Reviews | Written by Ed Fortune 05/07/2021

TAWANTINSUYU THE INCA EMPIRE

Sometimes games designers have a game looking for a theme, other times they take a theme and try to build a game behind it. Tawantinsuyu seems to be an example of the latter; they’ve taken the vast and sprawling Ican Empire and decided to sum up that ancient civilsation through the medium of the boardgame. This is a roaring success, but not in a way that you would hope.

Boardgamers often talk about the balance between theme over abstract mechanics. Eurogames, such as this one tend to focus on the rules over theme and tend to excite the mind. A good Eurogame presents a series of complex puzzles that delight the mind and let you pit your wits against your friends. When done badly, it becomes a more procedural exercise in checking off cards and pieces against a list. Alas, this Inca-inspired game veers firmly to the bureaucratic than it does toward fun.

Tawantinsuyu is an intimidating sort of board game. The board is huge and they are many, many components. The idea is that you’re trying to build an empire, and you’re in charge of everything from food, tapestry, culture and conquest. In reality, this is a game where you remember mechanics, look-up references and try and grab points.

It is essentially a collection of small mini-games where you’re gathering, collecting, or converting resources, each with their own rules mechanisms, and symbols. You’ll be building roads, training warriors, employing priests, farmers, and architects, hoarding resources, and raising armies to create new territories. All this might sound amazing, but the result is a confusing mess of conflicting ideas that feels more like an algebra test than a strategy game.

It’s a great idea for a game that alas suffers from simply being too complicated to be fun. Complicated games need to be rewarding in one way or another, and this game just feels pointless. The component art is also functional rather than pretty, making it boring to look at as well as play.