How to play Cuzco Official Rules

By: Dennis B. B. Taylor

Welcome to the Cuzco Game!

If you’re looking for an exciting and challenging strategy game, then you’ll love Cuzco. It’s a game that combines resource management, strategic thinking, and a little bit of luck for an engaging and enjoyable experience.

In the game of Cuzco, you and your fellow players will take on the role of explorers in the ancient Inca civilization. Your goal is to build and expand the city of Cuzco, constructing magnificent buildings and amassing wealth and power along the way.

One of the key aspects of the game is resource management. You’ll need to carefully decide where to allocate your resources – do you focus on building more structures or do you invest in increasing your influence in the city? Each decision you make will have consequences, so it’s important to think ahead and plan your moves wisely.

Another important element of Cuzco is strategic thinking. As you navigate the board and claim territories, you’ll need to consider your opponents’ moves and anticipate their strategies. Will you collaborate with them or compete for the same resources? The choices you make will shape the outcome of the game.

The game also includes an element of luck. The roll of the dice will determine your options and may introduce unexpected challenges or opportunities. This adds an exciting twist to the gameplay, keeping you on your toes and making each playthrough unique.

Cuzco is a game that offers a balance of complexity and accessibility, making it suitable for players of all ages and skill levels. Whether you’re a seasoned gamer or new to the world of board games, you’ll find something to enjoy in Cuzco.

So gather your friends, set up the game board, and let the adventure begin. In the world of Cuzco, there are countless opportunities waiting to be explored and conquered. Are you ready to rise to the challenge?

Once you open the box, you’ll find a range of components inside. Here’s what you can expect to see:

1. Gameboard

2. 48 Inca meeples

3. 4 Prestige markers

4. 56 Triple Terrains

5. 20 Double Terrains

6. 12 “Crop” single Terrains

7. 8 “Village/City” single Terrains

8. 19 Irrigation Ponds

9. 15 Solar Discs

10. 12 “Additional Action” tokens

11. 47 Temple floors

12. 30 Festival cards

13. 4 Double-sided player aids

Now let’s talk about setting up the game. The first time you play, make sure to carefully detach all of the cardboard Terrains and tokens from their sheets.

Once that’s done, place the gameboard in the middle of the table. The gameboard represents the Cuzco site, with 150 empty hexes and 3 Irrigation Pond hexes. Cuzco is surrounded by both forest and mountain, creating a unique landscape.

When I play this game, I get to choose a color and put my Prestige marker on space 0 of the Score Track that circles the board. It’s like staking my claim!

There are some special pieces that I need to place beside the board. They’re called the triple Terrains, the Irrigation Ponds, the Solar Discs, and the Temple floors. I put them there, each in their own spot.

I also need to make sure the 3 Ponds on the gameboard each have an Irrigation Pond on them. So I put one there on each of the spots.

Before I start the game, I need to shuffle the Festival cards. I make them into a deck and put them facedown beside the board. Then I flip over the top card and put it face up beside the deck. That becomes the discard pile.

Now it’s time for me and the other players to get our stuff. Each of us gets:

  • 12 Inca meeples in my color. Those are game pieces that represent me, kind of like miniatures.
  • 3 more special tokens that let us do extra actions.
  • 5 double Terrains. Those are landscapes that we’ll use to build our villages and cities.
  • 2 single Terrains for Villages/Cities and 3 single Terrains for growing crops.
  • 3 Festival cards from the deck. I keep these secret, so nobody else knows what they are.
  • 1 double-sided Player Aid. It’s like a cheat sheet that tells me what I can do on my turn.

Hey there! Ready for a fun game of Inca Empire? If you’re playing with 2 or 3 people, just grab the necessary components and leave the rest in the box for now, including the extra Terrains and Ponds.

How to Play

First things first, let’s figure out who goes first. We’ll do this by randomly selecting a player. Once that’s settled, we’ll take turns in a clockwise order. When it’s your turn, you have to place at least one Terrain on the board. This can change the size of Villages, Cities, and Crops that are already on the board.

