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Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar» Forums » Sessions

Subject: I am no longer a beginner... I think rss

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Marcel Sagel
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This was my sixth game of Tzolk'in. One of the main errors I made to some extent in my previous games, was that I didn't have a good plan where my points would come from. In some games it worked out fine (the things I decided to do gave me points), in some games it didn't.
I wanted to do better in that aspect this time. I can imagine that an expert player would also watch for the available monuments at the start of the game and plan his/her strategy accordingly. I'm not that far yet, but after this game I feel I have made the step up from beginner to intermediate player.
It was a four player game and the available monuments were 4/own green building, 4/any monument, 6/12/18 for 4/5/6 workers, 9/20/33 for maxed out techs, 3/tech level, 3/temple level of best temple. But as I said, I looked at them but it didn't really affect my decision making in the beginning.
The starting wealth tiles are the first decision a player must make, and they can help you choose a path from among the many available. Mine were: food/stone/brown temple, food/wood/skull, food/wood/farm, food/yellow temple/agriculture tech. I dismissed the first one (too boring), and decided to take the agriculture tech. I was really torn between the other two, but in the end decided on the skull as I felt I would have some flexibility in choosing a strategy. I could go all out with skulls, or I could use it as some quick points and then set off in another direction.
It turned into the second option, but more on that later. I don't remember exactly what the other players picked, but I'll try to recap: start player (my gf) had lots of food plus resource tech, second player had religious tech plus temple, I was player three, and player four had two architecture tech levels. I was already jealous of player four.

The first players started on the Yaxchilan (resource) and Tikal (building) gears, so I jumped to Palenque (food) and also put a guy on Chichen Itza (skulls) right away. After seeing the first round, I decided to try a "food strategy": max out the food tech, get six workers and try to play many big turns in the second half of the game. With the food tech I could get huge amounts of food to pay for the placement of many workers at the same time, hopefully placing on the higher steps of the gears right away, and do a lot of point-giving things. I would need to place half of my workers on Palenque to keep paying for all this, so effectively I would still only have three workers for scoring, but at least there would be a monument of 18 points waiting for me.
I took the guy in Chichen Itza off right away for a measly four points, but I decided he would be of more use elsewhere. The first quarter of the game I was working on getting more workers and maxing out the agriculture track. I quickly got to five workers and decided to wait a bit with the sixth one. (Of course, I got my fifth worker exactly on the first food day, so I had to feed a guy who hadn't done any work for me yet! Happens too often to me, I need to improve my planning in that regard.)
Meanwhile my girlfriend was also working on techs, both directly and by using buildings, the second player went straight for the temples with the Tikal 5 space (one resource for two temple levels), and the fourth player was not building any buildings yet. Hmm, I would have gone for buildings like a madman. Of course, both Yaxchilan and especially Tikal gears were often very crowded, and he also wanted to see how far he could get with as few visits to Palenque as possible, so he was reluctant to pay food to take the higher spots.

I don't remember exactly what I did during the second quarter of the game, but it wasn't much of consequence. I collected some resources to set myself up for the second half of the game, let one worker ride the Tikal gear all the way to 5, of course I had to get 10 food from somewhere (but with the tech already maxed out, that wasn't very hard)... maybe I could have done more at this point. Meanwhile temple guy hit Tikal 5 two more times, building guy finally started building and also put a skull on a high spot in Chichen Itza. Girlfriend was still preparing for big things to happen later.
After the mid-game scoring, the building player had a slight lead over the temple player.

In the third quarter, I had to get serious about collecting gold to buy the monument I wanted. I also used my food surplus on the Uxmal gear: on space 1 you can pay food to advance on a temple, on space 4 you can buy a building using food instead of resources. This helped me zoom up the yellow temple. Of course I picked up my sixth worker along the way, and I also grabbed one of those farms that feeds three workers (I had lots of food, but paying 12 on a food day is still a lot). The other players kept doing what they were doing, building guy kept building, and temple guy was now using the "overflow space" of the agriculture track to move further up the temples (first time I've seen anybody use these overflow spaces... in fact, later on in the game we all used them at least once - yay, another Tzolk'in achievement unlocked!). My girlfriend had about 15 resource cubes in front of her at this point, and she had two techs maxed out (food and resources) so there were two monuments that looked very good for her, and it seemed she would be able to pay for them too.

The fourth quarter of the game always feels like a mad dash for points. The resources payed from the temples on the third food day had given me the gold I needed to get my desired monument. After that, I had some stones left and came up with an idea for a great final turn: I could turn my excess of food into gold using Uxmal 2 and build another monument (hopefully the temple-related one). So I set about harvesting more huge piles of food. I was somewhat lucky that temple guy couldn't get the resources he needed to take that monument before me - on the other hand, if he had done that, the monument that's worth points based on all monuments built would have been just as good, so it didn't matter much. At the end of the game, I was finally playing my harvest big-pay big turn sequences that I had in mind from the beginning, and it all came together.
My girlfriend seemed to miss out on her second monument because she was too late with placing a worker to Tikal, but there was a building available that copied the ability of Uxmal 5 (pay 1 corn to use any one action on the smaller gears). Using this (and the tech overflow space of the resource track, to get one gold she was missing), she built her second monument too. The other players had no monuments, but had collected much more points during the game (from skulls and buildings) and would also score from the temples.

