I recently managed to get in my 3rd ( and possibly final ) play of Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar.
I first played this game in December last year, and after 2 plays of it i wasnt at all impressed.
I remember calling it "broken" on one of our podcast episodes. I think it was our very first one.
Do I still stand by my comments ? Well, lets find out !
During this recent play of Tzolk'in, i did something embarrassing. Or well, something that i feel very guilty about. I actually didnt try a different strategy from my previous 2 games.
I had wanted to try something different when we first started, but i was pretty drained that day and decided that i needed to take things easy. You see, in my first 2 plays, i did the temple strategy, and then tech + building strategy.
I had wanted to try the skull strategy this time round just for kicks, but since we had played Terra Mystica before this, and i had a really long day in the morning/afternoon, i was too tired to really focus on the skull strategy i was planning for. So i caved and decided to do the same old.
Yeah, just thought i would get that out of the way. Felt like i did myself and the game a disservice, but what to do ?, the train has left the station.
Ok, so i went back to the easy strategy - the temple strategy.
Lets just state the scores up front for those who are interested
Winner - 75 ( temple strategy )
Myself - 74 ( temple strategy )
3rd Place - 45 ( i think it was a monuments + tech strategy )
His Usual Place ( haha, just kidding ) - 41 ( i dont remember what strategy )
* these scores were brought to you by a certain friend who has great gaming bookkeeping skills* - its very impressive. :)
Well, i'm glad to announce that my opinions haven't changed one bit about Tzolk'in.
The main reason i called Tzolk'in broken after my first 2 plays was that the player who employs the temple strategy seemed to run away with the game. Now, before you call me out on it, i will also admit, yes, there are other strategies that win the game. I am not denying it. Just, read to the end first k ? Thanks
I didnt like Tzolk'in after my first 2 plays because the player who adopted the temple strategy came out with big wins over the rest of the players. and when i say big, i mean BIG.
My 1st Play was with 3 players ( 1 who has played before and 2 newbies ).
I won by a margin of nearly 30 points and i was the one who ran with the temple strategy.
The 2nd Play was with 4 players ( 3 who has played before and 1 newbie ).
The player with the temple strategy also won by a large margin. I think it was nearly 25 points this time round. I went with the monument strategy and i never came close. nor did i ever feel i could come close.
After my first 2 plays, i had thought that maybe its because there wasnt anyone challenging myself and the other player during our temple strategy runs. Everyone was doing their own thing and thus the points werent floating around evenly.
But after my 3rd play ( 4 players, 3 who own the game and my 1 lonesome self ), the results were the same. With 2 players doing the same temple strategy, we both shot out in front and still eclipsed the other 2 players by 30 points. So even with the temple points being distributed ( albeit not evenly, i had all of it after the first half, we shared the second half ), we were still far and away the big winners.
*For those who are wondering, if i won all the first half points, how did the winner still get so many points, its because he managed to build the temple monument.
|the temple strategy|
So after my last play, i came away very dissatisfied with how Tzolk'in pans out.
I know there are other strategies ( skull strategy, big corn strategy, monument strategy, building strategy ), and i know that you can utilize these other strategies to come out victorious.
But what i feel about these other strategies is this:
1) you need to have played the game multiple times ( or at least studied the game a few times ) to know how to successfully manipulate these strategies to your advantage
2) you also need to be lucky that the buildings or monuments required for these strategies to work are available
And number 2 is a big big point. Some of the above strategies just dont work ( or dont give you a sufficient punch ) without the monument or building appearing on the board. Whereas compared to the temple strategy, you dont even need the temple monument to grace 70+ points. It is nearly a given as the temple points never change. In fact, had no one challenged me in my 3rd game for the monument, i would have topped 100+ points easily.
I can understand the lure of Tzolk'in for those who like to explore a game into its greatest depths. And for them, there is a draw and great replayability in Tzolk'in. But for me, i like games where anyone on the onset can learn the game and be competitive right from the get go. I'm not saying that i dont appreciate depth in my games, but i feel that good game design is shown by how easily people can grasp a game's concept, see its different methods of play, pick any and put up as good a fight as even the most experienced player. They won't win, but they will be sticking around long enough to pounce on the leader should he/she ever slip up.
Take Terra Mystica for example. It is certainly a deep game, but i have seen new players really give the experienced gamer a run for their money. The new player doesnt win, but a close 2nd or 3rd isnt something to laugh at. In short, good game design should lead to a good ( pretty well ) balanced game.
|a beautiful board for an ok game|
But for Tzolk'in, i can most certainly say that, if all players are new, 95% of the time the temple strategy will destroy all other strategies that anyone else tries to employ. And i mean completely destroy. Not even a close 2nd or 3rd. And that really takes the shine off of the game. Its hard to bring people more into a game that proves a little too imbalanced from the get go.
Its the same for any game really. If i picked up a cooperative game, and i beat it on the medium or hardest difficulty level on my first try, it is very unlikely i will want to play the game again. It seizes to be a challenge. A good game is supposed to draw you in with its subtle depth and challenge, and make you want to try something different that may still produce a favorable result. No one likes to fight a losing battle.
So that is how i feel about Tzolk'in.
As my title says, it feels like its stuck in 2nd gear, unable to find the groove to click into top gear.
It certainly moves along as a game should, but never during the game did i find that we were in actual competition. It felt more like the race placing in F1 where each of us have a few laps to clock the fastest timing, and we meet at the end to see who claims pole position.
It simply felt like an illusion of a game. The endless possibilities of doing different stuff is present, but at the end of the day, none of it really matters.