Ahau: Rulers of Yucatán by Apeiron Games

Created by Apeiron Games

Ahau: Rulers of Yucatán is an innovative Euro-Ameri hybrid board game for 1 to 5 players, combining classic elements of worker placement and resource management, simple combat, and an innovative new system for dual-engine building. Experience the challenges of leadership deep in the jungles of the ancient Yucatán Peninsula. Build and secure your legacy as a Maya ruler by expanding your lands, acquiring resources, and making the proper offerings to the ancient gods. Will your pyramid temple tell the tale of a great ruler? 👑

Latest Updates from Our Project:

Celebrating 1000 Backers & Mayan Glyph Preview
4 months ago – Thu, Mar 03, 2022 at 03:58:22 PM

Dear Future Rulers,

We have officially reached 1,000 backers!! 🎉

More and more individual backers and retailers are joining our journey. On top of that, we have nearly 5,000 people following the project! With this being our first Kickstarter as a team, this is indeed fabulous news. Let’s keep up this pace, and over the next few weeks, we can unlock all of our planned stretch goals — including custom-shaped resources, custom-shaped workers, double-layered player boards, and many more!

You may remember from one of our previous updates that we unlocked “Mayan Glyphs For Each Ruler” as a Stretch Goal. Well, our team has already made progress on fulfilling this goal, and we wanted to share a quick update on this milestone.


With the help of Walter Paz Joj, our cultural consultant from Guatemala, every Ruler in the game will receive an inscription using authentic Maya glyphs based on real historical examples. Walter Paz Joj is an ajtz’ib, a modern-day Maya Kaqchikel scribe, who is striving to resurrect the ancient Maya writing system for modern use. The glyphs have already been drawn by Walter, so let’s take a look!

 The glyph for Itzamnaaj Bahlam (Shield Jaguar) has been retouched and coloured by our main illustrator, Dávid Szabó to match the game's art style, and confirmed by Walter.

We will continue retouching the remaining glyphs, which would be shown on the player boards, serving as the home base for each ruler. Walter wanted to share this about the Mayan glyphs:

“The Maya writing system consists of a complex repertoire of signs, scriptural resources and composition rules. It is written with a  combination of logograms (words or morphemes with complete meaning) and syllabograms, also known as phonograms (phonetic signs without meaning), resulting in a logosyllabic or mixed writing system.

The Maya hieroglyphic writing system was mainly developed and used in the so-called “Maya Lowlands”.  It was in use for approximately 2,000 years. This time span is based on the earliest known evidence of its existence, discovered on a stone block, of which only 10 painted hieroglyphic blocks survived. This object was found in the filling of the pyramid "Las Pinturas" in San Bartolo, in the so-called Sub-V construction phase, dated to approximately 200 to 300 BC., The date of the Castilian invasion of Noj Petén in 1697, located on what is known today as Flores Island, Petén, is considered the endpoint of the use of this system

Furthermore, this writing system was not limited to recordings of  political, military and social activities, but could also represent statements about ways of thinking, beliefs, science, calendrical information and other social activities.”

In addition to being a scribe, Walter is also a designer, musician and a community leader in Pan Ajache’l (Sololá, Iximulew/Guatemala). In his words: 

My work is based on and inspired by the form of ancient Maya writing (tz’ib). It seeks to represent, in my own way and my own style, ideas, feelings, and emotions as a Maya kaqchikel. I come from Pan Ajache’l, Sololá, within Lake, Atitlán, Guatemala. I am dedicated to researching and sharing the ancient Maya writing through its function and use, as well as in its artistic application, so that it might serve as inspiration for all Maya people who are interested in contributing to the revitalization and use of Mayan hieroglyphic writing from their own territories, ways of thinking, and languages. I have also dedicated space to music through the re-creation of ceramic instruments, invoking forms of expression through sound that were created by the ancestors.

Walter Paz Joj, a modern-day Maya scribe

If you ever want your name made in Mayan glyphs, feel free to contact Walter HERE

Did you know that the sleeping and awakened Jaguar heads used to depict our stretch goals were Walter’s idea?


PS: As creators ourselves, we love to support other creative ideas and projects in any way we can. So please check out our friends and their awesome campaign below:

Kalinasu: Immersive Adventure Escape Game

An Escape Game in a Box that makes you feel like a real Treasure Hunter. Kalinasu mixes puzzles, narrative, and technology to immerse you in a challenging adventure so carefully designed that it may be impossible for you to distinguish reality from fiction. CLICK HERE and learn more!

