Ken and I sat down to play my copy Timber Tom. I had played two prior two-player games with my wife, who was not enamoured with the game, mostly because of the "take that" aspect of constantly having trees planted in your way. Ken, however, has no issue with that type of game mechanic. Having just heard about the game on a podcast, he was eager to give it a go.
Since Ken already knew many of the rules from the podcast review, it took just five minutes to fill in the rest, and to show him some examples of movement and planting trees. This really is an easy game to teach, so we were soon sending our mountaineers on their way. Based on my previous games, I recommended we play all four mountains, as it takes longer for the trees to populate with only two players. I feel this also provides more opportunities for clever play.
Note - I took a couple of extra minutes to explain the Rogue Bear expansion, but due to the lateness of the hour, we decided to just play the base game. I hope to unleash the bear soon!
A Surprising Start
As Ken was the newbie, I let him go first. To be fair, I pointed out that both Helipads were reachable on the first turn. Ken decided to use a Helipad and immediately flew to Half Moon Range.
I had previously posted a question on BGG regarding always using a Helipad on your first turn. I received several good replies, including one from the designer, as to why this isn't always a good idea. Since we were playing a four-mountain game, I decided to start slowly and conserve my resources. I also hadn't tried to leave the Base Camp island before via the islands between Half Moon Range and Oblong Peak, so I headed that way.
As I slowly made my way towards Oblong Peak, Ken continued burning through his resources. He used supply packs to move extra spaces, axed a couple of trees from his path, and used an early radio to fly to the high-altitude hut on Half Moon Range. He had his first bag of gold before I had reached the 1500 level on Oblong Peak. I was starting to wonder if I had fallen too far behind to catch up.
After retrieving his first bag of gold, Ken hoofed it over to Wolf Mountain, where he burned his last radio to again fly to the high-altitude hut. At this point I was thinking, "Well, he's got a nice early lead, but he's almost out of helicopter resources. It's going to be slow slog for him for the rest of the game. If I time my flights well, I might be able to catch up."
Meanwhile, I had retrieved my bag from Oblong Peak and had used a Helipad to fly to Half Moon Range. I decided to stick with my conservative strategy, and trudged up Half Moon Range, rather than use a radio. By this point in the game, Ken was getting a little better at predicting where I was planning to go, and was placing his trees better. I had been winning the tree placement battle, but because Ken wasn't conserving his helicopter resources, he was moving too fast for the trees to proliforate around him.
I Didn't See That Coming
After Ken got his bag from Wolf Mountain, he was really low on resources. He had one heli-flight token, an axe or two, and that's about it. I figured he'd try to walk to Tin Peak. Instead, he chopped he way back to the Helipad and flew to Base Camp island! He figured he might as well burn most of his resources on the first half of the game, then resupply for the second half. I honestly hadn't thought of this strategy. I planted a couple of trees to force him to take two turns to get back to camp, but he made it and resupplied back to full. At this point, I figured I had lost. Even if I did the same thing that he did, he would be several turns ahead of me.
While Ken was at base camp, I got my second bag of gold from Half Moon Range. Fully resupplied, Ken flew off to Tin Peak. At this point, I decide I had better hit the gas, so I radioed the chopper and flew to a low-altitude hut to get back my axes. I decided to walk across the river to Wolf Mountain so I could spend more time on the lower altitudes and thus plant more trees. It worked, as I was able to slow Ken down a bit around Tin Peak. He used a radio to fly to the high-altitude hut, but had to do a lot of tree cutting to get back down the mountain, including using his (second) chainsaw. It looked like I was catching up.
Ratsin' Fratsin' River
However, it's risky trying to walk across the river, as you need good die roles to get to a good landing spot on Wolf Mountain. I started a turn in the middle of the bridge, and only needed to roll a four or higher to reach a radio hot spot. Naturally, I rolled a three. I decided to go for broke and burned my last heli-flight to move two extra spaces, then used my last radio to fly to the high-altitude hut. Now I was out of helicopter resources, but at least I was close to my third bag.
Things Tighten Up
As I got my third bag of gold, Ken worked his way to a helipad and flew to Oblong Peak. Since I had started the game on Oblong, there were already quite a few trees there. I was walking from Wolf Mountain to Tin Peak, so I had plenty of trees to plant in Ken's way. He still managed to get to a hotspot and flew to the high-altitude hut. Of course I had expected this, and had planted the heck out of that area. This forced him to use an axe and go up on the snow cap along the edge of the board. He now only had one axe and a couple of supply packs left.
I got lucky when I was on the top of Wolf Mountain and had drawn a Wild Card. Once I got on the far side of the small mountain between Wolf Mountain and Tin Peak, I used my Wild Card to move 6+2 spaces, getting across the Split River and onto Tin Peak. Unfortunately, I miscounted my landing spot, and was too close to the high-altitude hut. This gave Ken more time to thicken the forest around that hut. I was out of supply packs, so I had to get to that hut. I spent my last axe and my chainsaw to get on the mountain top. By the time I could retrieve my bag of gold, Ken had almost surrounded the peak with trees. My ability to get off the peak depended on rolling a 4+ on the die - I rolled a 4!
At this point, Ken said I had won the game. I was on the ridge of Tin Peak, and could either head towards Base Camp island, or try to get to a low-altitude hut to get some tree chopping tools. Ken had gotten off the top of Oblong Peak, but was having trouble getting back down, as I had planted copious quantities of trees in his way. I had effectively blocked off access to all huts, and he apparently wanted to save his last axe, so he just kept working his way down the mountain. He eventually had to use a canoe to cross the river, using up his last supply pack.
The Home Stretch
Now we were both on Tin Peak and heading for Base Camp. I was closer to the island, but I had no supplies except for one supply pack. I could go out of my way to get to an axe hut, or sprint for the island. Since it was getting really late and I was tired, I decided to rush the island. Unfortunately, I couldn't advance far enough to avoid getting blocked by trees. I had to cross over Base Camp island to try to get some axes, but Ken kept blocking me. He eventually made it to the island, and was able to use his last axe to reach Base Camp and win the game.
This was a great game of Timber Tom. I hadn't expected a two-player game to be so strategic, but it really felt like there was a lot of ebb and flow to the game. Ken and I tried very different strategies, but we mananged to be really close at the end. It took us about 1:45 to play the game, but we're both AP-prone turn optimizers, so this is not a fault of the game. The game didn't feel that long.
We forgot the "one-for-one" rule until almost the end of the game, so we agreed not to use it. Remembering that rule would have helped me get axes on my last mountain, but it's not clear if I would have won. Next time we'll remember that rule, and hopefully set loose the Rogue Bear!
If you're still with me, thanks for reading.
Good write-up! I too thought you were hopelessly behind, especially after his resupply.
But I'm finding that no assumptions can be made about who's leading in this game; all of ours, two, three or four-player, have come down to the wire for at least two, sometimes all four contenders.
This is a great, great game.
This session report makes me really want to get this game. Thanks.