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Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Tzolkin, a mayan dream or just another euro? rss

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Ik ben een kleine boefje
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Tzolkin is the first Essen 2012 release that I have played. I enjoyed two four players games last evening in about three hours and a half. Of the seven people playing it, all of them were happy with the game, two even bought it. However, we were all avid eurogamers that love gamers games and workers placement designs like Caylus, Agricola or Puerto Rico.

The components are really beautiful, with the only drawback of the glossy board that I did not like that much because of the light reflections, but it is still playable and when it is mounted with the four child wheels and the parent one on top it looks amazing.

The game is pretty straightforward and quite easy to grasp. At least the rules are. To play it wisely is a bit more complex and actually I lost both games, one ending up fourth and the other one third, way behind the winners and making several mistakes. Tzolkin is a game that rewards wise movements, so I guess that when after many games the players become more acquainted with its mechanism, an expert player will beat newcomers easily.

It is not my intention to repeat the rules here. Also, there are two excellent reviews, one fairly positive and the other one not quite, that had been written by english native speakers and therefore you can check them if you have any doubt about the rules. The rulebook is pretty good too, with several examples, and it is available in the CGZ site.



Tzolkin is a worker placement game in which you put workers (well, wooden bits that represent workers) on several Aztec wheels. Each wheel has a name and different spots that give something to the players: resources (wood, stone and gold), food (fish and corn), technological advances, victory points, buildings, monuments and several special actions.

The game ends when the parent wheel completes one full turn. In every quarter of the game players need to feed their workers at a rate of two food per worker. In the first and third quarters players will get resources according to their positions in each of the three temples. In the second and fourth turn the temples will give them victory points instead of resources. At the beginning of every turn, the starting player moves the parent wheel one position (or two, more about it later). Then all the players do their turns. In a turn you can either put one or more workers in the lowest free available position in any wheel paying food for it OR remove one or more of your workers from one or more wheels in order to get the benefits that the spot(s) in which the worker(s) was(were) located give to the players, but never a mix of both placing and removing. You have to pay a given amount of corn based in the number of workers you put on the wheels and their positions. Workers must be placed in the lowest spot available but sometimes the very lowest spots in the wheel are already filled by other players workers, thus you can place your worker in a spot that, being the lowest available one, is already located in a higher position on the wheel that the initial one. In such case you need to pay the amount of food printed of this given spot. Also, when removing workers you can choose to take a benefit that is below their position paying food (corn) at a rate of one corn per position. So, briefly, either you put one or more workers on the wheels or you take one or more workers from the wheels receiving the benefits of their locations. You can´t pass, and several times you will face a situation in which you are forced to remove one or more workers from the wheel to get a resource or a given action that you don’t really want since if you don’t place a worker on the board you must remove one at least. Hope to have explained this stuff fine, since it is quite hard to do so in english. If you don´t grasp the idea just check the rules and sorry pals.



At the very beginning of the game, after placing the buildings and the monuments available, you receive four tiles with several food, resources and benefits printed on it. You can keep two of them and discard the other two. This is key because this is the only variation that the game has in its setup. Sometimes you will go for more food and less resources, sometimes you will get an extra worker or a technological advance. This is a very important decision to take and I really like this mechanic. In a three or two players game these tiles gives you also the given spots in which dummy workers are placed, in order to close some positions in the wheels and scale it.

There are five wheels on the board and one starting player position:

Starting player: You take all the food stored there and the starting player token, that gives you the right to move the parent wheel during the next turn. The starting player can move the wheel once or twice altering the position of all the workers around the clocks, since the parent wheel theet moves all the other wheels at the same time. If the starting players chooses to move the wheel twice he flips his playing board face down. While this board is flipped in such way you can´t move the parent wheel twice again. The only way to get the board flipped back again is to reach the top position in any of the temples.

Palenque: This wheel gives you food (fish and corn) and wood. We really struggled quite a lot to get the food from this wheel. Food is a big, big problem in this game. You are going to need it not only in order to feed your workers every quarter of the game but also tu put them in play. You get food mainly from this wheel. In some spots you just take the corn chit (harvest) place it in front of you and grab the amount of food printed on the board. In the higher spaces you can either take wood or food, but is not as easy as it seems to be, since you dont just pick one of the two. If you cut wood the forest is cleaned and you replace the wood chit for a corn one, taking the amount of wood cubes printed on the board. You can also burn the forest and take the food (what means you give up the wood tile, and instead of wood take the amount of food that this given spot awards receiving a corn tile). If you do so the Gods will be angry with you (you are spoiling the beautiful mayan forests) and in game terms that means that you will be forced to downgrade one step your position in any of the temples. If there are no corn tiles available you will have to cut wood first or to burn the forest. Food is key in the game, no food, no win. It is hard to get all the food you need in the game and without the help of some technological advances or some buildings you will have to cope with a lot of headaches in order to figure out how to feed your people.

