1-6 players, Competitive or Cooperative, Survival Mountain Race Route Builder
Designer: Conor McGoey
Artwork: Jordan Danielsson
Publisher: Inside Up Games
Release Year: 2017
Note: Copy provided to me for review
I always find it strange when games fly under or over my radar and I end up hearing about them years later. I tend to spend much of my free time researching and exploring as many games as possible to quench my board game addiction. Yet, Summit avoid me for years and it was mere happenstance that I saw a random forum picture of a player board and instantly became intrigued.
Overview of Gameplay
In Summit players will be attempting to scale up to the summit of a mountain and make it back down alive. Depending on the game mode you play it in depends on the win condition. In the Co-op game as long as a single player can survive all the way up and back down to base camp then everyone wins! In the Competitive game, players will gain more points by being first to different points along the hike so the race aspect is much more prominent. Whoever makes it to the summit and back to base camp with the most points is the winner.
Between the two versions, the main meat of the gameplay is the same. Each player will have a unique-ish player board (that’s double layered squeeee!) that will track your generals stats. These work in an intriguing way based on your carry weight. The stats are: Food, Oxygen, Weight, Health and Speed. The more Items or Food or Oxygen you have, the more it raises your Weight stat. Which in turn lowers your Speed stat. It’s all really thematic and interesting how it works because you may not want to take a particular item or load up on food or oxygen since it will take you that much longer to move about the mountain due to your lowered Speed stat. BUT, if you run out of Food or Oxygen and need to spend some you will instead lose Health…which will also cause you to lose Speed over time. It’s a nifty little balancing act you are trying to hold up.
Players will also have a hand of three triangular tiles that are drawn from a large stack. These tiles are your lines and means to reach the summit. There are three different styles: Regular line, Thin Air line (causes you to lose oxygen if you stop on it), and Frozen line (has more notches on the tile so it takes longer to traverse). Now during your turn you can choose to move up to your Speed stat, placing new tiles from your hand as you move off other tiles, slowly creating new lines up the mountain. However, if you are getting low on resources you may skip your movement to resupply at a camp (if you’re at one) or from your Sherpa (if playing the Co-op game). You can also skip movement to discard your tile hand to draw new ones or skip movement to attempt to remove a negative card or token from your player board.
Once that part is done you will roll the Event and Weather dice. Now these babies spice things up a bit during your turns. On the Event die if you roll an Event then you draw one of those cards from the rather large stack of possibilities. Most of them are detrimental to your climb however there are a few good ones sprinkled in. These have all kinds of random things such as avalanches that push you back down a few tiles and flip a tile facedown so you have to find another route. The Weather die determines how much food you will lose each turn depending on how many snowflakes you roll from 1 to 2. There is also a “Sun” side where you lose nothing and a “Blizzard” side that pushes up the blizzard marker on its track and causes the loss of more and more supplies as it gets higher.
From there you refill your tile hand and pass the dice to the next player to so they can start their turn. I should mention there is also another batch of cards called, “Karma cards” that can be used during a players turn although these are only used in the Competitive game. These things can be played only during when specified on each specific card but you can play as many as you want. These do all kinds of stuff almost like a player controlled event deck that can target others. You can help other players with them to gain you Karma points or hinder other players which will lose you Karma points.
Karma points are only used during the Competitive game and there is an entire track dedicated to this on the board. Every player starts with 5 Karma points and as they perform different acts of kindness such as playing nice Karma cards or allowing other players to pass them along the lines, they will move higher up this Karma track and gain more endgame points. But on the inverse of this if players play hindrance cards or block others from moving past them they will lose Karma points, lose enough and you can actually LOSE points at the end of the game. It’s an interesting and necessary requirement for the game to shake up the race points from being the first to hit each area.
Now, for the Cooperative game there are no Karma points, cards or track for it. Instead, you have a Sherpa track! There is one for each player and it basically acts as a storage for extra items, oxygen and food if you start running low going up the mountain. But be careful! There are a few event cards that completely wipe out your Sherpa in one way or another……
The components are excellent all around! The card thickness is good, the player boards are double layered AND I haven’t even had any start that annoying bowing so that’s an excellent sign. The line tiles are a good thickness and have a nice slick premium feel to them. There are different colored wooden meeples for the player tokens which all are varied and look nice. Overall, I am very pleased with this production!
The game board itself looks nice and is also a higher quality with wrapped edges and is double-sided. One side for the Co-Op version and the other for the Competitive version of the game. I could see there being some confusion about where the starting tile (basecamp) should go so I wish the lines where a bit more prominent at the starting locations but other than that it’s also a very nice production!
The storage solution is excellent! It has ample space for the tokens (although you will need to bag them) but is designed in such a way to keep everything organized even when storing on its side. Plus, it also has a removable tray holding all the line tiles so you can easily take that out and put it away during setup and take down. That alone is a real boon to this storage solution. The box is average size and has nice strong cardboard material so no worries about torn lids or wearing down quickly.
