Loved my introduction to Tikal, still puzzled over the Tigris and Euphrates
A gamer friend of mine joked that I would blog about yesterday’s game night. To prove him right, here is the recap of what happened:
Tikal is a solid and fun area control game
JC had been talking about Tikal for quite some time now, calling it a solid game and trying to sell me by saying it was a 1999 des Jahres Spiel winner. Now the price of the Jahres Spiel carries weight with me, but that’s not all since some of my favorite games aren’t winning. Still, it’s a decent enough quality signal that it’s worth checking out.
So when JC took out the box, my eyes immediately fell on two well-known names in the game designer community: Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling. Although I had heard the names spoken by other well-known board game critics like Richard Ham, I wasn’t really familiar with their games (at least I thought so). Still, knowing that designers are fairly well regarded made me want to dive into Tikal.
The game mechanics are simple: draw a tile, place it on the map, and use your allotted 10 action points to explore temples, establish waypoints, unearth treasure, then assemble your workers on temples of great value to achieve victory. points during the scoring phases. While playing it, I pointed out that this game was eerily similar to El Grande in its area control mechanics, and well, I shouldn’t have been surprised since I learned, after playing Tikal, that designer Wolfgang Kramer had worked with Richard Ulrich to create El Grande! No wonder there are similarities between the two games!
Regardless, the game’s mechanics were easy to figure out however, in my attempt to learn the game I made some lousy moves. For example, I sacrificed my leader a little too early to claim a temple and got into trouble later when other players were able to overwhelm me using their leaders to amass points at other temples. I also struggled to strike a balance between setting up logistics waypoints through research tents and just having guys on the set. Finally, the treasures are quite important in this game and not finding the right treasures kept me from grabbing great scoring opportunities. Once the dust settled, I finished 3rd.
Overall the game is very engaging and raised a lot of strategic questions. For example, I wondered if claiming a temple for yourself by sacrificing your units was worth it, as it allows others not to bother to challenge that temple and run after others. And besides, what is the strength of a treasure strategy? Granted, everyone is probably going to chase them, as it’s hard to turn down 6 points for a full set on every scoring round, but does their randomness ruin things? Hard to answer now, but when I give Tikal a second try, I’d like to try it out with the auction system to see how much that changes things.
I still have no idea how to play the Tiger and the Euphrates
At the end of the night we decided to end with part of the Tigris and Euphrates. Now, of all the ways to end a night, it’s odd that we got into a heavy game, but regardless, the game only demonstrated that I had no idea what I was doing. Not that I had no idea How? ‘Or’ What play, but more on how to execute a good strategy.
So, for those who are not familiar with the game, you can lay bosses or lay tiles to get points. Sometimes the way you lay a unit or tile will result in a battle and some battles may become particularly messy in its destructiveness. But for those who manage to win these encounters, you have the opportunity to earn a lot of points.
Now there is a way to lay tiles and leaders, the same way there is a way to lay pieces in a game like Go. What is not obvious to me is what types role models are strong and how to defend my territory from other encroaching people and how to wage wars successfully.
I feel like I have the worst chance of continuing wars too. In this particular game, I decided to attack an adjacent player with the leader / black tiles and thought I had a pretty big advantage. I was in front of his of about 4 black tiles which included the ones I was sacrificing with my hand. There you go, he revealed 4 of his own and easily crushed my assault. I’m not even sure if I can blame luck for this, but it seems to happen to me quite often.
The game was also odd in that people started looking for monuments early on. You can think of monuments as a fountain of water that simply floods adjacent players with victory points. Use it well and you can get a pretty big advantage. And JC used it pretty well! Our attempts to disarm or repel him were unsuccessful and he was able to reap the rewards by scoring roughly 1 point each round. For veterans of the Tigris and Euphrates, 1 point is huuuuuge. With this spring pumping him forward, JC rode these water fountains easily to victory.
While the mechanics of the Tiger and Euphrates are straightforward (although some of the terminology can be boring to explain to newbies), there is a lot going on that I still haven’t quite figured out what makes a strong territorial game. I will definitely be looking for more opportunities to play it as it is such a fascinating game to go through.