Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over 18 months and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every other Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday, 31 May 2016

The other lost cities:-Tikal



Designer: Kramer and Kiesling

Year: 1999

Day 10: I'm nearing the site of the aerial photography, everyone else might have said I'm mad, but I know I saw signs of stonework.
Day 12: The jungle is so thick that I'm spending more time with my machete out than not.
Day 14: I found some scraps of stone on the floor, clearly man-made, I think I could make out a carving. I'm on the right trail
Day 15: It's here, the temple is real, I'm going to be the most famous explorer in the world, or my name's not Dora!

Tikal is a 2-4 player territory control game in which you play as an expedition leader seeking to discover and uncover the lost temples of Tikal. The game has a heavy focus on time management as you try to uncover and hold temples and discover sets of artifacts that will make you famous, you also have to manage your workers as you can’t be everywhere at once, but a smart player can be ready to steal temple control just in time for the scoring round.

In the majority of the game you’ll start your turn by drawing a land tile, these can be treasures, temples, empty tiles or volcanos. Moving around the map if facilitated by stone squares on the edges of hexes; so if 1 tile had 1 square pointing at 2 squares on a neighbouring tile then you would need 3 action points to move a worker across. This is a nice way of creating unique maps between games as some routes will be hard to pass across while others are easier, if there are no squares between tiles then you cannot pass that way at all. You’ll spend a lot of time managing your workers who are your key resource, they perform almost all the actions in the game as well as assert dominance over areas for scoring purposes, to spice things up the game gives you a leader who counts as 3 workers.
The game set up ready to play, the tiles all have letters on the back which tell you the order that you need to start them in. There are several As, Bs etc so there is a certain amount of randomness.
Whenever a volcano is drawn a scoring round begins, in the scoring round each player takes 10 actions then scores before the next player gets their 10 actions. Essentially you have a normal turn to get your works into the best scoring places you can, this creates an interesting fluidity as you may reduce your defence so you can get those few extra bonus points, which then leads to your next opponent being able to wrest control of a temple from you to get their points. However if you really want to keep a temple from yourself you can set a guard. Guards cost 5 action points to make, you have to have control (more workers) on the tile and then you sacrifice all of your bar one workers back into the game box. The one remaining worker stands on top of the temple and protects it as yours forever.
The different actions you can perform in the game, from top to bottom, add a worker to a camp, move along stones, uncover temple, uncover artifact, trade artifact, make camp, guard a temple.

Excavating temples is rather neat, the temples all have a number on them as they are revealed, but with a little work you can excavate them to increase the number showing. A no-brainer on a temple you guard, but a bit more risky if your opponent might be able to take control. There are limited amounts of each number, so while you can get most temples up to 5/6 points, only one can be raised to 10. The numbered tiles vary in shape which means you create a pseudo pyramid as you build up, unfortunately they didn’t make every number a different size which I feel is a missed opportunity, though hardly game breaking.

Tikal is a good game, I enjoyed playing it and would recommend people giving it a go. But ultimately it felt like too little fun over too long a game. The treasure trading/set collection meant that picking up treasure was often 3 actions spent to help your opponent and the scoring rounds, while a neat idea, often felt a little unfair as the second player could be reactionary to the first player, though perhaps this might have been our fault for being too keen to gain points at the cost of defence. There’s nothing massively wrong with Tikal, but ultimately we had to decide that we have limited shelf space and it didn’t quite make the cut.



  1. You can't keep excavating a temple you place a guard on, although perhaps you meant control rather than guard. Anyway, a shame you didn't try mini tikal or one of the other 2 player versions out there.

  2. I also recommend Mini Tikal, a 2 player variant found on BGG. It is currently my 3rd favorite game, and my favorite 2 player game.