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Jesse Dean
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Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar is the latest release by Czech Games Edition, a publisher that up to this point has been known mostly for games by two Czech designers, Vlaada Chvatil and Vladimir Suchy. Tzolk’in is an attempt to move further afield and features two Italian designers: Simone Luciani and Daniele Tascini. So far it has been the most critically successful game to be released from Essen 2012, advancing quickly and effectively up the BGG rankings. It currently looks like it will easily make the BGG Top 25 and may even do better than that, though at this point it would be very difficult for it to make the Top 10.



I played Tzolk’in for the first time over the summer in a couple of two player games. I liked what I saw and requested a review copy of the game. I have played the game a total of five times.


Theme and Components
Tzolk’in combines a pretty standard eurogame overlay onto its Mayan theme. There are a number of ways to get victory points, all of which can be easily explained as having something to do with the Mayans. Do you get victory points for advancing up the temple tracks? Of course you do! Do you get points for constructing these generic buildings that show up later in the game? Of course you do! That being said, the game is not entirely generic. There are ways to get victory points that could not be inserted into any random eurogame and a lot of nice thematic details have been interwoven into the game. They are just not in the majority, and if you require deep thematic mechanical ties in your board games then Tzolk’in is not for you.



I like the look of the components, and in this respect, at least, the game is rather thematic. The artwork is evocative and fun and I particularly like the surface to the central wheel, which has a number of shapes that look quite attractive once they are painted and have inspired a number of gamers to attempt their own take on it. The included crystal skulls are also fun and thematic, and it is enjoyable to see them arranged in a little circle around the central wheel.

While most of the physical components are effective and solid, I cannot personally vouch for the component quality of the board. I, and apparently others who have received the game, have received boards that were ripped along the seam, so this seems to be a problem with at least the first edition of the game. This is particularly problematic as the plastic wheels are inserted into these ripped boards, making the overall structural integrity problematic. Luckily, Rio Grande Games, at least in the US, appears to be pretty responsive to this problem though, so whether this is an issue for you or not will depend on how important it is for you that the game comes out of the box in perfect condition. It is very easy to correct it.

The Delightful Mechanical Core
Tzolk’in’s mechanical focus is its rather innovative worker placement system. On any given turn you are either able to place or remove any number of workers, with the only limitations being based on the number of workers that you have available to perform either action. However, you are limited to performing either placement or removal in a given turn and you must do one or the other. There are costs for placement, in the form of corn, that also impact how many workers to place and when to place them.

The wheels in Tzolk’in each have a number of associated action spots and will move one or sometimes two spaces after each player has taken their set of placement or removal actions. This usually results in an increase in the quality of the available removal and frequently provides a shift in the type of action available. Players are required to place workers in the first available spot on any given wheel, with spots that are further along the line costing more corn. This is meant to reduce the attractiveness of being able to place a worker farther along the track after other players have done so and is generally successful; there is a delightful bit of ambiguity in determining when or where placing after others is worth the cost of doing so.

This is the part of Tzolk’in that I like the most. The pressure that you feel as the gears relentlessly move towards the game’s inevitable conclusion is sufficient to keep me engaged and focused on trying to ensure that every placement I make matters and adds to my chance to win or at least not embarrass myself. Part of this is due to the number of avenues of competition that the game provides. Buildings are limited, and some of them are attractive enough that there will be some pretty direct competition to get them before your opponents. Getting first on a temple track during a temple scoring phase, or being high enough along them to get bonus resources during the temple phases are both pretty strong time pressures. Combined they make what could have been a pretty languid optimization game something that is a little bit more entertaining even when you move past any initial excitement over the novelty of the wheels.

Unfortunately the intriguing and novel mechanical core is surrounded by additional mechanical structures that are not nearly as interesting and exciting as this core.

Separating a Worker Placement Game From the Pack
Two of Tzolk’in’s five gears give resources; nothing more, nothing less. Two of them convert resources into things. The last one lets you take the pretty crystal skulls and get some combination of victory points, tech advancements, and resource cubes. Mostly, they are about as boring as they sound. There are a few exceptions here and there, the most noteworthy of which is how the game emulates the particular farming dynamics of the Yucatan on the Palenque wheel as players can exhaust available farming land and need to cut down forests, or burn them down, to access more. Essentially, the second through fifth Palenque spaces each have four spots on them. All of them have four corn tiles, and the third through fifth spaces have wood tiles placed on top of them. Whenever someone gets wood from one of these spaces they get a wood tile, and whenever someone gets corn they take a corn tile. If these tiles are not available, and a corn tile being underneath a wood tile counts as unavailable, then a player cannot take an action to collect the resources. The one exception is that, in the previously mentioned wood situation, players may choose to burn down the forest, discarding the wood tile, in order to collect corn anyway. This angers the gods and forces you down one space on one of the three temple tracks. The decision to take a corn tile or a wood tile is made only at the point in which they remove the worker, giving a bit of strategic flexibility. If conditions on the board change enough then the player can also switch gears, grabbing the sort of resources they want, assuming either availability or the willingness to risk angering the gods.

This dynamic, and the ability to overcome it by advancement on one of the four tech tracks, is something I like a lot and I think adds a lot of nuance and interesting decisions to the game. I just wish there were more things like this in the game. Instead most of the actions come down to, “I get this resource” or “I convert these resources into these victory points or go up tech track to increase my efficiency.” These sorts of things are fine. These things are the meat and butter of worker placement games. However, there are a lot of worker placement games out there. In fact, there are a lot of very good worker placement games which are able to take these bits and pieces and combine them just right into an entertaining and engaging experience. So the question that I inevitably have to ask myself when playing a new worker placement game such as Tzolk’in, is if the game has enough distinguishing features to make it a “very good” or “great” worker placement rather than one that is just “good” as good is not quite good enough anymore.

A large part of this analysis is based on your emotional reaction to the game. You simply play the game a lot and find out whether the game’s distinguishing features are enough to make the game feel different from other ones out there. But there is also some capability to add a more defined aspect to this analysis. I have not consistently done this in the past so, as an experiment, (yes, you get a review and an experiment all in one!) I am going to attempt it for Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar. This has the added benefit of highlighting what I think are the best parts of the game.

Unique and Interesting Things about Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar

1) Placement Mechanic
The Manhattan Project does something very similar with your decision to place workers or remove workers, though the Manhattan Project does it in a way that is arguably a little bit less unique as you get resources when you place rather than when you remove. Still, these are the only two worker placements that feature mechanics like this so I am willing to give Tzolk’in a positive score for this. This is important too because the placement mechanic is usually one of the most important parts of the game. If you are not doing something new here in a worker placement game you probably should not bother making one. However, I am also not willing to give this a big weight for the same reason. If you are not doing something new and interesting here why are you even making a worker placement? It is a threshold not something worth bonus points unless you do something really exciting.

2) Crop And Forests System
I described this above. This is the sort of fun flavor that I really enjoy. It is thematic. It adds some small level of mechanical complexity while also adding additional depths to the decision making. The only downside is that the need to harvest trees from forests is undermined somewhat by the ability to get wood willy-nilly, though in lesser values, from the Yaxchilan wheel. I understand why they did this, but I think it would be tenser if you potentially had to either deal with the ever diminishing forests or were forced to use the trading space rather than having another easy to access way to get wood.

3)The Crystal Skulls System
Crystal Skulls have one purpose in the game, and this is to place them in exclusive spots on the Chichen Itza wheel. Each of these spots gives you victory points and advancement on a cult track, and some of them will also give you a resource cube. While converting a resource (crystal skulls!) into victory points is not in of itself that interesting, the tight funnel involved in the usage of the skulls and the decisions that are involved in placing the workers to utilize them, particularly since the Chichen Itza wheel is longer than other wheels and you could end up with a worker on it for a long time, are such that I consider this to be interesting enough to count.



