Authors: M. Kiesling /
W. Kramer

Publisher: Ravensburger 1999

Spiel des Jahres



After the boom on the games-scene over the last years, Ravensburger now tries to conquer back a part of the market by releasing new games for players from all age-groups. Apart from their new lable "Alea"-games, they have also introduced a new line of games under the classic Ravenburger-label. Tikal now is the newest part of this series...

In Tikal two to four players participate on an expedition into the Central American jungles. Starting from a basic camp, each player can send 18 members of his expedition and his expedition-leader into the jungle to find old mayan temples.

At the beginning, the gameboard just shows the basic camp (which is used by all the players, and to temples with the value "1" next to it. The first thing a player now has to do during his turn is to place a new - randomly drawn - landscape-hex onto the gameboard, next to the already placed hexes. Afterwards, the players may spend up to 10 action-points for a broad choice of actions. Since no player starts with any expedition-memebers on the gameboard, a player must first bring a number of his expedition-members onto the board by spending a certain sum of points. Next comes the movement of these figures. The jungle-hexes are connected via pathways showing sero to two spaces of cobblestones between each other. The number of stones between two hexes is the number needed to spend to move an expedition-member from one hex to the other.

If a member reaches an hex with a mayan pyramid, he may stay there and spend additional points to free the pyramid from jungle-growth, thus making in more valueable in evaluation rounds. Otherwise, a player may also reach a hex with buried treasures, and here he may spend action-points to dig a treasure out (i.e. randomly drawing a treasure). Finally, if a player find a suiting empty hex, he may also decide to set up one of two additional camps there. From now on, he may bring his expedition-members into play at that space, thus shortening the way to many of the mayan pyramids.

Very important during gameplay are the three Volcano-hexes. A special mixing mechanism ensures that a volcano always appears after about each quarter of the game. Whenever a volcano is turned over, normal gameplay is stopped and an evaluation round is issued. During such a round, a player spends his 10 action-points as normal, but afterwards he will receive Victory-points depending on his treasures and the pyramids he has discovered. A pyramid will count with itīs value for a player, if he has more expedition-members at a pyramid than any of the other players. If this condicion is met, he will receive the value of the pyramid in victory points. At this stage of the game the expedition-leaders are of greatest importance. Being like normal expedition-members in any other means, during the evaluation-phase the leaders count for three expedition-members when calculating a majority at a pyramid. Since there will only be a few really valueable pyramids in the jungle, players also have the option to secure up to two pyramids for them. For this, they must have the majority of expedition-members at that pyramid and spend a number of action-points. But if they have done this, they may place one of their expedition-members on top of the pyramid - preventing further value of the pyramid, but also ensuring that it will from now on count only for that player (all the other expedition-members from that hex which the player needed for majority are removed from play). After the pyramids have been counted off, the players additional receive points for the treasures which they did find. The more treasures of one kind they found, the more points they will receive for the collection.

After all players have taken the evaluation-round, the volcano finally is placed by the player who has drawn it and play continues as normal. When the pile of jungle-hexes is finally used up, a final evaluation-phase takes place. Afterwards the player who got most victory-points has won the game.

When I first opened Tikal, I was intrigued by the very good appearance of the game and the interesting sounding rules. I hadnīt seen a game from Ravensburger of such a high quality for quite some time now, and thus I was happy to see their attempt to publish so more pretentious games. Unfortunately, gameplay in Tikal proves to be not so good as the rules actually sound. If played with just two players, the gameboard offers much too much space, so that the expedition-members of both players actually go off into the jungle, securing a lot of pyramids but never doing much harm to each other. The players will concentrate on gaing pyramids not inhabited by others, and this will mostly prevent them from even trying to take over pyramids at which the other player has the majority. This is a "bug" which certainly needs to be fixed, perhaps by removing a third of the hexes from play in two player games.

Furthermore, the game with four players shows a different weakness. If played with the full number of possible players, it becomes visible that itīs almost impossible for the players to plan their future-actions. Three players will take turns before a player again gets a possibility to play, and during these turns a player might lose majority-contests on all sides. Afterwards, the spending of all 10 action-points can perhaps cover the losses of the last round, but in the normal case its not possible to pursue any further strategy which was planned on the turn before. A last unfortunate twist appears when trying to catch a leading player. Itīs almost impossible to catch a leading player alone, so the players actually must team up against the leader to stand a chance against him. But this weakness must be dicovered early ! Later in the game it becomes virtually impossible to catch the leader.

To sum it up, I think that Tikal is a splendid looking game in which a lot of energy had been wasted on an unbalanced set of rules. Sorry to say this, but I think the game is totally overvalued thinking that it won the "Spiel des Jahres" award in 1999. There were much better games this year, Big City just being one of them...

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany