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Tzolk’in: the Mayan calendar is an agent placement game with a twist. Rather an a board with active squares to place your characters on, you are presented with a series of wheels, five in all. These rotate as the game progresses. All the wheels are connected to a central wheel that is turned at the end of each turn. When the central wheel has completed one revolution, the game ends and the player with the highest score wins.
The wheels each have their own themes which you can focus on or ignore as the game progresses.
In each turn, you must either remove one or more agents from the wheels, or place one or more agents on the wheels. If all you agents are on the wheels, you must remove at least one, even if you would rather not! Likewise, if all your agents are off the board, you must place at least one, even is the spaces you want are taken.
When an agents is removed from a wheel, you get the benefit of wherever your agent is on that wheel. In general, the rewards are greater the longer you remain on the wheel. You can remove your agents in any order you wish. With careful planning you could, for example, remove one agent from a wheel and generate resources, and then remove a second from the building wheel to build using the resources you have just gained.
Placing more than one agent per turn will involve paying a cost. In Tzolk’in, all costs are paid using corn. Corn must also be used to feed your workers as each quadrant of the centre wheel is passed. Players who are able to place their agents and still feed them will have a good time.
Tzolk’in is a game that rewards careful forward planning. With that said, the game is still fun for first-timers and players still learning the ropes. Early rewards on the wheels are still relevant to the game, so if you change your mind about agent placement you can always recall them earlier than you had planned.
You gain victory points through gaining favour with the gods, and building structures. The most expensive structures are called monuments, and these are revealed at the start of the game. Your approach to the game will often change depending on the available monuments, encouraging variance in play. Monuments are not the only path to victory, even gathering resources will contribute and can make a crucial difference.
Tzolk’in is a fun game that seems complex at first glance. Once you start playing though, the game is quite logical and straightforward. Just remember to keep a close eye on your corn!