Type: Worker Placement / Euro

Time to play: 60-90 minutes (Teaching: 15-20 minutes)

Best played with: 1-4 players (Best with 3/4)

(Image from PHD Games with great component image!)

Teo as I will now call it for shorthand, is a new age worker placement game building off the concept of “map” based worker placement and themed in the time of the Aztecs. This is a deep and challenging game even for regular gamers in my view, but here are some of my impressions of the game, the theme and the mechanics.

Firstly – I think this is a map based worker placement game, as I am contrasting it to the old Uwe Rosenberg games where your workers can pick any free action that hasn’t been taken by another player. In map style games, there is an additional restriction on which action spaces the piece(s) can reach. In Yokohama this is limited to adjacency, in outlive you can move either way round a clock face, and in Teo you can move clockwise 1,2,3 spaces. This option structure limits your decisions space each turn, but makes planning even more important.

Operating in this limited decision space is made even more interesting by the fact that you have three workers and that your actions are more powerful the more of them that are together. So, keeping them apart gives you flexibility, but bringing them together at key moments improves their impact. Also, watch out for what other players are doing – if there are workers present already in the space you will have to pay more to take the actions!

Lastly, another major feature of this game is strength / age and death. The workers pass away as they grow stronger (age / increasing the number of pips on the dice) – a similar mechanic to a game called Village. As workers die you get bonuses, but the older workers are your strongest workers. This trade off, between more powerful workers and the bonuses is another challenge of the game.

The mechanics then of this game are driven by these big concepts, but also by the actions on the board. 3 spaces to gather resources, 1 space to buy technology, 1 space to build the pyramid at the middle of the board, 1 space to decorate the pyramid (for points), 1 space to build houses, and one space to get some bonus actions. The secondary action to many of these above, is the temple / religion tracks which are a set of bonuses that can be triggered by the primary action.

These mechanics are very traditional in nature, but complex in execution. Resource gathering depends on the number of dice present, and the lowest pips on one of the dice for example. This complexity can really add to the game but also can trip up players not concentrating on the ramifications of earlier rushed actions.

The one thing though is that the pyramid action dominates the board visually and dominates the points scoring. The building and decorations actions are pivotal to the game and getting points for the end. These score in a complex way, but also give significant bonuses on the temple tracks if played well.

In some ways this is the tie up between mechanics and theme. The building of the pyramid is the big points driver and the big thematic link to the Aztecs. However, it doesn’t necessarily provide enough of a link for me between theme and mechanic. You are gathering basic resources and building, but the nature of the building and the nature of the movement / resources is all quite abstracted. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it certainly won’t get heavy thematic players.

As a mechanically focused game though this deserves the plaudits and commendations it receives. It is bringing worker placement games into new and interesting directions – tying up ideas of some incredible games into a really challenging new game. However, for me, the pull of the pyramid for points, theme and impressive structure is disappointing. It is necessary to chase this strategy at least partially in the game to win, the rest of your points are from how well you optimise around this.

Last notes:

  • If you like a worker placement, then this is a must to check out how the genre is evolving
  • If you hate the feeling of being forced into one of the strategies, then for me the pyramid is too important
  • If you win at this game, try to do a decorations only strategy