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I was looking through some of the listings for my favorite games and was surprised to see that there was not a single review for Tikal - im my opinion, one of the best Action Point (AP) games available. Tikal succeeds as a great game on so many levels that I am surprised that is still recieves lots of flak for downtime between turns, overall game length and being a "dry" game in general.

First off, the quality of components is simply outstanding. I can't think of a game that does a better job of theming than Tikal. The board depicts a helicopter view of a Mayan jungle and the level of detailing on the artwork is amazing. I especially like the rope bridge off to one side of the starting area - a very nice touch considering it has nothing to do with the actual gameplay. This kind of attention to detail really reinforces the theme of the game - discovery and exploration of ancient Mayan temples. During the game, new hexagon tiles are placed over the existing board representing new areas that your workers have "discovered". The artwork on the tiles is also of excellent quality and the board definately has that "Indianna Jones" look to it as new paths and temples are placed on the board. Even the colors of the playing pieces are different form other games - no blue or green pieces here, red, orange, black and natural wood are the four colors used which give the game a nice "earthy" feel as well. Around the board is the scoring track and it is also expertly themed as each space has Mayan (I assume) hieroglyphics on them, as do the hexagon tiles. Finally, all the temples and treasure are nicely depicted on counters again with excellent artwork to continue the exploration and Mayan themes. The gameboard is beautiful to look at as it constantly changes and will always get a comment or two when playing it in public.

Each player recieves 18 expedition workers (worth 1 control point each) and 1 expedition leader (worth 3 control points), 2 base camps and a turn indicator all of the same color. Each player also gets a 2 sided Action Point card summarizing all gameplay for both versions of the game (described below). According to the rule book, players represent the director of an expedition intent on exploring Tikal in search of secret paths that lead to temples and precious treasures that have been hidden for over 1000 years, but who are we kidding here? We play this game and we act like we are Indianna Jones, throwing out appropirate movie quotes to illicit a laugh whenever possible (apparently others do this too - see Citizen's Bob article). You score points during the rounds in which the Volcano's appear, earning points for control (most men) at each temple (depending on the Temple's current value) as well as for the treasure you have collected. There are 8 types of Treasures (3 of each) and you earn more by having 2 or all 3 of the same treasure. One strategy is to try and aqquire Treasures very quickly and pair them up so you can score more points for them during each scoring round. Of course, your opponents may be trying to do the same thing...

"The man is nefarious...I hope for your sake he has not yet aqquired it." - Toht from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The 36 terrain tiles (hexagons) are sorted by the letter on their backs and then shuffled randomly in those groups and are placed in a stack (A tiles on top, G on bottom) alongside the board. This is done to somewhat control the value of the temples as they appear during the game - higher starting value temples appear later but still have a somewhat random appearance as there are different amounts of tiles and tile types in each letter stack (6 tiles in the A & B stacks, 5 tiles in the C, D, E & F stacks and 4 in the G stack). Mixed in with the Temple tiles are the Jungle tiles (blanks), Treasure tiles and 3 Volcanos - which cause the scoring rounds to occur).

There is a basic game and an advanced (Auction) game which really only vary on a few issues the first being how tiles are chosen. The basic game simply has you pick the top tile and decide where to place it - easier for beginners as it is more luck driven this way and you don't need to plan out much strategy. The Auction version has the starting player flipping over a number of tiles equal to the number of players in the game and then everyone bids to get the tile they want. The beauty of this is that you bid away the score you have already earned (and this version starts you with 20 points), so you must decide how badly you want to get that particular tile - especially if it is going to cost you the lead in the game!

Upon deciding which tile you get (or picking one in the basic game), you then must place it on the board connecting it to a tile already there. The tiles have either blocked edges, open edges or open edges with various amounts of stones on them. You must always place a tile so it can be reached from another tile, but there is alot of flexibility in how that can be done and a lot of the game strategy is placing a tile to YOUR advantage and hindering your opponents by making them travel farther or at a higher cost to dig where you are.

"Belloq's staff is too long.... THEY ARE DIGGING IN THE WRONG PLACE!" - Indy and Sallah from Raiders of the Lost Ark

Once placed, you then get 10 action points to spend which allow you to do all sorts of different things. You can:

Bring a new worker to a base camp of yours - 1 Point (May only enter YOUR Base Camps)
Move 1 worker along a path - 1 Point PER stone on BOTH connecting tile edges
Uncover 1 Temple Level - 2 Points (Maximum of 2 levels per temple per turn)
Recover 1 Treasure - 3 Points (Maximum of twice per turn in a hexagon)
Force an exchange of Treasures - 3 Points (May not break up an opponents pair(s) or Triplet)
Establish a new Base Camp - 5 Points (On empty Jungle or Treasure spaces only)
Place a Guard on a Temple - 5 Points (Limit of twice per game)

The value of temples is increased whenever a player Uncovers an existing Temple. By spending the 2 AP, you then place the next higher value number than the current one (if available) on top of the temple increasing its value. If you have two workers there, you can do it twice per turn at the temple. The idea is to increase it's value while STILL holding it under your control for when the scoring round comes.