4)The first player mechanic
First player does not normally move in Tzolk’in. Instead there is a placement spot that steadily accumulates corn and gives first player to whomever places there. There are two things that make this pretty neat. The first is that whatever worker you place here you retrieve automatically, getting the corn collected there in the process, rather than following the normal placement rules. This allows a lot of really interesting maneuvers. The second is that once per game, or more if you manage to make it to the top of one or more of the temple tracks, you are able to flip over your player aid in order to have the wheel move two spaces rather than one space if you selected first player that round, potentially disrupting other player’s plans while advancing your own ability to collect resources or place workers in the following turn. I like that switching first player is both not automatic but also comes with strong, but not overpowering, incentives to encourage players to take it.
And those four points pretty much cover what I think separates Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar from the default, “good” worker placement game. Now to provide a sense of my perspective, I am going to go ahead and do the same thing with another worker placement game that I have reviewed, and liked quite a bit, that has a somewhat similar average rating at this point in time: Ora et Labora.

Unique and Interesting Things About Ora et Labora

1) The Placement System
Much like Tzolk’in, Ora et Labora has a fairly unique placement system. You can use other people’s workers, you have one worker with different capabilities then the rest, and you only recover your workers when you have placed them all and the round ends; if you run out of workers you are out of luck.

2) The Scope of the Resource Conversions
Most worker placement games feature resource conversion of some sort. Very few games feature resource conversions as epic, complex, and grandiose as that featured by Ora et Labora. The conversion chains are complex, the rewards for diverging from these chains are high, and the rewards if you succeed in pulling full with your plans are fantastic. This combines into a form that allows for a higher level of drama than you would expect in a game that features producing whiskey and wine for a monastery.

3) The Spatial Element
Ora et Labora features a spatial system that, while similar in some respects to the one featured in Agricola, integrates a spatial element into the game that is quite distinct from other games. Players are forced to manage the peat and forests on their land in order to facilitate expansion but also have to be worried about potentially losing the ability to effectively collect wood and peat. More tiles can be purchased, potentially refreshing the supply of wood and peat but at the cost of using the money for tiles when they could be used for something else. All of this leads to an added level of pressure and decision making that is only compounded by the Settlement System described in #4, below.

4) The Settlement System
Ora et Labora replaces the feeding system that is featured in a number of worker placement games with a Settlement phase. The mechanical result is similar in that you are incentivized to collect resources in order to prepare for a big scoring opportunity however the strategic space opened by the settlement phase, and the thematic opportunities that Rosenberg implements, is sufficient to make this interesting even if it was not unique as well.

5)The Resource Accumulation System
While the wheel is arguably more of an engineering upgrade then a mechanical innovation, it does provide opportunities for things like unequal resource accumulation periods that would be much more difficult without something like this managing it. It also greatly reduces the quantity of human errors that can occur during the distribution of resources.

So I came up with four items for Tzolk’in and five items for Ora et Labora. In some respects this is fairly arbitrary, as I could have very easily stretched out some of the points for either of them into multiple, smaller items or condensed them a little bit. However, the items for Ora et Labora are more significant and more important for how the game plays as a whole. Most of Tzolk’in’s items, outside of its very cool wheel, or individual bits of flavor and are not nearly as significant and result in a lesser level of distinction from other worker placement games. In fact, a lot of the top ranked worker placement games have a greater level of differentiation from the average worker placement, with the differences affecting most aspects of the game experience.


It can be argued that innovation is much less important than simply designing a good, effective game and in many respects I very much agree with you. However, I have played so many worker placement games at this point it is not enough to just make a good worker placement game. It has to be innovative enough to catch my attention and be worth spending my increasingly limited amount of gaming time on. And that is why I am not able to fully endorse Tzolk’in. The marketplace of good worker placement games is pretty crowded at this point and unless a particular worker placement really stands out from those that are around it, it is difficult for me to let my appreciation for its unique elements to outweigh my boredom with the elements that are a bit more standard fare.

