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Subject: Why there are no more games like Tikal, Mexica, Java, Torres? rss

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Mikey Mike
Poland
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When I discovered Tikal a couple of years ago I started looking for games scraching the same itch, that is with action points and strong spacial aspect. I have found Mexica, Java, Torres from the same authors and...that`s it. Why there are no more games like that?
 
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Tilou
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You might want to take a look at Terra Mystica.
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Mikey Mike
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Thanks for the tip but I Terra Mystica does not have action points.
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alagor gustav
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The Cave has action points.
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Tilou
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Eldritch77 wrote:
Thanks for the tip but I Terra Mystica does not have action points.


True, but it is a good game with a spatial element and your moves are restricted by the money, the workers and the mana you have.

Cavum, I haven't yet played but is from the same authors and fits your conditions.
 
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Michael Frost

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It is pretty simple. These heavier action point mechanism games induce heavy analysis paralysis amongst so many players, even ones not normally prone to AP. Try any of these at the 2-player count and you'll likely see it in both players. It is instinctive. You'll start using your action points, counting out what you'll get, then change your mind. And re-do this 3 of 4 or 5 times. A move can take 5 minutes.

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love Java (1st), Mexica (2nd), and Tikal (3rd), but the AP is telling at all player counts. When my GF and I play 2-player Java or Mexica, we try to set up a time limit for plays. Often at 3-5 minutes per turn. With the other player leaving the room physically to do something else (like check their e-mail). Yet even here, near the end of the game, not even 5 minutes is enough and one of us will ask for more time. So we sit there trying to maximize that last couple of turns at 10 minutes a turn...

That is just the nature of these heavier games with action point mechanisms. The scores are close and tight and there are both optimal and sub-optimal moves.
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P B
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what Michael is saying is that BGG folks have discovered games like King of Tokyo where little thinking is required. Games today are more about theme than anything else.

As previously mentioned, Cavum is an action point system... and a good one at that!






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Armand
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MPMelanchthon wrote:
...we try to set up a time limit for plays. Often at 3-5 minutes per turn. With the other player leaving the room physically to do something else (like check their e-mail). Yet even here, near the end of the game, not even 5 minutes is enough...


It might be if you put down your phone and planned your turn while she's playing hers!

I agree with the OP. I feel like game design has gone in a kind of lame direction for the most part.

Let's add up the score: you get 2pts per pair of thingies; I get 3 pets per doohickey... 102 to 99! So close! What a great game!
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Michael Frost

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Too funny, Armand! I mean, I don't even have a cellphone. We play in her living room. We just leave it and go into the den to use the PC.

And obviously you haven't played either Java or Mexica or haven't played them well. There is NO way to plan your next move unless and until you see their move first. Because what they do sets you up and they know it. This is why the AP is so big in these games. I try to do as much as I can while not setting you up to do as much as you can.

Just watch a run through of Mexica (blocking bridges) or Java (destroying villages after scoring them).
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Michael Frost

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If you enjoy Java, you might try Taluva. Java lite.
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Michael Frost

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And if you want a beautiful 2-player vicious back-and-forth game where what you do sets up the other player, try Pagoda.

And for that cold calculating move game that might make you and break them, try Reiner Knezia's classic, Kingdoms. Works 2-4 players.

And if you don't mind abstracts, I've heard both The Climbers and Santorini are good. I enjoy Casa Grande. In all three you get to build in 3 dimensions. Trying to help yourself and screw your opponent.
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Mil Myman
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Perhaps not quite the same thing, but there's Arimaa, a two-player abstract with 4 "action points" per turn, and Terra Nova, for 2-4 players with 3 actions per turn.

Both have the strong spacial element and a fixed number of "action points" (even if the game doesn't use that specific term) that can be allocated to different pieces as you wish, but with fewer total rules.
 
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Evan Dunn
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I think you'd like the following games:

Tikal II: The Lost Temple

Hansa Teutonica

Porta Nigra

Heartland

Hawaii
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Bert Fischer
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Take a look at Amerigo and Luna. Both have strong spatial aspects and use action points. Two of my favorite games.
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Michael Frost

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Though Tikal II isn't anything like Tikal. I do enjoy them both, but the first is far more thinky & strategic and the second far lighter.
 
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Maarten D. de Jong
Netherlands
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Eldritch77 wrote:
When I discovered Tikal a couple of years ago I started looking for games scraching the same itch, that is with action points and strong spacial aspect. I have found Mexica, Java, Torres from the same authors and...that`s it. Why there are no more games like that?

Because action points are really a dead end as far as game mechanisms are concerned, with good reason. You see, what the authors did in Tikal was place a value on the actions they created, and then give you a bit of 'money' to spend as you see fit. That all sounds cool... but then they realised that you can also scale the impact of the actions until all of them are approximately equal in that regard. Consequently Java and Mexica have much more encompassing actions compared to Tikal. In the end it amounts to the same thing, and makes for easier bookkeeping. But if all actions are now worth 1 AP, why bother working with the APs in the first place? Just state you have at most 6 actions per turn, and presto.

