Tiwanaku Board Game Review

Polyhedron Collider Tiwanaku Board Game Review

Tiwanaku may look like a pretty Zen, meditative game.  It’s a game about striking a balance with Mother Earth as you explore the landscape and plant crops.  It has soft, pastel colours, and the simple “topography-line-art” puts me in mind of sand rake art.  Tiwanaku even sounds quiet not itself - but if you were to watch people play it, there would be lots of soft mutterings and long protracted moments of silence as players stare intently at the board.    

In short, Tiwanaku is quite a deep, thinky game.
Polyhedron Collider Tiwanaku Board Game Review - In Play Full Board
Having said that, it’s also a straightforward one. In your turn, you’ll pick one of two possible actions.  Move a farmer/worker meeple, or attempt to divine which crop should be planted at your worker’s current location.   Although that may sound simple; it isn’t quite that simple.

Each time you move a worker into a space you’ll discover what type of terrain that space is, one of: sand, grass, earth, or rocks.  Each terrain type forms an area consisting of one to five contiguously connected tiles - now this is important for two reasons.  First, one of the ways you score points in this game is by discovering terrain types as evenly as possible which is intriguing, because it encourages you to make the game more difficult when you come to the crop side of it, which I quite like.  It also accelerates the game end - also a very Clever Thing™.
Polyhedron Collider Tiwanaku Board Game Review - Components
Secondly, you’ll need to know the size and shape of the terrain to correctly guess the crop distribution.  It gets a little bit Sudoku-esque here: the crop types are numbered one to five, and each terrain type will have one of each number up to its size.  A grass terrain of three tiles will therefore have crops one, two, and three.  Crops four and five aren’t used for this area.  Placing the correct crop token is the juicy centre of this game as each token cannot be adjacent to one of the same value - regardless of terrain.  In other words: a value three token cannot be placed next to another value three token.

Except for the starting tiles and crops, everything else in this game is unknown, but it is not just governed by a set of rules or a Games Master.  No.  Everything has been mapped out by the game itself and all of the answers are concealed by the Pachamama Wheel - without a doubt, the ​best ​board ​game ​component ​in ​the ​history ​of ​board ​game ​components.
Polyhedron Collider Tiwanaku Board Game Review - Pachamama Wheel
This clever mechanism uses a coordinate system of symbols, elements and animals.  You input these two coordinates into the wheel by turning the disc adjusting a dial to match your location and opening one of the two little slider windows (one for the terrain and one for the crop type) to reveal the hidden information.  Yeah, it's an amazing piece of design.

I enjoy this game, and I enjoy this game for two reasons. One: when you work out (and sometimes it does feel like divination) the crops your workers are on and you spin the wheel, open the sliders and have it right – ah, you feel so smug.  Just so satisfied with yourself. Yes, I got that one. And I knew it. I worked out. I was like a proper Sherlock Holmes. Bang this one out, not a problem. 
Polyhedron Collider Tiwanaku Board Game Review - Close Up
The other reason I love this game is conversely, because I hate this game.  When you're certain, you're worker is on a three crop and that's what you need to complete your set and pick up a game-winning amount of bonus points…and then it turns out, no, you’re wrong, because you forgot to factor in or notice that there is already a three crop on this terrain area.  Well, you feel like an eejit.  An utter moron.

That might sound a little odd, but what I’m saying here is that Tiwanaku does a fantastic job of eliciting a broad range of emotions.

There's an extra layer of strategy on top of this very puzzly game, which is not just about working out what's nearby to score the points.  There is an element of blocking your opponents, reading the board and anticipating where they might want to get to and how, which adds a layer, a lovely layer to this game.
Polyhedron Collider Tiwanaku Board Game Review - In Play
There is a lot to think about in this game, and the depth of thought certainly punches well above what you might initially think looking at this game on the shelf, we’ve certainly enjoyed this game and think it is well worth checking out too, if not just to see how truly cool the Pachamama Wheel is.

We discussed Tiwanaku in more detail in Episode 134 of the Polyhedron Collider Podcast, so if you’d like to hear more about it you can listen back here

This review is based on a full retail copy of the game provided by the publisher. 

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