Time to explore! Tikal is a board game where players set off on an expedition to uncover Mayan temples, collect treasures, and watch for the occasional exploding volcano.

They key to Tikal is resource management. Every turn a player draws a tile -- an empty jungle, a temple, with treasures, or a volcano -- and places it on the board. The player then has 10 action points to use in a variety of ways: move from one tile to another (costing a number of points equal to the stones between tiles), excavate a temple (increasing its point value), bring more explorers onto the board, collecting a treasure, force a treasure trade with another player, create a new base camp, etc.. Now matter how carefully you plan there never seem to be enough action points in a turn, so players must decide what to do -- and what they can't do -- each turn.

Scoring happens when a volcano tile is uncovered or the last tile is placed. Each player gets a turn, scoring at the end of the turn. Players get points for a temple if they have more explorers there than anyone else. They also get points for treasures: one point for a single treasure, three points for a set of two identical treasures, and six points for a set of three identical treasures. If a volcano tile started the scoring round, it gets placed after everyone has a chance to score.

Tikal is a nice looking game . The board is a verdant green, evoking the jungles the players are exploring. Small wooden pieces are used for the explorers and camps, and as temples are excavated point tiles are places on top of them, making the valuable temples rise high on the board.

Tikal is quite an intriguing board game. While there's plenty of competition for temples and treasures, players can't directly attack or interfere with their opponents. (It's possible to place a tile making it harder to get to, but since all tiles much be accessible a player can't be completely cut off.) The limits on both what players can do (players need two explorers present to excavate two temple levels or collect two treasures) and what they have (only two base camps, twice per game sacrificing all pieces where they have a majority at a temple to permanently score that temple for the rest of the game) make every turn an important one. Even scoring is interesting, as a player often has a majority on their scoring turn but know another player can take the majority when they score. While Tikal isn't fast paced -- lots of planning goes into each player's turn -- it is thoughtful and quite challenging.

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch

No comments: