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.

Warning: This game requires an attention span, so if you are not willing to devote that to Quetzalcoatl, Kukulcan and Chaac, this might not be the game for you. That being said, is this still a good game? Lets find out.



Luck really doesn't play a big part in Tzolk'in, the only time anything unexpected comes up is either due to your opponent making a decision to ruin you or you simple forget to pay attention to whats coming up. This game is at its core 100% a strategy based game.



So where does this strategy come into play? Well pretty much the entire game, im not going to delve too deep into the mechanics and motivations in the game because its really quite robust. But it can be said that this game rewards those willing to put in proper planning and forward thinking. This is a worker placement game with 2 very strict rules that cannot be avoided: You place 1 or more workers OR you pick up 1 or more workers. Not planning for this can really throw your gameplan out the window.



Tzolk'in is complex, sure it doesn't reach the hights of something like Twilight Imperium or Mage Knight, but there is alot to digest here. I mean even during setup there is quite a bit that has to happen before the players even take there first move. That being said, the actions taken of a turn by turn basis are actually pretty simple, as this is a worker placement game. (With very few workers to boot!) But this is where the need for attention rears its head, if you or even your opponent aren't invested in whats going on, its hard to find the joy in the game.


Replay Value:

Would I replay this game? Yes and No. I mean my first run through of this game was soured by a) learning the rules and b) an oppenent more focused on what was on the TV than what was on the table. Obviously learning the rules of the game will always harper the enjoyment of a game, but this one really left a bad taste in my mouth. That all being said subsequent games have been much more promising, although any future play throughs will require the right players to get me excited about Tzolk'in.



Excellent, just excellent. Tzolk'in just wins in the components category. Thick card for the tiles, beautiful wooden pieces and even a nod to a particular Indiana Jones movie that shall not be named. But Tzolk'ins biggest draw card is of course the gear mechanic. One gigantic main gear and 5 smaller ones really sold me on this game and I think is what keeps me wanting to persist with it. Many a gamer have even made the decision to paint these gears to add that little bit extra to there board.


Learning Curve:

The problem with many games like Tzolk'in is that its quite easy to explain WHAT you have to do, but it can be much harder to explain WHY you are doing it. You place workers or you pick them up, and you can get food or resources or make the Gods happy or you can make buildings. Yeah ok, I get that. But why am I doing it? And for Tzolk'in it really is an awkard place of 'You need to do it all because that's how you win'.



I have played this game with 2 players quite alot and I have to say, it falls a little bit flat. This game was designed with 4 players in mind and really doesn't lend itself to other play counts very well. If you are going to get Tzolk'in, you really need to be ready to only crack it out when 3 of your bussies come around and Five Tribes really isn't going to cut it for you.



The theme is... loose, but relevant. You are a Mayan tribe competing for prosperity and favour of gods. Some of the mechanics are put in less to flavour the game, rather to serve the game mechanically. An example of this is the 'Food Days', yes thats right 4 days that you need to feed your workers. This really didn't hit for me as it felt as if my tribe was on a constant fast as they waited for the 4 individual days a year that they could eat.


Final Thoughts:

Ok so with all that in mind, is Tzolk'in right for you? Well really that comes down to 2 simple questions: a) Do you want to engage in a rich strategy and are you willing to dedicate focus to this task? and b) Do you have 3 friends willing to do the same? If the answer to either of those was no, then there are probably better games out there, however if you said yes to both, then I would highly recommend you pick up Tzolk'in!

Have you played Tzolk'in? Do you agree with our review? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below! Happy gaming.


Brent is the founder of OzBoardGamer, he has a passion for the hobby and especially loves games for 2 to 5 players

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