Nawalli Card Game Review – Studio Tecuanis

Nawalli Card Game Review – Studio Tecuanis

Nawalli creates a curiosity as soon as you have the box sitting in front of you. I’m so used to seeing dramatically overstated attraction artwork, that the colour scheme and simplicity of the Nawalli box was a refreshing change. When you remove the lid and start going through the cards I’ll be surprised if you don’t spend time appreciating the style of art on offer here. Nawalli’s theme is based around traditional Aztec artwork which means you have extremely strong images and line work, strong colours that often clash with each other in a delightful way. The artwork and theme alone was enough to want me to see how this would play on the table.

Nawalli game components laid out on the table. atzec style artwork. Nawalli is a lane battler, along the same lines as Sol Forge, where you’ll be playing Nawals into one of four lanes with the aim of trying to capture Tonalli gems. Gather thirteen and you’ll win the game which differs it from the normal ‘reduce the enemy down to zero’. It gives the potential for more of a tug of war than a straight out war of attrition, but don’t expect epic hour long battles. Nawalli is more likely to be over in short sharp and fast fifteen minute battles. This is mostly down to the number of cards you’ll start with in the deck. You’ll sit at the table with less than twenty cards and the card types will vary based on whether you load in the premade decks or go for a full draft. The full draft will take longer when it comes to the set up, but offers more variation and surprises in terms of how the cards and abilities interact with each other.

The best way to describe full draft Nawalli is that it works like someone opening the big cutlery draw, grabbing six random items and then using them to cook with. There’s a chance that you’ll pick up two big kitchen knives, a potato peeler and the meat tenderiser and it will give you all the tools to dominate over your rival. Other times you’ll end up with the rubber spatula, the cake slice and the whisk and you’ll won’t see how it can help you until you realise that the aim this time is making cakes. It’s the double edged sword of the game where when you step out of the comfort of the premade decks, you really need to know what every Daysign ability can do for you. Whether it be moving lanes to dodge, moving lanes to attack, stealing life, increasing power, the range of different abilities for a new player can be slightly overwhelming. I would suggest that keeping the reference cards close to hand is a must for those not in possession of a full photographic memory.

Nawalli Card Game Review - Studio Tecuanis

Visually the game looks unique, with the colour choices and presentation putting it head and shoulders above a lot of its peers. The red glass beads of the Tonalli stones are simple but effective. The jet black energy stones are imperfect and non uniform and unfortunately not edible. Nawalli is refreshing in its appearance, not compromising on its Aztec roots and the game is all the better for it. The graphic design is clear on the cards and importantly is readable from both sides of the table, though again, you’ll be checking symbols and reading the reference card to measure their potential threat. The rulebook is clear and concise, but maybe lacking a few examples of play to make it really hit that learning spot. Though the creators of the game have produced their own learn to play video to help you get up to speed as quickly as possible as well as an actual live playthrough that takes all of ten minutes to watch.

That is the core appeal behind Nawalli, a game that is never going to realistically take more than twenty minutes to play, but still has enough variation in it that even if you play three or four times with the same drafted deck, there isn’t always a guaranteed killer strategy that will net you the win. It’s almost frugal with its card count and energy economy, with the game demanding sacrifices to the discard pile in order to give you the energy you need to field the bigger cards. Or pushing you to use a shape shift ability to boost the smaller weaker cards that you have been forced to field. Guardians sit as the side of table with large energy costs waiting to jump in and win the day, though they are more like bless an ally with additional powers.  There’s nothing as vulgar as refreshing your deck or rescuing your discarded cards, you literally need to win with the deck you’re dealt with. Nawalli is short, brutal, stylish and fun and I’m absolutely here for what Studio Tecuanis are bringing to the table with their next design.

Nawalli Card Game Review - Studio Tecuanis - array of different cards from the game.

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Designed by Gonzalo Alvarez and Will Rogers

Colour & Edits – Grace


This review is based on the retail version of the game provided to us by the designer and publisher. We were not paid monetary compensation for this review. We give a general overview of the gameplay and so not all of the mechanical aspects of the game may be mentioned.

The majority of the games that we are play are going to take a reasonable number of sessions and playthroughs to fully understand every possibility that they offer. We hope this write up gives you an idea of whether or not this game is something that you will consider playing or even add to your collection. 
Even if we don’t like something, hopefully it helps you to decide if it is something that you should find out more about. We always suggest you check out a gameplay video to give you a better understanding of the game as it is played. 

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