Conclusion
I like Tzolk’in and think it has some pretty solid gameplay, but at this point I have played enough worker placement games that neither of those are quite good enough. It has to either be exceptionally engaging or rather unique for me to want to explore it in detail and Tzolk’in is not quite able to reach either of those thresholds. People who are a bit less jaded then I am about worker placement games will probably like it a bit more than that, but at this point I can’t help but consider it a bit disappointing, particular in comparison to some of the truly unique and innovative games that have come out of CGE.
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Ben
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I generally agree with you. With the right players and at the right player count, the game hums along nicely and is deserving of an 8 on my scale.

But to the extent that the gear mechanism serves as the driving force behind the game, the remainder of the car is unexceptional. Perhaps the peripheral elements (resource collection and conversion; nondescript buildings, generic tech trees, and points-producing majority tracks) were intentionally kept simple to allow players to focus on understanding and utilizing the gears, but the lack of substance in the game's subject matter keeps it from being something I can be passionate about (I had similar objections to Stefan Feld's Trajan last year -- an interesting action selection mechanism employed to trigger entirely uninteresting core actions). At the end of the day, the game just comes up feeling a little shallower and much less engrossing than I want in my very favorite titles (perhaps that's why I am so inclined to invoke comparisons with middle-weight HiG games, like Hawaii or Stone Age, despite the fact that the comparisons make little sense to anyone but me).
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Paul Lister
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Nice review Jesse.

I agree that for the jaded WP fan the 'back end' of the game - what you are trying to achieve and the conversions necessary to achieve them are not revolutionary. But what it does it does very well

To me though a key strength of the game is how little management play requires. Most in game time is spent playing - there are no long end of turn or pre turn sequences. Moreover the information is well presented, clear and easy to see (not like trying to see what building some has diagonally opposite me in Ora).
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Matthew Tadyshak
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I can see that this game really isn't very innovative. But it is a solid worker placement, and as a worker placement fan, I like it.
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Jesse Dean
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chally wrote:
At the end of the day, the game just comes up feeling a little shallower and much less engrossing than I want in my very favorite titles (perhaps that's why I am so inclined to invoke comparisons with middle-weight HiG games, like Hawaii or Stone Age, despite the fact that the comparisons make little sense to anyone but me).

Those comparisons make complete sense to me actually.

I still like Tzolk'in, and it makes my Top 10 of the year, but that is as much a reflection on the year itself as the game; since there were not 10 games I rated an 8 or higher released this year, I had to pick from my 7s.
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Jesse Dean
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Sorp222 wrote:
To me though a key strength of the game is how little management play requires. Most in game time is spent playing - there are no long end of turn or pre turn sequences. Moreover the information is well presented, clear and easy to see (not like trying to see what building some has diagonally opposite me in Ora).

That is fair. However, well-presented information is not enough to drive me to pull a game off my shelf regularly.
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Jeff Kayati
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I'd add under the First Player Mechanic for Tzolk'in the rule that if the current First Player takes this action, he passes the token to his left, making him the last player for the next round.

I really enjoy this disincentive to grab the First Player token when you already have it, and it's a new twist that should be viewed as a positive.

I've not yet played Tzolk'in enough to know how I really feel about the game, but I do know I enjoyed my first play and wanted to play it again soon. Right now, that earns it an 8 on the BGG scale, but I can see that going up or down a point once I get more plays in.
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Paul Lister
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doubtofbuddha wrote:
Sorp222 wrote:
To me though a key strength of the game is how little management play requires. Most in game time is spent playing - there are no long end of turn or pre turn sequences. Moreover the information is well presented, clear and easy to see (not like trying to see what building some has diagonally opposite me in Ora).