Custom Inlay Unlocked + Extra God Scoring Tiles + Meet the Ancient Maya Gods
4 months ago – Thu, Mar 03, 2022 at 12:43:19 PM

Greetings, Future Rulers!

Thanks to all of your amazing support in this campaign, we are now able to upgrade our box organization with a custom inlay! We have confirmed with our production partners that this new inlay will ensure that you will be able to store your pyramids whole once assembled. We are also working with them to ensure that the pyramids are sturdier and more stable than our initial prototypes.

Our next goal to unlock is two extra god scoring tiles, which will add even more variety for scoring the common temples! The current game has 5 god scoring tiles,  and the scoring system offered by them was praised by reviewers for their originality. Instead of gaining points based on how well you do in a given category, you will instead gain points based on how the top player is doing in that category. (There is also a personal scoring variant.) Now with 7 instead of 5 god scoring tiles, the already fully randomized setup will give even more replay value, and the ancient Maya gods will award you for even more different facets of the game.

Before we head into today's history lesson, we wanted to let you know that we have taken all of your feedback to heart and will be unlocking all future language packs based on a threshold system. This means that once we hit a certain number of backers from a given language zone, we will unlock its translation for all! Stay tuned for more details in our next update. 



Now that we mentioned the gods in the game, let's take a closer look at them and talk about why they were chosen. This update is going to be a surprise to people who already know the game, so buckle up. 

The Gods of Ahau (City Tiles) - photo by Endre Birta

In general, the Classic Maya worshipped two types of deities. The first encompassed those “major” deities which were personifications of natural phenomena and cosmological forces (a god of rain, a sun god, etc.). The second category comprised the great many patron deities, local gods that were tied to a particular location or ruling dynasty. Most patron deities could be identified as an aspect, attribute, or local iteration of one of the major gods. For example, the kingdom of Piedras Negras in modern-day Guatemala worshiped a version of Chaac named Yax Ha’al Chaak (Blue-Green Rain Chaak) whereas the kingdom of Dos Pilas worshiped a deity named K’an Tuun Chaak (Yellow/Precious Stone Chaak). Effigies of these patron deities were carried into war, paraded around the city during processions, resided in temples atop massive pyramids, and were even ritually “fed". We even have recorded examples of one city desecrating or even stealing another city’s patron deity effigy during an attack. This would have been considered an incredible insult!

Let’s take a look at the deities included in Ahau. When you’re done reading, tell us in the comments who is your favourite deity of the game and why.



Itzamna (also known as Itzamnaaj, Itzamnah, and God D) was generally considered to be the chief or most senior god in the Classic Maya pantheon. Think Odin or Zeus. In many supernatural scenes painted on the famous polychrome vessels of the ancient Maya, Itzamnaaj is depicted on a celestial throne overseeing a celestial court composed of other deities and supernaturals.

His most defining features are his aged face with a prominent but usually toothless jaw and a large, protruding nose. His eyes are always square, a feature often referred to as the “god-eye”, and his body is covered with markings that mark his skin as bright or shiny, the color and substance of jade. He is almost always depicted wearing a tri-lobed pendant over his chest, on a beaded necklace. He shares all of these features with another deity referred to as the Principal Bird Deity, though the exact relationship between the two deities is not known. Some suggest that the Principal Bird Deity is an avian aspect of Itzamnaaj, or even a sort of avatar or messanger for the supreme deity.

Itzamnaaj, as the celestial ruler, is generally believed to have been one of two major creator deities for the Classic Maya, the other being an aged grandmother deity. As a supreme creator deity, Itzamna is able to exercise his authority over the other deities and so, if you summon his powers in-game, he will allow you to collect more pyramid tiles into your reserve which will surely help you to summon more types and more powerful deities in your subsequent turns.

In the scene below, painted on a ceramic pot from the Classic period, Itzamna is shown seated on a throne in one panel, addressing a kneeling duck-billed deity (a wind god). In the next panel, the Principal Bird Deity lands on the outstretched hand of that same duck-billed wind god.

In the first panel, a Twin kneels before Itzamná. In the second before ITZ'AM YEJ. - Copyright Justin Kerr (mayavase.com), K7821



 Water was an incredibly important resource for the Classic Maya - from the rushing rivers of the western lowlands to the cenotes of the northern Yucatán to the swamps and bajos of the Petén region of Guatemala. Chaac (also known as Chahk, Chaak, or God B) was the deity responsible for bringing the rains. He was more than just a god of rain, though, and is best understood as a noisy, cacophonous bringer of storms, wielder of thunder and lightning.

