Trek 12: Himalaya
- Designers: Bruno Cathala, Corentin Lebrat
- Publisher: Pandasaurus
- Players: 1-50
- Age: 8+
- Time: 15-30 minutes
- Played with a review copy provided by Pandasaurus Games
Per the rules: In Trek 12, you and your friends compete to climb the Himalayas’ most challenging summits (Dunai, Dhaulagiri, Kagkot). Carefully map the area, set up your lines, and tread carefully on the dangerous slopes. You’ll need wits and nerve to make smart decisions and build your reputation as a legendary alpinist! Trek 12 is a roll-and-write alpinism game, with progressive difficulty levels and three different game modes!
The Trek Mode is recommended to start; in this mode, to score points, you have to create chains of consecutive numbers from 0 to 12 and areas of the same number. Players all play the same ascent sheet (from the 3 base sheets available) – and Dunai is recommended for your first game. Each of the ascents has 19 circles on it, in different patterns. Put the two dice nearby and give each player a writing implement. That’s all you need to play the game!
A game is composed of 19 rolls of two six-sided dice, with the red die having values from 1 to 6, and the yellow die ranging from 0 to 5. After each roll, the player must combine both die values to obtain the number to place. You can:
- Add the values of the two dice
- Subtract the value of the lower die from the other
- Multiply the value of the two dice
- Keep the higher value of the two dice
- Keep the lower value of the two dice
Once you choose, make a tick mark in the chart in the upper right of your sheet – denoting which of the five options you took this turn. Be careful as you may choose each of these options at most four times during a game! Your first number can be written anywhere, but afterwards, you must place each subsequent number in a space adjacent to one already filled. Note that you can make numbers up to 12 for regular spaces, and no more than 6 in “dangerous” spaces.
You try to make chains of consecutive numbers (called Fixed Lines). As you have consecutive adjacent numbers, you can connect their circles with small lines; a number can only be part of one fixed line, and each fixed line can only have one instance of a number. You can also create Zones: these are areas of adjacent circles with the same number in them.
The game ends when all players have filled in all the spaces on their sheet (after 19 rounds). Scores are then tabulated on the bottom of the sheet.
- Each Fixed Line scores points equal to its largest number plus 1 pt per each other circle in the fixed line
- Each Zone scores points equal to the number in one circle plus 1 pt per each other circle in the zone
- There is a bonus scored for your largest Fixed Line and Zone (per the chart on your sheet)
- There is a 3 point penalty for each circle with is an orphan (not part of a Zone or a Fixed Line)
The player with the most points wins.
Expedition Mode – once you are familiar with the single map, it’s time to move onto the Expedition, where you will play over three different Ascents. Each player gets one sheet for each of the three different climbs. There is a small deck of Assist cards; they are shuffled, and N+3 cards are placed face up on the table to start the Expedition.
The three maps are done in order, from least difficult to most difficult. You can see how difficult an ascent is by the number of stars seen at the bottom of the mountain illustration. Dunai is the easiest of the starting three (at 3 stars) while Dhaulagiri is the most difficult (9 stars).
You play each map with the basic Trek rules, but you get to also use the Assist Cards. Players can collect an Assist card each time they create a new Mapped Zone of 0s, 1s, or 2s. Take a revealed Assist card and you can play it at any time. You can never have more than 3 Assist cards at any time. When you take an Assist card, you also take the Start Player marker. The types of Assist cards are:
- Compass – you can write a number in a space non-adjacent to previously used circles
- Rope – when extending a line, you can skip a space (can be filled or empty)
- Schnapps – ignore the current roll, and re-roll the dice and use the new result
- Tent – use a “+” action for the two dice marking outside the grid on your sheet (can use even if no regular “+” spaces remain)
- Pass – at the end of the round, you can discard any card for 3VP
At the end of the ascent, score in the usual fashion, and then assign Reputation stars
- Summit – if you score at least the goal number for that ascent, gain the stars in the leftmost box.
- Most skill – if you have the highest score of all the players (whether you reached the Summit or not), score the stars in the second box.
- Record! As you play, use the back of the rulebook to record the highest all-time score for a sheet. If you score a new record, gain the star in the rightmost box.