Of course, most people lock up tighter than clams when faced with the prospect of carrying out 6 actions freely, from an ensemble of 8 or 9 (I believe). They already have difficulties selecting 1 (or at most 2). Okay, you can argue, that's all nice and dandy, but I don't mind the extra burden, so bring it on! ...well... You have to consider that if you make the impact of those actions too big, you cannot play the game anymore with a large amount of players. Too much happens in between turns, rendering the whole too tactical for comfort. Or rather, the feel of the game changes too much from player count to player count. Games which are limited to 2 and 3 players don't really sell well. So soon the number of actions is scaled back to a more manageable number, more or less abandoning the entire action point idea.

So action points quickly went the way of the dodo as something that looks cool in theory, but doesn't seem to work all that well in practice, for a variety of reasons. Mind, I like the Mask Trilogy games... but I don't really see how a designer can properly deal with the inherent issues. Last Spiel (= 2016) someone tried, though: Nine Worlds. I thought it rather tame and boring because of its long, long buildup time with most of the action centered on the final 3 rounds of 9. You now tell me whether that makes for a good design trade-off...
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EXTRA AVOCADO! Sonderegger
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Aton has an odd action point system involving cards, and is quite spatial.

Expedition: Northwest Passage has an incredibly interesting take on the AP system- basically you get 7 a round, but you can pay extra to go out of turn sequence.

First Train to Nuremburg has an AP auction which interesting and weird.

Macao has a dice-driven rondel that divies up action points in the form of cubes. It's tied for my favourite game, so there is that.

Perry Rhodan is linearly spatial, and has a dice that randomize your action points for the round.

Raptor has a nice little card-driven simultaneous play system that either rewards you in AP or a special ability.

Singapore has spatial play and something similar to APs.

Via Nebula has APs and interesting spatial play.
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Murr Rockstroh
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Fleming Island
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Here are the search results for "Action Point Allowance System" and "Area Control / Influence" from the BGG Database

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Mario Lanza
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I too was smitten by the trilogy. I would love to discover some more action point gems but haven't found anything on par with Tikal and Mexica.

What Kramer captures is elegant play and rich tactics. Here are some older Kramer titles that shine with repeated play:

El Capitán
Maharaja: The Game of Palace Building in India

Kramer is, in my opinion, one of the best game designers around.
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DomaGB
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I keep a top 100 and Tikal is my 2nd favorite game. I love it. But it was the 2nd actual action point game I owned. The 1st was Heroes Incorporated. But they are not similar at all.

In Heroes Incorporated you have, I think, 3 regular actions, and 1 special action you can take. It's a superhero game, and nothing like Tikal, and it is my 62nd favorite game.
 
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Mikey Mike
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First of all: thanks for all the tips!

I do know and own Taluva. Solid game which, I believe, was inspired by Java. It is not as good, in my opinion, as the mask trilogy, though. It might be because it is much lighter. But, if I want to play a game in 40 minutes, Taluva is my choice.

As far is Cavum is concerned I have played it but it does not have action points. It is a bit similar to the trilogy but I does not scratch the same itch as Mexica or Java. At least in me.

Besides all mask trilogy games are beautiful and elegant. And by elegant I mean these are not complicated games. They do not have many rules and it feels like every rule is necessary.

That`s why they are so brilliant. So few rules and yet such a rich gameplay and so many opportunities to be creative. Unfortunately, Cavum lacks that elegance. And it is not as beautiful as the trilogy.

Hansa Teutonica has also drawn my attention. It is a very interesting game but it feels like it is only fun with 4 or 5 players. I have played it once with 3 and I felt like I was missing something. But it certainly has some of the spirit of the mask trilogy.

I will check all other titles suggested and let you know if I find a worthy successor to the mask trilogy.

 
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Mikey Mike
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One more thing. Maarten has written that action points are a dead end as far as game design is concerned. Well, if that is so, why so many people have been buying these games?

Mr Kramer writes on his webpage that Tikal has sold 592 000 copies, Torres 292 000. And these games are constantly being republished almost 20 years after its original release! How many modern board games achieve that popularity? I bet very few.


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Maarten D. de Jong
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You are confusing two separate issues. Being a dead end in design terms does not mean that the few games in existence which use the mechanism are bad.
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Mikey Mike
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Than why are action points a dead if people want to buy games with that mechanic?
 
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Maarten D. de Jong
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Because designing games with APs run into the issues I mentioned above. It's simply easier on the designer and on the players (thus on sales figures) to use something else. Also keep in mind that both Tikal and Torres are SdJ winners, and old ones at that, meaning that sales easily catapult into the 100.000-regions. You may find it interesting to know that Torres was actually the worst performing SdJ winner ever (in the sense that the amount of people turning away from it after having bought it blindly because of the SdJ label); it was in fact such a disaster that the jury has since shifted the focus from elaborate gamer's games to light(er) family fare. In other words, I'd be a tad careful with interpreting those numbers, were I you.
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