Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar - Board Game Box Shot

Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar

The Maya were a highly developed civilization known for its unique art, complex architecture, sophisticated mathematics and advanced knowledge of the stars. At the heart of their society was a mysterious calendar – Tzolk’in. With a length of 260 days, it could predict the right time to plant seeds, the time to build monuments, the day a new baby would be born as well as the movement of the planets. It was the centerpiece of the Mayan cycle of life.

We invite you to become one of the ajaw, the leaders of Mayan tribes. Please the gods and lead your clan to prosperity!

As in the life of ancient Maya, the center of our game is the Tzolk’in calendar – a set of gears that rotate each round of the game. This unique system helps you to visualize the cyclic flow of time and plan your actions in advance. Harvest crops now, or wait for them to grow a little more for higher yield? All will be clear to see on the wheels of time.

User Reviews (4)

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5
Norway
I play yellow
Strategist
Count / Countess
9
72 of 75 gamers found this helpful
“A very tactical, thematic and great game”

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

 
Player Avatar
5
Petroglyph
Arrowhead
9
10 of 10 gamers found this helpful
“A refreshing innovation to worker-placement, or, that Mayan game with the gears”

Corn-ageddon. Corn-aclysm. Corn-ocalypse. Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar may not have anything to do with doomsday predictions, but running out of corn in this game feels like the end of the world. You need it to place your workers, to feed your workers, to trade for resources. If you deplete your reserves, you must resort to begging — incensing the gods for your trouble. Also known as “that Mayan game with the gears,” Tzolk’in introduces unique mechanics and components that refresh an otherwise-predictable genre of board games.

Gameplay
As with many worker-placement games, you place workers to gather resources and use those resources to construct buildings and develop technology for victory points and gameplay bonuses. Every few rounds a temple-scoring phase commences, requiring you to feed your tribe but also awarding VPs or resources for climbing the temple steps.

Beyond the basics, Tzolk’in innovates worker-placement significantly by introducing action tracks. Instead of placing a worker on an action space and executing that action, you place the worker on an action track. Then, every turn you leave the worker on that track, it advances to a better possible action space that you use when you remove the worker from the track.

Example: On turn 1 you place a worker on the food track on the action space “Harvest 4 corn”. You do not take the corn when you place the worker. At the end of turn 1, your worker advances to the next food-track action “Harvest 5 corn”. Now, on turn 2, you can remove the worker from the food track to add 5 corn to your supply — or leave it on the track and take an even better harvest action on a later turn.

Each of the 5 action tracks generally focuses on a specific area, like harvesting corn, advancing your technology, or climbing the temple steps. Placing workers on a track costs corn and also increases the cost for other players to place on the same track in the same round. By timing when you add workers to an action track or remove them, you can outmaneuver your opponents and beat them to the best action spaces, the best buildings, and the highest temple steps.

Winning
Win by having the most victory points at game-end — and there are many ways to earn them. Climb the temple steps to score points in temple-scoring phases. Mount crystal skulls on the temples via the crystal-skull action track. Construct buildings, including special “monument” buildings that award bonus VPs for developing your tribe. Example: A monument will award bonus VPs for advancing on the technology track, or for harvesting lots of corn. It is also possible to lose VPs throughout the game by failing to feed your tribe or falling too low on the temple steps.

Theme
The Tzolk’in was the master Mayan calendar. Historians speculate that the ancient Mayans used the calendar cycle for planting and harvesting crops, birthing children, beginning construction projects, and organizing religious rituals. All of those elements figure into Tzolk’in the board game — but the components really evoke the theme.

Components
The designers of Tzolk’in have contrived an absolutely inspired component-implementation of the unique action-track mechanic. Each action track is represented by a plastic gear, mounted on the game board around a central hub with teeth connecting each gear to the hub. You place your workers on the action-track gears, and at the end of the round you rotate the hub — which rotates all 5 gears too, advancing everyone’s workers on all the action tracks simultaneously. Besides rotating the gears, the hub itself functions as a calendar, indicating the current game round, when the temple-scoring occurs, and when the game ends.

Even though the Aztec sun stone depicted on the hub may be inaccurate to the Mayan theme, it looks fantastic when painted (caveat: you have to paint it yourself). And the crystal skulls? Probably not historically accurate either, but hey, we can allow artistic liberties for such shiny components. Ordinary wooden resource cubes, cardboard corn tiles, and cardboard building tiles are sturdy and functional, even if they do look mundane next to the exotic gears and skulls.

Pros:
+ Action tracks add a new level of complexity to worker-placement, compelling you to plan your strongest actions several turns ahead.
+ Inspired gear components advance the action tracks effortlessly and also function as a thematic in-game calendar.
+ Unique sets of starting resources for each player and randomly drawn buildings can change your strategy and add replayability.
+ Numerous ways of earning VPs allows several viable strategies, but …

Cons:
– The resource-track strategy tends to dominate all others unless multiple players compete for it in a 3/4/5-player game.
– Advanced play tends to proceed formulaically, according to a limited set of ideal actions, significantly diminishing replay-value unless you start adding house rules.
– Since effective play demands thinking several turns ahead, slow or indecisive players will bog down the game.

 
Player Avatar
3
Filth - Summoner Wars
9
12 of 18 gamers found this helpful
“Great game!”

We(me and my girlfriend) got this game exactly when it came up. We thought it will be really interesting and it was. The first impression you get when you open the box is already of good quality and intriguing mechanisms. The rotating wheels are something that really attracts people into playing the game. All my friends know the game as the “rotating-wheels game” :).
The game is of medium complexity since there are lots of mechanism and lots of ways to win points but everything feels natural and logical. Even though my girlfriend is not one to like complex games, this one is one of her favorites.
The replay-ability of the game is also very high. Since there are lots of ways to win points, that means that are lots of ways to go though the game. There is nothing mandatory that needs to be done every game if you want to win. You can simply choose your own way of playing each time.
I really recommend this game!

 
Player Avatar
4
Sentinels of the Multiverse fan
Detective
8
21 of 45 gamers found this helpful
“Low tech review.”

A VERY complex worker placement game.
While I enjoy the game, I also can find parts of it annoying. For instance, another player can totally screw up your strategy by taking the first player option and advancing the wheel 2 times. This can only be done once per game per player, but my first time playing, I was really struggling with the wheel mechanics and had my entire strategy crushed by someone taking this option.
There are a ton of options to score. It’s hard for new players to understand the economics of the game. Really, where I would say most games require 1 play to get down, this one I would say requires more like 2 or 3.
Some people will argue I am sure, but for me, this is not a game I would break out for anyone very experienced gamers. An experienced gamer that has played this before will trash entry level gamers out of hand, IMO.

 

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