We received a prototype copy of Camp Pinetop for this preview. We reserved the right to request a finished copy once the campaign is over. We weren’t otherwise compensated.
In Camp Pinetop, each player’s troop of scouts will seek to be the first to earn enough merit badges to be promoted from Possum all the way to Badger, the loftiest goal a wilderness scout can hope to achieve. Each rank has multiple possible routes to promotion, but all require increasing numbers of merit badges.
Badges are earned by players as they trek over the randomly-distributed Camp Pinetop wilderness. Each time a player moves one of their scout meeples, they have the opportunity to pay supply cards in order to earn the merit badge for the icon they have just moved onto.
Supply cards are drafted from a face-up market of cards, or blind-drawn off the top of the supply deck. Each supply card matches one of the three camp types, and one of the four skill types, depending on how they are used. Normally, players can only draft from one side or the other of the face-up cards, but like nearly every other action in Camp Pinetop, that can be improved by acquiring merit badges.
Merit badges are the key to victory in Camp Pinetop, and the more you earn, the more effective your scouts will be. Each one confers either a 1-time benefit, some persistent improvement on your actions, or discounts on future badge purchases.
Each class of badge can be upgraded beyond the basics, giving players even more dynamic abilities. It’s really fun to gain some of these advantages, as it really changes what your troop is capable of each turn. And since each rank can be earned by different possible combinations of badges, it’s possible to alter your strategy a bit on the fly.
As a 2 player game, Camp Pinetop is excellent. More players means a bigger forest, but it also means more crowding, and players have to hand over supply cards to opponents they share spaces with. That can make for some sticky moments later in the game, but it’s also the extent of the direct player interaction in Camp Pinetop.
On the whole, Camp Pinetop is a decidedly charming game. Even for a prototype, the art is great, the iconography clear, and the gameplay is incredibly accessible. The drafting rules are reminiscent of something like Ticket to Ride, but Camp Pinetop is a race to acquire those badges, and with each one you get, your strategy will change and grow. It’s a quick, lovely little experience that we think will be lots of fun for basically anyone.
Camp Pinetop goes to Kickstarter on 9/24, and we’ll update with links as soon as it goes live. We highly recommend checking the campaign out, and look forward to many more adventures in Camp Pinetop!