That is fair. However, well-presented information is not enough to drive me to pull a game off my shelf regularly.

No but If I am feeling lazy or want to get into a game quickly its going to get the nod above games that require the assembling of a lot of bits and pieces - Hawaii for example.
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jkayati wrote:

I'd add under the First Player Mechanic for Tzolk'in the rule that if the current First Player takes this action, he passes the token to his left, making him the last player for the next round.

I really enjoy this disincentive to grab the First Player token when you already have it, and it's a new twist that should be viewed as a positive.

I've not yet played Tzolk'in enough to know how I really feel about the game, but I do know I enjoyed my first play and wanted to play it again soon. Right now, that earns it an 8 on the BGG scale, but I can see that going up or down a point once I get more plays in.

I don't know that it's necessarily a disincentive. If I've got a ton of corn to spare, why not go last and let other players fill up the early spots on the wheel so I can get to the better spaces more quickly? Especially towards the end of the game as the number of turns available start to wind down. Getting to those better spaces more quickly if you can afford it is a good thing.
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Dave Eisen
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I think you are undervaluing the innovation in the worker placement mechanic by presenting it as being basically the same as The Manhattan Project.

There are two pieces which are quite interesting, and while both are mentioned in your review, deserve highlighting.

1. The timing aspect. Yes, you either place workers or activate them. But there are significant real decisions about when to do each because the longer a worker sits on the board, the better the activation will be. In Manhattan Project, if I recall, the only real interest in getting your workers back is so you will get them back to be able to use them on a future turn.

2. The turn order aspects. All worker placement games have some sort of exclusive access to an action: that is fundamental in the definition. As it is with Tzolkin too. But you still make available the same class of actions by placing a worker, in fact you make available better versions of them. The unique thing you're claiming revolves around cheaper placement and different timing.

I really enjoyed the gears and thought this very innovative.

Now whether it's a good game or simply a great mechanic surrounded by enough stuff to turn into a game is less clear. I have only played once and thus do not know whether this a great game or if it's the worker placement equivalent of Trajan. Look forward to finding out.

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Don D.
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Completely agree. It's overhyped, but a decent game.
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Geoff Burkman
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dond80 wrote:
Completely agree. It's overhyped, but a decent game.

This sort of claim always bemuses me; how has this game been "overhyped?" Are we getting a barrage of ads on FoxNews or CNN? Has it been featured on the Honey Booboo show? Does Rio Grande really have all that much weight to throw around? Have all the lord high muckety-mucks of BGG and the gaming world in general been bought off? Is there some kind of major motion picture in the works ala "Battleship?"

What gives?
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dkeisen wrote:

There are two pieces which are quite interesting, and while both are mentioned in your review, deserve highlighting.

2. The turn order aspects. All worker placement games have some sort of exclusive access to an action: that is fundamental in the definition. As it is with Tzolkin too. But you still make available the same class of actions by placing a worker, in fact you make available better versions of them. The unique thing you're claiming revolves around cheaper placement and different timing.

Agreed (and Trajan is nowhere near to that, though it is ok). Tzolk'in is not your standard blocking euro. It has more finess to it Tzolk'in innovates in that more actions is not better, and that being first is not better either. Tzolk'in can be won with 3 workers only, requiring a tight play of course (and some "luck" on turn order).

And this is mostly because Tzolk'in requires specialization of your play more than anything. More actions are usually worse that than action swhich you are good at, and since teching is highly expensive (actions+ressources), you most of the time need to specialize early (I even wonder if 0 tech is doable, but doubt that).

There is another thing which is usually not seen after first play(s), and this is begging. Begging can be terribly strong in a game, and allows some nice rushes...

There are some nice twist to the game, which I find very rewarding, fun to play, and each of my 10 plays has given me new ideas to play with. Even if I agree with many that the scoring around the action is not to be excited about, because it has been seen elsewhere, the elegance and smartness of the wheel system gives birth to a great game, for me probably the best of 2012. And since 2012 is a great year for euros, with CO2, Zimbabwe, Keyflower, Myrmes,... it was a hard call for me.

