Go Huskies!...oh, well
Himalaya, a board game for 3-4 players, takes about 90 minutes to play. Himalaya: The 5-6 Player Expansion is also available.
Himalaya is a programming game with elements of area control, area majority, pick up and delivery, and set collection (see Category). The board art represents mountain passes in Nepal, and each player controls a caravaneer. The object is to guide your caravaneer from one village, where goods are picked up, to another, where orders are filled. Filling orders allows a player to leave behind influence in the region of the village. The major competition comes in the form of other players attempting to get goods or fill orders before you get to them. Victory is achieved by having sufficient religious, political, and economic influence to survive the game-ending elimination round.
The game board is on glossy stock, and is mounted on standard, thick cardboard. Despite the European-style fold, there is a noticeable crease in the middle of the board. The orders are printed on nice, thick cardboard, and the goods are small, painted cubes like those in El Grande. The caravaneers and influence markers are colored plastic, and come in sprues. Removing these many small pieces takes a while, and requires some work with a razor cutter to clean up. The player screens are quite flimsy. The intention of the designer is to have the goods hold the screen down, but that doesn’t work. My fix is to get some Velcro self stick tabs to hold the shape of the screen. All in all, the components are original and well-conceived, and the art is well-done and clear.
Image of stupa and caravaneer
The Himalaya board depicts 20 villages of various sizes, connected by gravel roads, stone roads, or icy roads. At the start of each turn, players program their next six moves. This is accomplished using discs that have four colored regions on one face, each representing a different action. A player sets up the discs, in order, behind his screen, with the desired action facing outward. Action 1 is resolved first for all players, in player order, before moving on to Action 2, and so on. The five actions are to Travel by Gravel Path, Travel by Stone Path, Travel by Icy Path, Deal, or Rest. Taking a road means that you move your caravaneer along a road of the indicated type that is connected to the place from where the caravaneer starts. Dealing means that you take goods or fill orders. Resting means that your caravaneer stays put for that turn.
Image of a programming token
The board is pre-seeded with goods in certain villages and orders in others as determined by a die-roll. Anytime an order is filled or a village is emptied of goods, a die roll is employed to determine the next village to receive either goods or orders. To pick up goods, a player must travel to a village with goods and remove the lowest valued good from that village. To fill an order, a player must travel to a village that has an order ring, and spend the goods indicated on the ring.
After filling an order, a player may choose how to increase his influence. The order rings have variable numbers of yaks printed on their reverse. Yaks are the currency for determining a players economic influence, so a player may simply decide to pick up the order ring and keep it. Alternatively, a player may place ambassadors in the region of the village for political influence. If the player is the first one to fill an order in that village, he may place a stupa on that village, increasing his overall religious influence. The villages come in three different sizes, so the amount of political or religious influence that a player may gain from a village increases with the village size.
After three of the rounds, there are inventory phases in which players are rewarded for having the most of a certain good by receiving a token worth 3 yaks.
Finally, there is an optional rule where all players have three power tokens that can be played at the start of a turn. Only one of each type may be played at once, and only one per player may be in play. The three tokens are 1)Yeti Footprints: Place this on any path to render it unusable for that turn; 2) Snowstorm: Place this on any path to make it twice as hard to travel that path; and 3)Market Day: Place on any village so that anyone visiting that village to trade on that turn can select the good of their choice. Optional rules also allow for religious or political influence to be increased during the inventory phase.
After the 12th round, players are eliminated based on their respective influence in the three areas. First, the player with the least religious influence is eliminated. Then the player with the least political influence is eliminated. Finally, the player with the most economic influence is declared the winner.
The player with a majority of influence in two of the three areas is the winner. Economic influence is the tiebreaker.
1) Timing is critical in Himalaya, and there’s a fair amount of gambling involved. The programs are activated in player order, so if an opponent appears to be heading for the same village as you to grab goods, you need to determine who will arrive first to know who will receive which goods. Remember, the first player takes the lowest valued good, so if two players reach a village with tea and gold on the same turn, the one who was first in turn order would take the tea, and the second player would get the gold. This is where the option to rest, or stall, comes in handy. By resting, you allow your opponent to arrive first, so you get the more highly valued good.
2) Based on the victory conditions, a player’s first, second, and third objectives are plainly laid out. There are a limited number of villages, so securing a reasonable amount of religious influence is the first priority. Aiming for larger villages is a good idea, as well, as you can maximize your distribution of influence.
3) Orders that require gold often provide a higher economic incentive (more yaks). It is tough to turn down the chance for religious or political influence, but economic influence wins the game. Take these order rings almost every time, as they let you increase your economic influence while wasting the least amount of religious and political opportunities.
4) Finally, there are often clusters of villages that contain goods and orders in the early game. It is not a bad idea to make your way toward the more far-flung villages after the first few turns, as the next goods/orders-containing villages may suddenly appear there, with little competition for you.
Like RoboRally, the programming phase of the turn can take a while, as players assess their best moves and attempt to second-guess their opponents. I find the time spent waiting for other players to settle on a program to be annoying, and it is the main reason that I am reluctant to play programming games now.
A timer may help.
Also, like RoboRally, when you run your program, it is fun and satisfying. The groans and cheers of those who made mistakes and those who got lucky breaks are a big part of what make this a fun game. This is the main reason that I continue to talk myself into programming games now.
My biggest knock on the game is the elimination aspect, as you may know at the halfway point that you are going to be eliminated on the basis of religious influence. This can put a bit of a chill on the rest of your game, as you can not even attempt to improve your rank in the game – you are, and will remain, in last place. A fix (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/14268) has been proposed, and I will use it next time we play.
So aside from game length and some questions about the victory conditions, I really like Himalaya, and I would recommend it for just about any group that likes strategy games with a fair amount of luck.
- Last edited Fri Jul 6, 2007 11:44 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Thu Jul 5, 2007 9:43 pm