After that, you have a bunch of other things you can do. You can place more Terrains, move your Incas in and out of the Cuzco site, or even move them around inside. You can also build Temples, expand them, place Irrigation Ponds, and suggest having a Festival.

But here’s the catch – each of these actions, including the mandatory placement of a Terrain at the start of your turn, costs Action Points (AP). Each turn, you have 6 AP to use. If you don’t use all of them, the extras go to waste.

When you take your turn, you have the freedom to repeat an action as many times as you want, as long as the rules allow it. You can choose the order in which you perform your actions, but keep in mind that you must start by placing a Terrain. The only action you cannot do during your turn is proposing to organize a Festival – save that for the end.

The player or players who discard cards with the required Relics to accumulate the most Festival Points (FP) will be the ones to organize the Festival. There are certain actions that immediately reward you with Prestige Points (PP), which will move your Prestige marker on the Score Track.

Keep in mind that most of your PP will be scored during the Grand Final Scoring.

Extra Actions for a Boost

Guess what? You get a special bonus in the game: 3 Extra Action tokens! These tokens are like little power-ups that I can use to give myself an advantage. Normally, I only have 6 Action Points (AP) on my turn, but if I want to, I can use one of my tokens to have 7 AP instead. It’s like having an extra burst of energy!

Now, here’s the catch – once I use a token, it’s gone for good. So, I need to think carefully about when to use it. I can only use one token per turn, so I need to choose wisely. Do I want to use it right away and go all out, or should I save it for a crucial moment later in the game? The choice is mine!

Having these Extra Action tokens is a real game-changer. They give me more options and let me do even more cool things on my turn. It’s like having a secret weapon up my sleeve. So, I’ll be sure to use them wisely and make the most of this awesome advantage!

    Alright, let’s get started by placing a Terrain on the board. You’ll need 1 AP.

Imagine this: every time your turn begins, no matter what, you must place a Terrain. It can be single, double, or triple, but it must be done. I know, it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but trust me, it’s crucial. Now, here’s an interesting twist – you can bring one of those Inca folks into the Cuzco site by passing through the forest. Or, if you prefer, you can take one out through the same route. But remember, you’ve gotta spend 1 AP to make it happen.

When it comes to Inca movements, there’s an important rule you need to remember. An Inca can only enter or exit the gameboard through a Terrain tile, specifically one that is placed along the forest edge of the site. You can choose either a Crop tile or a Village/City tile as the entry or exit point. However, it’s not allowed to enter or exit through an empty hex on the gameboard. This means that you cannot use a hex without any specific tile on it.

To bring an Inca into the Cuzco site or take one out, you must use the mountains as your pathway. This action will cost you 2 Action Points. So, keep in mind that the mountains are the only way to carry out this movement.

Did you know that an Inca can only go in or out of a place if it’s next to a mountain? Pretty cool, huh? That means they can’t go through an empty space on the gameboard. So, if you want to bring an Inca into the Cuzco site or take one out, you gotta make sure there’s a mountain nearby. Easy peasy! And the best part? It won’t cost you any action points! How awesome is that?

When I play the game, I can move my Inca from one hex to another without using any action points. However, there is a condition – my Inca can only move on the same type of terrain. It doesn’t matter how far I want to move or how many times I want to climb up or down, as long as I stick to the same kind of terrain. This flexibility allows me to explore different areas on the map easily. To move my Inca, I simply choose a terrain hex and move there. It’s a simple and convenient way to navigate the game world.

When you move an Inca from a Crop hex to a Village/City hex or the other way around, it only takes 1 AP. It doesn’t matter if the Inca is climbing up or down – the cost remains the same. Now, let’s talk about building a Temple. To do this, you need to spend 1 AP. It’s a straightforward task that doesn’t require any additional resources or steps. Just spend your action point, and the Temple will be constructed. Enjoy the benefits!

When it’s my turn, I have the opportunity to create Temples in different Villages. It’s important to keep in mind that the value of a Temple I build should not be greater than the number of hexes that make up the Village. For each Temple I build, I earn PP equal to half of its value. So, if I build a Temple with a value of 6, I would receive 3 PP. Now, let’s see what happens when I choose to expand a Temple.

When it’s my turn, I have the choice to expand multiple Temples. However, it’s important to keep in mind that I cannot expand the same Temple more than once in a single turn. It’s a rule! Oh, and one more rule – the value of the expanded Temple cannot be greater than the number of hexes making up the City that the Temple is in. So, if the City has four hexes, the value of the Temple can’t be more than four. Pretty straightforward, right? Easy peasy!

Now, here’s a cool move I can make – I can build an Irrigation Pond. It only requires 1 Action Point (AP). Sounds like a great deal, doesn’t it? The Irrigation Pond helps out by regenerating some of my resources. It’s like a little boost to keep things flowing smoothly. Plus, it’s a good investment – the Pond is worth half the value of the new Temple I build. So, the higher the Temple value, the better the return on my Pond. Talk about making the most of my actions!

When I play the game, I have to put ponds on empty spaces on the board. They can’t be put on terrain spaces. If I want to, I can put more than one pond on the board at the same time. Once I have placed a pond, I can get 3 power points for it if it is completely surrounded by terrain tiles and is next to an Inca at the highest elevation. I can also draw 1 or 2 festival cards, depending on how many action points I want to spend. These festival cards can give me some advantages in the game.

Hey there! So here’s the deal – you can’t pull more than 2 Festival cards in a single turn. Now, if you fancy, you can throw a party at a Temple. It won’t cost you any Action Points (AP) – it’s completely free!

Let’s Get into the Nitty-Gritty

Setting up the Landscape

When it’s my turn, I get to choose a single, double, or triple Terrain tile. If I choose a single or double tile, I take it from my personal supply. If I choose a triple tile, I take it from the common supply. Then, for just 1 Action Point, I can place the tile on the Cuzco site or on top of Terrains that are already there. But there are some rules I have to follow:

  • I can place the Terrain tile on any hex I want, except for hexes that have a Pond, Inca, or Temple.
  • The new Terrain tile doesn’t have to be placed next to any other Terrains on the board.
  • The new Terrain tile doesn’t have to be placed next to the forest or mountain border of the Cuzco site.

If I want to, I can stack the Terrains on top of each other to make Terraces. But there are a few things I have to keep in mind:

  • I can only place a Terrain tile on top of another Terrain tile if it meets certain conditions.

Let me tell you something important. When it comes to building your city in this game, there are some rules you need to keep in mind. I’ll explain them to you here.

First of all, each part of the terrain needs to be supported by something underneath it. You can’t have any part of the terrain hanging over empty air. It needs to be secure and stable.

Secondly, you can’t stack two terrains of the same shape perfectly on top of each other. They need to be slightly offset, like puzzle pieces that fit together. It’s a way to make the city look more interesting and dynamic.

Now, let’s talk about merging cities. You can’t merge two cities by placing a village or city terrain on top of them. However, you can connect a city and a village to expand the city. When you have a temple present, a village becomes a city. It’s an important distinction to remember.

Finally, I want to explain the concept of overflowing terrains. Sometimes, you might have a double or triple terrain that overflows the hexes of the Cuzco site. Here are the conditions for that:

  • The overflowing terrain needs to cover at least one hex of the Cuzco site.
  • Each hex of the overflowing terrain that goes beyond the Cuzco site will cost you an extra action point.

So, keep these rules in mind as you build your city. They’ll help you make strategic decisions and create a unique and impressive city in the game.

Note: Pay attention because this is a really important tip! It can come in handy towards the end of the game when you’re struggling to find a spot for your Terrain. You can actually place it on top of other Terrains that are already overflowing without spending any additional AP.

But wait, there’s more! Besides the first placement, you have the freedom to put down one or more Terrains whenever you want on your turn. Just make sure you have enough AP left!

Keep in mind that you can’t perfectly stack a Terrain on top of one that’s the same size.

Moving Incas

Hey there, let me show you how to move Incas!

