Board Game, 2-4 Players
Each player is the director of an expedition intent on exploring Tikal in search of the secret paths that lead to the temples and precious treasures that have remained hidden for over 1000 years. A player receives points during four scoring rounds for each recovered treasure and for each temple that he controls. But, both temples and treasures can change hands. The expedition that earns the most points exploring Tikal wins the game.
Counter Magazine review.
2-4 players, 90-120 minutes
designed by MICHAEL KIESLING & WOLFGANG KRAMER
reviewed by RON OLSZEWSKI
Your jeep bounces crazily as you zip along the secret path to the lost Mayan temple you discovered not two days ago. It's been a race to uncover the temple's riches, and you know that time is short. Soon your competitors will discover your find and will try to wrest control of it from you by swarming the site with workers of their own. Can you excavate the site and hold onto it long enough to claim the discovery as your own?
In Ravensburger's new game, Tikal, you play the part of an Expedition Leader looking to unearth as many riches as possible in the Mayan site named Tikal. Each player attempts to control as many treasures and temples as he can over four scoring rounds. The player best able to use his limited resources to outmaneuver his opponents is declared the winner.
Mmmmm can you smell it? That's atmosphere, baby. Tikal's got it to burn. The whole package adds up to a game that feels nicely integrated with its theme. The board, the jungle tiles, the temple and treasure counters, the player aids -- all done up in suitably Mayan-like graphics. The bits are all gorgeous and they sure are plentiful. And the nicest part -- they all come in a box that has a tray insert that's specially designed to hold the components. Very classy.
First, there's the board. It's big and sturdy, with nice jungle graphics on it and a scoring track running around the outside of it. It has hexes overlaid on it where the jungle tiles will be placed. The lower left-hand corner has four hexes already filled in. These depict a central base camp that anyone can use to deploy workers and two temples that are up for grabs in the beginning of the game.
Next come the jungle tiles. These big hexes depict one of four things; plain jungle, temples, treasure sites, and volcanoes. On the back of each jungle hex is a letter of the alphabet -- they're in groups so that higher-numbered temples come out later in the game, and they divide the volcano tiles (Tikal's version of Wertung cards) up so that the scoring rounds are spaced evenly throughout the game. Each jungle tile can have from one to three ``stepping stones'' on each of it's six sides -- these are used to calculate the cost to move from one hex to it's neighbor.
Then we have the temple and treasure counters. The temple counters are placed on temple tiles that have been placed on the board, and represent the efforts of an expedition to uncover more of a temple, thereby finding more riches. The treasure counters are placed on the treasure tiles as they're laid on the board - each treasure tile depicts how many of the counters are placed on it when it is placed. Once all of the treasure counters have been claimed from a treasure site, that's it.
Finally, each player has a wooden base camp, a number of workers (little wooden cylinders) and one expedition leader (a big wooden cylinder). These are used for exploration, digging, treasure acquisition, and temple guarding.
To start a round, a number of jungle tiles are turned up and ``auctioned'' off. Each player starts with 20 points on the scoring track. The players then take turns bidding for the right to select the first jungle tile, using their victory points as ``cash''. Once a player wins the auction, he places his jungle tile next to any already placed jungle tile (the four filled-in hexes in the lower left-hand corner are considered `already placed'). Thus, the board fills in from left to right. Each player then has 20 Action Points to spend on various actions.
It costs 1 AP to move a worker from your reserves to a base camp. It costs APs equal to the number of ``stepping stones'' a worker must cross to move a worker from one hex to the next. If there are no stepping stones in the direction the worker wishes to go, he can not cross on that hex. Thus, it can cost from one to six APs to move a worker were you want him to go. One of the keys to stymieing your opponents is the placement of jungle hexes so as to allow yourself easy access to a nice juicy treasure trove, while ensuring that the cost for them to move a worker in is prohibitive.
You may place your base camp on any clear jungle tile at a cost of 5 AP. This allows you to bring your workers in to that camp, as opposed to the camp at the lower left-hand corner of the board. Since the temple values increase as the board fills in from left to right, it soon becomes prohibitive to move a worker from your reserves to the new areas, so it's important that you establish your new base camp closer to the right side of the board.
Each temple tile depicts a partially uncovered temple with a number of the top of it. When a scoring round occurs, whoever has the majority of workers at the site scores that number of points. There are a few wrinkles added to this. First, a player may spend 2 AP to have a worker dig down to another layer of the temple. This allows the player to place a temple counter on top of the temple, increasing the number on top of it by one. The player may also place a guard on the temple at a cost of 5AP, and only if he has the majority of workers at the site. If a player opts to do this, he places one of his workers on top of the temple, and the rest of his workers at the site go back to his reserves -- which can be a serious hit, since you spent a lot of APs to get those guys where they were, so one must be careful to try and move workers off site prior to doing that if possible. Once a temple is guarded, it can only be scored by the guarding player. A player may only place two guards per game.
A player may also have his workers recover treasure. When a treasure tile is laid, a number of treasure counters equal to the icons on the tile are placed face-down on the tile. A player may move a worker there and spend 3 AP per worker to have each worker recover one treasure. Each treasure counter is worth one point. However, there are eight different types of treasure counters, and if you can get matching sets you'll do better. A pair is worth 3 points and a triplet is worth 6 points. You may at any time on your turn do a forced exchange of treasure counters with another player at a cost of 3AP. However, you may never break up another player's pairs or triplets.
When a volcano tile is chosen (not drawn) by someone, then a scoring round occurs. The player who chose the volcano tile goes first, and scoring then proceeds in a clockwise fashion. Each player gets a `free' 10 AP to spend prior to scoring, and then that player's position is scored. Thus, the scoring round is very fluid and dynamic, and a single temple could be scored many times. Once everyone has scored, the player of the volcano places the volcano tile (now a `dead' space, acting only as a blocker since no passage is allowed through the volcano) and takes his turn as normal. There are three scoring rounds, and after the last jungle tile is placed there is one final scoring round.
Tikal got a lot of play at this year's Gathering of Friends, and the reaction was very positive. The few negative comments I heard centered on the down time between each player's turn. The game is very fluid and a lot can change between each player's turn, so that you are somewhat forced to wait until your turn to do any serious planning. Since you only have 10 AP to spend, it can lead to `perfect planners' going into vapor lock, staring at the board as they compute the optimal actions to take. As usual, my advice to you is to lean in, get nice and close to them, and scream `ARE YOU DONE YET?!?' as loudly as you possibly can. Do this every three minutes until they get the hint.
Tikal has tons of flavor, allowing you to easily fall into the role of an Indian Jones-style character during play -- 'The Cross of Coranado will stay with ME, thank you very much!', said as you snatch the match to your treasure pair from another player. The bits are gorgeous and when the board is nearly finished, you can't help but admire how beautiful it is. It's got absorbing gameplay and allows you to storm in, cap off a temple your friend has been building up for turns, beat up his workers, and take control of his temple -- all the while laughing like some mad treasure-crazed fool. What more could you ask for? Recommended.