Before you move onto the next Ascent, check to see if you can open one of the Challenge envelopes. The box has 6 legacy style sealed envelopes in it, and if a player has met one of the requirements, you can open up one of the envelopes to reveal the surprise inside – a new ascent sheet possibly or maybe something else?!
You also reveal some more Assist cards from the deck to provide new opportunities for special actions. Continue playing until all 3 Ascents are complete. At the end of the 3rd Ascent, the winner is the player with the most Reputation stars – ties broken in favor of the most total points scored over the three sheets.
Finally, there is also a Solo mode. Interestingly, the game recommends that you play the multiplayer version a few times before playing the Solo mode. (Usually I try the solo mode first as a way to learn the rules!). In this game, you play against an automated opponent who has a few special rules to help it along. The rules allow you to play both a single Trek or a full Expedition campaign against your automated nemesis.
My thoughts on the game
Trek 12 is a challenging and math-y roll and write. I was not expecting the game to have a legacy-like feel to it, but there is a lot of content in the box – that you will only unlock as you meet certain criteria in games that you play. As you open up the different envelopes, you will get new pads with new mountains to climb, or new action cards or other surprises.
I have found that your initial placement can be really crucial to success. As you have to write down later numbers next to previously filled in spaces, you’d really like to give yourself enough options. Also, as there is a stiff penalty for orphaned spaces, having flexibility in where to place your numbers is doubly important.
And of course, while you’re figuring all this out, you can’t forget the management of your math operation grid. You’ll only have one space unfilled at the end of the game, so you really need to make sure that you allow yourself the chance to make the numbers you want through the buik of the game – and man, in those last few rolls, really just hope that the dice go your way! I personally try to hold onto my additions – as the best scoring Fixed Lines are those that start with 12-11, and the only way to get an 11 is the max roll 6+5.
The game rewards you for lower scoring numbers; you can take helper cards for 0-0, 1-1 or 2-2 zones. There are plenty of times when you’ll want to do this just to get access to a particular card. They have very beneficial actions (at the right time), and it’s a decent consolation to be able to get a card out of an otherwise low scoring situation.
Thus far, I prefer to play the three game campaign as I think this is the most interesting. Sure, the most points will be scored on the final map, but you can still get a nice lead by doing well on the first two, or you can make sure that your hand is filled with the three Helper cards that you want for the all-important final ascent. For some, this might be too much RAW fun, as the three board game often takes close to an hour.
There is also a decent solo game where you play against an AI – one that always uses the same spaces that you use, but has its own rules of generating numbers and special scoring rules at the end. It doesn’t feel quite like the multiplayer game as there are some strategies that only come up in this version – namely, you can always determine what number the AI will pick, and that may influence which space you choose to write your own number in as the AI will always use the same spot on his board. In the regular game, you don’t really worry about what your opponents are doing, but this is definitely a concern in the solo game. I have played a few solo games so far, and I’m 2 wins and 2 losses to the AI.
Trek 12 has a lot to offer the Roll and Write gamer. The basic game, played on a single sheet, feels very much like other RAWs; takes about 15 minutes, easy to teach, and quick in-and-out. But, the 3-sheet game is a more involved challenge that might be in your wheelhouse, and as I mentioned earlier, this game evolves a bit given the different surprises you can uncover as you hit certain milestones through play. I think that this is a great facet of the game, and one that will keep it fresh over multiple plays.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Dan B. (many plays): I’ve played this a lot on BoardgameArena, but almost always in the single-map mode. (They have a lot of maps available, not just the three in the box.) We tried the expedition mode when it first showed up and frankly I don’t care for it as the scoring is far too sharp – if you fail to hit the minimum for a map you’re pretty much out of it. I didn’t find that particularly fun. Played in single-map mode it’s a perfectly fine roll-and-write. (I haven’t played the multi-map mode enough to definitely say it’s not for me, but it’s close.)
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Chris Wray
- I like it. Dale Y, Dan B. (single-map mode), Steph, Brandon K
- Neutral. James Nathan, Dan B. (multi-map mode)
- Not for me…