Founders of Teotihuacan is a new stand alone game about the founding of the city of Teotihuacan that features simpler to learn mechanics and a shorter playtime than the original Teotihuacan City of the Gods. Making this a much more accessible game that is going to appeal to a wider range of gamers.
In this one hour tile laying game, players compete to plan out the best version of the city of Teotihuacan using a very cool action selection system.
Disclosure: Thank you to Board & Dice for sending us a copy of this tile laying game to review. Links in this post may be affiliate links. Using these links doesn’t cost you anything extra and helps support this blog and our podcast.
What is Founders of Teotihuacan About?
Founders of Teotihuacan was designed by Filip Głowacz and features artwork from Chuy de Leon, Odysseas Stamoglou, and Aleksander Zawada. It is published by Board & Dice here in North America with copies just hitting stores late last month.
This new Teotihuacan game plays one to four players with most games taking under an hour once you have the mechanics down. Founders of Teotihuacan has a $50 US MSRP.
Before I go any further I want to reiterate that this is a new stand alone game. This is not an expansion, new edition, or really even a re-implementation, of Teotihuacan City of the Gods, and having or knowing the original is not required to play or enjoy this game.
In Founders of Teotihuacan, players compete to create the best design for the city of Teotihuacan including its buildings, temples and of course a grand pyramid in the centre of the city. This is done through a unique action selection system and polyomino tile placement. In this game, you will have to find a balance between placing buildings that generate resources and temples that score points, while being limited on where you can place based on where your architect is located. While building you will also earn bonus actions and points by appeasing the gods. The builder who earns the most points wins.
See what you get in the box with this lighter, quicker Teotihuacan game in our Founders of Teotihuacan Unboxing Video on YouTube.
My copy of Founders of Teotihuacan is a pre-release review copy and because of that what I received won’t exactly match what you get in the retail copy. My personal copy didn’t initially have enough cubes to be able to play four players. Thankfully Board & Dice tossed some extra cubes in along with the game. However, those extra cubes aren’t exactly the same colour as those that were in the box. So if you notice two different colours of each cube in my pictures, this is why. This isn’t anything you will need to worry about if you pick up a retail copy.
In regards to overall component quality, everything here is decent but not outstanding. While I would have liked to have seen more wooden tiles, like the pieces you get in the original Teotihuacan game, you do get lots of cardboard here.
The game comes with a main two piece market board, individual two sided player boards (one side symmetric and the other asymmetric), wooden cubes and discs, large wooden meeple Architects and a ton of cardboard tiles representing pyramid pieces, buildings, temples, temple tiles, masks and more.
Founders of Teotihuacan Overview of Play
You start a game of Founders of Teotihuacan with everyone picking which side of the player boards to use (symmetric side or asymmetric side) and taking a board and all of the components in their colour. They then place an Architect meeple on the proper starting side of their board based on the player order. Players place their scoring disc on the zero spot on their player boards and place a favour token on the lowest spot of the Pyramid track.
The central market is populated with buildings, temples and pyramid tiles and the sun and eclipse markers are placed on the round tracker. The bonus discs are randomized and one is placed on each available action spot. Each of these things can be affected by player count, with fewer tiles in play, fewer action spots available and possibly fewer game rounds, with fewer players.
Before the first round of the game, each player places one of each of the three colours of pyramid tiles onto their play board. When doing this they get whichever bonuses they cover up. Tiles earned through these bonuses then get placed onto the board, but they can’t cover up any masks. I will explain these bonuses and masks in a bit.
The main structure of play in Founders of Teotihuacan involves players placing one to three of their action discs onto action spaces on the market board, then choosing to do either a build or influence action based on this placement. The strength of the action taken will be based on the number of discs in total on that spot after the player places their disc.
At the start of each round, there will be cardboard discs on each spot and the first player to play there will get the bonus shown. These bonuses include getting to take an extra build or influence action, gaining some victory points, increasing your power, and more.
The action spots are broken into three main areas each with one build action and one influence action associated with it.
Looking at the build actions first:
The first build action is Construct A Building. You take one of the available building tiles with a size equal to your power level or less and place it on your player board in a region that your Architect can see (the two quarters of your board on the same side as your Architect meeple). Then generate resources by putting cubes matching the building’s colour in every open spot adjacent to your newly placed buildings. There are three different building types and resources: wood, stone and gold.
The second build action is Construct A Temple. Temples don’t generate resources. Each temple costs a basic fee of two resources, you then have to pay additional resources based on the difference between the Temple size and the power you generated when taking this action. Temples don’t do anything when built but are worth points during final scoring. In addition to placing a tile on your board, when building a Temple you also take one of the face up Temple Tiles. You place these in your play area to be spent later.
