A board game about skiing downhill while avoiding a yeti? Sort of like SkiFree? Sure, let’s do it!
Avalanche at Yeti Mountain – from designer Matt Wolfe and publisher Green Couch Games – isn’t exactly like the classic video game, of course. For one thing it’s more about racing than it is about avoiding obstacles (there aren’t any obstacles, really). There’s definitely a yeti, though, and you definitely don’t want it to catch up with you. Okay so maybe it’s nothing like SkiFree except for the skiing and the yeti, but it’s still pretty fun.
Whether you’re playing solo or with up to five players, the goal is to stay ahead of the approaching avalanche and get your skier to the bottom of the mountain first. You’d think things might get a little take that-y, with skiers jostling for position and whatnot, but for the most part it’s just a straight up race. One player can prevent another from performing a rocket jump (more on that later), and they could move the yeti to intentionally mess with their rivals, but that’s pretty much the full extent of it.
Every turn consists of everyone simultaneously choosing a card to play, revealing their cards, then dealing with the outcome. The natural response will be to always play the highest value cards in order to go faster, but because of the speed limit that may not always be the best idea. If the card played also matches the section of mountain that player is currently on, they can potentially perform a rocket jump that will fling them over the next card on the mountain (for a price). Using two matching cards (i.e. two greens, two blues, etc) can also activate a rocket jump, but it’s a gamble because you’ll only ever draw one card at the end of a round – meaning playing two cards will effectively cut your hand size down for the rest of the game.
Right, so, Avalanche at yeti Mountain has a pretty clever mix of overlapping mechanics. 12 of the cards are needed to make the mountain, while the rest of them are used by players to determine their speed and whether or not they can performa rocket jump. There’s a speed limit that’s determined by the number of players and will adjust itself if and when anyone is eliminated. The yeti is player-controlled (by whoever’s in last place) and will mess up rockets, but it won’t set anyone back or result in instant elimination. Any time the avalanche catches up with a player, they’re removed from the game – but the avalanche’s speed is increased by rocket jumps so really it’s the players who make it dangerous for themselves. The interplay between these elements is pretty great, honestly.
It’s all fairly straightforward in practice. Really, the only problem is the player elimination aspect, which can leave someone out within the first couple of turns if things go badly enough. Thankfully Avalanche at Yeti Mountain plays quickly, so there isn’t too much downtime. Mostly.
Andrew: **Here used to be a passage about the 2-player rules, which we somehow managed to totally misunderstand. Whereas it seemed arbitrary and random, it is apparently strategic and awesome. Totally our mistake!**
Solo mode is quite a bit different. Instead of trying to beat a bunch of other players, it’s you versus the yeti. You’re still racing to the bottom, but you have a bit more control (just a bit) over how the avalanche progresses since there aren’t any other players to muck things up. That yeti is fast, though. It’s not easy, but the solitaire variant is entertaining enough for what it is.
Ultimately, Avalanche at Yeti Mountain is a good bit of filler. It’s quick to play, simple to learn, and isn’t too frustrating when things go wrong. I wouldn’t call it captivating or a must play or anything like that, but it’s decent fun that can effectively pass the time while a more complicated game is being set up.
(Thanks to Green Couch Games for providing our review copy. Their generosity didn’t influence our opinions)