Some of Chaac’s defining features include a spondylus shell (the shell of the spiny oyster) ear ornament, a long, often upturned nose, and scaly or fish-like features. In some scenes, he has water-swirls marking his skin, describing the watery nature of his body just as Itzamna’s skin-markings mark him as a shiny, jade-like being. He is a key actor in several important mythical narratives, including a scene in which Chaac dances in the presence of the Death God and the Jaguar God of the Underworld as an infant. He is most often depicted as the personification of storms, wielding an axe that represents lightning in one hand and a stone manopla (used in boxing, similar in function to brass knuckles), representing thunder, in the other hand.

In Ahau, the board game, summoning Chaac will give you resources (water, corn, cacao, obsidian or limestone) in the colour of a summoned Chaac tile. This will be very useful, as it means you can most probably build a lot of awesome stuff at the end of your turn, whether that be your pyramid, your city or artifacts - your choice.

The scene below depicts that same mythical narrative described above. Chaac can be seen on the left, with his characteristic scaly and watery skin-markings and dancing while wielding his lightning-axe and thunder-stone.

Depiction of Chak, Copyright Justin Kerr (mayavase.com), K521



In the current version of the base game, the Jaguar God allows you to move your workers from one city to an adjacent city, collecting Fame as you pass through production sites matching the color(s) of the tile(s) you used to summon this deity.

While the jaguar was an incredibly important animal for the Classic Maya, a symbol of strength but also of the night and the underworld, there was no one Jaguar God. Rather, many different deities possessed jaguar attributes, usually associating them in some capacity with the underworld. Upon further consideration, we felt that the summoned ability of this deity (workers traveling from city to city, moving through production sites along the way) better matched with another Classic period deity who presided over trade, merchants, and travel. Interestingly, this deity also has jaguar attributes and is associated with the underworld.

We do not know the actual name of this deity, however. One suggested reading would make his name Itzam Aat, but he is also known as God L or simply the God of Trade or Travel. He is almost always depicted as an aged, toothless deity with large god-eyes, wearing a wide-brimmed hat that marks him as a traveler. He has jaguar markings on his ears and occasionally on other parts of his body such as his hands. He is often smoking a cigarillo and wearing a jaguar skin cloak. His characteristic wide-brimmed hat often features owl iconography. In some scenes he sits upon a jaguar throne in the underworld presiding over a court of six other deities. Like the other deities discussed already, he is also an important character in many mythic narratives. One scene that is repeated in several different forms involves a supernatural rabbit stealing God L’s clothes after which he has to plead with the sun god to make the rabbit return his regalia.

This change means we will have a new illustration for the God of Trade in the game. 

The drawing below is of a door panel in Palenque’s Temple of the Cross and depicts the God of Trade with all of his usual attire.

Drawing by Linda Schele, of a side panel in Palenque’s Temple of the Cross



K’inich Ahau (also known simply as K’inich, K’inich Ajaw, or God G) was the Classic Maya god of the sun. He shares many attributes with Itzamna, including his large square-shaped “god-eyes” and a large, protruding square-shaped nose. However, while Itzamna is depicted as an aged and wrinkled man, K’inich Ahau is depicted as a mature man at the peak of his strength. He is always depicted with protruding front teeth, filed to a “T” shape, the shape of the ik’ (wind) sign. Like the water swirls on Chaac’s skin or the “shiny” markings on Itzamna’s skin, K’inich Ahau’s skin is marked with the k’in glyph, the glyph for “sun” or “day.” This marks his skin as bright and hot like the shining sun. He literally emits light, a true personification of the sun itself. This relationship is explicitly detailed on a famous vase known as the Berlin Vase wherein his disembodied head is depicted in the sky with rays emanating from it, shown as the literal sun in the sky.

By summoning Kinich Ahau in the game, you will immediately gain Fame, and may reclaim your played cards into your hand, allowing you to visit the same region or to use your role card again in the next turn, or simply to increase your chances to beat your opponents in a combat for a region, which can be very powerful if played right. In the scene below, K’inich Ahau sits upon a jaguar cushion throne as God L, the God of Trade, kneels before him pleading to have his regalia returned from the rabbit who stole them, who can be seen peeking out from behind the seated Sun God.