When placing Buildings and Temples on your player board you are also looking to cover up Masks. Every board has spots on it with Mask symbols that come in three different styles. When the last Mask spot in a pattern is covered that player gets to take a Mask tile of the appropriate style. These Mask tiles are worth a diminishing amount of points as each is claimed.
The last build action is to Construct the Pyramid. Pyramid tiles cost Gold and Wood with additional gold potentially being required based on the power generated when taking this action. Pyramid tiles are added to the pyramid in the centre of the player boards and may give bonuses when placed. These bonuses include placing a free Building or Temple, taking a Temple Tile, getting some bonus points etc. Each Pyramid tile will be worth points at the end of the game as long as they are paired with matching coloured temples in the same district, with tiles higher up on the pyramid scoring more points than lower tiles.
That’s it for the build actions, next are the influence actions. Remember that when selecting an action you pick either the build or the influence action for that spot, so each of these actions pairs with a matching build action.
The first Influence action lets you produce resources. Each of your buildings in play produces one resource of the appropriate colour which must be placed next to it on the map. You then get to build two single square sized wood or stone buildings (which will also place resources and can trigger Mask scoring).
The next Influence action has you making an offering to the gods. You choose one temple tile (which you have already collected through a Build Temple action or bonus) and return it to the bottom of the appropriate Temple Tile stack to get whatever is shown on that tile. There are three different categories of Temple tiles based on the three colours of temples. These tiles do a wide variety of things when turned in, including giving you points for trading in sets of resources, points for having sets of Buildings and/or Temples in play, free tiles to place, bonus Build or Influence actions, and more.
The last influence option is to gain favour. You move up on a track, get some points and get the option to swap any one of your temple tiles for any other face up temple tile on the board.
After taking a Build or Influence action (and any bonus actions earned) you move your Architect clockwise around your player board, to the next side, so that next round you will be limited to building in different quarters of your board.
When a player is out of action discs they are forced to pass on their turn. The round ends when every player has passed and a new round begins (unless that was the last round of the game).
At the start of each round, the bonus discs are re-randomized and the board is repopulated with buildings, temples and pyramid tiles. The Sun Token moves towards the Eclipse Token and when they match it indicates the last round of the game (which is on the third round with three players or the fourth round with all other player counts).
Finally, everyone returns one of their action discs to the box. This is important as it means the number of available actions for every player diminishes as the game goes on.
At the end of the final round, there is a final scoring phase where players will score their central pyramid. These points are based on having the right coloured temples in the same district as a similarly coloured pyramid tile with pyramid tiles higher up on the pyramid scoring more points.
Once everyone has scored their pyramid the player with the most points wins.
Founders of Teotihuacan also includes a solo mode where you play against the first founders AI. For the most part, this is a pretty typical AI system with the two AI founder colours taking up action spots and removing buildings, temples and tiles from the game instead of taking a normal turn. What really sticks out here though is there are three tables which you roll on at the start of the game with the included D8.
These rolls set three challenges for you to face during that game. At the end of the game, you must have completed all three challenges. If you’ve done that then you subtract your score from the base score of 80 to see how well you did.
Who should enjoy Founders of Teotihuacan?
Assuming the goal of Founders of Teotihuacan was to give players a much more accessible, lighter, easier to learn and faster Teotihuacan game (when compared to City of the Gods) then the designers, and Board & Dice, accomplished exactly what they were setting out to do.
This version of Teotihuacan is significantly more approachable than its big brother. I wouldn’t go so far as to call this game a gateway game as there are far too many options, too many ways to score and too many things to keep track of. However, I do think this is a game that is going to appeal to a lot more gamer groups than City of the Gods.
It’s important to note just how little this game has in common with the other, bigger, Teotihuacan game. The only real crossover here is the name, the setting and the theme. Founders of Teotihuacan is very much a stand alone game with its own mechanics, gameplay and overall feel. Due to that Founders of Teotihuacan really shouldn’t be judged based on the other Teotihuacan game. Looking at this as a completely separate, stand alone game (which is what it is), we found a lot to like.
Starting with the components, overall they aren’t great but they are very functional. While I would have liked to have seen some wooden tiles for the pyramid, I fully understand Board & Dice working to get the price down for this Teotihuacan game. The cardboard components punched well and feature very clear iconography. While you will end up having to reference the rules for your first couple of plays to learn what is what, once you have that down it’s very easy to tell what everything does and what everyone has, even from across the table.
Due to the amount of cardboard in this game you may want to also invest in a third party box insert or create your own. There are a lot of different polyominos, mask tiles, tokens and chits in this game. Enough that set up and tear down are a bit longer than I would like for such a short game.
