buildings available. If there is not much to collect, you may not pick cards for collecting such resources. If there is a lot to collect, your opponents may be thinking the same thing as you. When your opponents are poor, there is not much point in robbing them. When you are rich, beware of robbers and taxmen. 

The game is a race towards the specific victory point total. 

The Thoughts

Havana is a game with some aggression. The most interesting core of the game is how you select your actions to both utilise them well and manipulate turn order. Turn order certainly is important. You don't want to have your resources robbed just before you are going to construct that high-valued building. The race for constructing the same building can be intense. If someone else constructs the building you have been working towards, the resources you have accumulated may not be useful for other buildings. There is some psychology in this game because you need to guess what kind of cards your opponents are picking. Are they going to attack? Or will they rush to build? How far will they compromise between turn order and action effectiveness? 

Friday 18 June 2021

boardgaming in photos: Race for the Galaxy, Star Realms, Ascension, At the Gates of Loyang


I have been playing a lot of Race for the Galaxy on the iPad lately. I play against AI's, and they are decent. I often lose to them. Play is quick. There is no need to shuffle cards, which can be tedious since I play with all three expansions in the first story arc. Scoring is much more convenient too, since the app does it for you. Naturally when I take screenshots, it is usually when I win. Both these screenshots are when I win with more than 100VP. 

The third expansion adds the prestige mechanism. This is a special type of victory point, represented by purple circles. Sometimes I call them cherries. With prestige in play, you are constantly under pressure to compete. The player leading in prestige scores an extra point every single round, and this can be a huge advantage. The AI's often try to score prestige within the first few rounds. Not many cards give prestige, so you are dependent on luck. Even when you have a card that gives prestige, you may hesitate to play it because it may not be aligned with your overall strategy. Is that 1 point of prestige worth it? 

In this particular game I scored 112 because of my three large 6-cost development cards. The Merchant Guild gave me 18VP! 

I think players who are not familiar with Race for the Galaxy will find these screenshots puzzling and intimidating. There are so many different icons, colours and shapes. They all mean something. Being familiar with the game, they all make perfect sense to me and I love how the developers are able to squeeze so much information onto the screen. 

In this game I had five large developments! I could have 14 cards in my tableau instead of the usual 12 because the Hidden Fortress gave me this power. I was a militaristic superpower this time. My military strength was 14. The Hidden Fortress contributed a lot to this too, giving me 6 strength. 

It's a shame no one created the Blue Moon app on the iPad. There is a free program for the PC. Its AI was developed by Keldon too. I can boot up my laptop to play, but that's less convenient than playing on the iPad. Also the PC version is quite spartan. Functional but not exactly pretty. 

This is probably the most expensive card in Star Realms. Feels great to be able to afford it. Certainly when I drew it and used it, it dealt a powerful blow to my opponent. I can't remember which expansion this is in though. Must be one of the more recent ones. 

Ascension released some new content. I immediately bought the latest expansion available on iOS. I have played Ascension so much and enjoyed it for so long that I would feel guilty if I don't support them. I had played the same combination of expansions for quite some time, and took the opportunity to switch things up a little. I have now removed the Temples mechanism, the Dreamscape mechanism and the Champions mechanism. I never quite liked Dreamscape. Temples are just a minor novelty. Champions are so-so for me. So they are all like distractions. Now I'm putting Treasures back into the mix. 

The screenshot above shows some new art. They made some new art for their 10th anniversary. I like the new art. The original art is in quite a unique style, which I like too. The new art is in a very different style. 

The basic Apprentice card is pretty. 

My wife Michelle wanted to play At the Gates of Loyang on Wesak Day (26 May 2021). It was a public holiday in the middle of the week. Loyang is a 2009 game from Uwe Rosenberg, published shortly after Agricola (2007) and Le Havre (2008), It was not as popular as the other two earlier games. 

The most attractive part of the game is probably the vegetables. In this game you only plant and harvest vegetables. No slaughtering of boars or cows. Only vegan options available. 

We were both a little rusty and made some mistakes. Unfortunately for Michelle, she made mistakes which disadvantaged her, while I made mistakes which helped me. The most painful mistake for Michelle was she forgot that at the end of each round, the first step on the prosperity track only cost a flat $1. Only the second step onwards cost the full price. She paid the full price for a number of rounds before she realised the mistake. In Loyang, it is best to always keep at least $1 for the end of the round, so that you make at least one step of progress. The mistake I made was related to harvesting. I think I harvested more than I should have. By the time I realised it, it was too hard to undo and I couldn't remember what exactly I had done. So we just pressed on. 

In one particular round I had this many vegetables! Some were leftovers from the previous sound, but most were harvested in the current round. This helper card contributed towards this, allowing me harvest double at some fields. 

By the end of the game, I managed to hit prosperity 20, the max. I think this was the first time I ever managed this. Unfortunately this game didn't count, due to my rule mistake earlier in the game. Also I had taken one loan, so I had to deduct my prosperity level by 1, to 19. 

This helper, the messenger boy, helped me greatly. In this round he let me deliver double the goods to one customer. See that regular customer on the right. One of the rows has vegetables delivered twice. 

Player interaction in Loyang is limited. You are mostly managing your own fields, vegetables and customers. It's the kind of game I am willing to play but do not suggest to play. It feels a bit like work to me. On one hand you have to produce us much as possible. One the other, you have to find as many customers as possible who want your produce. Your job is to bridge supply and demand, manipulating both to best fit each other. 

Sunday 13 June 2021

Sky Towers


The Game

Sky Towers is a card game from Japan, designed by Charles Ward, winner of the BGG 2020 9-card nanogame design contest. The game is an entry in the BGG 2021 54-card design contest. The voting period will start on 1 Jul 2021. Charlie contacted me and asked whether I was interested to review the game. I took a quick look and immediately said yes. The gameplay sounded interesting, but I must admit one big factor was the artwork (which he did himself). I could not resist Kong and Godzilla above. 

Sky Towers is a peaceful game about building towers. No monster battles, sorry. 

Sky Towers is a light family game which plays in 15 minutes. You stack numbered cards one on top of another to build towers. Everyone may build one tower at a time, unless you are playing with two players. Then you may build two towers at a time. To complete a tower, you need to reach a total of 21 exactly. You may not play a card that would cause the tower to exceed 21. On your turn you take only two actions. Your options are simple. You either draw a card, play a card, or abandon a tower under construction. One important restriction when playing a card is you may not play a number which is at the top of your neighbours' towers. If the top card on your left neighbour's tower is a 2, you won't be able to play any of the 2's in your hand for the moment. You need to wait until he completes his tower, or plays another number on top of his 2. 

Cards are numbered 1 to 10. For most numbers there are five cards. There are more 2's and 3's. There is only one 8 (Godzilla) and one 9 (Kong). The yellow kites on the cards mean victory points. Not all numbers have kites. 5's and 7's have purple flags, and these are tiebreakers. If tied in kites, you compare flags. 

Many cards have either special powers or limitations. 10's can only be used at the bottom of a tower. You can't play 10's on top of other cards. 1's will only allow other 1's to be played on top. When you play a 6, you can ask an opponent for a card of a specific number. He must surrender it to you if he has it. When you play a 5, all players (including you) with more than five cards must return the excess to the draw deck. There is no hand limit, but you have to be careful of the 5's. The 8 and the 9 can be played onto an opponent's tower, and it's usually... ahem... not to help them. 

There are four bonus cards in the game, worth 3 or 5 points. When you complete a tower which fulfils a bonus condition, you claim the bonus card. If more than one player achieve this, the latecomer steals the bonus card. The early bird does not keep the worm. That said, it is not easy to complete the bonuses, so it's rare to have two or more players achieving the same bonus condition. E.g. there are only five 4's and five 5's in the game. That four 4's or four 5's bonus can technically be fulfilled by two players, or by the same player twice, but it's hard. The bonus for 6-to-1 might be slightly easier, but it is still pretty challenging. 

