Release Date: 2024Players: 1-6
Designer: Joe Slack, Sylvain PlanteLength: 45-60 minutes
Artist: Miguel CoimbraAge: 8+
Publisher: Crazy Like a BoxComplexity: 1.5 / 5
Plastic (by weight): n/aAir (by volume): n/a

We made it! We finally decoded a very important ancient Mayan manuscript and found the temple described in the old document deep in the jungles of El Salvador. As we were standing at the entrance, we saw in front of us a very long paved road, leading to a circular pyramid. Each paving slab had a different symbol on it and we knew from the manuscript that we had to align them to make our way safely across. As keen as we were to get to the end, we also knew we had to get back out alive. After all, the secret underground pathway we had discovered was protected by an ancient Mayan Curse by Sylvain Plante and Joe Slack from Crazy Like a Box.

The Temple of Doom

So here we have another game where players take on the role of an Indiana Jones-style adventurer who follows the directions of an ancient manuscript into the depths of an underground system to gain knowledge and fame. The setting has been used by countless games over the past decades. Yet, while the thrill of taking on the role of an intrepid explorer is still as exciting as it was when I was 6, exotic locations and well-established themes alone don’t make for a good board game. So the question is, whether Mayan Curse is a box-office success or a straight-to-DVD disappointment.

Let’s put the setting aside for a minute and focus on the gameplay for a bit. What attracted me to this game in the first instance wasn’t my penchant for fedoras or that Mayan Curse has an amazing table presence and immediately appeals to those among us who love the toy factor of Fireball Island or similar 80s-style games. No, it was how our explorer meeples make their way across the sliding floor slabs and the rotating pyramid and collect stelae along the way.

You might expect a roll-and-move sort of approach, but no, it’s a lot cleverer than that. At the start of their turn, players draw three tiles from a bag that each have one symbol on them. Well, some have two, but let’s not worry about that for the moment. The symbols are also on the sliding slabs. Your goal is to align the floor in such a way that a symbol from one of your tiles is lined up as many times as possible. You then move along the floor as far as you can match the symbols with your tiles.

The Dial of Destiny

The problem is, you can’t just slide the slabs as much as you want. You have three slide steps at your disposal that you can split across the slabs in whatever way you like. Move one slab three steps or move three slabs a single step, for example. So if you can work out how best to get everything lined up, you will move far – and that’s important.

Mayan Curse is a race game. A bit like in Deep Sea Adventure, ideally, you want to get as far along the path as possible, to collect stelae with more valuable knowledge. However, as explorers pick up stelae, they will release boulders that will slowly roll towards the entrance until it’s fully blocked off. If that happens and you haven’t made it out, you lose all your knowledge and lose the game. So you always have to weigh up, whether you push further and pick up more valuable tokens or head back out of the underground city and make do with what you have collected so far.

the sliding slabs with stelae and explorers on them
line up the slabs to move as far as you can and pick up stelae along the way

The thing is, it’s very hard to make the right decision. On one turn everything seems to line up perfectly and you forge ahead at a fast pace and collect lots of stelae. On your next turn, the player before you moves slabs in such a way to help them along a long way, but at the same time making it impossible for you to make any headway. So maybe that’s the right time to turn around and hope you’ve done a good job. Yet, a lot of points await those brave adventurers who get to the top of the pyramid. So maybe it’s best if you keep going, because everyone else strides ahead unperturbed.


Mayan Curse is a really simple game at its heart. The rules are straightforward. Yet, the puzzle of how to best arrange the symbols on the slabs is what keeps everyone engaged. It’s not too much of a brain burner though. The game’s difficulty level is perfect, just as is its length. The setting does help a lot. Players immediately know what’s expected of them, because the Indiana Jones trope is so universal among a wide age range. It’s also what keeps everyone invested. Nobody wants those boulders to start rolling towards the entrance. That timing element that is controlled by players when they pick up certain stelae creates real suspense and excitement.

Of course, the components and the game’s table presence really add to the gameplay experience. Seeing the circular pyramid with its five levels at the end of a long corridor made up of sliding slabs with mysterious symbols on them is just wonderful. Actually, I do have to say at this point that I only ever saw a prototype of the game. However, even that looked really amazing on the table and made for a very tactile game.

It’s the sort of game that you keep coming back to when you want to have a little adventure. There is enough randomness there to ensure that it’s not always the best visual puzzler who will win the game. It also means that the setup of the game is always a bit different. No two games will be the same.

So if you enjoy these types of visual brain teasers and love the threat of never being sure if you ever make it back out alive, then Mayan Curse should be on your shopping list.

Useful Links


Transparency Facts

I feel that this review reflects my own, independent and honest opinion, but the facts below allow you to decide whether you think that I was influenced in any way.
  • I was sent a free review copy of this game by the publisher.
  • At the time of writing, neither the designers, nor the publisher, nor anyone linked to the game supported me financially or by payment in kind.

Audio Version

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (

“Adventures in Adventureland”
Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0


These are the songs I listened to while I was writing this review:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *