In working with Cloud Formation, I came across an issue that had an easy resolution that I thought would be more difficult given the error:
"CREATE_FAILED AccessDenied. User doesn't have permission to call ec2:RunInstances"
turns out the error message is a bit deceiving as the problem was that
the AMI attempting to be instantiated was private so no one but the owner
could create the instance. Just needed to make this a public AMI in order for the cloud formation template to work.