Tekhenu: Obelisk Of The Sun is the new game from Daniele Tascini and David Turczi, between them co- designers behind Tzolk’in (CGE), Teotihuacan (NSKN), Trismegistus (Board & Dice) and Tawantinsuyu (Board & Dice). That’s a lot of ‘T’s.
In Ancient Egypt themed Tekhenu, players take dice from a central Obelisk, and place these on their player mats, either as pure or tainted dice. Where the dice come from determines the action that is taken, with different actions represented by different Egyptian gods. As the game progresses, the Obelisk rotates, throwing a new area into shadow, and new dice are added. Every other rotation, there is also a Maat phase where players look at the balance of the values of dice and resources on their scales so that they can be rewarded or punished according to how well balanced they’ve managed to be. Balance then determines player order.
After every other Maat phase there’s a scoring phase, and players then score points in one of seven ways. The second scoring is the final scoring and players can gain additional points for their end-game decree cards.
This all makes the game sound fairly straightforward, but the number of options of what can be achieved with the dice along with the need to try and maintain some level of balance makes decision making critical. Scribe tokens can be used to alter either the dice value or the scales balance, so there are options to mitigate luck: this is a game that requires skill and the ability to make the most of each given situation as turns are limited and it really is essential to maximise each opportunity.
The actions allow players to build statues or pillars to gain bonuses or for scoring, construct buildings for resources and advance population, or to advance production, gain happiness to unlock cards, and gain cards to provide additional benefits and abilities. There are four different types of resources to manage, and any produced in excess of the player’s production are taken as a negative to their scales balance.
Tekhenu is a heavyweight euro game that cannot be fully experienced in a single play. This game is an investment – it takes time to learn and rewards patience and experience, and it isn’t immediately gratifying. Despite the efforts of the artists Jakub Fajtanowski, Michal Dlugaj, Zbigniew Umgelter and Aleksander Zawada, visually the game is very ‘beige’ (representing the sands of Egypt) and there is a lot of information in play on the large board. Once players understand, then these symbols really help provide a quick summary of the actions, but expect your first few games to be a learning experience.
Projecting up from the board, the obelisk is (literally) the standout feature. It's fun, if sometimes a little distracting and in the way. If you do find it gets in the way, you can play without it and simply rotate the central wheel. The wooden player pieces are bright and add some life to the board once they come into play, and the game itself is challenging but also ultimately rewarding. Tekhenu measures up to the designers' previous efforts, although without being a great leap forward. The game includes a challenging solo mode, but is at its best when played with three.
(Review by Steve Berger)