This is an example of a completed tower - total of 21. These cards can now be set aside, to be scored at game end. There are two kites, so that's 2VP. Once this tower is set aside, you can start a new tower. 

Once the last card of the deck is drawn, you go into the final round, in which everyone may take three actions instead of the usual two. You do scoring after this final round. Incomplete towers score nothing. 

This is the Tokyo Skytree tower! It fulfils the bonus requiring a tower to have only 1's, 2's and 3's. Looks majestic doesn't it?

The Play

So far I have only played 2-player games. I think this is the best player count. The game is light and quick, because your actions are simple. You are mostly drawing a card or playing a card. So far I have never abandoned a tower. I think that's a big waste and should be avoided as much as possible. Probably sometimes you do need to give up to free up a slot for tower building. 

It is important to use the top cards of your towers to block your opponent. I always prefer to play my 7 early, to prevent my opponent from playing her 7, so that I can race for the three 7's bonus. This may not be the best strategy though. If my opponent draws an 8 or 9, she can play it on my 7 and spoil my plans. That's if I only have one 7 played. If I have two 7's in a tower, it is no longer possible to play an 8 or 9 on it, because the tower would go beyond 21. 

Sometimes you intentionally delay completing a tower so that you can continue to block your opponent. Quite a number of cards in the game create player interaction. You use 6's to steal cards from your opponent. If you are collecting 5's or 4's and think you opponent has one, use your 6 to demand these cards. This also means you need to observe how your opponent plays, and try to guess what she is thinking. Does she have the number you want? Is she only pretending to? 

Card counting is important. There are only five 4's, 5's and 6's. If you keep track of how many have been seen, you will know whether it is still possible to achieve certain bonuses. You probably want to count the attack cards like 5's and 6's, so that you know whether there is still danger out there. 

What kind of tower to build is not always a straight-forward decision. The bonuses create an interesting dilemma. The game is not just a simple exercise of making 21. The high numbered cards have no kite. You should plan for the bonuses. If a tower you complete also scores a bonus, you are killing two birds with one stone. The tower scores, the bonus card gives you points too. 

Sky Towers on Tabletop Simulator

I managed to arrange to play online with Charlie the designer himself. We played on Tabletop Simulator. This allowed me to better appreciate some of the intricacies of the game. I had thought I was doing pretty well, but eventually I lost the game by just one point. I had overestimated the value of completing many towers. Charlie picked quality over quantity. 

Solo mode: Taroma version

In addition to the standard rules (for 2 to 4 players), Sky Towers comes with two solo modes. The first one is the Taroma challenge, in which you play against a bot named Taroma. 

This is how the Taroma challenge is set up. Just like the standard game, you start with a hand of five cards. Many of the rules are the same as the standard game. Taroma performs two actions per turn. He either draws a card or plays a card. He follows a very specific, predictable procedure. His cards are initially face-down. You will flip them over one by one until you find one which can be played. If none can be played, he draws a card. 

One important difference from the standard game is Taroma scores not only his completed towers, he also scores incomplete towers and cards in hand! This means every time he draws a card, if that card has a kite, he is already scoring points. When he is able to play a card, that's probably a good thing for you, because he's spending an action playing a card instead of drawing a card. His towers do block you from playing certain numbers. Imagine Taroma as a relentless train charging ahead and counting down towards the end of the game. Your job is to catch up to him and to slow him down where possible. 

I think one key to beating Taroma is the bonuses. He probably won't win any of them, and also doesn't consciously hinder you. The extra points from bonuses will likely be a great help in outscoring him. The 5's are probably another important weapon. If you can block him from playing cards, then force him to keep drawing, and then play a 5 to force him to discard, you will be effectively reducing his score. Despite having learnt these tactics, beating Taroma is still tough. Surprisingly when I finally managed to beat him, I did not use the 5 that game. I had thought it would be a necessity. I guess not. 

Playing Taroma is like playing a 2-player game. You get to build two towers at once. I put the completed towers on the left. Towers under construction on the right. 

Taroma's hand can grow huge, especially when he builds his towers in a weird way, or I intentionally block him from building using my own towers. Taroma never abandons a tower. 