A vase from the Naranjo area with God L asking for his clothes from Rabbit and Hunahpú as Sun God. Copyright Justin Kerr (mayavase.com), K1398




During the initial design process, Kukulcan as the feathered serpent was chosen as one of the deities because it is one of, if not the, most well-known Maya deity. However, Kukulcan is a decidedly Postclassic deity, introduced to the Maya region through contact with the Toltec and Mexica (Aztec) peoples of Central Mexico. Kukulkan himself is a quasi-mythical figure who may have been an actual Toltec king who came to the Northern Yucatán during the Postclassic. In order to stick with the Classic period setting of the game, Kukulcan has been changed to the Jaguar God of the Underworld, an important fire deity to the Classic Maya.

The Jaguar God of the Underworld was the supernatural patron of fire and fire-making. Fire was both physically and symbolically important to the Classic Maya. At the start of the agricultural season, for example, they would burn any overgrowth from the fields, the resulting ash acting as a fertilizer for the coming planting season. Fire also played a significant role in mortuary ritual through “fire-entering” ceremonies in which tombs would be ritually burned, likely a form of purification. The Jaguar God of the Underworld shares a lot of attributes with the Sun God, including the large square eyes, k’in skin-markings, and protruding front teeth. However, the Jaguar God of the Underworld’s pupils are often depicted as spirals, identifying him as an underworld being. His most defining attribute, other than the jaguar attributes, is a twisted cord called a “cruller” that runs below and between his eyes. This is usually understood to be the twisted cord of a fire-drill, used in making fire.

The original summon ability for Kukulcan allowed you to gain Fame by removing your own workers from the board, a power equally fitting a god of fire from the underworld.

The Jaguar God of the Underworld is not depicted on many ceramic scenes like the other deities in this list, however he is commonly depicted on the sculptural facades of buildings, such as this example from Copan shown below. He is also widely depicted on elaborate incense burners, fitting for his role of a god of fire.

Photo by Linda Schele


Many thanks for the write-up on gods to Joshua Schnell, our archeological advisor!

New Gameplay Modes To Unlock!! Live Playthrough Announced, And The Debut Of Our Spanish Rulebook!
4 months ago – Wed, Mar 02, 2022 at 03:46:53 AM

Dear Future Rulers,

After chatting with many of you over in the comments, Ahau's designer Tamás Oláh was inspired to create two new game modes to enhance your Ahau experience. While both will be available completely free over on BoardGameGeek, we would love to be able to add them to our development plan for extensive playtesting and fine-tuning before your games arrive. So, we've settled on making them a social stretch goal. If we can gather 50 thumbs up on each mode's forum thread, we will develop their gameplay and add it to the core rulebook included in your pledge!

Now then, you're probably curious about how these modes will affect your journey to the jaguar throne. How about a quick summary? 

First, we have Ahau Junior. 

As many of us have little ones, Tamás wanted to find a way to make Ahau accessible to the next generation of gamers. This ruleset will allow you to introduce Ahau at your next family game night with anyone ages 9 and up. To show your support and help us reach this goal, please thumbs up this post! 

Ahau - Rulers and Pyramids - photo by Endre Birta

Next, we have the Shadow Player Variant.

Whether you're gathering as a group of 2, 3, or 4 players, this variant can help up the ante by making the map a bit tighter and increasing the chances of conflicts. This mode will be a great choice for anyone who prefers even more player interaction and gives you an alternative use for the personality cards designed by David Digby for solo play. To help us unlock this game mode, please thumbs up this post! 

Some players love the game as it is with the normal ruleset, and the game is perfectly playable and enjoyable without the shadow player variant.

Now, the great thing about our community is that they are always up to lend a helping hand. Genesyx has already given our Shadow Player variant a try and shared their thoughts in this First Impressions thread. 


While you are over there, you can learn even more about Ahau’s design process in our Designer Diaries!

Design Diary #1: Guiding Lights

Design Diary #2: Game Overview

Design Diary #3: Customize Your Engines

Design Diary #4: Solo Design


Spanish Rulebook Download

We are happy to announce to our Spanish-speaking supporters that the rulebook for Ahau is finally available in Spanish from HERE

En Ahau asumes el papel de una familia real maya que trata de expandir las fronteras de su reino mediante la influencia sobre otras ciudades de la península de Yucatán.