The first thing to know is that you can move Incas by following these steps:

  1. Step 1: Start by selecting the Inca you want to move. You can do this by clicking on them.
  2. Step 2: Once you have selected an Inca, you can now decide where you want to move them. Just click on the location you want them to go.
  3. Step 3: After selecting the new location, the Inca you chose will move there. Magic!

Isn’t it cool how easy it is to move Incas? You just need to click and they’ll go wherever you want them to!

So go ahead, give it a try. Move those Incas and see what kind of amazing things you can create!

When I’m an Inca standing at the border of the Cuzco site, I can choose to enter or leave from any Crop or Village/City hex that lines that border. It’s pretty cool to have that flexibility! If I decide to go through the forest, it’ll cost me 1 AP, but if I opt for the mountain route, then it’ll require 2 AP. So, I have to think about my choices carefully and plan my moves accordingly.

Hey there! Let me tell you something really cool about the Incas. They have a superpower – the ability to move freely across a type of terrain, no matter how many hexes! Yep, you heard that right! It doesn’t matter if they need to climb up or down those tricky Terraces, they can do it all without spending any Action Points, pretty neat huh?

When playing the game, it’s important to understand the rules and mechanics of moving Incas on the board. Each move from one Terrain type to another, such as from Crop to Village/City or vice versa, will cost 1 Action Point (AP). Remember, Incas can only move on Terrains and not on empty hexes, Temples, or Ponds.

It’s crucial to note that there can only be one Inca on each Terrain hex, and Incas cannot move through hexes occupied by enemy Incas. However, they can move through hexes with Incas of their own color.


Incas enter and leave Cuzco through Terrain hexes adjacent to the border. This will cost 1 AP when passing through the forest and 2 AP when passing through the mountains.

Building or Expanding a Temple

One of the key strategies in the game is building or expanding Temples. This will earn you Prestige Points (PP), which are important for achieving victory.

When you want to build a Temple or expand an existing one, you’ll need to spend 1 AP (Action Point). And here’s something interesting: it’s not just the person who initially built the Temple who can expand it, anyone can! And guess what? You earn PP (Power Points) when you do it.

Now, here’s where things get a little competitive. Only the player who holds the top position in the Village can build a Temple. Likewise, only the player who holds the top position in the City can expand the Temple.

So how do you find out who holds the highest position? Well, it’s all about who has the most Incas at the highest elevation in the Village or City. If it’s a tie, you’ll need to compare the number of your second-highest Incas. And if that’s still a tie, move on to the third-highest, and so on.

Here’s an example to illustrate: Player A has an Inca at the highest elevation (level 4) in the City, while Player B has 3 Incas. Despite having fewer Incas overall, Player A still gets to expand the Temple because they hold the top position in the City.

Hey there! Did you know that if nobody occupies the highest position, nobody can build or expand a Temple? It’s true!

Building a Temple is only possible on an empty Village hex, without any Inca in it. The elevation of the hex doesn’t matter. Once a Temple is present, the Village transforms into a City.

A City can only have one Temple, and no Temple can go beyond value 10 (that’s the highest floor available). When constructing or expanding a Temple, its value must be less than or equal to the number of hexes that make up the Village or City.

For example, you can build a value-2 Temple in a 2- or 3-hex Village. Likewise, a value-4 Temple can be built or expanded in a 4- or 5-hex Village or City. As the number of hexes in the Village or City grows, so does the maximum value of the Temple. You could build or expand to a value-6 Temple in a 6- or 7-hex Village or City. Just keep in mind that the hex on which the Temple stands still counts as part of the City.

Players A and B both have an Inca at level 3. But player B’s second Inca is at level 2, while player A’s is at level 1. Only player B can build a Temple in the Village. Player C is ignored because C has no Inca at level 3.

Important: A Temple doesn’t have to start at value 2. It can have a higher value if the Village already has enough hexes. For instance, if the Village is already 4 or 5 hexes, you can directly build a value-4 Temple (by stacking a value-4 floor on top of a value-2 floor right away), and it still only costs 1 AP.

Similarly, a Temple can be upgraded directly from 4 to 8 if the City has 8 or 9 hexes (including the Temple). Just add both floors 6 and 8 for a total of only 1 AP.