Solo mode: Light version

The other solo mode is by a different designer - Koyomi Kawasumi. The game is highly simplified and almost feels like a different game. You no longer care about kites (or flags). You only want to complete towers. One tower is 1 point. Bonuses are still in play. Each bonus achieved is 1 point too. Your goal is to reach 10 points. Most card powers are ignored, except for the restrictions of the 1's and 10's. 

This is a purer solo mode where you really are just playing with yourself and not against a bot. There is no need to manage the bot. 

This is how the light version is set up. The default difficulty level is 4, which means a starting hand of 4, a hand limit of 4, and also 4 cards being removed face-down before game start. You can adjust the difficulty. The lower the number, the harder it is. One big difference between this and the standard game is you now have a hand limit. 

I stack completed towers on the left so that it's easy to keep count of how many I have completed. 

If you feel like giving your brain a break, this is probably the best mode to play the game. E.g. play it as a quick diversion on a long train trip. The light solo mode is less stressful than the Taroma solo mode. The focus changes from kites to completed towers. This feels natural and easier to grasp. In the standard game, it took me some time to fully appreciate the importance of the kites. I had an instinctive urge to complete towers as frequently as I could, but that wasn't exactly the best strategy. 

The Thoughts

The first impression that Sky Towers gives is probably not a very accurate one. You think it's a simplistic and casual family game, but dig a little deeper, and you'll find that it has some nifty ideas. You can't help feeling clever when you discover and apply some of the tactics in the game. Not to say that it's a deep, complex game. There is still plenty of luck. It is not "just a cute game". I would say it's a cheeky little treat. 

If you want to clandestinely give your kids some math practice, this is a good one because they will need to keep adding up the numbers at every tower. Games are always the best trap! 

If you are interested to download the game and print-and-play for free, visit the official website. If you want to vote for Sky Towers in the upcoming BGG 2021 54-card game design contest, follow the discussion thread

Friday 11 June 2021

Teotihuacan: City of Gods

The Game

Teotihuacan is an archaeological site in modern day Mexico, famous for its many pyramids. It was once one of the largest cities in the world. It was most prosperous from 1AD to 500AD. Historians still debate whether it was the seat of an empire, but most agree that it was an influential city in its time. Some historians think Teotihuacan was a multi-ethnic city. It has traces of different cultures. 

Teotihuacan: City of Gods is a worker placement game and a rondel game. I have not seen many rondel games lately. In this game you collect resources, build the pyramid, build houses and worship gods. Your workers are dice. When they work, they learn and improve themselves, represented by an increase in die values. This also means they are getting older. Eventually they die upon reaching 6. You get a reward for their ascension, and your die returns as a level 1 worker. I think of it as reincarnation. Perhaps we can also think of it as the mayor giving the freed up work permit to another younger family member. 

The game is played over 3 eras. You play a number of rounds every era. You do scoring at the end of each era. You also pay your workers. Experienced workers (4's and 5's) are paid double. If you want to keep costs down, consider "retiring" them just before the era ends. Many things that you do in the game give points. Highest scorer at game end wins. 

At the very centre you can see the main pyramid, which is already partially built at the start of the game. During the game you continue to build it, but it is not guaranteed that you will complete it. To the left of the pyramid you have three temple tracks. There are many ways to advance your pawn on these tracks. Each step you advance gives you some benefit, and these benefits get better and better. To the right of the pyramid there is another track - the Avenue of the Dead. You also have a countdown area. 

Along the edges of the board there are 8 different action boards. These are where you will place your workers to do stuff. Some let you collect resources. Some let you spend those resources to build stuff. Your workers move from action board to action board in a clockwise manner. On your turn you must move one worker 1 to 3 steps. You get to perform the associated action where he lands. If you already have other workers waiting for him there, your action becomes more powerful. Often you want to assemble your workers at the same action board to maximise your action. 