"Dr Jones.. again we see there is nothing you can posess that I can not take away." - Belloq from Raiders of the Lost Ark

Like all good action point games, there is never enough points to do everything you want to do and this is where some of the agonizing (and fun!) comes from. It will always be a matter of trying to do the best you can with what you have, but this is also the cause of the "analysis paralysis" syndrome this game has for some players. Some of the most memorable moments are those that completely take your opponent by surprise - like using your expedition leader effectively and moving him across the board unexpectedly to "steal" a temple from an opponent right before the scoring round. Temples may be "capped off" with a worker of yours (5 points) which in effect prevents others from stealing (scoring) it in later Volcano rounds but you may only do that twice during the game and it REMOVES the other workers you have around the Temple from the game permanently! Effective but it can be costly.

As the board opens up, players will have many areas that become too costly to move a single worker to - here is where the new Base Camps come into play. Once placed you can now bring in new workers from there as well as the original starting camp (shared by all players). When a Volcano appears, the game immediately goes into a scoring round where the person with the Volcano uses 10 AP and then scores his Temples and Treasures with each successive player doing the same. After all have scored, he then places the Volcano and continues with his turn - getting ANOTHER 10 AP to use for his "real" turn.

Having the 1st shot at scoring is a definate advantage as it will cost you LESS to take over or secure existing temples than subsequent players trying for the same temple. For example, you steal a 6 value temple from player A who has 2 workers on it by moving your Leader there for 2 AP and another nearby worker for 1 AP. You now have control with a value of 4 (your leader worth 3 + 1 worker) to his 2. You score and the next player has to get 5 points in there to take it from you to score it (again) for himself. This is where the game REALLY shines as seeing the ways to thwart your opponents is where a lot of the game's enjoyment comes from and where often your best move is one that had to be thought up "on the fly" because of a unexpected move from the previous player.

"Too bad the Hovitos don't know you the way I do Belloq." - Indianna Jones from Raiders of the Lost Ark

I'd like to comment on the issue of down time that has often been cited about Tikal. I find that it is best to watch a player as he works through his various options so you can be already plotting a counter "attack" to render his useless. I actually think that Tikal is a game where you are at a disadvantage if you are just taking your turn and waiting for others to finish theirs and not paying attention to their rejected strategies. Many a time have I seen an great option for me arise from seeing my opponent change his mind about which temple he is going to try and compete for.

In my opinion, you'll be hard pressed to find a game with so much going for it. Beautiful components, a completely integrated theme, exciting gameplay, excruciating decisions, lots of depth, and both strategic and tactical at the same time. Tikal is always very exciting and will keep you on the edge of your seat as the shifting control of Temples and Treasures moves from player to player.

I have a simple variant for the Treasures that I have made that I will also post shortly, but until then, put on your fedora and bull whip and go kick Belloq's butt!
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Dane Peacock
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Stansbury Park
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Re:User Review
manowarplayer (#32892),

Well, I was going to post a review for Tikal, as I saw there was only one review, But what a review! Manowar's views of Tikal match mine very closely. He said everything that I would have said and more.

I second everything that Manowar posted. There, now we have two similar reviews for Tikal. (It is a very good game.)
 
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Snooze Fest
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Hillsborough
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We love our pups!! Misu, RIP 28 Nov 2010. Tikka, RIP 11 Aug 2011.
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Re:User Review
manowarplayer (#32892),

I have to agree ... I think this is a great game. I gave it an 8 (I've only given one 9 and one 10, so that's pretty good!). We play the auction version most of the time, but I think both versions are very good. My wife seems to draw the volcano a lot, and doesn't like it - she wants to draw something (nice temple, treasures, blank tile for positioning another base camp). I kind of like the basic version, 'cause it's simpler and faster, and as you pointed out it does make it easier for the volcano player to get control and score points.

I haven't played it in quite a while 'cause of all the new games, but I do look forward to my next playing!
 
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Sangchol Shin
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Re:User Review
manowarplayer (#32892),

I absolutely agree with you. Tikal is my most favorite game among german style games. The game has the most beautiful artwork I have ever seen. Surprised to know this has such a low rating here in BGG.
I hope more people liked this game.
 
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Arthur Field
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Re:User Review
manowarplayer (#32892),

Holding several trophies in this game, I thought I would add my comments (EQ 1st, WBC 2nd, 4th, etc.)

Tikal is a phenomenal game. I enjoyed the review. However, I thought enough was not made of the auction version. This is the real essence of the game.

When you get to the master class, the game is really about the auction. Not only do you get to choose the tile to play, you must decide the economic value of picking the tile and playing next. Turn order changes each round. That is vital. Games can be won or lost on it.

 
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