The Tzolk’in is the name of the Mayan’s Mesoamerican calendar, which lasted 260 days. (This ain’t just a board game run-down; we’ve throwing out some great pub quiz nuggets, too!) Tzolk’in is a worker placement game that lasts for 26 rounds – see what they did, there? – which is the entire turn of its giant cog. The aim here is for players to climb temples of worship, build monuments and feeding their people at quarterly points during the game.
The game quite literally revolves around that giant central cog. It’s the five ‘satellite’ cogs themselves where players can place their workers. Time is arguably the most important resource in Tzolk’in – we’ve gone a bit philosophical; bear with us.
Yes, there’s corn (the main ‘currency’ you’ll need to feed workers and pay to place them out), and wood, stone, gold and even crystal skulls. You’ll need to acquire these in various ways to pay for increasing your tech trees, or purchasing buildings or monuments, but time itself, planning two, three or more moves ahead, is the key to winning Tzolk’in.
When a worker is placed on a gear, at the end of the turn the main gear is rotated one notch, or tooth, anticlockwise. Therefore, the five outer gears all move one notch clockwise, so your previously placed worker is now facing (in theory) a more valuable spot. Do you remove them now? Or wait another turn to get an even better benefit? Herein lies the utter brilliance of this game, and the ‘happy headache’ that comes with so many Euro-style board games.
Designed by Daniele Tascini (also known for the recent, marvellous Teotihuacan: City of Gods) and Simone Luciani (of Grand Austria Hotel, Voyages of Marco Polo and Lorenzo il Magnifico fame), this worker placement game also has modular monument tiles to aim for each time, meaning there’s replay-ability afoot; you’ll earn points differently, depending on which monuments you’re able to build. You’ll see them face-up at the start, so you can approach the entire game with the aim of buying that one monument, which in turn triggers mega end-game scoring bonuses for you.
Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar is a wonderful board game, and one that commands any table it sits on. Unlike some games that hide behind a gimmick, Tzolk’in is the real deal – those cogs will have you stroking your chin throughout, and it will leave you thinking about it afterwards, too. That’s the sign of a great game, in our opinion.
Player Count: 2-4
Time: 90+ Minutes