Game at a Glance
- Board & Dice
- Players: 1-4
- Playtime: 60 mins
- Age: 14+
- Designers: Filip Głowacz
- Artists: Chuy de Leon, Odysseas Stamoglou, Zbigniew Umgelter, Aleksander Zawada
- Availability: Preorder at https://boardanddice.com/product/founders-of-teotihuacan/
A review copy of this game was provided by the publisher; however, my opinions are my own
In Founders of Teotihuacan, players compete as ancient architects attempting to design the best plans for the city. Players will add buildings, temples, and a central pyramid to their plans all in an attempt to prove their worth as one of the great founders of this pre-Columbian civilization.
This is a worker placement and tile-placement game played throughout several rounds. Each player gets a player board representing the city and a certain number of action disks to be used each round. Players may choose to spend anywhere between one and three disks per turn on any available action space to do either a Build Action or an Influence Action.
The number of disks on each space is important for the Build Action, the tile-placement portion of the game, where you will construct buildings, temples, or a part of the pyramid. The amount of disks on that space constitutes how much power your action has – the more power usually equates to a less expensive build. But using several disks at once will reduce your total number of turns for the round, so players must choose wisely when deciding to use several at once.
The city is divided into quadrants or districts, and a large meeple acts as the architect traveling around the perimeter each turn. Players may only build on one half of the board – whichever side their architect happens to be that round. Careful planning is important to building the best city.
Buildings are important for generating resources – gold, stone, and wood. Temples are crucial for end-game scoring and collecting worship tiles which offer the player powerful bonuses. The pyramid tiles offer immediate bonuses and act as a multiplier for the temple tiles if they are placed in the same city quadrant. There are several ways to earn victory points in-game as well. After the designated number of rounds have been completed, the players calculate their points from their pyramid and the player with the most VPs is the winner.
Founders of Teotihuacan is a stand-alone prequel to the game Teotihuacan: City of Gods. Prior experience with Teotihuacan: City of Gods is not necessary to play this game.
There are many strategies that can be employed in this game, and they become more apparent with each play. Careful planning of the pyramid and temple placement is crucial and should always be the primary focus, in my opinion, but there are so many other ways to score.
It’s important not to overlook the in-game scoring methods. Covering up sections of mask icons earns players Mask Tiles which can be very lucrative early in the game. The Worship Tiles often have a high victory point payout when certain conditions are met, and taking an action to swap an old Worship Tile for a new one can lead to a significant VP bump. There are many ways to collect small amounts throughout the game as well by utilizing Bonus Disks and placing pyramids. It all adds up.
Founders of Teotihuacan feels like it’s just about the right length, and it has yet to outstay its welcome. The first round has the most action disks, but each round after players each lose an Action Disk causing the game to ramp up quickly. I find myself wishing I could have a few extra turns to complete more actions every time. I prefer a game to leave me wanting more than having me looking forward to its conclusion.
Planning is important in this game, and the addition of the Architect rondel makes that planning interesting. Players not only need to have the resources to afford Pyramid and Temple Tiles, but they must build them in areas where they will actually score points (within the same quadrants as others of their color), have their Architects in the right spot, and the tile must also be available at the market on the main board at the time of purchase. It’s imperitive that players look ahead to where their Architect will be in the future and determine which actions are most suitable at that time.
The polyomino tile placement in the city provides a different set of challenges. Players must figure out how to balance the resource-generating buildings with the point-scoring temples. The buildings generate their resources externally, taking up space on the board until they are spent. If a player runs low on space and needs to utilize areas around the building, resources may be lost. As space runs out, maximizing resource output becomes increasingly difficult. In addition to carefully planning the build actions, players must spend resources strategically to avoid losing them.
This is a strategy game without a huge dose of luck. There is a bit of randomness in which Worship Tiles are available, but most of the other variabilty comes from opponent’s actions, specifically the competition for Action Spaces and limited tiles.
Founders of Teotihuacan is more complex than some of the more basic tile placement games on the market. This is due to all the moving pieces in the game. Not only must players compete for the limited tiles and helpful worker placement spots, but they must also time their building actions to coincide with their Architect who is constantly moving around the outside of their board. People who prefer their games on the lighter side might find all the interwoven decisions to be a bit stressful but I think it will appeal to players who like to delve into deeper strategy than some other tile placement games might offer.
The game itself is not difficult to play. Turns are fairly simple – choose an available Action Space, take that action, then move your Architect clockwise around your board. Players may have more complicated turns if they are able to execute combinations and get additional actions but for the most part, the turns are very simple.
The rulebook is well-written and I was able to teach this game fairly easily. The length felt right for a game of this weight at all player counts I have tried. I imagine the biggest barrier to getting this game played would be setup and cleanup time – the game does not come with an insert and there are a lot of tiles to sort through in order to get the game setup.
I find myself discovering new strategies and improving my score with each game. Certain Temple Tiles offer additional actions, and when paired with the right Bonus Disk action some lucrative combos can occur. I feel like that alone gives the game a lot of mileage. In addition, I have yet to complete my pyramid. I’m not sure if it’s even possible at this point but it’s something I desperately want to figure out. This game includes double-sided boards that offer an asymmetric experience to mix it up, as well.
The pyramid construction offers a unique take on tile-laying and works well with the ancient Mesoamerican theme. The addition of polyomino-shaped buildings and temples throughout the city seems to make sense in the context of the game. Ultimately this is a Euro-style strategy game and for me the theme disappeared once I was immersed in the strategy of the game.
The component quality of the game was good. Again, I would prefer a game like this to come with an organizational insert to aid in setup and cleanup. The artwork was a bit bland to me; however, I did enjoy the look of the masks and the pyramid tiles. The graphic design and symbology are more important in a game than the artwork, and everything here was clear and easy to understand.
Being the first player in a round feels like an advantage, especially when a helpful Bonus Disk aligns well with an Action Space. The game design balances this out with the power system. By placing Action Disks first, you lose the opportunity to piggyback onto other players’ Action Disks to create a powerful move on that first action. The First Player may choose to spend more Action Disks on that turn to boost their power alone, but by doing so they are giving up an additional action or two. Sometimes this makes strategic sense, but it never feels like an easy sacrifice to make.
The game comes with four double-sided player boards. Each has a side that is identical to all the others, and a unique side on the back with different Pyramid bonuses. I do have some concerns with balance with the asymmetric boards. Two of these boards do not offer an initial gold resource bonus. There are plenty of ways to gather gold in the game, but in our experience, the player without the starting gold building missed some early opportunities and fell behind. I will likely opt to play with the identical boards going forward to ensure the game is balanced.
Although players have their own board to build on, there is a lot of interaction around the Main Board with it’s tight worker-placement area and limited resources. The race to the most coveted Action Spaces can be tense, and the limited tiles in the market add an additional race-like feel to the game.
For me, the fun in this game isn’t centered around rowdy table moments with friends. Instead, the fun lies in the puzzle of trying to find a balance between resource generation, setting myself up for VPs, and managing my building space well.
The turns tend to move quickly, and even when an opponent has slowed down to think about their strategy or execute a long combination of actions, I have plenty to consider. I need to consider turns several moves ahead, depending on where my architect will be in the future, and come up with a few different plans depending on what may or may not be available to me at that point. Every choice feels meaningful, and they are all interconnected in important ways. Fun is subjective, but to me that personal puzzle is enjoyable.
I love tile-laying games, and I love Tetris, so it stands to reason that polyomino tile placement should be one of my favorite game categories. Oddly, I don’t find myself gravitating toward these games much. I was a bit nervous about Founders of Teotihuacan activating those same lukewarm feelings. I’m pleased to say that was not the case this time! I am still trying to figure out why that is…
Perhaps it feels different to me because this is not a game about filling your board, but more about managing the space you have. Finding a balance between resource tiles and VP tiles and figuring out how to place everything to maximize the VP multiplier… I find it to be so satisfying. The addition of the personal rondel was refreshing and added another layer of complexity. I think the design on this is solid, even if it’s not the prettiest game to look at.
Although other polyomino games have entered and left my collection, Founders of Teotihuacan is welcome to stay. I have a lot more building to do in Ancient Mesoamerica, and maybe one day I’ll be good enough to complete that pyramid!
I recommend Founders of Teotihuacan for players who gravitate towards mid- to heavy-weight strategy games and who aren’t too concerned with an immersive theme. This game has a lot of moving pieces and interconnected strategies and might be a bit intimidating for those who prefer lighter games.