TIKAL

Reviewed by Nigel Buckle, copyright 1999

Tikal , by Rio Grande Games, is a game where you control a party of archaeologists exploring the largest and most important Mayan city site in Guatemala called, you guessed it, Tikal.

In the box you get:
A game board
36 terrain hexes (15 temples, 10 plain jungle, 8 treasure sites, 3 volcanoes)
24 treasure tokens (8 sets of 3)
48 temple levels (numbered 2 - 10)
4 sets of coloured (wooden) markers (comprising of 1 leader, 18 workers, 2 camps, 1 score marker)
4 auction turn indicators.

The components are excellent, and the game itself is quite fun. Each turn you have 10 action points to spend exploring Tikal. Exploration of the site has just started (the base camp and a few hexes are printed on the board, the rest are filled in by the players placing tiles). It costs a point to bring a worker into play on a camp, it costs points to move a worker (markers on the tile edge indicate the costs), 2 points to clear a level of a temple, 3 points to excavate a treasure token, etc.

All the tiles are marked on the back with a letter, you sort the tiles into groups and draw from the A’s, once they’ve all been used you use the B’s etc. There are various types of tile – temples, which vary in value (the higher the value the better), treasure sites (which have a limited number of treasure tokens), clearings (not much use, other than to link up tiles or to place a new camp) and volcanoes. The volcanoes are important – you can never move into or through one, but when you draw a volcano tile that means that it’s a scoring turn.

You score for each temple you control (have more workers in it than your opponents). Each temple is worth a base value, but you can improve it by clearing away the jungle (you have to spend points to do this) then placing the next level marker on the temple to show it’s new value. You also score points for each treasure you’ve unearthed (you get a bonus for collecting sets of identical treasures, and you can spend points swapping treasure with your opponents).

This is definitely not a war game – but there is some player interaction. You can swap treasure tokens with your opponents (to build sets) and you can take control of temples by moving more workers to the site than your opponents. You can also permanently 'guard’ up to 2 temples (that you control) by spending 5 action points. There are 2 camps you can also place deeper within the city complex, and the placing of these camps can often be critical. Prudent tile placements can nullify the effect of an opponent’s camp – or create a valuable isolated group of temples that only you can easily access.

The only problem with the basic game is the volcano tiles. In your turn you do the following: draw a tile, place it, spend 10 action points. However, if a volcano is drawn, then before you place it (and spend your 10 action points) the turn is interrupted and a scoring round occurs. For the scoring round, the player drawing the volcano spends a bonus 10 action points, then scores, followed by the next player clockwise (10 bonus action points, score), etc. Once all the players have had a (bonus) scoring turn the volcano tile is placed and the player can finally spend the 10 action points for that turn. So, drawing a volcano means the player defers their usual 10 points until AFTER scoring has been calculated. This delay is not too much of a problem, unless a player is unlucky enough to draw more than one in a game (there are 3 volcanoes, and you also have a scoring round at the end. There is an auction version which neatly avoids this, as players can bid victory points to get the tiles they want.) There are only 4 points in the game when players score - after each volcano is drawn (3 of them) and at the end (once the final tile is played).

Normally a game will last a couple of hours, but be warned the game can run for much longer – all it takes is one player who likes to study all the possible moves in a turn. Using a timer would help. I prefer the auction version of the game, but it does slow play down further.

I’d recommend this game if you like resource management games, the subject appeals and you don’t mind the time it takes.

 

Editor's Note: TIKAL is published by Rio Grande Games. Their contact details are as follows:
Web: http://www.riograndegames.com/
Email: cafejay@aol.com

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