- Designer: Phillippe Proux
- Publisher: Helvetiq
- Players: 2-4
- Age: 8+
- Time: 20 min
- Played with review copy provided by Helvetiq
K3 is maybe not the best known mountain to gamers; it seems that everyone wants to make a game about K2… Broad Peak is a mountain in the Karakoram range on the border of Pakistan and China, the twelfth-highest mountain in the world at 8,047 metres above sea level. In this game, you will try to climb to the top of this mountain from the final base camp.
The game has 55 pawns spread out over five colors, natural and white. To start the game, the final K3 base camp of 9 colored pawns is placed on the table; there must be at least four of the five colors in this row. Then, each player gets a designated number of white, natural and colored pawns – drawing the colored pawns 3 at a time from the bag. Once everyone has enough pawns, you will arrange and stack you pawns in a pyramid (10 in a 4p game). The player who finishes their pyramid first becomes the first player.
On you turn, you must take a pawn from your pyramid and do something with it – however, you can only take a pawn which is free – that is, nothing is on top of it:
Take a colored pawn and place it on K3 – it must be placed on top of 2 other pawns, and one of the two must be the same color. You will suffer a penalty though if you place a pawn on top of 2 pawns of the same color (the next player in turn order chooses one of your accessible pawns and places it on the table between you; it is available to the other player as well).
Take a natural pawn and place it on K3 (it is wild and represents any color)
Take a white pawn, set it aside and end your turn (you do not place anything on K3 this turn)
You are eliminated from the game if you cannot make a legal play – that is, you do not have an accessible pawn that can be played on K3 and you also do not have a white pawn that could be set aside. The game is won by the last player left standing.
There is also a cooperative variant where all players work together to reach the summit of K3 – the goal is to finish the K3 pyramid (adding 36 pawns to the 9 pawn base). If any player is eliminated along the way, the whole team loses!
My thoughts on the game
K3 is a well produced game (As I have come to expect from Helvetiq) – the wooden bits are great, and the game really has a nice table presence as the smaller mountains are dis-assembled and K3 is constructed. The strategy of the game is quite interesting, but it is also somewhat fragile at times too.
As players play their pawns to K3, the number of options gradually reduces – there are simply fewer and fewer places to play as the rows get smaller. This also means that, in general, the number of places to play a color should also reduce – though the wild pawns allow for a color to jump back into play. By carefully examining the layout of K3 as well as the pawns each player has available, you might be able to set traps to eliminate your opponents, or at least force them to play onto a pair of matching pawns so that they have to take a penalty pawn off their own supply.
Where the game is a bit fragile is right at the start. The player who finishes their own pyramid first gets the benefit of being the start player – which theoretically gives them a small advantage in the elimination sweepstakes as the first player will have slightly more options on each turn to play. However, once their pyramid is locked in, the other players could have the opportunity to take their time and study the arrangement of the pawns to set up a trap specifically for that player. We have chosen to make a house rule that no one is supposed to look at anyone else’s setup until they have locked in their own – but the possibility exists for this, and it’s unclear what happens if no one wants to be the first to lock in their pyramid….
That aside, once the game starts, the players try to make the best play they can – either setting traps for later players or trying to ensure that they have places to play their upcoming pawns because you have essentially programmed your moves in your pawn pyramid. Sure, you can make small adjustments in the order you play the pawns, but you will be limited by your choices from the start to be sure. It is important to pick the right time to use your white pawn to essentially skip a turn. You only really get one chance in the game to do this, so it’s definitely a crucial play. Sometimes it’s worth it to skip a play to avoid a penalty… But if you wait too long to use it, you may end up in a spot where you can’t do anything afterwards!
The game takes about 15 minutes, and it tends to go by pretty quickly. I have also tried the cooperative version, and that was fun too, but it is completely quarterbackable, and I think in the future, I would play the “coop” game as a solo challenge – setting up the different player pyramids in a row and working out how to get all the pawns into K3 on my own.
Until your next appointment
The Gaming Doctor