Trent Hamm
United States
Huxley
Iowa
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The game itself isn't important. Spending time intellectually jousting with likeminded folks is the real reason to game.
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Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar is a dynamic worker placement game for two to four players, designed by Simone Luciani and Daniele Tascini, and is published by Rio Grande Games among others.

As with other worker placement games, each player has a number of worker tokens that they place on various spots on the board. The spots convey abilities of various types. The twist with Tzolk'in is that most of the board consists of an interlocking gear system, with several smaller gears positioned around the outside of the large central gear.

Each round, the central gear moves a small amount, causing the smaller gears to also move. Workers are actually placed on the smaller gears, and thus each round, those workers move a bit, too. The smaller gears also "point" to various powers at regular intervals, and those powers are activated when a player pulls one of their workers off of the gear when their worker is at the power they desire.

Since powers tend to grow stronger the longer you let your worker sit on the gear, there's a time investment for the abilities you desire to use.

The game is playable in about ninety minutes.



Ten Things to Like About Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar
These ten factors stood out to me as strong positives about Tzolk'in.

1. The gear mechanism is innovative, well-executed, and has a high "wow" factor
It's hard to talk about Tzolk'in without talking about the gears, so let's get this out of the way right off of the bat. The gears in Tzolk'in are the "gimmick" of this game, but it's a gimmick that actually works and creates some very interesting gameplay. I've never seen anything quite like it, to tell the truth. One could simulate the passage of time in other ways, but the gears just pull it off so smoothly. When a game has a big attention-getter like the gears in this game, but that attention-getter actually makes for functional and very interesting gameplay, that's a huge draw.

2. The aspect of "time" as a resource in this game creates many interesting decisions
The gears essentially represent the passage of time. In terms of the gameplay, it means that you have to commit your workers for a number of turns in order to secure the benefit you desire and, for the most part, the more turns you commit, the more powerful the abilities. However, the game essentially has a cap of 26 turns, so if you commit a worker to more turns, that means you have fewer opportunities to use that worker for other things. Time is a limited resource in this game, and it works brilliantly.

3. The starting tiles, monuments, and buildings give significant variation to each game
The starting tiles, monuments, and buildings are different each game because Tzolk'in includes far more of these than can be used in a single game and they're randomized each time. I particularly appreciate how the starting tiles work. Each one depicts some combination of starting resources - some corn, an additional starting worker, some resources, a free technology or temple advance. You receive four tiles and then choose two of them, which can help start you down the path of a particular strategy right off the bat.

4. There are a lot of strategies to use, and the tactical options are almost limitless
Because there are so many ways to score points - the Chichen Itza gear, the temples, the monuments, the buildings, the resources - there are a lot of strategies that actually work. You can have four players doing very different things and the final score will be competitive. This strongly adds to the lifespan of this game.

5. The game works well for all player counts
I've enjoyed this game quite a lot with two, three, and four players. While the game was clearly designed for four, the changes needed to play with two or three are very straightforward and, most importantly, they really work without taking away from the enjoyment of the gameplay. I don't feel as though any of the richness of the decision-making or gameplay is lost no matter the player count.

6. Every decision is important because resources feel scarce
The resources in this game often feel very scarce. You never feel like you have enough corn, gold, stone, wood, or turns to do all of the things that you want to do, and because of that, every single decision feels really important. Committing a worker to ten turns on the Chichen Itza gear is scary because you're losing that worker for a third of the game, for example. Every single choice you make feels vital to your success and failure, and that's wonderful.

7. There's enough player interaction to make choices uncertain
There's a lot of blocking in this game. Other players are simply going to take the spot you want on the gears sometimes, and there's nothing you can really do about it other than keep some extra corn around so you can purchase more expensive spots on the gears. Players will sometimes make choices in part to block what you want to do. No plan can be completely certain.

8. There's not so much player interaction that players completely devastate each other's plans
Even though you can block other players effectively, you can't completely stop what you want to do. You can just spend a bit more corn and take another spot on your gear of choice. The only time when other players can completely destroy your plans is when your plan is very fragile and brittle.

9. The iconography is very well designed and conveys many different ideas clearly and succinctly
The icons used in the game are quite clear. The back page of the manual provides a very clear guide for figuring them out, but you really only need the guide for the first few turns of the game. After that, all of the symbols make complete sense at a glance. Given the wide variety of meanings that the symbols can have, the symbols could have been a confusing mess. They're not. Great design.

