Board game reviews, strategy tips & session reports
No. of players: 2-4
Amount of time to play: 60 min
Age requirements: 13+
Set-up time: minimal
Aztlan is an area control game with an Aztec theme. You must control domains that contain specific terrain to score big points and win. But look out your opponents might just overpower you and remove your pieces from the board.
Aztlan puts you in charge of a tribe. Each round you place pawns to control areas and score points. Conflicts may arise with other players and you can choose to eliminate your opponent or dwell peacefully with them.
At the beginning of the game you get a hand of power cards and seven or eight pawns depending on the number of players. Starting order is determined randomly then you are ready to begin.
Each round you secretly choose which power card you wan to use for the round. Power cards are the same for every player and are numbered four through nine. They determine two things for the current round. They determine your pawns’ power and what terrain type you need in your domains to score them and get bonus points.
On your turn you place a pawn and then you may move one of your pawns. You can place a pawn anywhere on the board and there is no limit to the number of pawns in an area.
Once all players have placed their pawns for the round you must resolve conflicts. Each of your pawns has power equal to the number on your power card. So if I have a single pawn in an area and played my nine power card but you have two pawns in that area and played your five power card you win with a total of ten. You resolve conflicts in player order. Any area in which the current player has more power can be resolved in two ways. You can eliminate the opposing weaker player’s pawns or choose to coexist with them. If you choose to coexist you get a prosperity card. If you are tied in power you are forced to coexist but do not get a prosperity card.
If there are three or more different players in an area and two or more players are tied for power the other pawns are eliminated and the tied players must coexist without getting a prosperity card.
After all conflicts are resolved you score your domains. A domain is a series of adjacent areas you have at least one pawn in. In order for a domain to score any points at all you must have at least one area that matches your power card’s terrain type. You score one point for each area in the domain. You get bonus points for each area that matches your chosen terrain type multiplied by itself. So if my chosen terrain is mountains and my domain has two mountain areas in it, I score four bonus points.
Prosperity cards can help you survive a conflict even if you are weaker, score extra points for controlling a specific terrain type or defeat someone even when you are tied. A few score you VPs based on how many of them you have.
Between each round you change the player order with the player in first placing first. After five rounds the game is over. You get a bonus for the one power card you didn’t use. The nine is worth 20 VP while the four is worth none. So if you don’t use your higher power cards you get more points at the end of the game. You also score 1 VP for each prosperity card you did not play.
Aztlan is a great introduction to area control games. It is easy to teach and play. You can explain this game and be ready to play in minutes.
The components for this game are excellent. The board and art are stunning and the pawns and cards are high quality. The rules are well written and organized.
I like how easy the game is to teach and yet you must put some thought into your decisions. Do you keep your stronger power cards for a late game rally? Each phase you get one less pawn and therefore one less chance to move pawns. Which terrain should you pick next round based on where you place them this round? You need to consider which areas are more contested and which power cards your opponents have left. For as simple as the rules are there is a good bit to consider.
Having the option to coexist with players makes the game interesting too. You need to be aware of how many points you are allowing your opponent to gain versus how valuable another prosperity card might be.
There may be a kingmaker element to this game though and opponents scorned early may go after you the rest of the game. This is especially true if an opponent you have beat up on has no chance to get first place.
Aztlan is great for groups that like area control games. It is also a good way to introduce new (or non) gamers to area control games. Be sure players are not too sensitive as this game can get pretty mean, pretty quick. Try this game out if you fit in either of these tribes, you won’t regret it.
Score and synopsis: (Click here for an explanation of these review categories.)
Strategy 4 out of 6
Luck 3 out of 6
Player Interaction 5 out of 6
Replay Value 4 out of 6
Complexity 3 out of 6
Fun 4 out of 6
Overall 4 out of 6