Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Leo Colovini


No. of Players:
2 - 4



Gamebox author Ralf Togler writes about the game:

In the past the team from Italian publisher ARES GAMES has made a name for themselves by publishing the great War of the Ring and the miniature game Wings of Glory, but now they have chosen to strike a new path. With Aztlán ARES GAMES now has published its first Euro-style boardgame which is also suitable for families and occasional gamers. The author of this game is no less a figure than Leo Colovini himself, and so I began my playtesting sessions with high expectations.

In the game each player takes over the control of one of four Aztec tribes in the mythical land of Aztlán. The aim is to expand the domains for the tribe as much as possible, and all of this takes place on a board which shows us a circular part of the land Aztlán, divided into 30 territories and consisting of five different types of terrain.

The game lasts five rounds, called ages in the game. Every round we get a specific amount of tribe pawns to place on the board. During the first age the sum of the pawns is quite high, but with progressing ages (rounds) the sum of available new tribe pawns is decreasing, corresponding with the growing population already present on the board. In turn, the players place their tribe pawns on the map, one a time so that the population of all player tribes keeps growing at an equal pace. Unlike other area control games, there is no limit of pawns in one territory, and we are also allowed to put our pawns to territories where other players have pawns, too. Additionally, after placing a new pawn, we may also move one of our other pawns which are already present on the board for one step into a neighbouring territory. Moving long distances with pawns on the board takes us a long time, so it is very important that you place new pawns on well-chosen territories. I lost some of my first games because I was just too heedless with the placement of my pawns and afterwards I had not the time to eliminate my mistakes by moving enough pawns on the board…


Soon the land of Aztlán becomes very crowded and pawns of different tribes end up in the same territories on the map. Then we - as the leaders of the tribes - have to decide whether we want to battle against the other tribes or allow a peaceful coexistence. If it comes to a battle, the power of each tribe is determined by the number of its pawns in that territory multiplied with the value of a Power card that we had played at the beginning of the round. For this reason all players have the same set of power cards. Each of these cards can only be used once in the game. Used cards are placed face-up in front of us, so everyone can see them and knows which ones (and which values) we can still use. So it is very important to plan in advance, because the Power card determines a large portion of the total power in a battle. The winner of a battle always removes all of his opponent's tribe pawns from that territory.

However, apart from this hostile "squeeze-out" there is another possibility for the strongest player in a territory - he may choose to coexist with the other tribes. This can be individually decided for each territory in which it comes to a conflict. Both decisions have their advantages. With the first one the winner can claim more land for himself and prevent other players to expand their domains. On the other hand, whenever a player chooses to coexist he is given a so-called "Prosperity card" which can be used to positively influence the later game for the player.

At the end of each round, victory points are assigned to each player. For each domain (that is a series of adjacent territories in which we have at least one of our tribe pawns) we calculate our victory points. We are given one point for each territory in a domain plus a bonus equal to the squared number of territories that match the terrain of our chosen Power card. This is the second function of the Power card which we played at the beginning of the round, and due to this double functionality it is extremely important to identify the right Power card for the individual situation. It is all the more important as domains in which we do not possess at least one territory corresponding with the chosen terrain of our Power card count nothing, independent on how many territories they include. So, it can be a clever move to cut off a domain of an opponent by winning a conflict. Due to the multiplier for territories that match the Power card, this can result in a huge loss in victory points for your opponent. On the other hand, it becomes extremely important to prevent other players from splitting your domains, and so it is essential to strengthen your position in weaker territories.

Although Aztlán is very easy to learn, it develops a remarkable level of strategy. As indicated earlier, the choice of the right Power card for a round is somewhat like the secret to success. The Prosperity cards on the other hand are responsible for some surprising moves of your opponents and you must always have a careful look to which Power card your opponents could save for the final victory points. As there is one more power card as there are ages, you always have one card left at the end of the game. These cards contribute to the final tally of victory points on the basis that the more powerful cards will bring a higher amount of victory points if they have not been used during the course of the game. In a way, this mechanism is similar to the combat markers which could be found in the Kingsburg-expansion.

Aztlán can be played by 2 to 4 players. For two players it uses a variant in which the players exchange their tribes every age. So the player who developed the green tribe in the first age, takes over the yellow tribe of his opponent in the second age and vice versa. This means that you not only have to consider the territories of your current tribe, but you must also think about your possible moves with the other tribe in the following round. This constant change of your tribe makes the two-player game much more complex, and the situation gets even more tricky because you often must use the pawns of the two other remaining tribes as there are too few pawns of one colour to play the two-player game. I personally liked the three or four player game much more since the whole design of the game seems to be aimed at these numbers of players, but apart from the somewhat unusual approach the two-player rules are perfectly useable.

Pawns, cards and gameboard used in Aztlán have been designed quite nicely, and it is especially the unusual big tribe pawns which effectively serve as an eyecatcher. In a way, these figures are much nicer to handle than the small and delicate pawns which can be found in some other games, and so the playing material reflects the already good impressions which I had about the game itself. All in all, Aztlán is a typical Leo Colovini game, perfectly sophisticated with simple rules, a short game duration and a high degree of tactics.

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Copyright © 2013 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany