Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar

Our play through of the game library continues with Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar. I bought Tzolk’in roughly around the time it was released in 2012, so we’re looking at six-plus years without a single play.

Tzolkin: The Mayan Calendar presents a new game mechanism: dynamic worker placement. Players representing different Mayan tribes place their workers on giant connected gears, and as the gears rotate they take the workers to different action spots.

During a turn, players can either (a) place one or more workers on the lowest visible spot of the gears or (b) pick up one or more workers. When placing workers, they must pay corn, which is used as a currency in the game. When they pick up a worker, they perform certain actions depending on the position of the worker. Actions located “later” on the gears are more valuable, so it’s wise to let the time work for you – but players cannot skip their turn; if they have all their workers on the gears, they have to pick some up. 

The game ends after one full revolution of the central Tzolkin gear. There are many paths to victory. Pleasing the gods by placing crystal skulls in deep caves or building many temples are just two of those many paths…

CGE Games

So how was were the gears in practice? Brutal, absolutely brutal. Having to keep track of where your workers will be is key. Start them on one gear to get resources in order to build later means you need to pay attention to when you need to place a worker on another gear in order to be able to build when you want to. Needless to say, planning is critical in Tzolk’in.

I had a rough time of it as the game went on. We were getting close to the end when I turned to M and told her I had no idea what I was even doing. There is so much to go for, but if you haven’t planned to focus on anything from the start, you’re going to have a rough game.

That said, I really like it. The gears are a clever addition to the worker placement mechanic. It works really well with two players, as you’ll add dummy players to the gears, which can really block your placement options more than you think they would. The game with two is fast as well. With limited actions on your turn (pick up or take back your workers), the main gear really hums along.

M loved it. The sign of a good game is how much she talks about it and the possibilities it offers, and she definitely talked a lot about Tzolk’in when we finished. Much like Haleakala, she would have played it immediately again if we were able. I love it when a game hits her like that. I love the feeling I get when a game really clicks with me, so it’s exciting to see a similar spark in her, especially with games from our library.

Initial Verdict: Tzolk’in is a keeper and will see many repeat plays.