This is the action board for collecting stone. The table shows what you get depending on the number of dice (workers) you have present, and the value of the lowest die. On the left you can see a worship room. When you send a worker to this action board, you can give him permission to not work, and get him to worship instead. Worshipping translates to taking a powerful action, at the cost of locking down your worker. To unlock, you need to pay, or you forfeit a full turn. Both of these will unlock all your locked workers. Another way for your worshipping worker to be freed up is getting kicked out by an opponent. If an opponent wants to worship too, he can kick your worker out by paying a small fee. 

This is the action board for building houses. A house costs two wood. Building houses lets you advance on the Avenue of the Dead. As more houses are built, the point value drops. During era scoring, you multiply your progress on the Avenue of the Dead with the house point value. 

If you have two or more workers here, you get to build houses in the second or third row, which are worth more points. 

This is the technology action board. You pay gold to learn a tech. If you only have one inexperienced worker, you can only learn techs from the first row. If you have two, or if your worker is experienced, you may pick from the second row too. It is normally better to learn techs in the early game, so that you will have plenty of opportunities to make use of them. If you learn a tech late in the game, it may be a waste of gold. 

The tech at the bottom right allows you to advance on any temple each time you build the pyramid. If you intend to spend much effort on the pyramid, you should learn this tech early in the game.  

Situations like this often happen, because it is powerful to have many workers at the same action board. 

When your worker arrives at an action board, you may decide to not let him work. You need to pay a fee if you want him to work, and this fee depends on how many player colours are on the action board before his arrival. Using the screenshot above as an example, if the black player sends a worker here, he has to pay $3 to perform an action. The currency in the game is actually cocoa and not Dollars. For simplicity I'm using $. If you choose to have your worker not work, you earn money instead. You earn  an amount equal to the number of player colours plus 1. Using the same example, black would earn $4 by sending a worker here and having him not work. In this game there is a cyclical aspect in earning money and then spending it on actions. 

During game setup, you draw four resource tiles and pick two. These decide your starting resources and starting locations of your workers. During play, you may gain these blue bordered discovery tiles above. Some of them are one-time-use powers. Some are masks. During the era scoring, you score points based on different mask designs you have collected. 

The action board at the bottom right is for building the pyramid, and that at the bottom left is for decorating the pyramid. The pyramid is built using 2x2 blocks. At some positions there are symbols. When you stack a block onto the pyramid, if any symbol is stacked on top of the same symbol, you score an extra point. When the matching symbol is coloured, you get to advance on the corresponding temple. 

Decorating the pyramid works like laying 2x1 staircase steps from north, south, east and west of the pyramid, starting from the bottom step and working upwards. Naturally this has dependency on the progress of the pyramid itself, since the staircase has to be built on top of the pyramid. 

On the left you see the Avenue of the Dead. On the right you see the countdown timer. When the white disc reaches the black, you play the final round of the era. In this screenshot you can see three idle workers (dice). Whenever a worker dies (called "ascends" in game terms), you get to collect one of five prizes while that worker reincarnates to become a fresh value 1 worker. One of these prizes is an extra worker of value 3. You can only receive this prize once per game. 

The Play

I played with Allen and Han on BoardGameArena.com. This is a game of resource collection then conversion to victory points, so playing the game is all about doing these more efficiently than your opponents. By analysing the board you can see clearly where you can collect which resources, and where you can convert them to points. Many tracks and elements in the game measure your progress, e.g. the temples, the Avenue of the Dead, and your mask collection. The further you progress in one of these elements, the bigger the reward per step progress. That means you want to focus on just a few, to reap the most that you can, as opposed to dabbling in a little of everything, which will not get you much of anything. 

In the first game we played, Allen built many houses in the early game, and neither Han nor I spent much on this. When the first era scoring came around, this gave Allen a huge lead, and from that point onwards we were never able to catch up. Since he was the only guy spending much effort on houses, there were not many houses built yet in total, and that kept the house value from dropping much. Since he had many more houses than we did (i.e. he had made much more progress on the Avenue of the Dead), he benefited significantly more than us when this was scored. In our second game, we learned from our mistake, and competed dutifully in house-building. That kept things more balanced and the runaway leader in check. 

