I had the chance to play Mâamut at the Cannes Games Festival, with the author himself, Alain Epron.
Alain created his own publishing company for this game: Krok Nik Douil.
You are the mighty mammoth hunter of your tribe and it is your responsibility to capture the great beast to bring food, pelts and ivory to your fellow clansmen.
But you are not alone on the plain today, the neighboring tribes have also sent their best hunter.
The winner will be the first hunter to capture the mammoth.
Mâamut comes with a set of hexagonal tiles of three different kinds for the various landscapes: grass, ice and rocks. There is an additional special tile: the mammoths cemetery.
You start by building the board by placing the tiles around the cemetery which will always be in the center.
For the first plays, a configuration is suggested.
The mammoth is placed in the center, on the cemetery tile.
Players will then each get three movement cards and will place their hunter (meeple) on any tile of the outside perimeter.
In order to capture the mammoth, you will need to make it fall into one of your traps. Each player starts with four traps.
A trap can only be laid on a grass tile (you can't dig ice or rocks).
On your turn, you can do one of the following four actions:
- lay a trap
- remove a trap (yours or someone else's)
- discard a card to draw a new one
- move your hunter
Laying a trap
This action is very simple. Your hunter must be on a grass tile, must be alone and there musn't be another trap already on the tile. You then take one of your trap and place it on the tile. If you've already placed your four tiles, you can't do this action.
Removing a trap
If your hunter is standing on a trap and is alone on the tile, he can remove the trap. This can be used to remove an opponent's trap, but also to get back one of your own if you ran out of traps.
Simple. Discard a card from your hand and draw a new one.
Moving is really where the meat of the game is.
You move by playing a card from your hand. On the cards, you will see an number of feet: one foot, two feet, or three feet.
This represents how many spaces your hunter is going to move. You have to move in a straight line and you have to be able to move exactly the number of spaces indicated by the card.
Obviously you cannot move outside of the board, but you also cannot move on rocks tile. You are only allowed to move on ice and grass (and the cemetery).
Note that the same restrictions apply to the mammoth (ice, grass and cemetery only, no rocks).
If your path doesn't cross the mammoth, then that is all that happens, you just move from one place to the other.
If you do cross the mammoth (either you land on the same tile or you move past it), the beast gets scared and it will flee.
If it can, the mammoth will always flee in the same direction your are moving and move the same amount of spaces. But sometimes it can't because that would mean crossing a rock tile (which is forbidden) or moving out of the board. If that happens, the mammoth will take the next direction, in clockwise order, that allows its full movement.
If by moving the mammoth crosses a hunter tile, the hunter will step aside to an adjacent tile.
If by moving the mammoth steps on a trap, he is captured and the owner of the trap has won the game.
In the very rare case where the mammoth doesn't have any valid direction to go to, he will charge the hunter and hill him.
The game is very different depending on how many players there are.
I've only played with three and four players.
According to the designer, the two player game is extremely strategic, each player trying the place his traps on the best tiles and trying to prevent the other player from capturing the mammoth.
The four player game is more chaotic but also more fun, each player trying to outrun the others and removing all the traps he can. It is also much shorter because the mammoth quite quickly gets cornered.
The three players game is somewhere in between and is probably the version I like the best.
Mâamut is a game with very simple rules and is quite short. A four players game will last no more than 30 minutes, while a two or three players game will be somewhere in between 30 minutes to an hour.
The modular board makes every game very different
What is really striking in this game is how well the theme sticks to the mechanisms. You really feel like you are hunting a mammoth and every rule in the game is according to the theme.
All in all, this is a very good game with nice mechanism, a great theme, simple rules and a short playing time.