Heavy Cardboard Playthrough

We would like to announce too that Heavy Cardboard would do a live playthrough of our game at their channel HERE 

Feel free to bookmark the video and subscribe to their channel. 


Finally, we would love to hear from all of you about add-ons that you would like to see for this campaign. We have already heard a few excellent suggestions, including custom laser-cut ruler standees and home-printable 3-D models. What would you add to the list for us to potentially explore? ☕

GERMAN LANGUAGE UNLOCKED! (And A Custom Inlay On The Way!) + Meet The Legendary Rulers of Yucatán
4 months ago – Sun, Feb 27, 2022 at 01:15:50 PM

Dear Future Rulers,

We are on a roll - we couldn’t even comprehend that we reached the funding goal and four other stretch goals, and you guys have already unlocked another stretch goal!

Ahau - Rulers of Yucatán is already mostly language-independent in the first place to make sure that the language barrier does not result in a less enjoyable game flow. However, thanks to your amazing support, we will be able to make sure the rulebook and the summary cards are translated to German as well. This was a cherished dream of ours, as we are devoted fans of making everyone involved regardless of geographical distance.

Vielen Dank für eure Unterstützung. Viel Spaß beim Spielen!


For the next stretch goal, we’ll be upgrading the basic inlay with a custom inlay to ensure you will be able to store all the game components neatly.

We have confirmed with our production partners that this custom inlay will offer a solution for storing your pyramids whole once assembled. We are also working with them to ensure that the pyramids are sturdier and more stable than our initial prototypes.



Learn the fascinating story of the rulers featured in Ahau: Rulers of Yucatán. See their historical images in all their glory next to their illustration in the game. The rulers we decided on were all from the same century or so and several of them were intertwined to some degree, which is fitting for a game where they're all competing with each other!

What would you like to see as an alternative to ruler standees? Can you guess why Ix Wak Chan Ajaw was assigned the orange colour in our game? Which ruler would you choose in the game? Tell us in the comments.

Jaguar Throne with the Legendary Rulers of Yucatán

Ix Wak Chan Ajaw, ruler of Naranjo (682-741 CE)

Ix Wak Chan Ajaw is one of a relatively small number of women during the Classic period known to have ruled her city outrightly, bearing the Ajaw title herself. Her rise to power was closely linked with a broader conflict during the mid-seventh century between Tikal’s ruler Nuun Ujol Chaak and his rival at Dos Pilas, B’alaj Chan K’awiil, who had an alliance with Tikal’s greatest rival Calakmul.

Ix Wak Chan Ajaw was the daughter of B’alaj Chan K’awiil. Seeking to bolster their regional hegemony, B’alaj Chan K’awiil, a k’uhul ajaw in his own right,  installed his daughter as the ruler of Naranjo in 682 CE, revitalizing the city’s dynastic line. In 693 CE, Wak Chan Ajaw named her then-five-year-old son, K’ahk’ Tiliw Chan Chaak, as Naranjo’s ruler. Such a young child, he was obviously incapable of ruling himself and so Wak Chan Ajaw continued to rule as queen regent.

Wak Chan Ajaw was a militant ruler, with Naranjo continuing to pursue her family’s military campaign against Tikal during this time, with one monument recording the capture of an important warrior in 695 CE. Beyond military action, Wak Chan Ajaw also engaged in a campaign of diplomacy and gift giving meant to rebuild the Naranjo kingdom. Wak Chan Ajaw died (cause unknown) in 741 CE and the royal house of Naranjo declined rapidly following her death. In 744 CE, Tikal attacked the city of Naranjo itself, taking the ruler Yax Mayuy Chan Chaak captive and looting the symbols of Naranjo’s royal court, including the palanquin and throne. It is not known when or how Wak Chan’s son, K’ahk’ Tiliw, died, but it is thought that he preceded his mother in death, last mentioned on a monument in 728 CE.

Her portrait is depicted on several monuments at Naranjo, including Stela 24 (where she is depicted celebrating a K’atun ending in a costume and bearing bloodletting implements commonly attributed to male rulers), shown below next to her illustration in the game.

Ix K’abel, ruler of El Perú-Waka’ (c. 670-700)

Ix K’abel was a princess of the great Kaan dynasty at Calakmul and was the first, but not last, Calakmul woman to marry into the Waka’ royal line, solidifying a long-lasting and powerful alliance between these two cities.

