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Subject: Understanding the game, the universe, and everything. rss

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Ernest S
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Renton
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Tikal was on my to-buy list long before I played it. I, like many others on BGG spend way too much time researching games. What I read about Tikal and saw in the pictures was a game that looked beautiful, was very thematic and required deep thought to play it well. Those three things fit well with my desires in a game.

I got to play Tikal for the first time last fall. I was not disappointed on all three points:

THE GAME (beauty, eh):
In this game each player plays a team of archeologists discovering goodies in the jungle. The game IS beautiful. The board is very well illustrated with a lush, green rain forest. The details of the camp, the river and even the scoring track drew me into the game. The tiles are thick and similarly illustrated. The colors are bright and vibrant. The wooden, cylindrical pieces are pretty typical. There are 4 player aids made of the same stuff as the tiles and a detailed rules book full of colorful pictures. All in all, it’s a beauty.

THE UNIVERSE (Theme):
I think the theme fits very well with the mechanics of the game. On a player’s turn they turn over a tile and place it on the board covering a section of the canopied forest. The illustration on the tile shows “discovered” parts of the jungle. You might discover a temple, a treasure trove or blank meadows. Once a treasure or a temple is discovered you race to get your team members (the wooden cylinders) to the discoveries. This is done by traveling over movement stones. Those that arrive at the treasure first get to keep the goodies, and place them in their play area. Treasures are worth points. Sets of the same treasure are worth more points.

Temples are played different than treasures. Obviously they are too big to transport through the hot, steamy jungle, back to your play area. Therefore you must protect them using force. A majority force on a temple tile will allow you to score points for that temple. But you must watch out for competing archeologist teams, as they can swoop in that steal that majority and the associated temple points from you. You can also uncover additional levels of the temples which increases their value. It also makes them more lucrative targets for those pesky rival bush whackers.

Finally you can uncover blank meadows. These do not provide any points for you but they do work very well for additional camps, placing your team closer to lucrative ‘digs.’

AND EVERYTHING (Requires deep thought)
Deep thinking is everything in this game. It helps if you have a brain the size of a planet (though it’s not absolutely necessary. My 11 year old beat me just yesterday). Once you discover a new section of jungle, you only get to “spend” 10 action points to take advantage of it, after which your turn ends. Obviously resources are limited and your ‘sponsor’ will send you more money only if you can show a return on their investment. So how do I best use my limited resources? I will always want to do more than I can afford. And whatever actions I pass up will then open to other players to claim; they will likely be unavailable the next time my turn comes around.

So, do I uncover additional layers to my temple? If I do, can I maintain a majority on that hex and thus claim the victory points (VPs)? How close are the rival archeologists to that near-by treasure? Should I claim it now or shall I wait till next turn and hope it is still there? Should I build my camp next to this temple or wait for one that is worth more VPs? I could spend 6 action points to gain three potential VPs here… or I could spend 3 action points here and 3 there to get four potential VPs; the second plan is worth more, but the VPs are also more vulnerable to being taken by someone else. What do I do? Most important is that you do not panic. As I mentioned before there are usually many more options available than you have action points to accomplish. It comes down to spending the least action points for the most VP’s. This would turn into a dry mathematical experience if the theme was not so deep. A flavor-able twist comes from recognizing which VP’s are being threatened by rival gangs.

Scoring happens semi-randomly throughout the game. It happens when one of 3 volcano tiles is turned over (instead of a temple, treasure or meadow). Each person gets 10 action points and then scores. So, each team could score the same temple by just adding more archeologists to the tile until they have the majority. However it gets more expensive each time as the numbers needed for a majority continue to go up (tie’s score nothing). This adds a nice timing & push-your-luck piece to the game.

MY CONCLUSION:
I have since receive the game for Christmas and have about 12 sessions under my belt. The game is beautifully thematic. It requires some deep thought. Despite this, turns move quite fast. People tend to want to help other players choose their actions (something about the game just seems to facilitate this) so there is rarely much down time. On occasion someone can take a bit too long in choosing their actions, but over all analysis paralysis has not been too bad.

There are some great rules for “Mini Tikal” on BBG that shorten the game for 2 people. I also use them to play quick solo games. This game rates very high on my list (currently a 9) though I can see it dropping a little; I have noticed a slight edge of dryness creep in as the novelty of the theme & beauty wear just a little. However, right now, I still enjoy playing.
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tom franklin
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Garner
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Ernest S
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fivecats wrote:
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