K2 is a hand-management, point-to-point movement game designed by Adam Kałuża, by Portal Games. While yes, it is a race of sorts to reach the mountain’s summit, it’s also a game of survival. Here, you need to keep your brave mountaineers alive for the game’s duration, or else their strenuous efforts will have been in vain.
Players each have two mountaineers that start in Base Camp at the bottom of the board. A duplicate pair, as scoring markers, sit on the parallel scoring track. As these mountaineeples ascend, so to will their corresponding score marker – if they go above 6,000 feet, for example, they’ll enter the two- to-four victory points territory. A maximum of 10 points are available if they make it to the glorious apex. Therefore, 20 points is the perfect score – getting both of team members to the summit.
However, this is easier said than done!
Each player has a deck of 18 cards, which comprise of both movement and health cards. You’ll shuffle these, and deal yourself a hand of six cards. Simultaneously, every player will secretly pick three of their cards to play this turn, and then everyone reveals. In turn order you activate your cards – either moving point-to-point up K2, or handing out much-needed acclimatisation points to your climbers.
The higher you climb, the more points are required to move into spaces, and the mountain’s routes become tighter. You can pay out movement points to instead pitch a tent (to protect you against the elements). Often this decision can be the difference between life and death!
Once everyone has played, your climbers will lose (or gain) health depending on their current location on the mountain. The weather also impacts climbers in specific heights on the mountain (everyone can see the next few days’ forecast, so can plan accordingly). Then everyone gets dealt another three cards to bring their hand size back up to six and play resumes.
If ever your mountaineers lose their last health point, they are eliminated from the game. They’ll score a paltry one point, regardless of how high they make it up the ‘Savage Mountain’. Herein lies the exhilaration that is seeped throughout K2 – it’s more than a race or a matter of pride. It’s about keeping both of your climbers alive.
After 18 gruelling days (rounds, in which players will have cycled through their decks three times), players tot up points for both of their climbers’ highest pinnacle, and the most points wins the game. Ties are broken by whomever has reached the peak first, so despite what we said earlier, you cannot afford to ignore the racing element!
Designer Adam Kałuża is a mountaineer himself, and it shows. K2 manages to capture all of the tension and drama of a dangerous hike, and players will soon become very attached to their little wooden climbers. Even on the ‘easy’ side of the board, with the kinder, less harsh of the two sets of weather tiles available, K2, like so many adrenaline-drenched adventures, is not about the destination. It’s about the journey.
Player Count: 1-5
Time: 60 Minutes