The only thing that prevents Tzolk'in from reaching top10 I think will be that the game is much much better with 4 than with 2 or 3. It works with 2 or 3, but the fixed locking is really less interesting (and it also do not allow non-temple plays, I think). But if you only play it with 4 ? In my top 10
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Great review - I would propose one MORE thing to your "Unique to Tzolk'in" list, but I'm hesitant because my experience with WP games is far more limited than yours.

One thing that I found very intriguing that colors each game a bit differently is the use of the starting wealth tiles. This pre-game choice can dramatically effect your strategy and authentically adds to both the theme and the replay-ability. In many (most?) games, each player starts off indistinguishable from every other player. Theme-wise, this usually makes no sense - why would every single merchant have the same amount of money, or each farmer have the exact same farm to start off with? I like that Tzolk'in has each player start off with different amounts and kinds of wealth.

A minor (but cool, nonetheless) point is the use of those tiles to seed the wheels with unused workers in player counts less than 4.
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MisterG wrote:
dond80 wrote:
Completely agree. It's overhyped, but a decent game.
This sort of claim always bemuses me; how has this game been "overhyped?" Are we getting a barrage of ads on FoxNews or CNN? Has it been featured on the Honey Booboo show? Does Rio Grande really have all that much weight to throw around? Have all the lord high muckety-mucks of BGG and the gaming world in general been bought off? Is there some kind of major motion picture in the works ala "Battleship?"

What gives?
"Overhyped" = "Game that most others like a lot more than me"

(Not to take a potshot at Don, but that's just the way the term is used on this site.)
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whattheproblemis wrote:
One thing that I found very intriguing that colors each game a bit differently is the use of the starting wealth tiles.
I agree. I find the Starting Wealth tiles the second most interesting thing about the game (after the gears) and consider it quite innovative. I'm not sure why Jesse didn't list it; maybe he's aware of other games that do something like this.

I don't disagree with the content of Jesse's review, but I do disagree with the premise. For me, a game doesn't have to have all kinds of new and unusual things to be considered innovative. If the core is innovative, I'm perfectly happy if it is surrounded by standard, but well executed mechanics. In fact, that might well represent a better design, as some familiar elements makes it easier to learn a game and puts the focus on the central innovative mechanic.

San Marco is an excellent example. The central mechanism (the pie dividing rule) was wildly innovative. The rest of the game, though, is a fairly standard area majority affair (although the rules for bridges are a nice touch). And yet most people consider it very innovative. The part of the game that mattered and which got the most attention--that central mechanic--is the innovative part and that made the game feel fresh and very different when it was released.
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Don D.
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MisterG wrote:
dond80 wrote:
Completely agree. It's overhyped, but a decent game.

This sort of claim always bemuses me; how has this game been "overhyped?" Are we getting a barrage of ads on FoxNews or CNN? Has it been featured on the Honey Booboo show? Does Rio Grande really have all that much weight to throw around? Have all the lord high muckety-mucks of BGG and the gaming world in general been bought off? Is there some kind of major motion picture in the works ala "Battleship?"

What gives?

This seems a bit disingenuous of you to ask. Take a look at the BGG rankings, ratings, user comments, and reviews and you will have your answer.
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Wow. You know, it's not really necessary to play a game in the fourth dimension in order to consider it innovative. It only takes one fresh idea and a couple unique ways of integrating well known (read: tried and true) mechanics to make a game feel completely fresh. As I read through the reviews on this one I see a clear theme: people who don't like Euros don't like this game. The problem is that they use reasons other than not liking Euros to explain their dislike such as suggesting that what is the most innovative new mechanic in Euros since the Rondel is just a "gimmik". Bah.