10. The artwork is beautiful and conveys the theme well
The game looks beautiful when it's sitting out there on the table. The art conveys the theme of Mayan civilization, or at least a "pop" interpretation of it. The spinning gears, the pretty art, the hieroglyphics... it all comes together to really bring the theme to life.



Five Things to Disike About Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar
These are problems that some players may have with Tzolk'in. Some players may view these as non-issues, and a few may even view them as positives.

1. There's no "catch-up" mechanism
If a player makes a few bad choices in the first few turns, it's really hard for them to catch up. This is particularly rough for new players, who will often make an uncertain move to start their first game, but then see how suboptimal that choice was later on in the game. This can lead to a miserable experience for new players and for players dabbling in new strategies. In the same vein...

2. An experienced player will absolutely crush a new player
This is true of any game where there's essentially no hidden information, and there's no hidden information in Tzolk'in. Without the element of surprise and with minimal randomness, experienced players have a gigantic insurmountable advantage. For some, this is undoubtedly a positive, but it can be frustrating when you have a table full of players with different experience levels.

3. Analysis paralysis can be a big problem
There are so many things going on that players, if they're so driven, can spend a long time on their turn figuring out exactly what to do. Is this the right turn to pull workers off the board? Should I wait? Should I put this last worker on this gear... or this gear? Should I be moving up on the temples? Do I need any technologies? Players prone to analysis paralysis can take very, very long turns.

4. You're essentially just putting workers on the gears or pulling them off each turn
Most of the "plays" you make in this game involve either sitting a worker on a gear or pulling a worker off of a gear. While those workers have drastically different impacts on the game, it can feel like you're doing the same thing over and over if you don't let yourself focus on what the workers are actually doing.

5. The components are a bit fragile
The folds in the board for the versions of this game that I've seen are overly fragile. In fact, I'm considering pulling out a knife and slicing the joints on the board so that the bottom of the board doesn't continue to peel away. This could easily be fixed in a later version of this game by having all of the board pieces fit together like jigsaw puzzles.



Who Would Like This Game?
I really like Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar. It uses time in a wonderful way, adding a whole new dimension to the usual Euro-style worker placement game. It's relatively easy to teach and it has a huge "wow" factor on the table.

People who will like this game include:

Eurogamers - This is a game that rewards some thinking and careful play. The theme, while beautiful, is relatively light. The attraction here is the gameplay itself. For people who enjoy how games work rather than the theme of the game, this will likely be a hit.

Agricola fans - Agricola is a classic worker placement game where you gradually build up to more and more powerful abilities throughout. The same is true of Tzolk'in. In fact, fans of any worker placement game - Le Havre, The Manhattan Project, Lords of Waterdeep, etc. - will enjoy Tzolk'in.



A Video Review
I also posted a video review of this game, which touches on many of the points described above in a reasonably short package. If you want a good glimpse of the game components, this is worth watching.

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Bill Eldard
United States
Burke
Virginia
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Super review, Trent! We just obtained a copy of the game, and after reading your review, I'm anxious to get it to the table soon.
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Mathue Faulk
United States
Dallas
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I enjoy your review format, especially with the combined videos.

A couple of thoughts:
- Definitely agree on the "no catch up" mechanism as a negative. Fortunately, most of my gaming is with the same person (my wife), so we have the same experience level...

- AP actually hasn't been bad with us, and Sarah can really get crazy with the AP. It was so bad in Belfort that it was a large factor in my decision to get rid of the game...

- While my board hasn't split like the photo, the sharp corners from the puzzle pieces are easy to ding up when carrying the box around. Mine are dinged up a bit, and I literally have the boards wrapped with bubble wrap inside the box. Also, I'm concerned about the gears scratching up the face of adjacent boards inside the box...
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Dano
United States
APO
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Excellent review. Thanks!
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Chris
Netherlands
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This seems like a fair assessment of the game.

My biggest dislike so far has been the lack of a catch-up mechanism. While I like a brutal game and have been the struggling player a couple of times, some of the people I played this with have had a different reaction. Dislike #4, which could of course be applied to every board game, becomes more apparent when you're struggling as you might not accomplish anything worthwhile at all. This game is really tough on struggling players.

The flipside is indeed that each and every decision matters. There's no automatic play here and forces some creative play as well.

