Time to test out your rocket-powered skis, and what better place than Yeti Mountain? Sure, you might think Avalanche at Yeti Mountain teaches you about overreaching genius and unintended consequences–but (like Age of Ultron) it’s actually about outrunning your mistakes. And one cranky yeti.
At a glance: Avalanche on Yeti Mountain is a game by Matt Wolfe from Green Couch Games for 1 to 5 players, ages 8 and up, and takes about 20 minutes to play. It’s currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, with a pledge of $16 (plus shipping) for a copy of the game.
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Note: My photos of the game show a demo prototype and are not final components.
- 60 Mountain cards
- 5 player pawns
- 1 Yeti pawn
- 5 Rocket Status cards
- 2 Double-sided Speed Limit cards
- 1 Avalanche card with stand
The mountain cards have a number in the top left corner in a colored icon–black diamonds, blue squares, green circles, and yellow triangles. Each card also shows various paths–one for the skiers, multiple paths for the Yeti, and some lines across the snow marking the spaces for the avalanche.
The speed limit cards show the maximum collective speed for the group, based on the number of skiers still in the race.
The avalanche card will have an illustration of the avalanche on it, as well as a speed track with a clip. (My prototype copy just had a blank white card for the avalanche and a separate card to track the speed.)
There aren’t a lot of different illustrations–mostly the rocket skis, the mountain, and the avalanche–but they look nice and have a polished style. I subbed in my Meeple Source yeti meeple in place of the generic white pawn from the prototype, but the final game will have a custom yeti meeple that looks more like the one on the box cover.
How to Play
I’ll start with the rules for 3 to 5 players, since the 2-player and solitaire rules are variants.
The object of the game is to be the first player to the bottom of the mountain, or you can play a racing version to have the most points after three races.
To set up, shuffle all the cards and deal 4 to each player. Give each player a rocket status card. Then lay out 12 cards in a row on the table to form the mountain. Place the player pawns at the top of the mountain (to the left of the mountain cards), placed in random order. Place the Yeti and avalanche behind the players pawns, and the avalanche speed track nearby (the speed starts at 0).
Each turn, all players will select 1 or 2 cards to play, and then reveal them simultaneously. You may only play 2 cards if the symbols match. The cards you play will determine your speed for the round. However, the group also has to stay below a collective speed limit, or the fastest skier will crash and move only 1 space. The speed limit is determined by the number of pawns currently still racing.
Once everyone has revealed their cards, they will activate from the highest speed to the lowest. Ties go to the player who is further behind on the mountain. Move your skier along the ski paths (on both the blue and purple dots) the matching number of spaces.
You can also rocket jump–because what good are rocket skis if you don’t fire them up from time to time? If the card you played matches the card where your pawn started, you get to jump from your current location over the next card, and start counting spaces after that. Or, if you played two cards with matching symbols, that’s a wild and you can rocket jump with those. The catch is that each symbol (not counting wilds) can only be used once per round to activate a rocket jump, so if somebody faster than you uses a green circle, then your green circle is just a regular move. Of course, the rocket jumps are what set off the avalanche. Every time somebody successfully activates their rocket skis, increase the avalanche speed by 1.
Next, the player who is furthest from the bottom moves the Yeti. The Yeti moves the same speed as the fastest player this round, and moves along the purple paths (counting the Yeti faces as spaces, but sometimes intersecting the skier paths). The player moving the Yeti can take any of the branching paths, which allows it to jump to pretty much any card on the mountain quickly. However, it has to move only up or only down the mountain during a single turn and cannot change direction during a single turn. If the Yeti comes into contact with any skiers during its move, those players must flip over their rocket activation cards and cannot rocket jump during the next round.
Finally, the avalanche moves down the mountain according to the speed tracker. Each mountain card has 2 or 3 spaces on it for the avalanche. If the avalanche enters a space with a player pawn in it, that pawn is eliminated from the game (and, in case you’re worried, is then rescued by a helicopter and flown off the mountain). Eliminated players discard their cards.
All cards played this round are discarded and each player draws 1 card (even if they played 2). Then the next round begins.
The game ends when a player reaches the bottom of the mountain and wins the race, or if all players have been eliminated (in which case I suppose the Yeti wins).
For racing mode, you award points based on how quickly you get to the bottom: first place is worth 3 points, second place is 2 points, and third place is 1 point. Play 3 races and highest total score wins.
There are some other variant rules, like drafting cards at the end of each round instead of just drawing them. Another is a controlled speed variant, where your speed each round has to stay within 2 of your speed in the previous round. If you cannot, you crash and move only 1 space.
The 2-player variant is called “Lab Partners” and basically is just like the 4-player game, though each player controls two skiers. Each player has a total of 8 cards instead of four, and chooses cards for each of their skiers during the round.
Or, for solitaire play, it’s you vs. the Yeti. You increase the avalanche speed each time you play a card and each time you successfully rocket jump. You must use Controlled Speed rules. Finally, you draw a card each round to move the Yeti. If your card matches the symbol on the Yeti’s card, you move normally instead of rocket jumping. If you do rocket jump, the Yeti gets another card to move again. If the Yeti moves through your space, you lose a card. Win if you beat the Yeti to the bottom of the mountain.
Green Couch Games has been publishing what it calls “great little games.” They’re small-box games, usually without a lot of complicated components, and are generally fairly easy to pick up and play. So far they’ve published Fidelitas and successfully funded two more, Best Treehouse Ever and JurassAttack, all three of which I’ve reviewed here on GeekDad. I think Avalanche at Yeti Mountain goes nicely with the others: it’s a quick game both to learn and to play, and has a mix of luck and strategy without having so many choices that it gets bogged down.
For my kids, the game is mostly about trying to rocket-jump. They play a matching symbol if they can, or two matching cards for a wild–but you can only do that so many times, since you’ll run yourself out of cards. And they aren’t always taking into account the collective speed limit, or whether there are other players who may be playing the same symbol. And they certainly aren’t counting ahead to find out if they’ll land on a space where the Yeti can get them.
There is, however, some deeper strategy to be had for more experienced players. Sure, there’s a lot of luck and you don’t know what cards the other players have. However, you do know the speed limit and you can try to push the group over the speed limit without having the highest speed. It’s also important to save your rocket jumps for times when they’ll be the most effective. For instance, rocket-jumping over a “5” card only jumps you over a single space. You could have traveled that far easily with a regular move without increasing the avalanche speed. Jumping over a “1” card, however, saves you five spaces–something that would have taken a high card (risking a crash) to get past.
It can be hard to predict where exactly you’ll land, since you end up skipping over other pawns. However, depending on the placement and how quickly you’re moving, sometimes you can plan a little bit. At the very least, you can try not to land on a purple space of your own volition.
I do prefer playing with at least three players. The two-player game is all right, and some players may enjoy the extra knowledge you get by controlling two skiers at once (particularly when it comes to exceeding the speed limit), but I like being responsible for just one skier.
Not everyone likes games with player elimination, and if the avalanche catches you, you’re out of the game. Fortunately, it’s a pretty short game, but it’s still not as fun to sit and watch while everyone keeps playing.
The Kickstarter campaign is a very straightforward one: pledge for a single copy, or get 5 copies at a discount. There are some stretch goals planned if the campaign does well, but they haven’t been announced yet.
Overall, I think Avalanche at Yeti Mountain is a nice addition to the Green Couch Games lineup. For experienced gamers, it’s going to be more of a filler game, but it’s hefty enough for casual gamers and younger players. I like the somewhat silly theme, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it looks with all the final artwork and components.
For more information, check out the Kickstarter page.
Disclosure: I received a prototype for review.