Yatxchilan: Gives you all the resources in the game: wood, stone and gold. As well as skulls (that is not considered a resource strictly) and some food. This food is important, because is printed on the board, what means that the fight for the tiles that is present in Palenque does not appear here: you just take the food and go, but you will only get two food here, so I am afraid you will probably need to visit Palenque if you want to feed your workers.

Uxmal: The market is located here, and it allows you to exchange food for goods or the other way around. In this wheel you can also get new workers. New workers are usually wanted but you will need to feed them and I have said food is scarce so watch out and don’t think that getting an extra worker is a must, it will depend on many factors.

Tikal: This wheel gives you different advances in the technological tracks and permits the construction of buildings and monuments. It also concedes the possibility of improving your position in two different temples.

Chitzen Itza: In this wheel you exchange a skull and offer it to the Gods. Doing so you get a bunch of victory points and you can improve a position in a given temple. The higher positions lets you grab one resource (wood, stone, gold). This wheel is nice, it has fifteen positions, so it takes a life and a lot of patience to see your worker moving slowly from the very beginning of the wheel to a higher location. The higher you get, the more victory points you win, but look out, since the skulls in the game are limited, and if a player occupies a spot in this wheel, he places his skull there and this very spot is no longer available for further sacrifices. If all the positions are occupied, you won´t get any victory points here and you will spoil your worker.

Apart from the wheels there are a few important positions on the board: temples, buildings, monuments and the technological track.

Temples gives you resources and victory points. They work like a race among the players to place their workers in the the highest position possible. During the game, the temples give you resources in the first and third quarter of the game and victory points in the second and fourth.



Buildings give you different advances as well as some advantages. The most important ones, in my limited and humble opinion, are the farms. Farms let you pay less food, or even no food at all, for your workers. As I said food is extremely important and therefore, to remove its necessity is a huge step to win the game. But there are several other buildings that improve your position in the technological track for free or gives you resources or victory points. On the other hand,
Monuments give you a lot of victory points. Both cost several resources. Buildings are refreshed when bought, monuments not, there are only six monuments per game. In our games, we did not bought a single monument. They need a bunch of resources, specialy gold, and gold is scarce, so I guess we did pretty bad at the game cause we were not even close to get any of the buildings. Depending on the monumento, you will get VP´s for the amount of worker you have at the end of the game, the number of buildings of a given class (colour) you have, your advances in the technological track and so on.



There are four technological tracks. In order to improve your position there you need to go to the Tikal wheel and pay one, two or three resources depending on the position you are improving to. One of the tracks gives you more food or special skills when harvesting food, being the most important one the benefit of being able to harvest food when only wood tiles are available in the Palenque wheel. The second track gives more resources when you get a given resource from the board (so one gold becomes two gold). The third one additional bonuses when you construct a building and the fourth and last one special bonuses when you use the Chichen Itza wheel as well as skulls. All the advances but the very last one are cumulative. The latter is just a one time bonus that costs one resource to get.

Thoughts: If you check my collection you will promptly realize that I am an eurogamer. And Tzolkin is nothing but an eurogame: it is a workers placement game, in which you get resources and do actions. Its rules are pretty easy, but the game is not easy at all to control. It demands attention and it is very prone to analysis paralysis issues. However, we played two games in just three hours, well honestly I must admit that we did not finish the second one but we completed almost three quarters and a half of it.

Theme is nice, and the wheels are a gimmick that works. They are not only beautiful but extremely handy and as another reviewer said before, without them you would need a ton of tracks to keep record of any player benefit and workers positions. Wheels are a need in this game, and the way you put OR remove workers on them is a nice and fresh touch to this very old genre of eurogames.