The screenshot above was taken near the end of our first game. The pyramid was far from completed. In fact there were still two position at Level 1 not yet filled. The pyramid had four levels, and we were up to Level 3. 

Although we played a 3-player game, workers of the 4th player were still used. In our case the 4th player was red. Three red workers were randomly placed at three different action boards at the start of every era. They didn't move about. They only affected the action fee when we performed actions, and the income when we skipped actions. 

Money and liquidity is an ongoing concern. As you take action after action, sooner or later you will run out of cash. You will need to spend some of your turns making money so that you can afford the actions you want to take. The action boards are randomised from game to game. Depending on what areas you want to focus on, you will have some idea which action boards you will need for action taking, and which you can leave for income generation. Your opponents' actions will affect your strategy. If everyone else loves collecting gold, maybe you should forget about gold, and instead use that action board for income generation. Let the rest of them pay through their noses to take actions on such a crowded action board. Managing money is a very tactical aspect of the game. You are always hoping to perform actions when nobody else is around, and make money when everyone is around. 

The strategic aspects of the game include progress on the four tracks (the temples and the Avenue of the Dead), and the masks. You need to make a conscious effort to progress well. You need to focus. Techs also make you think strategically. If you already know a tech, you will want to make the most of it by taking the relevant action as often as you can. 

Worshipping is an interesting twist. Worship is powerful, but it does lock down your worker. It feels expensive to have to pay to unlock him (or them). It also feels like a big waste to forfeit a full turn to unlock. In our first game we were reluctant to worship. We only worshipped more in our second game. It that game, I was desperate to climb up the blue temple. The worship rooms were a good way of making such progress. Since more of us were willing to worship, sometimes we even spent a small fee to kick one another's workers from the workshop rooms, so that our own workers could enter and worship. This resulted in worship being a good deal for all of us. It wasn't too expensive. Unlocking others' workers was cheaper. Having your own workers unlocked by others without spending a cent yourself is great! Thank you sir, please come again! 

In our second game, the blue temple was my (black) key to victory. The penultimate steps at temples give players an extra scoring method. I aimed for the one at the blue temple, which would give me 4VP per junior worker (values 1 to 3), and 9VP per senior worker (values 4 & 5). 

I scored 31VP for this, which was a fantastic feeling! 

The Thoughts

Teotihuacan is a typical heavy Euro. It's point-scoring. It's multiple ways to score points. It forces you to prioritise in only a handful of areas, so that you can be successful in them. You know you can't be good at everything. The worker movement and the action fee are restrictions placed upon you. You need to manage them while trying to gather resources and convert them to points as efficiently as possible. There is no blocking in the worker placement here. At most you can make an action more expensive for your opponent, by having your colour where he wants to go, or by squatting at a worship room he intends to use. There's some tactical competition you need to manage. In building houses and the pyramid, there is a race element, since you want to get the more desirable houses / blocks / decorations. All in all, this is quite a rich game, with many ways to compete and many different things to do. 

I can understand the appeal and why the game is popular. It works, but it's not something that gets me excited. When I break it down, it's too much in the collect-resources-convert-to-points mould, and this is a turn-off for me personally if the game doesn't have some other hook. Not that Teotihuacan is not creative. It does have some interesting elements. The workers getting better over time is new. They age well, then they die, and they get reborn. I haven't seen that elsewhere. The worship actions is an unconventional element. Normally worker placement games don't lock down your workers. Actions becoming stronger when workers assemble is also something new. These were novel for me, but I'm happy enough to have seen them. I don't have a strong urge to revisit. Perhaps one reason the game lacks a hook for me is it is an open information game which feels like a puzzle. It presents many options, and you need to work out the best answer. I felt more like I was solving a complex puzzle than I was living the heyday of Teotihuacan.  

Lost Temple of Arnak is also a collect-resources-to-score-points game, but it worked better for me than Teotihuacan. The reason is the deck-building lets me craft my own superpower, and the card draw is exciting - not only in what you draw from your deck, but also what gets replenished into the card row so that you can buy.