Tzolk'in is quickly becoming one of my favorite games.
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Paul Oakes
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A review I have no disagreements with! I think it's a fantastic placement/economic game, but there's 3 additional problems for me.

1. I'm hopeless at it. In 5 games my best performance is 3rd.

2. I carry my games to my games club, square boxes don't fit well in my bag.

3. My group is lukewarm about it - we play it sometimes, but there's only 1 other payer who ever asks for it.

I agree the range of options is a delight, alowing you to follow all sorts of strategies (as opposed to Agricola, where you have few worthwhile choices early on), but with the wrong player leads to 3 hour games.
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David Jensen

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Can any one comment on how this compares to Village?

Birthday coming up =) Its time for a new game!
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Geoff Burkman
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notyetsuperman wrote:
Can any one comment on how this compares to Village?


I've played both games a number of times, and although I like them both, my preference at this point would be for Tzolk'in. My feeling is that it has more replayability. Both are very good games, though, well-designed and engaging, assuming you like worker placement games, of course.
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bestia immonda
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notyetsuperman wrote:
Can any one comment on how this compares to Village?

Birthday coming up =) Its time for a new game!



Village is a much simpler game, with a lot less options. Moreso, Tzolk'in is much more brainburning and overwhelming at start than Village.
They are both good IMHO, anyway.

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◄ əpıʌɐp ►
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nicktaruffi wrote:
notyetsuperman wrote:
Can any one comment on how this compares to Village?

Birthday coming up =) Its time for a new game!



Village is a much simpler game, with a lot less options. Moreso, Tzolk'in is much more brainburning and overwhelming at start than Village.
They are both good IMHO, anyway.



I definitely agree with Nick here.

Tzol'kin is a true gamer's game, much more akin to Agricola; Village is more family friendly: a great post-gateway game.
 
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Jim Sutherland
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Another +1 for Tzolk'in.

Village is a good game, Tzolk'in is a great game. But happy to play both.
 
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James Clarke
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notyetsuperman wrote:
Can any one comment on how this compares to Village?

Birthday coming up =) Its time for a new game!

You might need to get both. Village has no crystal skulls. Tzolk'in has no graveyard.
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Patrick Reynolds
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I was pretty close to pulling the trigger on this game, and it looks and sounds like something I'd like a lot, but your comment (and photo) of the board fold peeling away has me worried.

Can anyone else who owns the game comment on this? Is it a common problem? I don't like the idea of cutting apart a board just to prevent it from coming apart on it's own, especially if I'm paying $50+ for the game...
 
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David Jensen

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In my experience this is no reason not buy a game. There are half a dozen way to fix this if indeed it is a problem. And sincerely if this is your only reason for not buying, please do get it then ask the publisher if and when it falls apart to replace it. ... I do think preventive maintenance goes a long way.
Now if you are looking for a reason not to buy the game, well you seem to have a found one.
 
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Patrick Reynolds
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notyetsuperman wrote:
In my experience this is no reason not buy a game. There are half a dozen way to fix this if indeed it is a problem. And sincerely if this is your only reason for not buying, please do get it then ask the publisher if and when it falls apart to replace it. ... I do think preventive maintenance goes a long way.
Now if you are looking for a reason not to buy the game, well you seem to have a found one.


I respectfully disagree. If there's evidence that the components of a game are shoddy in some form or another, in my opinion, that's a pretty good reason not to buy. Your opinion is that it's not. That's perfectly fine.

I did not buy Ora Et Labora for a similar reason - there were many, many reports here on BGG that the board quality was very bad. If I'm going to spend $70+ for a board game (as is the case with that game) I want high quality components. That's simply my expectation. Other gamers might not care as much about this. Likewise, with Tzolk'in, if it is a widespread problem that the board is poorly made and requires additional work on my part to maintain (up to and including the need to contact the company and wait for replacement) then it might not be worth my money, sadly.

Hence the reason that I've asked for input from other owners of the game about this issue - maybe Trent got a bad board with his copy, and nobody else has had this problem. Hey, great! I've bought games that were missing components or had quality issues before - you can't prevent that, and generally the publisher is quick with replacements. I'd love to hear that this isn't a common issue, as it would make my purchase decision much easier.

