I got Mexica for my 30th birthday and this was our second play. I preferred to get Mexica over Tikal because 1) two of my gaming friends already own Tikal 2) Mexica is supposed to be the fastest/easiest to play of the Tikal/Java/Mexica trilogy 3) I heard Mexica was going out of print here in Belgium.
Players were Wouter and Nathalie.
For the first round, the following district counters were drawn: 9, 8, 6, 5, 5, 4, 3, 3. This meant that all small district were being formed in the first round and all large district were for the second round. I had the impression that this had a significant impact on the game since forming small districts on an initial empty board takes longer and requires more action point investements buying canals in order to form those small districts. This way, the first round had a slow start and a more puzzle-like feel.
From our previous (first) playing, we learned to save at least some action points but also not too much. The ability to save action points is certainly an improvement. In Tikal, a player can take a long time to use up his last two points in the most optimal way possible. Now, you can just save them and wait to use them at a more appropriate time. This certainly speeds up the game.
The first round went in two clean parts, first forming districts (and putting a initial temple) and second putting temples and thereby trying to gain the district majorities. Both Wouter and Nathlie formed an equal number of districts. After all districts were built, there was a race for district majorities. For the two largest districts (8 and 9) there was a fair bit of competition to get the majority and Nathalie invested most of her temples in those two districts. So Wouter changed his tactics and went for a more equal distribution of temples in each district, thereby either gaining the majority in a fair number of small districts, and getting the second place in the major districts to get at least some second place points. Because of the heavy temple investement in the major districts, Nathalie couldn't built at least one temple in some smaller districts thereby missing out on some second place points. Nathalie put down her last temple and ended the first round. The scores after round one were fairly equal (first round end scores went lost).
For the second round, the remaining district counters (13, 12, 11, 10, 7, 6, 4) were put on the board. Now the game got up to speed since it was easier to form the large districts. Again, Nathalie went for the large districts and getting the mayority in the three largest districts. And again, Wouter went for a more equal distribution. Near the end, Wouter founded the last (smaller) districts. Nathalie couldn't put down any temples in these districts since she had put down her temples in the largest districts. This way, Wouter had extra district points putting him over the top.
Final score: Wouter 127 Nathalie 118
We didn't play with the unformed districts scoring rules, so no temples were put there.
Rounding up the session, Nathalie found Mexica more difficult than Tikal. With Tikal she immediately picked up a strategy while with Mexica she found it more difficult. This is because she found it more difficult to construct the appropriate shapes of the districts so they match the required size. Still, she enjoyed the game and is willing to play it again.
With regards to some initial strategy thoughts (this was only our second playing), I think you should go for an equal distribution of temples in all districts. But you certainly need to get a majority in some large districts. Only going for second places, ceratinly in a 2 player game, won't do it. I think the game will play different with 3-4 players.
We look forward for another (2 player) game and certainly for a 3-4 player game.
Game ratings: Wouter 7.5, Nathalie 8