In Ahau, we are calling her Ix K’abel, but it should be noted that we do not know her original Maya name. We have examples of her name glyphs, but they remain as yet undeciphered. One of her aliases, Lady Waterlilly Hand, comes from her name glyphs, one of which bears resemblance to a waterlilly, the other being a hand glyph. Her other alias, Lady Snake Lord, comes from the fact that her full title includes the kaan ajaw glyphs, marking her as a member of the Kaan royal dynasty.

She was married to the Waka’ king named K’inich Bahlam II in the seventh century. Although we don’t know the exact dates of her reign, she is depicted on two stelae (each a part of a pair, the other depicting her husband) commemorating k’atun endings in 672 and 692 CE. A third stela commemorates the k’atun ending in 711 CE, but this only makes reference to her husband, suggesting she may have died prior to that date.

While her husband bore the ajaw title and was a king in his own right, K’abel’s position as a member of the Kaan royal family meant that she held much of the power in their joint rule of Waka’. In addition, she bore the title Ix Kaloomte’, roughly translated to “Lady Warlord” or “Lady Overlord.” This marked her as a figure of greater military and political authority than her husband as Kaloomte’ was the highest royal rank, reserved for the members of the most powerful Maya dynasties. She was the symbol of Waka’s alliance with Calakmul and as such, her image and story was evoked more than a century later by the royal court of Waka’ to revive that authority. Her tomb was discovered during excavations at El Perú-Waka’ in 2012.

Ix K’abel is depicted on Stelas 11 and 34 from El Perú-Waka’, the latter of which is depicted below next to her illustration from the game.

Jasaw Chan K’awiil, ruler of Tikal (682-734 CE)

Jasaw Chan K’awiil I was the son of Nuun Ujol Chaak, the ruler of Tikal during its disastrous defeat at the hands of Dos Pilas and Calakmul in 679 CE. Under the rulership of Jasaw Chan K’awiil, Tikal’s fortunes were reversed, ushering in new military victories and an expansive building program. About 10 years into his reign, in 695 CE, Jasaw oversaw a decisive victory over Yich’aak K’ahk’, then the ruler of Calakmul. This victory began the gradual decline of Calakmul’s regional hegemony and led to the rebirth of Tikal as a regional military superpower. Temple 1 (the Temple of the Great Jaguar), one of two large pyramids flanking the Great Plaza of Tikal, was built to commemorate this victory and serve as Jasaw Chan K’awiil’s funerary temple by his son Yik’in Chan K’awiil. In 1962, Burial 116 was excavated within a tomb in this pyramid and proved to be the tomb of Jasaw Chan K’awiil. It remains to this day one of the most lavish burials known in the Maya region. Part of Jasaw’s plans to reinvigorate Tikal involved reviving the symbolism of Teotihuacan that was so common at Tikal more than three centuries earlier after the famous “Entrada” of 378 CE. He celebrated three K’atun endings in power, in 692, 711, and 731 CE. Each of these was marked by the construction of a large twin-pyramid complex at Tikal. He also made several substantial additions and expansions of the Central Acropolis (palace) and oversaw the construction of Temple 2, which was dedicated to his primary wife, Lady Lachan Unen Mo’.

Jasaw Chan K’awiil is depicted in all his glory, richly attired, in Stela 16 from Tikal (dated to 711 CE), shown below next to his illustration from the game.

Stela Drawing Copyright © John Montgomery

Itzamnaaj Bahlam III, ruler of Yaxchilan (681-742 CE)

Itzamnaaj Balam oversaw one of the greatest periods of expansion and architectural construction in Yaxchilan’s history but, surprisingly, the majority of it occurred during the final 20 years of his 60-year reign (when he was in his 70s!).

Temple 44 at Yaxchilan highlights his military exploits, including a list of the important personages he is said to have taken captive. One of these captives, a minor lord named Aj ‘Nik from the Namaan kingdom happened prior to his accession and was such an important moment in his life that the epithet “Master of Aj ‘Nik” appears in his name in 32 different instances.

For a brief period during his rule, the nearby kingdoms of Bonampak and Lacanha fell under Yaxchilan’s dominion. Like other Yaxchilan kings, Iztamnaaj Bahlam’s rule was characterized by sustained conflict with their upriver rival, Piedras Negras. The “frontier zone” between Yaxchilan and Piedras Negras was a fractured landscape of shifting power dynamics full of smaller centers ruled by sajals (regional governors, lieutenants, and war captains).

