Everyone plays games for a variety of reasons. Some players love certain mechanisms and mental challenges, while others crave a good story via gameplay and an engaging theme. Rare is the game which scores high marks on both aspects. Green Couch Games is offering a new foray into the skiing with monsters while avoiding natural disasters genre.
Avalanche at Yeti Mountain is a hand management, racing game for 2-5 players that takes about 30 minutes to play. It plays best with 3 or more players.
Apparently, in the game world that designer Matt Wolfe envisions, there’s a place named Yeti Mountain. What’s more, it’s got a ski resort with technologically advanced Rocket Skis. Furthermore, this resort has inferior snow management because the skiers are traveling down the mountain at a breakneck pace to avoid an approaching avalanche. It all sounds perfectly reasonable.
To accomplish the theme above, a row of cards depicting a ski path are laid out and a vertical Avalanche Card is placed at the end. The skiing meeples (skeeples?) are placed right in front of the avalanche with the Yeti figure placed nearby.
On each turn of the game, every player selects one of four cards from their hand and reveals it. The multi-purpose cards show a symbol and a number. The numbers from every played card are used to determine a skier’s speed for the turn. From fastest to slowest, the skiers are moved down the path. The player in last place then moves the Yeti along an intersecting path, potentially crossing paths with a skier. If this happens, a player’s rocket skis are disabled and a player is unable to Rocket Jump for the next turn.
Rocket Jumps are achieved during movement through selection of a card that has the same symbol as a player’s current location on the path. When a player makes a Rocket Jump maneuver, they move their skeeple past the next card (umping ahead) and begin movement on the following card. However, if a player does this, the speed of the avalanche increases (that’s just solid physics).
Finally, an additional caveat is that if the speed of all players collectively is higher than the speed limit of the mountain (presumably, the skiers are recklessly crossing paths): the fastest skier crashes and may only move one space.
At the end of the turn, the Avalanche Card is moved and any players caught in the snowfall are out of the game. The first player down the mountain wins.
The overview above barely does justice to the wackiness of the theme and mechanisms. This, above all else, is the beauty of Avalanche at Yeti Mountain. Players entering this game should check reality at the door and be prepared as they let the technology, mythological creatures, weather, and tension of the race absorb them. The theme and mechanisms are a joyous mix of fun and strategy.
The second aspect that absorbs players are the components. Not only are the gorgeous yeti and skeeples perfectly shaped, but the creative use of the Avalanche Card and multi-purpose cards is really well done. Since some of the cards from the deck are used as the ski path, players can calculate what cards are still available to be played if they really want to get strategic.
Finally, for positives, the copy played included a set of Invention cards that add additional one-time-use technologies to the mix. This increases replay value and strategic choice by a huge factor. Adding these in has easily become the default way to play.
If there is one negative, it’s the player elimination aspect. Players could be forced to sit out for the rest of a game when they didn’t have much choice from a hand of cards. It isn’t fun, but the game will end quickly to offer a rematch.
As a filler game, Avalanche at Yeti Mountain is exceptional. The short playtime with some strategic and tactical choices coupled with a light, wacky racing theme is much appreciated. This surprising game is absolutely worth a look for gamers interested in something fun to break in between heavier games. Couple it after a game of K2 or Summit for a snow-filled winter evening.
Final Score: 4 Stars – The light theme, engaging play, and tense mechanisms deliver a filler that’s memorable and loads of fun.
• Player elimination