Mountains – A Beautiful Adventure of Memory and Cooperation
It’s spring! Already our Facebook feeds are starting to fill with adventurous parents getting their kids outside to go on hikes. In Massachusetts we aren’t quite there yet, but as the weather grows warmer the call of the outdoors gets stronger. During this time of quarantine, it’s better than ever to get outside and hike; and it follows social distancing protocols as well! But until that call grabs us (or on a rainy day) we’re not getting the kids outside.
Instead, we can sit inside where it’s warm and dry and simulate a day hike with Mountains, a gorgeous memory-driven semi-cooperative set collection game by Carlo A. Rossi (The Mysterious Forest) and published by HABA.
How to Play
Up to five players can get ready to hike. Each player gets a summit book, a hand of equipment cards, and a small pile of “favor cubes”. Sort the hike cards into five piles, one for each difficulty level.
On your turn, choose a hike difficulty and flip the top card from that pile. The higher the difficulty, the more equipment that hike requires. The most difficult hikes (4* and 5*) always require a pair of matching equipment.
Compare the chosen hike with the equipment in your hand. Do you have everything you need? Great. Reveal those cards and collect your rewards. Hikes that require three or more items will let you stamp your summit book – with a real stamp and ink.
If you’re missing equipment that you’d need, give a favor stone to one of your fellow hikers and ask if you can borrow a specific piece of equipment. (“Andrew, can I use your boots?”)
If the player you asked has the equipment, they’ll display the card in front of them. You’re “borrowing” the equipment, and they get to put it back in their own hand at the end of the turn.
You always help each other – no bluffing! If you have the equipment a fellow hiker asked for, you must share it. Plus, now you have another favor stone to use!
What if I can’t complete a hike?
Once you’ve flipped up a hike card, you can assess your chances of getting all the equipment you’ll need to complete it. If you don’t think you can do that (you don’t have enough favor cubes, the hike requires equipment that you don’t think anyone possesses), you can choose not to attempt the hike at all. Take a single blue favor cube from the stockpile.
Hiking can be tiring! Sometimes an easier goal can provide a sense of accomplishment for a day when you “just don’t have it”. A Mountain Hut card allows players to get additional equipment or stamps in your book without completing a hike.
When you reveal a Mountain Hut, every player chooses if they will spend the specified number of favor cubes to get the reward. Then the player who drew the card gets another turn.
When two of the stamp-awarding hike decks (requiring three or more items) are empty at the end of a turn, the game immediately ends.
The winner is the hiker who has collected the most stamps in their summit book.
Mountains approaches familiar mechanics in a completely different and incredibly wholesome way. There is no backstabbing in a game like Mountains because helping other players helps you as well.
Mountains helps kids (young and old!) practice their memory by watching other players play equipment cards to complete hikes. Keeping a mental catalog of who has what equipment will be critical in completing harder hikes later in the game.
Set collection is a primary mechanic in many games. To really understand how set collection works at a tangible level, kids need to see it in action. Mountains makes set collection easy to understand by showing pictures of the necessary equipment cards for a given hike. This allows kids to practice collecting items based on rules.
Mountains encourages (and even requires!) cooperation. Though there is a final winner, the game structure means you’ll need to ask other players for help most of the time.
In our plays, the kids didn’t resent having to help one another, because the favor stones they got back were so valuable for their later goals. Is this actually kind of selfish? Maybe, but it helps show our kids (and yours!) that helping isn’t always bad.
Mountains is just beautiful. Illustrator Michael Menzel (Stone Age, Brandon the Brave) has created gorgeous watercolor-inspired vistas that inspire us to get outside.
Stamping the summit book is incredibly satisfying, and the grid for stamps makes it easy to compare books at the end of the game. We’d recommend keeping a very close eye on the stamp once it’s inked, though – without careful handling, you might find red ink smudges on the board, the cards, even the carpet.
Mountains shows several thoughtful touches. There are exactly two of each equipment card, one with a blue background and one with green. This can aid your memory when you’re completing hikes that require pairs of equipment cards.
As the number of players increases, each person gets fewer equipment cards, so there will be a lot more sharing. What a simple solution to keep everyone involved in the game, regardless of how many players there are!
The designers even included a “season sheet” in the instructions, suitable for photocopying – so you’ll never need to worry about running out of sheets for your summit books.
We highly recommend Mountains as a family game that’s challenging enough for adults without being too complex for kids. The beautiful art, cooperation, and unique scoring all work together to make a game that anyone can enjoy.
Find Mountains at Amazon, or ask for it at your local store for toys and games.
The Family Gamers received a copy of Mountains from HABA Games for this review.
This post contains affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.
Age Range: 8+ (can skew younger – no reading required)
Number of Players: 2-5
Playtime: 20 minutes