Notably, though, a Piedras Negras monument dated to 726 CE commemorates a victory over Yaxchilan where one of Itzamnaaj Bahlam’s sajals was taken captive.This clearly did not adversely affect Itzamnaaj Bahlam’s rule, though, as over the next 15 years or so he continued to build and commission great works of art. For example, the famous lintels of Yaxchilan (Lintels 23, 24, 25, and 26), each a masterful example of the finest Maya stonecarving of the Classic period, were commissioned by Itzamnaaj Balam and depict himself and his principal wife, Lady Xook’ (two of them adorned the doorways to a building that was dedicated to her, which he built even before beginning construction on Temple 44, which commemorated his military career), during various ceremonies and rituals.

Itzamnaaj Bahlam III is depicted on many monuments and carvings from Yaxchilan, including Lintel 24, shown below next to his illustration from the game.

K’inich Janaab Pakal, ruler of Palenque (615-683 CE)

It would not be an overstatement to call Pakal the most famous Maya king and, like the other rulers in the game, he oversaw a period of tremendous growth for Palenque. He took to the throne at the young age of 12 during a period of ill fortune for Palenque after the earlier deaths of several important figures. Palenque was besieged by Calakmul when Pakal was a young boy, undoubtedly leaving a lasting impression that would shape his rule.

Living a very long life, he also enjoyed one of the longest reigns of any known Maya ruler, ruling until his death at 80 years old. Palenque was transformed from a largely provincial town to a bustling urban center under Pakal’s rule. The central palace of Palenque with its unique multi-storied “tower” was commissioned by Pakal. One of the structures of the palace, House C, records Pakal’s military exploits including a list of captives he took.

He also began the construction of the massive Temple of the Inscriptions which served as his funerary temple, though he did not live to see its completion. His tomb was discovered in the Temple of the Inscriptions in 1952 by the famous Mexican archaeologist Alberto Ruz Lhuillier. His richly furnished burial is one of the reasons that Pakal is such a famous king today, including a massive carved stone sarcophagus. He was buried with a mosaic jade mask and hundreds of other equally impressive artifacts.

Pakal is depicted on many monuments at Palenque, both during and after his reign. Shown below is his portrait on a monument from Temple XXI next to his illustration from the game.


Thanks to Joshua Schnell, David S. Anderson, and Walter Paz Joj for checking the in-game representation of these rulers. Special thanks to Josh for the write-up. 

Weapon Tiles Unlocked (And German Language Up Next!!)
4 months ago – Fri, Feb 25, 2022 at 05:40:06 PM

Greetings, Future Rulers! ☀️

Can you believe that we’re just two days into our crowdfunding journey and together we’ve already unlocked four stretch goals?! Before we explore these latest unlocks and head to the court for a ballgame, we wanted to share our sincere thanks and gratitude for everyone who has chosen to join us on this adventure. Now then, let’s meet our work-in-progress weaponry!

Weapon Tiles Unlocked

With this stretch goal, we will add three new weapon illustrations to diversify the weapons depicted on the weapon tiles. Right now, the famous macuahuitl is depicted on the weapon tiles. This was the Mesoamerican equivalent of a sword, though it was used a bit more like a club. It consisted of a long, flattened wooden shaft with a handle large enough to wield two-handed, with small 2-4 inch long obsidian blades hafted along both edges of the wooden shaft. 

Together, these obsidian blades formed the “blade” of the weapon. Though this weapon did not make it into the Maya region until the mid-late Postclassic period through contact with Central Mexico (and the Toltec and Mexica peoples there), it is nonetheless the most iconic Mesoamerican weapon and was thus chosen for the original weapon tiles in the base game. It was so effective and feared that a Spanish conquistador once wrote that he witnessed a Mexica (Aztec) warrior nearly cut the head off of a horse with one swing.

Ahau - Macuahuitl

These three new illustrations will introduce weapon types common during the Classic period to the game, including the blowgun, the axe, and the spear. 


The blowgun was primarily a hunting tool and is depicted in many hunting scenes in Classic-period art. It also played a very important role in a key mythic narrative featuring the famous Hero Twins, one of whom shoots the Principal Bird Deity with his blowgun. Like other hunting tools, such as the slingshot, the blowgun could have easily been used during combat, particularly during surprise raids which would not have given warriors time to fully prepare. Most households would have had a blowgun (or slingshot) for hunting which would be easily grabbed as an improvised weapon. In form, these were long hollow tubes likely made of reed or wood. Many had linear sights towards the end of the tube for aiming and others had cloth or leather wrappings around the mouth-end to serve as a hand grip. Rather than darts, Maya blowguns fired small round pellets. 

