Designed by Scott Caputo, Luke Laurie | Published by Bézier Games
2-4 Players | 60-90 Minutes
In this sequel to the game Whistle Stop from Bézier Games, years have passed since you conquered the west by building a railroad empire. Now you’re looking to further your growing business by investing in new technologies in the resource-rich Rocky Mountains.
In Whistle Mountain, you’re managing a fleet of hot air ships, building strange and amazing machines, training workers and gathering raw materials in an effort to build a bigger and better company than your competitors. As you build your machines higher, the snow begins to melt and the rising water levels could be disastrous for you, your resources and your workers.
Whistle Mountain is a very simple game with a vast set of choices and opportunities. You begin each game in a scenic valley somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. It’s in this setting, full of resources, where you’ll begin your pursuit of fortune, fame and achievement.
HOW THE GAME PLAYS
Players spend the game, void of rounds, taking turns one after the other. During your turn you have 2 options to choose from: Collect or Forge.
You begin the game taking command of a fleet of 3 airships, each with a different size. Players will take turns strategically placing their airships on the game board grid or on a machine. Placing your airship next to scaffolding and machines allow players opportunities to gather resources or other valuable commodities. Resources such as coal, iron, gold, water and whistles are the engine that allows players to expand and grow.
Players may also dock in one of the board’s many landings. Once docked, a player may spend resources to purchase scaffolding, upgrades or a variety of different size machines. Each ship has the freedom to dock at any unoccupied spot across the board.
Finally players have the option to Forge. Forging means you retrieve all your airships from the board and return them to your personal player board. Upon returning, players have the opportunity to spend resources and build scaffolding or machinery they’ve previously collected. Players aren’t required to place all 3 ships before advancing to the Forge phase. This type of move might limit the resources you gather, but could help you gain a strategic advantage over your opponents.
During the Forge phase, players may also move or rescue workers. At the beginning of the game each player starts with a certain number of players in the barracks. These workers can be moved to specific areas of the scaffolding waiting to participate in building a new machine and ultimately reaping rewards for the player. A certain number of workers start the game in the river below… don’t worry, they’re very good swimmers. These workers must first be rescued before they can be helpful. Beware: players seated too low on the scaffolding grid can be swept up in the rising river below leaving more works in need of rescuing.
Play continues until all workers have left the barracks in one shape or another through flooding or activity. Points are tallied and a winner is crowned.
COMPONENTS & ARTWORK
This game has components in spades from the die-cut game board and player boards to wooden tokens, square, gear-shaped and polynomial cardboard tiles, wooden meeples, awards, stars, a deck of cards, plastic holders and wooden airships. Everything feels great. The wooden components and thick, die-cut tiles do a great job of transporting you into the unique theme of the game. The airships are fun to hold in your hand and move around the board.
The artwork is a light-hearted take on the steampunk genre. While it’s not overly engaging, the color palette sets the stage well and does a decent job of enhancing the theme.
I think it’s fair to begin with my initial impression of the game. There are a TON of pieces to Whistle Mountain. On top of that, the iconography is highly diverse and extensive. Needless to say I felt completely overwhelmed. I patiently followed the very clearly presented rulebook and was able to advance past the setup without any casualties.
Once play began I was pleasantly surprised to find the mechanics to be easy to pick up and more importantly: FUN.
The game’s iconography was still a bit of a burden, but again, the rulebook provided a very thorough reference guide and I slowly began to pick up on it.
By the end of the first game I found myself really enjoying all the crazy components, the feel of the wooden tokens and the variety of actions. Instead of dreading the next icon, I was excited to research the benefit and explore all the game’s avenues.
The game’s puzzle is not just a race against your opponents, but an internal tug-of-war when determining your path to victory. By playing scaffolding or machines you’re providing future opportunities to yourself, but also to your opponents. The gameplay in Whistle Mountain is vey tight. Choosing to upgrade your personal board might mean a missed opportunity to advance a worker or gain a valuable resource. I can almost guarantee your opponents will capitalize so choose carefully. There are simply too many good choices and not enough opportunities.
As the game progresses and resources become more available, it really is a race to the finish with the more efficient choices coming out on top.
It took me a couple games before I began to get a real grasp of my personal strategy, but with so many game options you can easily play each game with a new focus.
NOT SO HOT?
• This game is a bear to set up. The box is full to the brim with baggies and pieces – you have to be committed when you pull this off the shelf. I’m a big advocate of group set ups… let’s do this one together! …Or perhaps this needs one of those fancy custom inserts.
• While I’m a fan of the steampunk genre (and this isn’t a full-on steampunk game), I have to admit the theme is a bit niche for mainstream gamers.
• I did mention before there are a lot of different iconography. Expect your first few games to be slowed down by them.
Whistle Mountain is a fun, imaginative puzzle with variety, quality components and satisfying mechanisms. From simply piecing together the polynomial scaffolding structure, building your personal resource engine, carefully placing new machines, drawing bonus cards and championing your workers to victory, this game has tons of diversity to keep you engaged. Featuring 17 different starting abilities, each game will be a completely new adventure with new paths and roads. The actions aren’t overly-complicated, but stringing together quality choices can lead to big rewards and hugely satisfying endings. Whistle Mountain is one of the most creative games of the year and easily one of the best.