Tawantinsuyu: The Inca Empire is a one to four player hand management, action point allowance, set collection game from designer David Turczi and published by Board&Dice. In Tawantinsuyu you will use people from the villages to perform great tasks to serve the high priests. Build structures, muster armies to conquer surrounding villagers and prove yourself a worthy successor to Pachacuti and lead the Inca to glory.
Tawantinsuyu is a complex, heavy, strategic, euro game with a lot of moving parts. Players will be placing workers down at various locations on the board to perform actions. The colour of the worker placed and adjacency of other similar coloured workers is important to determine how many actions you perform.
The location of the worker determines what actions you can perform. Each location is connected to three action spaces. Each coloured worker has a different ability such as allowing you to remove an adjacent worker back to your supply, gaining additional actions, decreasing placement costs or taking god cards.
Placing A Worker
Players will need to discard a matching god card (or gold) based on the symbol they are placing a worker on. If you have built a statue on a previous round (one of the possible actions, you can perform) that matches the symbol of the god card discarded you can do an additional bonus action.
There may be a cost associated with your worker placement which is related to the section of the board where you place your worker and the section where your high priest is located, as well as how far you place away from the high priest. Actions on the board allow you to gain resources, build steps, construct buildings, build statues, purchase weavings, perform the merchant action and draw army cards.
Building steps reduces the cost of descending down the board when placing workers and potentially gives you points. Resources can be used to construct buildings that may give your ongoing abilities or additional goods when they produce. Statues, as detailed above, give you additional bonuses when discarding a matching god card.
The Weaving Tiles
Players are also trying to collect weaving tiles to make a tapestry of different weaving tile types to score points at the end game. Also, by placing the weaving tiles in such a way as the symbols on the edges match, players will gain additional bonuses when they perform the merchant action.
Army cards can be used when conquest is triggered (see free actions later on). Players will compete in four areas of the board by either flipping face down or discarding army cards to gain various rewards and bonuses.
Instead of placing a worker, a player can perform two different secondary actions which are, moving your high priest, praying, training or recruiting.
At the end of a player’s turn, they may purchase a single worker from the village, spending either a potato or a corn. When the last villager has been recruited a festival is triggered in which players have interim scoring. After three festivals the game ends, points are awarded for various end game scoring criteria and the player with the most points is the winner.
There are a host of other rules to discuss/consider but hopefully, the above explanation will give you a good idea of how the game plays.
Place a worker, sounds simple enough right? A requirement to discard a matching god card to be able to place your worker. Ok, still not too complicated. Work out the number of actions you can take based on the colour of the worker placed and adjacency, pay the roaming and descending costs, where do you place your worker, do you want resources, to be able to build steps, construct buildings, construct a statue, purchase a weaving, perform the merchantability, gain army cards, produce?
And if that is not enough, you cannot place a worker and decide to take two different secondary actions one of which (moving the high priest) may give you access to one of five different actions as well as praying, performing an offering or training.
And now my brain hurts. Tawantinsuyu is a complex, highly strategic, euro game. From the simple mechanisms of placing a worker a myriad of options are open to you and you have an abundance of choices. There are many ways to gain points, a host of choices and things to do and it all comes together as a wonderful package.
Teaching the game can be hard, your first play will probably take longer than expected but once you have the rules down the game flows pretty well. I love the puzzle of figuring out the best action spot to place a worker. It feels very satisfying when you can get three or sometimes four actions on a turn. It is not very often you can do this, but it feels rewarding when you do.
The actions themselves are fairly straight forward but combining them into a coherent strategy is where the complexity of the game comes from.
The game has some interaction with respect to placing steps where your opponents may need them, competition for the workers in the village and in the Conquest regions. It is not aggressive in any way but just competitive. Weavings are another great way that interaction between players is injected into the game.
When you purchase weavings, you draw three from the top of the stack. You can purchase all three for increasing the costs of corn. However, any you do not purchase is offered to your opponent who can purchase one tile for three corn. This adds a timing element to the game. If your opponents have just spent all their corn, then purchasing weavings may be a good option as your opponents can’t afford any of the leftovers. I enjoy the interaction between the players in this respect.
The way the roaming and descending costs work is very interesting as well as being surprisingly thematic. It forces you to evaluate the costs of certain action spots and the worth of going to certain spaces and I enjoy this aspect very much.
Investing in buildings can be a big boon to your gameplay, but it takes time and effort to do so. Weighing up the importance of constructing buildings vs doing something else is never easy as they all seem to be very good depending on the strategy you are pursuing.
A Call To Arms
Conquesting can be a very lucrative strategy, but again timing, when to do this is key. When you trigger the conquest action all players get to take part, with army cards costing potatoes to place (The player who initiated the conquest can play one army card for free).
Players in turn order can then use their army cards to place a conquest token on one of the empty regions to gain the rewards, which can be significant. Performing this action when your opponent either doesn’t have any army cards or minimal potatoes can be very beneficial.
At the start of every Festival, players can perform the “Merchant” action which in essence means you gain resources/rewards for all matching symbols in your tapestries. This increases the interaction and timing element of the purchase weaving actions to the forefront.
I found that I was always watching what my players were doing and what resources they had. Low on potatoes, maybe now is a good time to Conquest. No corn? Perhaps purchasing weavings is now a good idea. There is so much goodness and richness in the game. A lot going on, but I think it comes together in a fantastic package that I thoroughly enjoy.
Peering Through The Matrix
Oh boy, Tawantinsuyu is such a rewarding game when you can pull off good moves and strategically beneficial actions. But figuring this out is like peering through the matrix. It took me several games before I started to even have a hint of the deeper strategy behind the game and the timing element. I am still not fully down with the strategy but each time I play Tawantinsuyu I enjoy it more and more and peel back another layer of the game.
It is not an easy game to teach due to the amount of options available (I haven’t even discussed discarding army cards, the worship or offering secondary actions) but being able to delve deep into the game is a rewarding experience. The only thing I will knock it for is that at lower player counts the board feels more open than at higher player counts. There is some scaling with the addition of random coloured workers on the board at set spaces. It doesn’t make the game bad, just different and I still really enjoy this game at the lower player counts.