Painted ceramic vase with scene of hunters using blowguns © Justin Kerr at www.mayavase.com


Similar to the blowgun, axes were simultaneously used as weapons and tools and also played an important role in mythic narratives. For example, the Classic period god of rain and storms, Chaac, is often depicted as a bringer of storms, dancing about wielding an axe (representing lightning) as well as a stone manopla (representing thunder), which was a rounded, handheld stone used in boxing (similar in function to modern brass knuckles). 

As a tool, the axe would have been used for chopping and splitting wood, rough woodworking, and even excavating into the soft limestone bedrock of the Yucatán Peninsula. We know that they were also used as weapons because of depictions of warriors wielding shields and axes. Maya axes were large, often rounded, stone bifaces (chipped stone tools worked on both sides, rather than one) that were hafted onto wooden handles. Incredibly, a hafted example was found in Belize in the 1980’s called the “Puleston Axe” after the man who found it. 

Chaac on left with axe in right hand on Justin Kerr's rollout of the "Metropolitan Vase" © Justin Kerr at www.mayavase.com


Finally, the spear is a true weapon, in that it is never depicted in hunting scenes, and is the single most common weapon depicted in Classic-period art of Maya warriors. Famous examples of these weapons include the jaguar-skin-clad warriors wielding elaborate spears wrapped in jaguar skin from the murals of Bonampak as well as the many spears kings and important warriors are depicted wielding on stone monuments across the Maya region. They could range from extremely simple (just a wood shaft and stone point), to incredibly elaborate, with cloth or leather wrappings, feather and bead embellishments, and points made from obsidian or very high-quality stone. It is fair to assume, based on their ubiquity, that spears were the de facto weapon of the Classic Maya warrior, supplemented with shields, axes, daggers, and clubs. Spear points are found at nearly all archaeological sites across the Maya region.

Warfare scene showing spears. © Justin Kerr at www.mayavase.com


Now, enough talk about weapons and war. Let’s play some ball!  The ancient ballgame in Mesoamerica was a source of entertainment but was also a substitute for war between rival cities and kingdoms. 

In addition to being played for fun and as a proxy for warfare, the ballgame held spiritual importance, hence it was taken very seriously by everyone who participated. The main objective was to pass the ball back and forth off their hips or the sloping sides of the court without letting it drop.

This famous game is also featured in our game not once, but twice: through the Ball Court building which is the base game, and through the Ballgame Player role card. And who knows, perhaps the Eclipse Expansion will feature the Great Ball Court too? 🤫

Base Game Building Feature: the Ball Court

The Maya ball courts are well-known even today due to the Mesoamerican ballgame and its extraordinary rules. These spacious places were perfect for a game that could last for long days. 

The courts in which the ballgame was played are well-known and can be found at many ancient Maya sites, but they are more frequent in the southeast areas of the Yucatán peninsula. These courts feature magnificent masonry and have sloping playing surfaces. The ball court at Chichen Itza was the largest of them all, with walls 8.2 m high, and a length of about 149 m.

That is one of the reasons why ball courts are featured in our game Ahau as well, and let you advance on the War Track whenever you construct a building in the game.  

Ahau - Ball Court

First Expansion Role Card Feature: the Ballgame Player (pitzil)

Just like modern sporting events and tournaments, games drew attendees from nearby towns and villages and important games might have warranted a visit from the Ajaw themself. In some cases, the Ajaw would have actually played in the game.  In most cases though, the ballgame was played as a popular recreational sport, involving women and children as well.

Ahau - Ballgame Player

Well then, it seems we have come to the conclusion of today’s celebration (and history lesson), so it’s time to share our next community goal. Yes, that’s right, our first Language Pack is right on the horizon!! 

Also, as mentioned in our last update, we have heard all of your amazing feedback over the past 48 hours and the overwhelming request has been to add a custom inlay to allow all Ahau players to store their pyramids whole once assembled. We had several meetings yesterday to confirm the viability of this option, and we’re happy to announce that we will be unlocking this inlay next!!

That’s all for today, so thank you so much for reading, and we’ll see you in the comments!

The Apeiron Games Team