When you build a Temple, simply place the new floor on top of the existing one. You can’t take floors off once they’re placed! While you can’t connect two Cities, you can connect a City to one or more Villages. This allows you to expand your Temple and make it even bigger.

Keep in mind that a single Temple can only change value once in a turn. This means you can’t build a Temple and then expand it in the same turn. However, if you’re in the highest position in multiple Villages or Cities and have enough Action Points (AP), you can build or expand multiple Temples. Just remember, you can only do this once for each Temple!

Whenever you build or expand a Temple, move your Prestige marker forward by half the new value of the Temple on the Score Track.

Hey there! Let’s dive into the importance of Temples and the interesting concept of Irrigation Ponds! Get ready, because things are about to get fascinating!

First things first: Did you know that a Temple has a superpower? It actually makes the hex it sits on holy! And here’s the cool part – once a Temple is there, the mighty Incas can no longer pass through or even stop on that hex. It’s like the Temple marks its territory and says, “Hey, Incas, stay away!”

Here’s another intriguing tidbit: Imagine this – you’re working on your map, shifting Terrains around, and you end up covering some hexes. Well, guess what? If there’s a City underneath those Terrains, it might be affected. But don’t worry, the value of its Temple remains the same, no matter what happens. Even if the City gets divided into two parts, the part without the Temple turns back into a humble Village. And believe it or not, that new Village can actually get its very own Temple!

Now, let’s talk about Irrigation Ponds. Have you ever wondered how to set one up? It’s actually pretty simple!

Setting Up an Irrigation Pond

I wanted to find out how Ponds earn PP. It turns out that Ponds only earn PP if they are completely surrounded by Terrain tiles. So, when you take a Pond from the general supply for 1 AP, you must place it directly on an empty hex of the board, never on a Terrain.

But there’s one catch – you cannot place a Pond along the borders of Cuzco. However, you can place a Pond adjacent to another to form a larger Pond. So, if you want to maximize your PP, you’ll need to plan your placement strategically.

Once a Pond, made up of one or more adjacent Pond tiles, is completely surrounded by Terrain tiles, it’s time to see who comes out on top. Check who occupies the highest position on the Terrain hexes directly adjacent to the Pond. This includes Crops, Villages, and Cities. The ranking and tiebreaker rules are the same as when building or expanding a Temple.

For each hex of the Pond, the player with the highest position earns 3 PP immediately. So, if you have a Pond surrounded by Terrain tiles, you’re in for a PP boost!

If no one is higher than everyone else (i.e., there’s a perfect tie or no Incas around the Pond), no one earns PP for that Pond.

If there’s only one empty hex between Terrains on the board, you can still set up a Pond there for 1 AP. Since it’s already surrounded, you immediately get the PP, as explained above.

A player puts an Irrigation Pond tile on a completely
surrounded empty hex, creating a fully surrounded
2-hex Pond. I’m at level 3 next to the Pond,
and my Incas are both lower. So, I instantly get 6 PP (3 PP for each hex in the Pond).

Drawing Festival Cards

Hey there! Let me tell you all about festivals and how to make the most of them. When it’s your turn, you have the chance to draw up to 2 Festival cards. Each card will cost you 1 AP. Cool, right?

Now, when you’re selecting your cards, you have a couple of options. You can either pick the face-up Festival card, which will be replaced by a new card from the deck, or you can choose the top face-down Festival card from the deck. It’s totally up to you!

But here’s the secret part – keep your cards to yourself. Don’t let the other players peek at what you’ve got!

Creating a Festival

After you finish your turn, you have the option to propose hosting a Festival in one of your Inca-populated Cities. And the best part? It won’t cost you a single Action Point!

The beauty of this proposal is that other players who also have Incas in the same City can choose to join in on the fun. If they’re interested, they can bring their own Festival cards, which feature beautiful illustrations of 1 or 2 Relics.

Now, here’s the catch – the Festival card that’s currently face-up on top of the discard pile will determine the type or types of Relics that you need to showcase to participate. It adds an extra layer of excitement and strategy to the mix!

