Gaming Spotlight: Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar


One of my favorite board games ever, I was able to play it again this weekend and it reminded me just how cool this game is. The game has a loose, Mayan theme. The best part of this game, in my opinion, is the board. There is a lot going on with the board, but it’s pretty intuitive and every turn you interact with it by moving the board. The board is made up of giant gears that all interconnect. While still being a worker placement/earn resources type game, the dynamic board and great art adds to the feel and theme of the game allowing players to immerse them into the experience of the game. This is something that I find so lacking in so many great games, particularly these worker placement games.

So, when it comes to your turn, you have two basic things you can do. You can either add some/part/all of your workers to the board or you can remove some/part/all of your workers from the board. When adding workers, there is a mechanism of paying a cost in food based on the number of workers that you are placing, so it’s not quite so easy to just put all of your workers on the board and then the next turn pull some/all of your workers back off.

When removing a worker, you complete that action before removing the next, so some times you may find yourself wanting to pull a worker to obtain resources that then allow you to pull another worker and purchase a better building that you might control, for example. Another great thing that happens with adding and removing workers as the game progresses is that some turns, even if you could pay to put additional workers or taking additional workers from the board you may want to do less so that you can wait an extra turn before pulling off another worker.

At the point at which the center wheel reaches every quarter it’s complete rotation you have a feeding phase that you have to pay 2 food for every worker you have. This can be really tough and finding other ways to pay for your feeding for free will greatly help you have to take actions to gain food, as total food doesn’t help you score points at the end of the game. Once your done feeding, depending on which rotation it is you may either gain extra resources based on where you are on the temple tracks or score points. This makes those tracks very important as well and something that you should put some effort towards getting.

The other major way to score large amounts of points is the large wheel with 13 places to place these crystal skulls on this track. These skull tokens are limited and once they are placed they are permanently locked in place. This means that any other players that want to drop a skull on this track in that spot to get the points and other benefits, simply can’t. This can make it a race to be the first ones to place because you will score the most points if you wait long enough. However, it’s a big wheel and trying to keep a worker tied up for 13 spins of the wheel is a long time to do, and with only 3 workers in your control at the beginning of the game, going too early can really hurt your ability to take other actions.

So, drawbacks of the game. I think the only one that jumps out to me is that you really need to play this game with 4 players, which is what it is designed to handle in the base game. As soon as you play with less players, then you start putting random tokens to fill in for the other players. This takes away from the strategy of a full 4 player game as the random other player placements may not be predictable as would another players actions would be. Then again, I have never played a game with less then four players, so maybe it really is brilliant.

Great game and very definitely in my top five board games that I love to play, if not in my top two. Go check it out and pick yourself up a copy.