When I originally saw Tekhenu: Obelisk of the Sun I felt this game was a gimmick and didn’t think there was a game here. It went on sale, and as a surprise, my wife bought it and gave it to me after a bad day of work. That’s definitely a way to brighten one’s day!
Little did I realize how delighted I would be. Tekhenu is a brilliant game with so many decisions with not nearly enough rounds to do them in.
If you like ancient Egypt or like using dice to power the action you are taking each round than this game is likely for you. It’s time for the Tekhenu Unboxing and Review!
- Players: 1-4
- Playtime (with Setup): We find it between 90 and 120 minutes
- Publisher: Board&Dice (NSKN Games)
- Designer: Daniele Tascini, Dávid Turczi
What’s in the Box?
When I was handed the box from my wife, I instantly noticed that this box is heavy. The box art is cool and gives you the feel of ancient Egypt. The art from the box seems to transition well to the box. The game’s look feels as if it’s coming out of the sands of Egypt.
Opening up the box, there are a number of components. There’s a massive game board, a number of punch boards, a giant bag of wooden tokens, the plastic obelisk, some cards, and a handful of dice.
Just after opening the game I was very impressed with the amount of components included in this game!
In Tekhenu you take on the role of ancient Egyptian nobility aiding your pharaoh in the construction of Ipet-Isut. Ipet-Isut will become known in modern day as the Karnak.
The game adds to the theme that you are working in Egypt with the sandy desert colored game and player boards. Many of the components also aid this color theme. The tones and colors are also a bit muted, as if you are looking into the past of what was once a vibrant and colorful Egypt
There are a number of components that reference the iconology of the Egyptian gods. The gods depicted include Horus, Ra, Hathor, Bastet, Thoth, and Osiris. These tie to actions you can take. Effectively making it feel as if the Egyptian pantheon is part of the daily activity.
Overall, I feel like I am playing a game in Egypt. I don’t know if I feel like I am building these ancient monuments though. The theme is good, but I do feel like they could have made the building the complex feel a bit more like you are building something.
The Player Components
Tekhenu has so many wooden bits! All of these bits are player pieces in 4 colors. Each player has the same bits. There are little pillar bits, statues, buildings, cubes, disks, and meeples in two sizes!
All of these pieces really add to the theme of the game by letting you feel like you are building Ipet-Isut. Decorate the grounds with a number of statues. Construct pillars in the Temple of Amun-Ra. Add buildings can to either the quarries and workshops section of the board or you can add them to the temple of Amun-Ra complex.
All of these components are great, but since they are wooden tokens they lack a little extra detail. The statues just look like tall people, the buildings barely resemble a building, and the pillars are the coolest pieces still lack that Egyption feel. This would be a great place to have added in a few stickers to help owners of the game dress it up if they wanted.
The Player Board
The player board is simple in design, but works very well. You will load your player board with the building and statue tokens at the beginning of the game. The 4 resource tracks will each have a wooden cube added to the 2 mark on the tracks as well. This helps tidy up the player area and let’s you unlock certain benefits or costs as build more buildings and statues.
The area with the scales on the right side is used to place the dice you will claim from the board. It has plenty of space to put those dice. The art of the scales is very representative of what you are doing in the game, balancing the counts of pips on the dice to the right and left side of the scales.
The board itself is made with good solid thick card. Everything was easy to punch out. The art isn’t over the top and supports the overall theme. While I don’t know the period well enough, I feel that the addition of more hieroglyphics on the player board as decoration may have added to the overall feel.
Tokens, Tokens, Tokens
There are piles of tokens with this game! All of the tokens continue to help drive the narrative that this game is trying to tell. You can feel the ancient Egyptian theme continued. Similar aesthetics that we see throughout this game.