There are many nice nouances in its gameplay. Being the first player is better cause you can put your wokers in a cheaper way, but being last gives you the chance to put them in an higher spot although you will have to pay food for do so. A lot of tactical options arises: Should I place this worker in this wheel paying a lot of food right now but expecting to get a fast reward in the next turn or is it better to go for a lowest position in another wheel and wait patienly. Should I improve my position in the temples and go for some victory points or build a monument and find a combo to grasp a ton of points at the end of the game. Should I get some food right now or wait a bit to get more later, but watch out, cause if any other worker grabs the last corn tile in Palenque I will need to burn the forest and the Gods will punish me with a downgrade in the temple. A few stragetical options are present too from the very beginning of the game when you must pick two out of the four tiles you get in order to grab your initial resources, food, extra worker or whatever you choose to grab. Also, you can decide to focus in one or two farms and forget about the Palenque wheel, or go for the buildings, the temples, the Chichen Itza sacfrifices, or the developments...



All in all, I have played a ton of eurogames in the last five years. I am not gonna say this one is the best of the bunch, no way. There are gems like Caylus, Puerto Rico or Agricola that I love and I put over this one in my ranking but, without a doubt, Tzolkin fills a gap in between these top games I love and the regular average good but not great euro game. Tzolkin is more than that, it is a game that will reach for sure the top 100 status and it is comparable to other superb desings like Notre Dame, Trajan, Amun Re or Goa in terms of quality.

You could think that may be without the wheels it would be just another euro, but the fact is that this game is imposible to concieve without those wheels. I love its simplicity and the way it flows. It has both tactical and strategic aspects. And don´t get wrong, it is brutal, the need of food is dramatic and if you commit a mistake you will be punished. I dont know if it is a gamer´s game but it is a hard one, not friendly for the newcomer and definitly not a family game...

Replayability is not an issue for me. I own just forty games, thirty nine actually, but I play many tmes with other people games. Some of my games are played just once or twice yearly, and I guess that after the first games, once the novelty has faded out, we will play Tzolkin once monthly tops. The starting positions wont be the same because of the tiles that are drawn at the beginning. All in all I cant see any replayability important problems here, this game is not Agricola though, it wont be completly different each time yo play it, but it is good enough in its variation.

PD: Sorry for my TERRIBLE english, I am not a native speaker and I have just spent a couple of weeks in England and in the U.S. in the last ten years, so I had not many chances to practise it. Excuse me for the mistakes, the gramar and everything, at least you wont have to cope with my (even worst) pronuntiation.
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Daniel Halasz
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Nice review. I envy your English.
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Scott Ferrier
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Thanks for the revue. Lol, no need to apologize for your English it's much better then mine meeple
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Todd
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Gelete wrote:
PD: Sorry for my TERRIBLE english
Terrible isn't the word I'd use to describe it...
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Marcel Sagel
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Re: Tzolkin, something really new or just another euro?
Gelete wrote:
Aztec
Mayan. Not Aztec.

Apart from that, very good review. And your English is far from terrible.
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Karl Bunyan
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You posted a review after just 2 plays? How could you possibly know... JUST KIDDING!

Thanks for the review, and I wholeheartedly agree with this part especially:

Gelete wrote:
It demands attention and it is very prone to analysis paralysis issues.

As I've found also after 2 plays.
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Ik ben een kleine boefje
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pilgrim152 wrote:
You posted a review after just 2 plays? How could you possibly know... JUST KIDDING!

Thanks for the review, and I wholeheartedly agree with this part especially:

Gelete wrote:
It demands attention and it is very prone to analysis paralysis issues.

As I've found also after 2 plays.


Owned

You are right anyway, more than a review this is a sort of first impressions preview so take it with a grain of salt. One year ago I had the same positive feelings with Trajan and agter several games (ten or twelve) the initial impression disapeared and now I am a bit lukewarm about it. I need to play more Tzolkin, but I will do it gladly

Take care.
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Ik ben een kleine boefje
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Cibarius wrote:
Good review, Gelete!!

Read in English involves some effort for me.

Could you practice some Spanish too?

Thanks so much.


Cómo va eso, nene?

Dont worry about a thing, I will post a review in spanisnh in the upcoming days, just check the BSK site.

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manolo mr
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Nice english, I identify with your english level!!

Just two mistakes in the review:

1_When you burn a forest, you discard the wood tile but KEEP THE CORN TILE.

2_The Chichen Itza wheels has thirteen teeth (not fifteen) although positions for workers strictly there are ten.
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Ik ben een kleine boefje
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Uhm, then we played wrongly cause we discarded the corn tile when burning forest option was used. Important point since there is a monument that gives points for the corn tiles you keep in front of you at the end of the game. I did not prepare the rules explanation as much as I do normally, I just couldnt help myself, i really wanted to play the game.

I Will correct the review asap.

Thanks Manolo.
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Adam Kazimierczak
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Nice review.

