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Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Story Board reviews Tzolk'in rss

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Angelus Morningstar
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Originally published here, do not replicate without permission or attribution: http://storyboardwebseries.tumblr.com/post/156372652067/tzol...

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Synopsis: You are one of several ancient Mayan tribes. The Mayan calendar is ticking ever onward, and you must work to appease the gods, cultivate food, grow your workers, and secure the future of your tribe.

You win by amassing points, which can be acquired at key junctures during the game, through offerings of crystal skulls, and through miscellaneous other sources. Much of your work is focused on typical worker placement and resource gathering. There is a small amount of engine building, which you can hone through augmenting technologies, but also a push to feed your work force every quarter.

The game is driven by the central Tzolk’in gear, which moves one spoke at the end of each round. When a full revolution of this wheel has taken place, the game concludes. This central gear intersects with give other gears, each of which features spots for workers. With each turn of the central gear, these secondary gears step forward as well. When you place a worker, they will be ticked forward towards increasingly better actions that can be claimed in subsequent rounds.

This is the central conceit, you are loading up your workers with the view to reclaim them several rounds later when they hit the action you wish to take. Since you must either place workers or claim workers on your turn, you have to plan ahead or else be forced to reclaim workers at suboptimal times.

Commentary: Tzolk’in represents one of the few games where I can definitively say examples real innovation in gaming. The central conceit of the gears and the time-progressed worker placement is fairly unique in the world of board gaming. I struggle to think of any game that did this before or after. Even better, this mechanism is deeply integrated into the theme of the game. You are stepping forward through time on a figurative calendar.

The prospective nature of this game is a real brain burner. There is a lot of analyse, and a lot to watch out for. You are constrained by your total number of actions each turn, and the food costs each quarter of the game impose a serious toll. This means everything is about measuring twice, and cutting once; because your actions are iterative and interactive. Naturally, this makes this game almost anathema to those prone to analysis paralysis.

There have been several authors who make the observation that there seems to be one dominant strategy though: the Chichen Itza strategy where you offer up crystal skulls on that gear. While this strategy is not a guaranteed win for the game, if one person is allowed to pursue the gains of that wheel by themselves it makes it much more easy for them to succeed. I have definitely beaten this strategy numerous times, but that was usually me operating with better knowledge of the game than my opponents. This strategy can dominate the game, for better or for worse.

It is also interesting to see Mayan culture depicted here. The game was released during 2012, to coincide with the general interest people had with the end of the Mayan Calendar. However, through this game we see representation of diversity within Mayan Culture. Some of the artefacts of this game are more part of the modern mythologising of the Mayan culture, such as the crystal skulls. Others reflect central tenets of ancient Mayan culture, such as the significance of corn and the the depiction of the gods.

Verdict: Going on five years now, and Tzolk’in remains a favourite.

Tribes and Prophecies

Alongside two mini expansions, that add small bonus extras, there is one main expansion in Tribes & Prophecies. This expansion adds a few more basic elements, including components for a fifth player, as well as a few additional buildings and resources. There are three significant additions to the game, each of which is modular: some or all can be added.

Probably the most interesting addition of this game is the inclusion of unique tribes, each of which has a special ability that changes a rule in a significant way. The main interest here is the way that each of these tribes gives a distinctive personality and voice to your play style. Admittedly, for all the flavour they bring to the game, there are controversies around their balance. Personally, some of the more straight-forward abilities seem more powerful, while the more intricate abilities seem more conditional.

The Prophecies changes a core feature of the game. Now there are impending catastrophes to reconcile with. Three are selected at the beginning of the game, and are set to trigger for the second, third, and fourth quarters of the game. Each prophecy encumbers one feature of the game, but will reward points based on how well you mastered it. I feel that this feature of the game is best for really experienced gamers, as it assumed you’ve acquired the logic of the game already.

The final feature are the quick actions. These are additional actions that sit off to the side of the board. They are transitory and immediate benefits that don’t require the commitment of a worker. Of the three modules of this game, I think this is the one that can be integrated the most seamlessly with new and standard players.
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Thuc Nguyen-Pham
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Morningstar_81 wrote:
Some of the artefacts of this game are more part of the modern mythologising of the Mayan culture, such as the crystal skulls.


i used to think like you, until i watched a history report about mayan people.

They was believed to be peaceful people, but turned out they was cruel warriors. One common ritual after beating a tribes: kill all people of the beaten tribe, especially the leader, by taking their heart ALIVE. All that took place on top of temples. That is the reason why some temples, when first found in 18th cent, have their tops covered by red color.

The skulls, in my 2cents, are maybe to reflect that ritual.

It would be nice if Don Tascini and Don Luciani can answer us here
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Mauricio Montoya
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Mayans were not believed to be peaceful, after all those swords made from wood and obsidian flakes (and sharper than modern quirurgical steel) were obviously not ceremonial. They also had a lot of myths and customs around death (like many ancient civilizations) and they commonly used the skull motif in writing and art, but the crystal skulls that popular culture connect with the mayan civilizartion are a modern fabrication.

Archeaologists have found some mayan burial masks and armor made of semi-precious stone, but the crystal skulls (solid human skulls made from quartz or glass that vary from realistic to stylized and were "discovered" at the start of the 20th century) were a well publicized hoax by quack archeaologists and relic traders that persisted for decades, specially after some new age movements started putting out theories about the skulls' mystical properties and their connection with stuff like ancestral alien astonauts and the mysterious and sudden dissapearance of the mayan civilization after they reached some spiritual enlightenment and asceneded to a higher plane of existence (archeological evidence points that they actually died of starvation after a long drought).
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