The rules in Founders of Teotihuacan are particularly well written and easy to grasp. The mechanics are easy enough to learn, especially for seasoned gamers. I will note that there were a couple of rules we missed/messed up on our first couple of games. This isn’t a problem with the rules, which are clear, we just managed to miss them. The first rule we missed was about placing tiles over masks when placing your starting Pyramid Tiles during setup. The second rule we botched was that we were only moving the Architect at the end of the round instead of at the end of each player’s turn.
Another hiccup we’ve seen at the table is in the math for figuring out how much you have to pay for Temples and Pyramid tiles based on the power used to take those actions. There is something about the math of a base cost plus an added cost for the difference in your power to the tile size that causes some players to stumble. Some players seem to grasp this quicker than others and I suggest the players who grok it help out with this math during gameplay.
Speaking of power, the power rules are part of the rather unique, almost auction like, action selection system which, to me, is the highlight of the game. This is what makes Founders of Teotihuacan stand out from other medium weight Euro point salads and polyomino based games. I really enjoy the system of spending one to three action tokens to select an action and then get a benefit based on how many total tokens are already on that action. This is a mechanic I would love to see more games explore.
Another thing I really liked in this Teotihuacan game was the way resource generation and spending work. I like the way that when you place a Building you physically have to place resource cubes on the board. These cubes take up space, so you need to leave room on your board for them and you really need to think about where you are placing everything so you don’t end up hindering your resource generation.
I also enjoy the way resources are spent. You are just taking them off your board, but where you take from can be very important.
Both of these resource management systems add a rather high level of pre-planning and strategy to the game. Planning which buildings to build, when to build them and where are the hardest decisions in the game. The Architect rules, which limit what you can build each turn, also add to this strategic depth.
All of this strategic depth does come at a tactical cost. While there is a decent amount of player interaction in Founders of Teotihuacan, especially in the timing of playing your action discs, the game can, at times, feel more like multiplayer solitaire. Depending on your group’s style of play, hate drafting could add an added boost of interaction.
There is one significant aspect of play that has had mixed results with the players I’ve played with. That is the overall scoring system in Founders of Teotihuacan.
While playing this tile laying game, scoring is very much a point salad. You get points by building pyramid tiles, turning in temple tiles, unlocking bonuses through disks and pyramid building, collecting masks etc. All of these things are tracked as they are earned and it is possible to score a lot of points during the game. We have even had players lap the board before the final round.
It is not until the end of the game that you score your pyramid tiles. This end of game scoring feels quite different from the in game scoring. At the end of the game, you can score massive amounts of points if you’ve managed to collect a lot of the same coloured Pyramid Tiles and Temples. More than once now I’ve seen a player who was in last place at the end of the last round end up winning based solely on how well their Pyramid and Temples scored.
I’m not trying to say this is a bad scoring system. I just want to point it out because people seem to be shocked by it during their first couple of plays. I do know at least one player who thinks the “one colour Pyramid strategy” may be the only valid strategy to win, though I’m not convinced myself.
Overall Founders of Teotihuacan is a solid abstract, tile laying, Euro, with a very interesting action selection mechanic that also features surprising depth for its gameplay length. What this is not is an expansion, reimplementation or new edition of Teotihuacan City of the Gods. This is very much its own game, one which I think will appeal to a broader range of game players than the original Teotihuacan.
For pretty much any group of gamers Founders of Teotihuacan is a try before you buy. Due to how different it is from City of the Gods, I can’t even give it a blanket recommendation for fans of the original Teotihuacan game.
Gamers who I think will enjoy this version of Teotihuacan are players who dig resource management and action selection combined with polyomino tile placement elements. In these aspects Founders of Teotihuacan really shines. Fans of Stefan Feld style point salad games may also find a lot to like here due to the number of scoring options. Just make sure everyone remembers how big the end game pyramid scoring can be.
What Founders of Teotihuacan is not, despite its quick forty-five minute to an hour playtime, is a gateway game. There are multiple intertwined mechanics at work here, which combined with the layered scoring systems, make this a better game for experienced gamers. Now what I can see working is if you have a mix of gamers of different experience levels. I think a new player could pretty easily pick this game up with guidance from an experienced player.
I love discovering a fairly quick to play game that still has a lot of depth and gives you the feel of playing a heavier, longer game. Founders of Teotihuacan is one of these games. While I love a solid three to four hour game, they are never easy to get to the table. So it’s awesome that there are games like this out there that are easier to table but still provide a lot of strategic depth.
What’s a game you enjoy that plays in an hour or less but has surprising depth and gives you the feel of a longer, heavier game? Tell us about it in the comments below!