I would love to see a head to head comparison with Trajan, as it seems to be the closest fit to Tzolkin as far as complexity and a superficially similar gimmick (mancala vs. wheels).
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Ik ben een kleine boefje
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kaziam wrote:
Nice review.

I would love to see a head to head comparison with Trajan, as it seems to be the closest fit to Tzolkin as far as complexity and a superficially similar gimmick (mancala vs. wheels).


Hi Adam.

After a dozen plays of Trajan and just two of Tzolkin, I prefer the latter.

a) I see Trajan as an addition of mini-games that all together create a boardgame. This is not bad by itself, and actually I like Trajan quite a bit (I would rate it with a high seven), but it feels a bit odd for me.

b) I think that the wheels in Tzolkin are an neccesary gimmick. Also is had to imagine Trajan without a Mancala, but the mancala seems to be pasted in the game, no relation at all between the Roman Empire and the mancala while in Tzolkin the wheels match perfectly with the theme.

This is far from beeing a head to head comparision, but both ideas came to my head inmediatly after reading your post and I just decided to write them down.

take care.
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Steve Blackwell
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Sorry for my TERRIBLE english, I am not a native speaker and I have just spent a couple of weeks in England and in the U.S. in the last ten years, so I had not many chances to practise it.

Love the veiled ribbing of the US in this...

M B
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Don D.
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kaziam wrote:
Nice review.

I would love to see a head to head comparison with Trajan, as it seems to be the closest fit to Tzolkin as far as complexity and a superficially similar gimmick (mancala vs. wheels).


IMO, the mancala in Trajan blows the roof off of the wheel in Tzolkin. First, the wheel COULD be removed and the game still function, whereas that's not the case in Trajan. Now, I do agree that the wheel is very handy and reduces record keeping, but at the end of the day, you could print some rondels on the board and players could rotate their pieces around and it would still work. There is no replacement for the mancala.

Further, the mancala is a dense puzzle, the wheel is not. The timing in the mancala is so much more critical and it becomes a crazy decision tree, where that isn't as much the case in Tzolkin. There is some difficulty to timing in Tzolkin, but it's not a puzzle as the mancala in Trajan is. I really wanted the pieces to move BETWEEN the different gears/wheels in Tzolkin and I feel like that would have elevated the game to much greater heights.
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Don D.
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Very well-written, informative review. I agree that Tzolkin is a decent game, and that it is below other great games like Agricola, but I think I probably have it lower than you do given the discussion in the other thread. Thanks for adding to the discussion.
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Mathue Faulkner
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dond80 wrote:
kaziam wrote:
Nice review.

I would love to see a head to head comparison with Trajan, as it seems to be the closest fit to Tzolkin as far as complexity and a superficially similar gimmick (mancala vs. wheels).


IMO, the mancala in Trajan blows the roof off of the wheel in Tzolkin. First, the wheel COULD be removed and the game still function, whereas that's not the case in Trajan. Now, I do agree that the wheel is very handy and reduces record keeping, but at the end of the day, you could print some rondels on the board and players could rotate their pieces around and it would still work. There is no replacement for the mancala.

Further, the mancala is a dense puzzle, the wheel is not. The timing in the mancala is so much more critical and it becomes a crazy decision tree, where that isn't as much the case in Tzolkin. There is some difficulty to timing in Tzolkin, but it's not a puzzle as the mancala in Trajan is. I really wanted the pieces to move BETWEEN the different gears/wheels in Tzolkin and I feel like that would have elevated the game to much greater heights.

Functionally, I think the wheel in Macao is much more similar. In fact, I think Tzolkin could have used the same mechanic and still not be overly fiddly (but still a bit fiddly)...
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Regarding the title of the review: just another euro.

I totally agree with what Don said. Tzolkin is just another euro but the wheels make it stand out. Without them, its rank would be much lower.

I did not find the wheels particularly hard to master. The mancala in Trajan was certainly more challenging, so much so that sometimes I was too busy with it to mess with other people's plans.

My biggest concern is that some strategies seem stronger than others, so players should counterbalance one another to prevent a runaway leader.

All in all, a solid game I don't need to own (which is great as I am running out of shelf space).
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Ik ben een kleine boefje
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May be you are right Canales, I have played the game just twice, which options you feel to be ovepowered? Buildings? achitzen Itza? Monments? I am eager to know, jugón..
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It is better if you find out for yourself, as I don't want to spoil the game for you, hehe.

My opinion might be skewed by the fact that I have played it with 3P only. Perhaps 4P games are more balanced.
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iwonka dytko
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Canales wrote:
Regarding the title of the review: just another euro.

