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Awards

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • 6 maps to get your crampons stuck into.
  • Varied levels of difficulty and complexity.
  • The tense push/pull between speed and survival.
  • Excellent value

Might Not Like

  • 2 of the maps have no solo rules.
  • The South Face of Lhotse map takes the complexity beyond what I need from this game.
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K2: Big Box Review

K2 BIG BOX

K2 is a thematic race/survival game for 1 to 5 players that, frankly, I don’t think gets nearly enough love. This big box version was a 2020 rerelease of the 2010 original, this time including all expansion content. It’s time to once more grab your players and head to the Himalayas.

Crampons and Ice Axes

K2 is a game where the designer’s love of the theme shines through. This is not a simple case of racing to the top; your climber’s health is of paramount importance. They must be appropriately climatised, look to take advantage of breaks in the weather and pitch their tents in opportune positions, if they are to make it above 8000 metres.

This is achieved through a card play/management system, where players assign 3 movement or acclimatisation cards between their 2 climbers. Reaching certain heights on the mountain will start to weaken your climbers. Poor weather can have a further detrimental impact and so, to be successful, you need to manage the health of each climber and ensure you have the right cards at the right time for a push to the summit.

Anyone who has seen the news footage of climbers lined up on the slopes of K2, like they are awaiting check-in at Heathrow, will know that space can get tight on the mountain. The higher up you go, the tighter it gets, to the extent that blocking an opponents’ retreat to safety, when they have overstretched, is a legitimate strategy. You can be even more ruthless than Bill Paxton’s Elliot Vaughn in Vertical Limit in this game!

A Big-Yet-Manageable-Box

This Bix Box version of K2, is, I’m pleased to report, big on content, but not on shelf space. The box is still only the size of a standard Ticket-to-Ride box, yet is full of content enough to satisfy the most eager of meeple-pushing mountaineer.

Along with the original double sided K2 map (and 2 sets of weather tiles - there’s 4 gameplay combinations right away), K2: The Big Box also includes the Broad Peak and Lhotse expansions for 2 more double sided maps and further rules variations that I shall delve into shortly. There is also the Avalanche mini expansion that, unsurprisingly, introduces avalanches to the weather tiles.

Broad Peak consists of 2 contrasting maps. The first, Race to the Top, recreates the accomplishment of Krzysztof Wielicki, whom became the first man in history to conquer 8000 metres in the alpine style. No tent, only a small pack.

As such, Race to the Top sees players using only a single mountaineer and the game lasts 15 turns instead of the usual 18. No tent means players instead construct snow caves; temporary tents that disappear after 2 turns.

I enjoy this map and may consider using it to teach to new players, given they only need to worry about a single playing piece. This map is also soloable too, and plays in a suitably rapid 30 minutes or less.

The second map is the Broad Peak Traverse. This recreates the first Broad Peak Traverse, completed by Wojciech Kurtyka and Jerzy Kukuczka, also in 1984.

This map awards points for attaining each of the 3 peaks, but also a bonus for making it across the map from one side to the other, completing the traverse.

This opens up some interesting tactical plays, as climbers can dip above and below 7000 metres on the traverse, balancing the need for remaining healthy and avoiding the worst of the weather, with speed across the map. It’s an excellent addition, providing additional goals from the standard K2 formula of getting as high as you can, keeping alive and being first.

Lhotse also features 2 differing maps. The South Col Race is another recreation of a speedy ascent, similar to Broad Peak’s Race to the Top. This time, aside from the shortened game length, it follows standard K2 rules. It gets very tight for space above 7000 metres and is a nice way to mix up your games of K2, but it is basically the same thing with a different layout of spaces.

From one of the simpler maps, to probably the most complex; The South Face is an altogether different proposition. Like its treacherous namesake (the south face has only been conquered by one team, at the time of the game’s publication), The South Face is one for experienced players of K2.

It introduces 3 peaks, new weather tiles that provide different weather conditions for the these 3 parallel sections and rope tokens. These allow climbers to traverse across from one route to another. Players may wish to do this to find a clearer path, or to avoid adverse weather conditions, such as the newly introduced landslide effects.

All this adds up to a map that provides significant additional challenges, when compared with the base game. Personally, it’s one I play more rarely due to the complexity and it perhaps moves away from the ease of play that I enjoy about all of the other map options.

The View from the Summit

Therein lies the beauty of this K2: The Big Box collection. There are options for players. You may love all of them. You may find your preferred way of playing. Either way, there is undoubtedly plenty of value to be had in this attractively priced package.

I’m glad I joined the K2 board game expedition. I’m not looking to get off the mountain any time soon.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • 6 maps to get your crampons stuck into.
  • Varied levels of difficulty and complexity.
  • The tense push/pull between speed and survival.
  • Excellent value

Might not like

  • 2 of the maps have no solo rules.
  • The South Face of Lhotse map takes the complexity beyond what I need from this game.

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