[Edited for grammar and spelling]
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Mathue Faulk
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pkreynolds wrote:
notyetsuperman wrote:
In my experience this is no reason not buy a game. There are half a dozen way to fix this if indeed it is a problem. And sincerely if this is your only reason for not buying, please do get it then ask the publisher if and when it falls apart to replace it. ... I do think preventive maintenance goes a long way.
Now if you are looking for a reason not to buy the game, well you seem to have a found one.


I respectfully disagree. If there's evidence that the components of a game are shoddy in some form or another, in my opinion, that's a pretty good reason not to buy. Your opinion is that it's not. That's perfectly fine.

I did not buy Ora Et Labora for a similar reason - there were many, many reports here on BGG that the board quality was very bad. If I'm going to spend $70+ for a board game (as is the case with that game) I want high quality components. That's simply my expectation. Other gamers might not care as much about this. Likewise, with Tzolk'in, if it is a widespread problem that the board is poorly made and requires additional work on my part to maintain (up to and including the need to contact the company and wait for replacement) then it might not be worth my money, sadly.

Hence the reason that I've asked for input from other owners of the game about this issue - maybe Trent got a bad board with his copy, and nobody else has had this problem. Hey, great! I've bought games that were missing components or had quality issues before - you can't prevent that, and generally the publisher is quick with replacements. I'd love to hear that this isn't a common issue, as it would make my purchase decision much easier.

[Edited for grammar and spelling]

Most copies will arrive absolutely fine, but the Tzolkin board may take a little extra precaution to keep in good condition. As long as you're careful, I wouldn't imagine that the board would split in most cases. As I noted above, however, I think that the sharp puzzle piece corners can get damaged pretty easily if they're not stored carefully. That may be magnified because I store my games on their sides.
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Paul Oakes
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pkreynolds wrote:
notyetsuperman wrote:
In my experience this is no reason not buy a game. There are half a dozen way to fix this if indeed it is a problem. And sincerely if this is your only reason for not buying, please do get it then ask the publisher if and when it falls apart to replace it. ... I do think preventive maintenance goes a long way.
Now if you are looking for a reason not to buy the game, well you seem to have a found one.


I respectfully disagree. If there's evidence that the components of a game are shoddy in some form or another, in my opinion, that's a pretty good reason not to buy. Your opinion is that it's not. That's perfectly fine.

I did not buy Ora Et Labora for a similar reason - there were many, many reports here on BGG that the board quality was very bad. If I'm going to spend $70+ for a board game (as is the case with that game) I want high quality components. That's simply my expectation. Other gamers might not care as much about this. Likewise, with Tzolk'in, if it is a widespread problem that the board is poorly made and requires additional work on my part to maintain (up to and including the need to contact the company and wait for replacement) then it might not be worth my money, sadly.

Hence the reason that I've asked for input from other owners of the game about this issue - maybe Trent got a bad board with his copy, and nobody else has had this problem. Hey, great! I've bought games that were missing components or had quality issues before - you can't prevent that, and generally the publisher is quick with replacements. I'd love to hear that this isn't a common issue, as it would make my purchase decision much easier.

[Edited for grammar and spelling]


My copy has been used 5 times and shows no damage so far.

The only component related problem I have is that we play in a pub. We chose Mondays because it's the quietest night, and the few (outside December) other Monday night customers mostly leave us alone rather than ask the same questions we repeatedly hear (What's this called? What's the idea? Where did you get it? Is it hard? Is it like...?). But get this on the table and you get a crowd watching you pretty quickly. Same effect at cons (but it's fun with those people), I can only dread what the effect of some wheel painting would be.
 
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David Jensen

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PaulinTheLion wrote:

The only component related problem I have is that we play in a pub.
... But get this on the table and you get a crowd watching you pretty quickly.


Is this a problem? Seems like a positive for the game; and only a problem for your game group? =p

... I feel a new rating coming on ... WOW Factor!?!
 
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Lisa Schensted
United States
Lakefield
Minnesota
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#4 and #8 are what made this game SUPER fun for me.

Having played only once, I can't speak with authority on your dislikes. I can, however, tell you that I never felt completely out of the game when I played with my experienced gamer nerd husband who's been drooling over this game for weeks (and probably hatching plans in his head on how to do things), even when I got behind. I still lost, significantly, but I was able to make up a good point differential by trying something new mid game.

And for me and the people with whom I game, Analysis Paralysis is ALWAYS a problem. Even in games like Quarriors. -_-
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