I totally agree with what Don said. Tzolkin is just another euro but the wheels make it stand out. Without them, its rank would be much lower.

I did not find the wheels particularly hard to master. The mancala in Trajan was certainly more challenging, so much so that sometimes I was too busy with it to mess with other people's plans.

My biggest concern is that some strategies seem stronger than others, so players should counterbalance one another to prevent a runaway leader.

All in all, a solid game I don't need to own (which is great as I am running out of shelf space).



I'm really tired to hear comments saying that Tzolkin won't stand without wheels...
Tzolkin IS the MAYAN CALENDAR... THAT IS THE ENTIRE GEAR... that's exactly the game... it's not something just estetical or gimmick... It's simply a great and totally new idea on how to build a game!

Also the different strategies are perfectly balanced, but it's not a game that you can learn to play at best after one game nor after 2 or 3... simply some strategies are more difficult to pursue then others, but maybe even stronger... so it comes to a perfect balance.

Then... you don't like the game? Ok, you don' want to buy it? Great, but stop saying bullshit about it... e negative review on a game is precious and well accepted... when it's fair and comes after a deep analysis! Comment a game after one play and saying wrong things about it for lack of knowlage not only is not fair but it is a real missinformation for other people.
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Iwonka, like you say, the wheels "are" the game and its charm at the same time. I never said the game should dispense with them, rather that they are not enough to keep my interest.

As for the different strategies, some of them seem more action-effective than others and thus easier to exploit (unless other players actively get in your way). So we both agree that not all of them are equal.

Finally, sorry if my comment sounded like I was badmouthing the game. I rate Tzolkin a 7, which for me is pretty good. But not excellent and worthy of a place in my collection. Other people can and will think differently, and I will be happy all the same.
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Canales wrote:
Iwonka, like you say, the wheels "are" the game and its charm at the same time. I never said the game should dispense with them, rather that they are not enough to keep my interest.

As for the different strategies, some of them seem more action-effective than others and thus easier to exploit (unless other players actively get in your way). So we both agree that not all of them are equal.

Finally, sorry if my comment sounded like I was badmouthing the game. I rate Tzolkin a 7, which for me is pretty good. But not excellent and worthy of a place in my collection. Other people can and will think differently, and I will be happy all the same.


I have no clue about which strategies are better so far but just an idea here, could it be that the placement of the dummy bits that are put in a three and two players game on given spots of the wheels according to the starting tiles affected the gameplay in a way that made easier to follow some options than others?

I am trying to figuring out which ways you see as more effective than others. Monuments seemed to me to be quite hard to build because of the good amounts of gold and stone they need... sacrificies at Chichen Itza need the ownership of a skull and if you want to get a bunch of VP´s you will have to wait many turns with your worker around the wheel, and last but not least food is quite hard to get and actually I think, but take this with a grain of salt since my experience is very limited, that farms are a must in the opening if they appear in the buildings row...
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iwonka dytko
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I would like to answer you more then a couple of rows about possibile strategies... so I think I will post my own review of the game... possibly skipping the rules and the description (already well done by several other people) and going insted into a deepr strategies analysis..(which it seams nobody did yet)...
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iwonka wrote:
I would like to answer you more then a couple of rows about possibile strategies... so I think I will post my own review of the game... possibly skipping the rules and the description (already well done by several other people) and going insted into a deepr strategies analysis..(which it seams nobody did yet)...


Go ahead, I am eager to read your review.

Take care mate.
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Ik ben een kleine boefje
Spain
Madrid
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2006/2011 (Amsterdam - Maastricht - Apeldoorn - Den Haag -Delft) Vijf jaar dat ik ga nooit vergeten.
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Canales wrote:
Regarding the title of the review: just another euro.

I totally agree with what Don said. Tzolkin is just another euro but the wheels make it stand out. Without them, its rank would be much lower.

I did not find the wheels particularly hard to master. The mancala in Trajan was certainly more challenging, so much so that sometimes I was too busy with it to mess with other people's plans.

My biggest concern is that some strategies seem stronger than others, so players should counterbalance one another to prevent a runaway leader.

All in all, a solid game I don't need to own (which is great as I am running out of shelf space).


Hi Canales.

I had played four games so far and lost all of them. All the games were different. One guy used monuments and buildings, other temples and Chicen Itza and in the other two games the winners used various paths. Happy to say that SO FAR, I had discovered no winning strategies. Just tell me about your impressions and the strategies you think are stronger.

Thanks in advance.
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