Review – Tiwanaku

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Designer Olivier Grégoire

Artist Raphaël Samakh

Publisher Sit Down!

Category Deduction, Exploration

Length 30-60 minutes

Release Date 2022

Player Count 1-4

Tiwanaku is a deduction game in which players try to figure out where on a grid to plant different kinds of crops. Is it a generic farming game or a logical brain-burner? Let’s find out!

Review

In Tiwanaku, players represent the Quechua people as they cultivate a virgin plot of land. They must prepare their harvest in a way that pleases Pachamama, or Mother Earth. Pachamama wants the different regions of land to be different sizes, and she wants each region to have all unique crops—no repeats.

The game is played on a central grid board, with the goal of earning the most points. On a player’s turn, they perform either an Explore or a Divine action.

Exploring always begins with movement. The player moves one of their meeples, either one that is already on the board or a new one they deploy from a space around the edge. In either case, the meeple can move any number of spaces orthogonally, until it enters a space that is either empty, or that contains a terrain tile and nothing else. (A player can move through their own meeples, but not opponents’ meeples.)

Then, if the player moved their meeple onto an empty space, they place a terrain tile there. In order to know which tile to place, they consult the Pachamama wheel. First, the player enters the x and y coordinates on the dial for the space their meeple occupies. Then, they open the Discovery window on the wheel, and the icon they see will tell them which type of terrain to place.

Lastly, the player advances on the terrain track matching the tile they just placed. They earn 1 point, plus 1 more for each of their other markers in the same row. (In the event that a player can’t or doesn’t want to move a meeple, they can instead retrieve a meeple from the board and return it to their supply.)

Instead of exploring, the player can take a Divine action. This involves deducing which crop tile should go on an empty terrain. Each of the player’s meeples on an empty terrain space can perform the action, and the order of resolution may matter.

First, someone else takes the Pachamama wheel. Then, for each meeple the player wishes to use, they guess which type of crop (i.e. which color of circle) belongs there.

The player with the wheel then enters the coordinates for the active meeple and opens the Divination window. Whatever color it shows, the corresponding crop tile is then placed on that space. If the active player’s guess was correct, they earn points according to the level of the crop tile, as well as an offering token of that type (if they don’t already have one). If their guess was incorrect, they lose points and their turn ends.

Offering tokens are a set collection element. A player who has collected these tokens can cash them in for points—the more tokens they have, the more points they are worth.

When it comes to making deductions, there are several key rules about the board geography:

  1. Terrain tiles are grouped into regions of like color. Each region is made up of 1-5 tiles, connected orthogonally.
  2. Separate regions of the same type will never touch, not even diagonally.
  3. Each region contains crop tiles that are all unique, and correspond to the size of the region. This means that a size-1 region will always contain a level-1 crop (brown), a size-2 region will always contain a level-1 and a level-2 crop (brown and green), etc. A level-5 crop, therefore, will only ever appear in a size-5 region.
  4. Identical crops can never be adjacent to each other, orthogonally or diagonally, regardless of their terrain types.

The game end triggers when the final terrain tile is placed. Players then have the chance to perform final Divine actions and cash in remaining offering tokens. Once these steps are completed, the player with the most points wins!


At first glance, Tiwanaku might look like just another game about farming, but it is something quite different. This game blends euro sensibilities like set collection and track movement with thinky, logical deduction to create a very unique product. This game doesn’t feel like a normal euro, nor does it feel like a normal deduction game. It’s an unusual mix of both.

Unlike most deduction games, the goal is not to find a specific answer (e.g. “Which card is missing from the deck?”). Instead, it is to maximize points—a hallmark of many euro games. There is a desire for efficiency, as players try to make actions and point bonuses go as far as possible, and this runs parallel to the mental process-of-elimination found in the deductions. It is not just about figuring out which tiles go where, but it is also about determining when and where to make those very deductions.

The production of Tiwanaku is nice, even if it is mostly just cardboard components. The different terrain tiles have unique edge detailing, and the colors are easy to distinguish. The Pachamama wheel, in particular, is a remarkable component. It has a ton of functionality, and it is impressively engineered. All in all, Tiwanaku is a great-looking product, though I do wish it included player aids.

If this game classifies as a deduction game, it’s the heaviest one I have played. If it classifies as a euro (and I tend to think it does), it’s unlike any euro I know. Either way, Tiwanaku is something different. That said, I don’t think this game is for everyone. Since deduction games typically have simple rules, this one might feel too complex for some folks. Likewise, euro gamers who want lots of room for strategic exploration won’t find it here. This is not to say that Tiwanaku is a one-trick pony—it’s definitely not—but simply that the replay value of this game comes from different deductive puzzles, not from trying different strategic approaches.

I recommend Tiwanaku primarily to fans of euro games, particularly those who are looking for something different than the usual Feld/Rosenberg/Pfister-type offerings. I have played many euros and many deduction games in my life, but I have never seen a game do what this one does. Check it out.

A review copy was provided by Flat River Group.

The Bottom Line

Tiwanaku doesn’t feel like a normal euro, nor does it feel like a normal deduction game. It’s an unusual mix of both, and it's unlike anything else I have played. Recommended primarily for fans of euro games, particularly those who are looking for something different than the usual Feld/Rosenberg/Pfister-type offerings

 

7

Stephen Hall

A bard pretending to be a cleric. Possibly a Cylon, too. I was there when they dug up the "E.T." cartridges.