There are resource tokens for various things such as limestone and granite. There are also non-resource tokens such as the scribe and faith ones. What’s interesting is that the scribe tokens are a bit larger, but the faith tokens are the same size and shape as the resource tokens. This creates some confusion and the rules even have to call this fact out. It’s not clear why they didn’t make the resource tokens round or some other shape so that they would physically appear different.
Overall, this is the same card stock as the player boards. It all punches out very cleanly. The gloss coat isn’t too crazy. It’s what I would expect out of components like these.
Tekhenu is played over a surprisingly fast 16 rounds! During a round you are going to select a dice and do one of two things with it. Based on which section the dice was taken from you can do an action associated with that section of the board or you can collect resources. Since you are doing this only 16 times collecting resources feels as if it is the least effective action you can take.
Examining the different sections, of which there are six, there are a variety of things that seem much more worthwhile to do. Of course, that’s assuming you have the resources to afford those actions!
When selecting an action, you will take a dice from the appropriate section you want to take the action or if you are collecting resources than you are choosing the color dice for the resources you want. Production is straight forward, based on the color dice you collect that many resources. However, if you collect more than you can actually produce, then those are placed on your dark side of your scale. Then you place your dice on the light or dark side of the scale based on which ring the dice came off of from the the obelisk area.
Ok, so now you have this scales. I think of them as a scale of judgement and you want to keep them as balanced as you can. This can be an interesting task. The big thing you want to try to do here is prevent it from going too far to the dark side of the scale as that will run you the risk of losing points. The other point here is the closer you are to balanced at the end of 2 rotations this will determine where your place is in the upcoming turn order.
The “God” Actions
The other six actions which are based on the segment of the board you are activating really are the things you will do most of the time when you select a dice. Each of these actions are represented by an Egyptian God.
Horus let’s you build statues. Ra let’s you add pillars to the Amun-Ra temple complex.
Hathor allows you to construct buildings either in the temple complex. Bastet allows you to increase the happiness of your population.
Thoth allows you to collect cards that are either the form of blessings (one time use cards), technologies (ongoing effects typically when you take an action, or decrees (end game scoring cards).
Finally, Osiris will allow you to construct quarries and workshops which impacts your ability to produce more of these resources when you take the production action.
Scoring and the End of the Game
After 4 rotations you will have your first scoring phase. During scoring you evaluate a number of factors. You look at buildings constructed in the temple construct and the quarries and workshops area for points. You will check out how may statues you have built for points. You will score points possibly for the happiness of your people. Finally you score points for reaching the maximum on any of the production tracks.
What this means is there are a lot of ways to score points!
When you have your second scoring phase that’s the end of the game. At the end of the game you will also score your decree cards. Whoever has the most points at the end is declared the winner!
After our initial play I couldn’t wait to get this back on the table again. Even after a couple of plays I am still very excited to play it again. This game is good! Right now I am rating the game as a nine on BoardGameGeek.
It is very common to see this game compared to Teotihuacan: City of Gods which is by the same designer. I actually enjoy this game more, but both are great games. Make sure you check out our review of that game for more details.
Where Teotihuacan the points are scored pretty much as you do the action that collects them, this game has a big swing at the end of the game as you score the final scoring phase and those final decree cards. This means there is an element of suspense leading up to a big reveal. I feel like that mechanism helps keep players engaged and excited for the game as they finish those final actions. For me, that is a big deal.
The Dings and Dents
While I really enjoy this game, there are a few knocks against it that keep it from being that perfect 10 game for me. I have all ready talked about my feelings about the components which are good, but could be better. As a two player game in particular, I feel like your game is over a bit too quickly. That timing does work for a 4 player game though to keep the game around 90 minutes of play which I feel is perfect for that player count.
My final knock against this game is that the game board itself is a bit too big for what’s going on. On a three foot by five foot play area, the board doesn’t allow you to keep the player boards directly in front of the players since the game board takes up so much space.
All of these concerns are pretty minor for what is otherwise an excellent board game. Make sure you check out Tekhenu: Obelisk of the Sun!