This game doesn't feel like any Euro I've played. Placing workers, collecting resources and trading resources for things is what Euros are all about. The existince of these elements does not negate the uniqueness of this game among Euros. When comparing it to similar games, there isn't one that even feels similar. It's not just the list of mechanics, but how they come together for a total play experience.

The game successfully incorporates tension. The place or take rule keeps things moving quickly. The split into four quadrants effectively contains the total number of turns. While the skulls are a generic trade for points, etc., the method of limiting them and the time cost for obtaining them is innovative. Resources are sufficiently contained so that a sharp player will find themselves always struggling to get that one last resource to optimize their play. Note that only getting a single wood is a terribly inneficient way to get wood, so that secondary option does not exactly make resources cheap. Besides, taking that option negates any grab at skulls.

The nature of the blocking in this game also has a very different feel from other Euros. It is not nearly as linear as in games like Caylus, Ora et Labora, etc.

To say that this game is not different enough seems to be ignoring exactly what this game is. This game is as different as it can be while still behaving like a Euro. What's more, it doesn't feel nearly as much like a Frankenstein game as Trajan (which I also enjoy, but I have to admit that Trajan feels patched together).

Of course, it is your opinion and you did a very good job of detailing why you think what you do. For that you have my respect. Still, I thought it worth sharing my point of view on your criteria.

And it's possible I may change my opinion after more plays... who can say?
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Paul Lister
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Larry Levy wrote:
whattheproblemis wrote:
One thing that I found very intriguing that colors each game a bit differently is the use of the starting wealth tiles.
I agree. I find the Starting Wealth tiles the second most interesting thing about the game (after the gears) and consider it quite innovative. I'm not sure why Jesse didn't list it; maybe he's aware of other games that do something like this.

I don't disagree with the content of Jesse's review, but I do disagree with the premise. For me, a game doesn't have to have all kinds of new and unusual things to be considered innovative. If the core is innovative, I'm perfectly happy if it is surrounded by standard, but well executed mechanics. In fact, that might well represent a better design, as some familiar elements makes it easier to learn a game and puts the focus on the central innovative mechanic.

San Marco is an excellent example. The central mechanism (the pie dividing rule) was wildly innovative. The rest of the game, though, is a fairly standard area majority affair (although the rules for bridges are a nice touch). And yet most people consider it very innovative. The part of the game that mattered and which got the most attention--that central mechanic--is the innovative part and that made the game feel fresh and very different when it was released.

I think of the Gears as rather wonderful game management tool rather than a mechanic. Because what the gears does is facilitate allocating workers, using workers, moving the turns on. The core mechanic is allocating workers to benefits on future turns, and that the passage or expenditure of time or turns gives bigger and better rewards. I don't think that idea is particularly new (off the top of my head I can think of the allocation of family members in Sun, Sea and Sand to future boats) - however Tzolkin does this brilliantly and removes huge swathes of game management from the players.
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Steven
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Sorp222 wrote:
I think of the Gears as rather wonderful game management tool rather than a mechanic. Because what the gears does is facilitate allocating workers, using workers, moving the turns on. The core mechanic is allocating workers to benefits on future turns, and that the passage or expenditure of time or turns gives bigger and better rewards. I don't think that idea is particularly new (off the top of my head I can think of the allocation of family members in Sun, Sea and Sand to future boats) - however Tzolkin does this brilliantly and removes huge swathes of game management from the players.

I agree with you Paul, especially the last sentence. The one thing anyone can say that the game does not play slow (assuming no one has major AP). The end of turn business is also very quick. You simply turn the wheel once or twice, plop a corn down if no one has taken first player and then the next turn. In under 10 seconds I can do what takes a game such as a Agricola minutes to do.

