Wednesday, November 09, 2005

#39: Tikal

The first game in Wolfgang Kramer's "ancient faces" series (it was followed by the less popular games Java & Mexica), this game of action point usage (aka hunting Mayan temples) offers lots of opportunities for clever play. And Tikal is stunningly gorgeous when it's set up for play.

Greg Aleknevicus: "I've never agreed with the notion that there is excessive downtime in Tikal. While it's true there's no interaction on other player's turns, I've always been fascinated watching the board develop and formulating plans for when it's my turn. Obviously these plans change as my opponents perform their actions but that just means that I'm engaged throughout."

Larry Levy: "Figuring out how to best use your 10 Action Points is a wonderful mental exercise. I also love the theme and the way it ties in so perfectly with the mechanics. The components are gorgeous and the design of the insert is fabulous, with a snug place provided for every piece. Downtime can be an issue, but if the players are aware of it, the game plays briskly enough; the vast majority of my games have finished in two hours or less. Another plus is that the game plays equally well with two, three, or four.

"I've also found it to be very easy to teach and I have a story to back this up. When I bought Tikal, I didn't belong to a regular gaming group. At the time, my wife didn't play anything more complicated than Rummikub. However, I had a hunch about this one, so I laid the components on the table and kept them there. Sure enough, she commented on how attractive the game was and asked what it was about. I knew the exploration of archeological ruins would interest her, so I told her enthusiastically. Beginning to smell a rat, she said, 'I bet it's complicated!' I showed her one of the player aids and said, 'Everything you need to know is on this card. I could teach you this game in five minutes!' Of course, I had no idea if I could make good on my boast. But five minutes later, we were playing, and damned if she didn't win the first game! We played quite a few times over the years until she decided she preferred shorter and less intense games, but I always thought it was funny that my wife the non-gamer was a Tikal fan!

"Besides putting co-designer Michael Kiesling on the gaming map, I seem to recall that Tikal was the game that really made people sit up and take notice of illustrator Franz Vohwinkel. He had been doing great work for years, but it wasn't until Tikal's release that people started mentioning him in the same breath as Doris Matthaus."



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