Temple guy scored the most temple points of course (30), but my 26 was also very good (mostly from reaching the highest level in yellow). The biggest scores at the end were from the monuments however: my girfriend got 20+18 for the two tech-related monuments, while I had 21+18 for the temple and six workers. My final score was 77 (only 12 during the game, 26 + 39 at the end) and that was enough to give me a big win. The other players were close together in the high 50's.

I noticed during the game that players' strategies interact in subtle ways. Because there were two players in this game who never went above their three starting workers, the gears were often quite empty. Not what I wanted at all - I was hoping to jump to the higher spots right away using my excess of corn, but there were just too many lower spots to fill. On the other hand, I had the benefit that I was often the last player in the turn order because the player to my left (building guy) often took the start player (he needed the food and it helped him spend less to place his workers).
My biggest room for improvement seems to be in the second quarter of the game. As I wrote above, I don't remember much of what I did in that part so it wasn't very noteworthy. This is something I've noticed on earlier playings as well - I stumble about and it takes a while before I have a strategy and a big goal in my mind. Once I have that big goal, I work towards that and usually succeed, but there must be more useful things to do in the beginning. After all I've heard the designers and playtesters claim that scores over 100 are very much possible, but I haven't even come close to it. But I will, some day!

Tzolk'in really is a fantastic game. It sure has a bit of a learning curve as some strategies are harder to see and execute well than others, but for me that is a good sign. It means there is plenty of replayability and there are a lot of things to explore. I have now played it six times in just over a month and I still want to play it more. That hasn't happened in a long time (not since Puerto Rico I think). Multiple strategies, multiple paths to victory, and a central mechanism that is both innovative and eye-catching - this is easily my favourite game of 2012.
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Hammock Backpacker
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I've only played once but this line stuck me as odd (emphasis mine):

Quote:
With the food tech I could get huge amounts of food to pay for the placement of many workers at the same time, hopefully placing on the higher steps of the gears right away, and do a lot of point-giving things.


What do you mean when you say "placing on the higher steps of the gears right away". Don't you *always* have to start at the lowest spot?
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Erik Burigo
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matthew.marquand wrote:
I've only played once but this line stuck me as odd (emphasis mine):

Quote:
With the food tech I could get huge amounts of food to pay for the placement of many workers at the same time, hopefully placing on the higher steps of the gears right away, and do a lot of point-giving things.


What do you mean when you say "placing on the higher steps of the gears right away". Don't you *always* have to start at the lowest spot?


Yes. But if all lower spots are occupied by other workers, then the lowest open spot becomes more expensive (but it obviously is more valuable because of it saves you precious turns).
That fell within his strategy: letting others fill lower spots and leveraging his high amount of corn for affording a sweeter place.
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Marcel Sagel
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matthew.marquand wrote:
I've only played once but this line stuck me as odd (emphasis mine):

Quote:
With the food tech I could get huge amounts of food to pay for the placement of many workers at the same time, hopefully placing on the higher steps of the gears right away, and do a lot of point-giving things.


What do you mean when you say "placing on the higher steps of the gears right away". Don't you *always* have to start at the lowest spot?

You're right. What I meant was "take advantage of occupied spaces on the gears". Of course if you have plenty of workers available, you can fill the lower spots first and then still take a higher spot - this was one of my goals with this strategy (but as I explained at the end of the report, it didn't work as well as I had hoped).
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Sutanto Joji
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Great review..

I myself, after 4 game, trying building strategy, skull, 6 workers, and temple strategy, yet each of them is still dependent on what other people are doing. Those 6 and 4 VPs payout during 2nd and 4th food day is very tempting. A 10 VP swing, almost like a monument VP if you can grab both. Yet, if you focus on temple, you still have to forgo building. Temple has synergy with food tech track, yet, food tech track will tempt you to have more workers due to excess food. However, if you focus on getting the worker, you won't have time to do what you want to do etc etc.

I agree with the OP, that this game gives you an illusion of clear path of victory. Yet, deep under, the subtleties are a lot. Even a difference of 1 space upward (due to lower space being filled) will cost you 2 food (1 food more to put the worker, and 1 food to trigger the previous space action).

This is a strategic game that forces you to adapt..
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Ik ben een kleine boefje
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Goed review

Tzolkin is also my favourite game of the year so far, but I have yet to try Terra Mystica and Keyflower. I have a lot of faith in both, specially the first one after watching this morning the Drive thru review.

Anyway Tzolkin is a fantastic game and has been a big success with all my friends after five diferent plays.
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