Also, although the decision to take or place workers can be agonizing on some turns, I feel that for the most part turns go very quickly. Although my knowledge of WP games is limited and I would consider myself no expert, I feel that Tzolkin play time of around 90 minutes is mostly accurate. In all of my 4p games so far, we have completed it either around 90 mins-2hrs. For a WP game that in of itself might guarantee that it gets played at any board game day I go to.
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Jesse Dean
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Sorp222 wrote:

I think of the Gears as rather wonderful game management tool rather than a mechanic. Because what the gears does is facilitate allocating workers, using workers, moving the turns on. The core mechanic is allocating workers to benefits on future turns, and that the passage or expenditure of time or turns gives bigger and better rewards. I don't think that idea is particularly new (off the top of my head I can think of the allocation of family members in Sun, Sea and Sand to future boats) - however Tzolkin does this brilliantly and removes huge swathes of game management from the players.

Agreed. I consider this directly comparable to the wheel in Ora et Labora in that respect, though the wheels in Tzolk'in are even more of a time saver then those in Ora et Labora. Still I consider them triumphs of engineering, rather than of game design.
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Jesse Dean
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Larry Levy wrote:
whattheproblemis wrote:
One thing that I found very intriguing that colors each game a bit differently is the use of the starting wealth tiles.
I agree. I find the Starting Wealth tiles the second most interesting thing about the game (after the gears) and consider it quite innovative. I'm not sure why Jesse didn't list it; maybe he's aware of other games that do something like this.

I don't really consider variable player powers to be that innovative in general unless they create an extremely variable game play experience (see: Terra Mystica). Tzolk'in's are about par for the course there, from my perspective.
 
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thenyn wrote:
Wow. You know, it's not really necessary to play a game in the fourth dimension in order to consider it innovative. It only takes one fresh idea and a couple unique ways of integrating well known (read: tried and true) mechanics to make a game feel completely fresh. As I read through the reviews on this one I see a clear theme: people who don't like Euros don't like this game. The problem is that they use reasons other than not liking Euros to explain their dislike such as suggesting that what is the most innovative new mechanic in Euros since the Rondel is just a "gimmik". Bah.
I really agree with your point - and Tom Vasel in particular seems to be in this camp completely and openly. He clearly prefers theme and feel (and player powers) to mechanics. He doesn't deny where he's at in gaming today although he'd likely deny the label of Euro-hater. To his credit, he still likes some.

But in any event, my read is Jesse isn't this type of guy. I think he's a heavy Euro lover and deep thinker who seeks out games that handsomely reward repeat plays. From all indications, Tzolk'in isn't that and he points out why.

On the question of originality and innovation, these are not discrete variables. They are continuos. By this I mean it isn't some switch in a game's design and mechanics, it is a question of distance in separation from what has already been and a subjective distance at that. Generally, I tire of the discussion when it is reduced to some absolute distinction because this misses the point.

Jesse does a fine job of thinking through why he finds the game not as original as he'd hope. He always does this level of thinking which makes him not only a stand out, but a much needed one in game reviews.

Well done I say.
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doubtofbuddha wrote:
Larry Levy wrote:
whattheproblemis wrote:
One thing that I found very intriguing that colors each game a bit differently is the use of the starting wealth tiles.
I agree. I find the Starting Wealth tiles the second most interesting thing about the game (after the gears) and consider it quite innovative. I'm not sure why Jesse didn't list it; maybe he's aware of other games that do something like this.

I don't really consider variable player powers to be that innovative in general unless they create an extremely variable game play experience (see: Terra Mystica). Tzolk'in's are about par for the course there, from my perspective.

Fair enough, but I thought the premise was that you are comparing Tzolk'in to other WP games? I would think relative to other WP games, Tzolk'in is unique-ish in that regard. Is Terra Mystica WP?
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Adam Kazimierczak
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So far I'm passing on Tzolk'in, although I appreciate the innovative way to reduce fiddliness with the cogs. It certainly beats the overused "card river" mechanic that involves sliding cards over every time someone does something or at the end of the turn.

Also I'd like to see how the discussion on the potentially dominant building strategy pans out first.
 
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