Visual Appeal /Theme
The Visual Appeal is so-so. It’s very abstracted looking, especially as you start adding more and more tiles to the board to fill it out. You end up getting this array of random lines all over the place and to be honest, the tiles aren’t that pretty looking. Stark white with the line and usually a few pock marks of rocks. I wish the tiles had more color and variety to them to make them more visually appealing. Oh, and that font that is used for the title on the box is……aggressive. There are far too many u’s and m’s next to each other and with that font it all runs together to create this monster of a word that looks just TOO elaborate to comprehend with your eyes. Now, all that said, I REALLY love the way the sun rays and clouds and lightning looks on the box and board. I love that broken up, almost, stained-glass look.
The theme unfortunately doesn’t really shine through though. I never really FELT like I was actually climbing a mountain and could easily see how you could paste any other theme onto this gameplay and it would work. You are building a route to get from point A to point B with a smattering of theme based event cards. The scaling the mountain felt like background noise. Heck, even the oxygen tracker on your board neve pulled me into the theme, it just felt like another thing to track.
There are two rulebooks, one for each game mode. I can see how they tried to make them easier to understand by adding in blue areas for the differences between the books….but….at least for me it made it harder. The blue spots are intertwined with the regular rules and for the setup I feel like they should have been pulled out of the regular setup instructions and placed in a separate area marked, “Changes in setup”. Would have been easier considering each rulebook is specific already. Why make two rulebooks if you are just going to add in everything from each anyway?
The other issue I encountered was for player starting setups. This was extremely convoluted BUT they have a fast setup chart in the back of the rulebook if you want to just GO. Which, to be honest is the way I will always play. Other than those points I didn’t have any trouble with the rulebooks, The information provided was well written, it was just the layout that was a bit difficult.
Player Interaction/Fun Factor
This is where the game gets interesting depending on which version you are playing. Let’s start by discussing the Co-Op version. The player interaction is very low in the cooperative version to the point I actually started to wonder if the game was meant to be a competitive game from the very beginning. There are rules for dropping your items to help another player out but you probably won’t ever even mess with that since you have a Sherpa to aid you AND since you never know what event may trigger where you will need some specific item anyway. So, beyond that bit of interaction you don’t really interact at all and since only one person technically needs to make it up and down alive for all to win…..well……let’s just say the co-op game wasn’t all that fun. Players will just follow the lead player up the mountain using their line tiles because why not? No surprises there AND you basically get a free movement point when you jump a players meeple on the line. For the first quarter of the game it was just a back and forth move – place tile – move – place tile – move. The events shook it up a bit but nothing super exciting came from them. And when the inevitable loss of food happened, well, just stop moving for one turn to resupply from your Sherpa, then after that start the basic move – place tile again. Was not impressed with the co-op version at all for multiplayer.
NOW, the Competitive version is a slightly different beast. Here you have the same move – place tile mechanism BUT with the added Karma cards and Karma track it makes it much more strategic on your choices and creates much more player interaction at that. Since everyone will be wanting to scale the summit the fastest for those luscious extra points it’s much more common for each player to delve out on their own lines and not just follow other players. Since there is always the risk of another player not allowing them to pass. But also you have to take into account the fact that the MAY let you pass just for the extra Karma points……but it’s a risky IF. On top of that the Karma cards are just a lot more fun to mess with and they add in that much needed interaction. Of course it’s still the same basic gameplay but it is improved a bit with those.
Optimal Player Count/Replayability
It’s not great at two players regardless of which version you play. But it does get better the more you have playing. The two player game has both starting on the same base camp tile so it’s just a move and follow affair but once you get up to, let’s say, 4 players you will have a couple different starting camps so there will be at least a couple branching paths that could intersect. However, I wouldn’t play the Co-op version with any player count (Other than Solo) again personally, it was just THAT drab. As far as the Competitive version goes I would probably stick to at least 4 players so you can have a nice variety of players to target with the Karma cards.
Now, the solo game, which you can easily do, invites you to just try and make it up and down the mountain by yourself. THIS isn’t bad! Since you are only testing yourself it turns the game more into a puzzle that needs to be solved….a very random puzzle. But it’s an interesting puzzle regardless and since there are multiple difficulty levels you can start with you can always up the ante to test yourself further.
The replayability is there in the form of varying characters with different stats. Some are a little quicker but may hold less weight etc. For me this wasn’t a huge variance differentiating them. Their unique abilities where also pretty nice IF you remember to use them. Undoubtedly, the BIGGEST variance you will find in this game are the event and karma cards. These will always be different as there are A LOT of them. That said, the vent cards didn’t really offer THAT much to change up the game state. It mostly boiled down to losing some stats or your player board. The Blizzard dice event is also something that could really swing the game…BUT…..it’s only on one side of a six sided die so you probably won’t see it that much.
Positive Final Thoughts
VERY nice production and storage solution. Unique theme and fun Karma cards and track for the Competitive version. The solo game is decent fun!
Negative Final Thoughts
Very subpar Co-op Multiplayer with almost zero player interaction. The solo game is fun BUT is mostly random so there is very little decision making space.
The Bottom Line
I enjoyed the Competitive version of the game a bit but didn’t really feel that it has enough meat on its bones to sustain me long-term. The basic actions of move-place tile are basically all you will be doing and the smattering of events are just not enough to keep me coming back. After all said and done this game boils down to being just average. It has a very nice production but the basic gameplay behind it doesn’t hold up well.