Tekhenu: Obelisk of the Sun is a one to four player dice drafting, action selection game designed by Daniele Tascini and David Turczi and published by Board&Dice. In Tekhenu, players will be drafting dice to perform various actions or gather goods. Dice are available in five different colours to represent the five different goods.
Actions include building statues in honour of a god or for the people, raising pillars, constructing buildings, increasing the happiness of your people, or collecting blessing/technology or decree cards. The game is played over 16 rounds. Each round corresponds to a player drafting dice and every two rounds a rotation of the obelisk occurs.
After two rotations there is a “Maat” phase, every two “Maat” phases there is a scoring round and after the second scoring round the game ends.
It is divided into six sections. Each section is associated with a different Egyptian god: Horus, Ra, Hathor, Bastet, Thoth and Osiris. In the centre of these sections is a giant obelisk that casts its shadow into sunny, shaded or dark sections. As the Obelisk rotates different sections will become sunny, shaded or dark.
Depending on the area that you take your dice from it may be blessed or tainted and will be placed on your player on one side or the other of the scales. When a Maat phase occurs players will determine how balanced they are from the tainted and blessed dice they have drafted. This may lose the points and will also determine turn order for the upcoming rounds.
Almost everything you do in the game will generate you points, either immediately or during the scoring phase. Points are awarded for majorities in the four resource production districts where players can construct buildings. Buildings and statues constructed around the temple complex score points, each pillar constructed within the temple scores points based on the number of buildings and statues in the same row and column and a host of other areas.
The above is a very brief overview of the gameplay and hopefully gives you a good idea of how the game will play out.
Tekhenu - another game in the “T” series sure packs a punch. This is a heavy, high strategy, deep and complex game. It has a ton of moving parts, a massive board, interconnected decisions and a fairly hefty rulebook. Pretty much everything you do will grant you points, either instantly or during the various scoring phases/end game.
But, for all its complexity, deep gameplay, a bucket load of tokens, pieces, cards and the steep learning curve is it worth it? My thoughts, gameplay elements I enjoy (or not) will all be revealed ahead. I'll try to keep this succinct and to the point, but I have a lot to cover so grab yourself a coffee, make yourself comfortable and let's get to it.
I want to start off and say that this is probably the heaviest game that I own. I am not one to shy away from big heavy euro games and I enjoy the depth and complexity that these games bring to the table. Tekhenu was a difficult game to learn and teach, there is a steep learning curve and your first game is going to take a while.
However, for all its complexity and deep gameplay the core rules set can be boiled down to taking a dice and either performing the associated god action or gaining resources. This die then goes to one side or the other of the scales on your player board and your turn is done. The complexity (and the biggest teaching hurdle) comes in the actions that you can perform and the strategy. There are so many moving parts and paths to victory that it can be daunting at first glance.
But Tekhenu is a fabulous game to dig deep into. There are so many interesting choices to make.
The way the obelisk rotates and the impact on the different colour dice is very fascinating to me. The obelisk rotates in a predetermined manner, so you know what is going to happen next. This makes forward planning of your moves very important. Working out efficient ways to gain resources and maximise your best scoring potential is the key to success and something that I thoroughly enjoy about Tekhenu.
Selecting a die to produce grants you resources related to the die colour. However, you can only store a set number of resources at the start of the game. Any resources that you produce over your storage limit get added to the tainted side of your scales. You have been too greedy and overproduced. Sometimes this could be good to help balance you out, other times maybe not so good.
Statues can be built either in honour of a god or for the people. Depending on the player count statues built to honour a god gain you bonuses when you or other players do that particular god action. If you can recognise early on that your opponents are going for a particular strategy you can place a god on that action to capitalise on their actions.
Statues for the people have limited spaces available and will either count towards the area majorities of the production sections or points if built in the temple complex. I enjoy the interaction that this game brings. It is not an aggressive form of interaction but more subtle, more refined.
Using the Osiris action allows you to construct a building as either a workshop or a quarry and will decrease the happiness of your population. Depending on the row you construct you may gain resources or increase the production capacity that I talked about above. Constructing a workshop/quarry contributes to the area majority aspect determined in the scoring phase. Higher placed buildings break ties but grant you fewer bonuses. So, placement is a delicate balance.
Throughout Tekhenu, you can gain scribes which can be used to alter the value of the die. These can be very handy when you just need one more (or less) pip on the die and go a long way to help mitigate the randomness of the die roll when placing them on the obelisk.
Faith tokens can also be used to help balance your die values when calculating pure vs tainted values. But they are transient and if you don’t use them, they disappear after each scoring phase. Mitigation of die rolls is almost a given in most heavy euro games these days, but it is always welcome to see.
Who Goes First
Turn order for the consecutive rounds is determined by the balance of your pure and tainted dice and this feeds into the Destiny cards. In turn, order players will draft one of these cards to gain the reward shown.
A Web Is Choices
Everything is linked and interconnected in Tekhenu which is probably one of the biggest things I enjoy but one of the hardest things to teach. Selecting your dice to ensure you are balanced, grants you a better shot at getting the Destiny card you may want. Selecting where to build statues and buildings may help you win the area majority in the production sections. Raising temples (which I haven’t discussed above) grants you points each round.
Technology cards grant you ongoing bonuses, decree cards for end game scoring and on top of all this you need to keep your population up, people happy and you need to feed them. Balancing all these things and pushing maybe one or two areas is the key to success as well as pivoting if a certain opportunity arises.
There is so much going on and so much to talk about that I could keep rambling on for another 1000 words. Suffice to say, Tekhenu is rich in gameplay and decisions, is heavily focused on the long term strategy, has many paths to victory and ways to score points, is full of consequential choices and I absolutely love it. All of this does come at the cost of a steep learning curve and is hard to teach to new players. Your first game will probably be long, but once you are familiar with the game it is a rich and rewarding experience and one that will certainly give your brain a good mental work out.