Designer: Kramer and Kiesling
Tikal is now becoming a pretty old title in modern board gaming. It won the Spiel des Jahres and 1999 and is still talked about with fondness by many gamers. It is designed by the power house of Kramer and Kiesling and was the first in a series of action point allocation games set in an Aztec-style setting. I understand it may be getting a reprint soon, as one of the games in the series, Mexica, has already has a reprint by Iello – so does it deserve the continued praise?
In Tikal you each play a rival group of explorers, looking to discover temples and treasures as you advance through the jungle. The more effort you put into digging out the temples and then defending them from rival explorers, the more points you gain. You also gain points for collecting matching treasures.
Each turn, you first place a hexagonal tile from the stack. Tiles may be empty clearings, clearing with treasure, or temples. You then choose where on the board to place the tile – it must be connected to the tiles already placed and you can decide how to place it based on the type, where the explorers are and the pathways leading to it. You can only move to a tile via a path and the number of stones in the path represents how many action points it takes to make the move. Once the tile is placed you then have 10 action points to spend, moving explorers, digging to new levels of existing temples, collecting treasures, putting one of your two guards on a temple, placing a new camp in a clearing, or placing new explorers at one of your camps.
|The forest looks really effective as you place tiles to uncover the terrain.|
The game continues in this way until someone draws the volcano tile. There are 3 of these in the stack of tiles and they trigger a scoring round. Each player gets 10AP to undertake actions and then scores. Points are awarded for temples based on who has the majority of explorers on the tile and treasures are scored based on set collection. The player who takes their scoring round last tends to have an advantage because they don’t need to be defensive with their explorers they can just be offensive and grab any juicy looking opportunities for points. The game continues until you have placed all of the tiles and then a final scoring round takes place. The player with the most points wins.
Once you’ve got your head around the actions you can take on each turn and how many points it costs to do each then Tikal is a game with very simple mechanics, which makes it a good family weight game. Getting your head around the actions isn’t helped by a pretty confusing player aid which was obviously designed to be language independent, but the symbology is just not intuitive! The board also looks really great as you uncover it, giving a good sense of hacking your way through a dense forest, which gives the game good table appeal for those who hate the dry theme of some euro games.
For us, the first few turns in Tikal felt really unique. It’s interesting to think about how to allocate your points, whether you should have an expansive but risky strategy or an intensive and quite defensive strategy and particular decisions about where to build your camps can be key to success. Even the tile placement which at first seems quite arbitrary becomes very tactical once you’ve spread further around the board and different zones are dominated by different players. However, for me, about half way through the game I get board with taking the repetitive actions. Part of me just wants this to be a shorter game with a slightly smaller board. Perhaps a smaller board would also make this more interesting for two players who have more temples to fight over, rather than winning some outright with just one explorer token.
I wish I liked Tikal more. It looks great on the table, has a pretty cool exploration theme and is the kind of weight of game that gives it the potential to hit the table often, but for me it just outstays its welcome at the table and so the Yellow Meeple gives Tikal a 6.5/10.