  • If the face-up card has 1 Relic, we can play cards with that Relic.
  • If the face-up card has 2 Relics, we can play cards with either or both of those Relics.

Other Relics on the cards we play don’t matter. Each Relic that matches the face-up card on top of the discard pile is worth 1 Festival Point (FP).

Since you suggested organizing the Festival, you get to play one or more suitable Festival cards face-up in front of you first. There are two possibilities:

  1. No one else plays any cards. In this case, you organize the Festival on your own and immediately score the PP indicated by the size of the Temple (see the “y” column on the back of the Player Aid).

During the game of Cuzco, players take turns playing cards. Each player must play cards with a total FP (Festival Points) equal to or greater than the highest bid made so far. After a round of bidding, players can choose to increase their bid or drop out. The game continues until one of two conditions is met:

1. Only one player remains, with the highest bid. In this case, that player organizes the Festival alone and immediately scores the PP (Player Points) corresponding to the size of the Temple.

2. All remaining participants agree to co-organize the Festival. In this scenario, each player immediately scores the PP corresponding to the Temple size.

Remember to refer to the Player Aid for the specific PP values based on the Temple size.


If there’s a tie and no one can play another Festival card, we automatically agree on something. All the cards that we played are discarded, even if we dropped out early. We put these cards face up next to the deck as a discard pile. Then, we flip the top card of the deck face up to show the Relic(s) needed for the next Festival.

Once the Festival is done, and the organizers have earned their points, we place a Solar Disc on top of the Temple. This shows that no new Festival can be organized there until the Temple is expanded again. When we expand the Temple, we take off the Solar Disc right away.

Remember, you don’t need to build or expand the City’s Temple to join the Festival. You just need to have an Inca in the City.

Now, let’s talk about the end of the game.

When you complete your turn by placing the final triple Terrain, it’s time for the Grand Final Scoring. But before that, each player gets one last turn without having to place any more Terrain. Then, it’s time for the Grand Final Scoring.

During the Grand Final Scoring, we’ll go Temple by Temple. For each Temple, we’ll look at who’s in 1st or 2nd position in the City:

– If one of your Incas is at a higher elevation than all the opponents’ Incas in that City, you’ll score Points equal to the value of the Temple.

– If you and an opponent have Incas at the same elevation, we’ll compare your second Incas in the City. And if necessary, we’ll keep comparing until we determine the highest position. If you end up tied for first place, you’ll still score the full Points of the Temple’s value.

If your Inca comes in second place in the City, you will earn PP equal to half of the Temple’s value. The tiebreakers for first place still apply. If you are tied for second place, you will still score half the value of the Temple.

For example, let’s say the Temple in a City has a value of 10. Players A, B, and C each have an Inca at level 3 and an Inca at level 2. Player B has an additional Inca at level 1, but the others do not.

Player B is in first place and scores 10 PP. If nothing changes by the end of their turns, players A and C will be tied for second place. They will each score 5 PP during the Grand Final Scoring.

Player C may decide to use her final turn to move an Inca and secure first place in this City. This way, she can score 10 PP.

Once you’ve scored your Prestige Points (PP) for a Temple, lay your Incas in the City down. This way, you won’t forget a Temple or score it twice.

Even if you’ve finished your own Grand Final Scoring, you can still join in organizing a Festival and earn more PP.

When each player has completed their Grand Final Scoring, the game ends.

The player who has the most Prestige Points on the Score Track wins and becomes the new Emperor.

If there is a tie, you both share the throne.

Remember: Throughout the game, never forget about your Grand Final Scoring. It’s crucial to aim for the highest level in as many Cities as you can, starting early on.

Don’t overlook the importance of managing your supply of single and double Terrains. These can make all the difference in the final round, right before your Grand Final Scoring.

Listen up: If you want to build or expand a Temple, but there are no more floor tiles with the required value, you won’t be able to take that action.



AP = Action Points (how many actions you can take)

FP = Festival Points (total number of Relics you have)

PP = Prestige Points (your position on the score track)

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