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André Nordstrand
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Tzolk'in. Tzolk'in. Tzolk'in. That seems so hard to pronounce, but really isn't. Just as the game isn't hard to play, even though it looks very complex with the gears and all. Initially, it's just another worker placement game with some cogs that move. But the truth is a lot better. The game is not about the doomsday that didn't happen, but the life of the Mayans that lived by the calendar. And you'll have the privilige to play along.

In order to win you need to have the most victory points at the end. But to get to the end, you need to feed your workers, please the gods, and time it right. And the calendar is there to help you time your moves and make the best of the situation. So let's check out the player board.

The game board
The main board really stands out from other boards. Its background has nice graphics with pretty colors, and it's easy to find what you're looking for as well as blending together nicely. But what you'll also see is a large cog in the center of the board, with 5 smallers cogs connected to it. When you spin the middle cog, all the other cogs move along in the opposite direction. On the smallers cogs you'll find spaces for small worker pieces, and when you spin the cog, the pieces move along with it, moving it from one available action to anoter.

Each player receives 3 workers which are just small cylinders, but they fit nicely into the cog areas. Resources consist of wood, gold and stone, which are just small cubes. The gold and stone might be a bit hard to separate because of similar colors, but that's not really a problem throughout the game. Food tokens are nice, and are all placed on the big cog in the center, making it available for everyone. But the real neat part is the crystal skull. Transluscent and blue plastic crystal skulls.

Gameplay: Not just a gimmick
On your turn you must do only one of two things: place workers, or retrieve workers. When you place a worker you must pay the cost in food. The more workers you place on the same turn, the more expensive it is. You must also place each worker on the cheapest available spot on the cog you wish to use. When you retrieve workers, you perform the action it was placed on. You may place or retrieve as many workers as you want or can afford, but you cannot do both.

When the cogs turn, the workers will move along to the next available spot - which usually is a more profitable action. This means that the longer you wait to retrieve a particular worker, the better its action will be later in the game. There are 5 cogs to place you workers on, each providing their own special actions. I won't go into detail, because there's a lot of them. One area is all about food and wood, while another focuses on stone, gold and crystal skulls. A third allows for technological advances and buildings, and the fourth provides more workers and favor with the gods. The fifth cog is all about favoring the gods and placing crystal skulls in a holy circle.

Once all players have done one action, the cog turns. The start player gets a special action once in the game: turning the cog two steps instead of one. This can really have a deep impact on the game, and might finish the game sooner than you'd like.

Four times during the game, there'll be some kind of worshiping of the gods. There are three gods represented by their own temple, and you may position yourself on the temple steps, gaining the favor of the gods. When it's time to worship, you'll get victory points or goods. But first, you'll need to feed your workers using corn, which also acts as currency in this game. At the same time you must be careful not to anger the gods, or you'll receive negative points. You'll anger them by not having enough corn during the came to place workers, and you can beg for help to receive some corn. The more workers you have (up to 6), the more corn you'll need.

The theme
What I really like about this game is the theme. The cogs themselves are not just there for show, they act as a calendar - just as they used to for the Mayans. When you place a worker, you are kind of predicting when it's best to sow and harvest to get the best spoils. The longer you stay on the cog, the earlier you were prepared, knowing what seasons were to follow.

The calendar itself was also turned to indicate the day and season of the year. Turning the cogs just feel right for this game, and the actions are more lucrative as the cog turns. I really enjoy this mechanism.

Conclusive thouhts
This is a game with almost no luck. Starting resources and available monuments for purchase are drafted at the start of the game. Other than that, the buildings are refreshed half-way throught the game and when purchases are made. The rest is all up to the players. Everything is visible for everyone, so you can plan ahead and make sure you get the benefits before your opponents.

Since there is such little luck involved, it might almost seem very repetetive. But fortunately, the game is very different every time. When you place, where you place and what the opponents do. Almost never the same. If playing with 2 or 3 players, dummy-workers are placed at the very start of the game, just to occupy certain spaces.

Every cog is available from the first move, and every action will become available shortly. With the many technologies, buildings and actions so available, it might seem overwhealming at first. There's a lot to take in. The worker placement part is very easy, but all the options will take a play-through to really grasp. The second game will be a lot better.

Pros:
- Great components
- The theme really comes through
- Much variety
- Almost no luck
- Unique mechanism

Cons:
- Steep learning curve
- Prone to analysis paralysis
- Very "bump-unfriendly" game
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donald fast
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Great well written review of the game.

The opening paragraphs give a great introductory description to the game. I will have to use some of this when explaining the game.

I find the iconography to be clear which greatly reduces the learning curve. Mastering the game is another matter.

What is "bump-unfriendly"?

Very definitely is prone to AP. Timer would be great (and add to theme of time) and I should get one.

 
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Ian Noble
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don_f wrote:
What is "bump-unfriendly"?


My guess is that he means it is very bad if someone bumps the table since it would be difficult to reset where all the workers are.

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André Nordstrand
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Thank you, I'm used to writing and filming Norwegian reviews, but thought I'd contribute in english as well.

I couldn't come up with a better terminology for when you bump the table or the board, and the pieces will roll all over the place. It's happened once or twice, if not careful when turning the cog.
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André Nordstrand
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ianoble wrote:
don_f wrote:
What is "bump-unfriendly"?


My guess is that he means it is very bad if someone bumps the table since it would be difficult to reset where all the workers are.



Correct!
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Neil Christiansen
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Huh?

Easier than which Worker Placement games?

I think that adding a shifting value to the removal of workers that depends on how long they remain placed is not a "gimmick" but a mechanic.

The wheels just make advancing them all less fiddly.

I find the decisions of where/when to place and remove very tasty.

Edited: Yeah, it is definitely no Lords of the Waterdeep....
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donald fast
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takras wrote:
ianoble wrote:
don_f wrote:
What is "bump-unfriendly"?


My guess is that he means it is very bad if someone bumps the table since it would be difficult to reset where all the workers are.



Correct!


Got it! Somehow my mind was ignoring the physical part of the game and trying to think of strategy/tactics/ mechanics that involved bumping.

Thanks.

=Donald
 
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Lisa Schensted
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I totally agree that the cog turning was fun AND served a purpose - not just a gimmick. Great quick review!
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