Full disclosure: A preview copy of Nanga Parbat was provided by Dr. Finn’s Games. Some art, gameplay, or other aspects of the game may change between this preview and the fulfillment of the Kickstarter, should it fund, as this is a preview of a currently unreleased game.
Hey, look at that, I’m a bit ahead of the curve! I offered to get these reviews out a bit earlier so that the games could be passed on to other reviewers, so, really, I’m just powering through something now that I’m planning on doing later. Doing reviews early or late is kind of irrelevant, I guess? They’re all just “things I have to do before some point in the future”, I suppose. I’m hoping I can get enough cover from doing these that I can make some cool moves happen in August, though. We’ll see! Either way, I’ve got two reviews for two new Dr. Finn games coming, so, get hyped. Is this the first review? Is it the second? Impossible to say. Let’s get to it, though!
In Nanga Parbat, you play as Nepalese mountaineers, climbing into the local mountains, building camps, and capturing animals to trade with other folks. Your opponents also are doing that, so, naturally, some friendly competition starts to brew. You’ll have to push your luck and reach new heights if you want to win this one; will you be able to beat your opponents to the summit? Or is this going to be the one mountain that’s just too high?
Not a ton! Give each player a player board:
And the tokens in their color:
Set the main board in the center of the play area:
Have each player place one of their cubes on the 0 / 25 space. Add the animal tokens randomly to the 36 spots:
You should be good to start! Have the second player place the yellow Guide Meeple on any of the flags numbered 1 – 6:
This one’s also pretty straightforward. The game is played over (at most) 15 rounds, in which each player takes a turn. Your turn isn’t too complicated! You start by choosing a spot in the same location as the Guide Meeple. The spot you choose must have an animal meeple on it. You take that animal and add it to your Player Board, replacing it with one of your Hiker Meeples. Then, move the Guide Meeple to that number’s location on the board (if you picked an animal on a 4, move the Guide Meeple to the 4 Region).
By and large, that’s most of it. Four of the six animals have effects that can activate, so you can use as many of those on a turn as you want (and you can activate its ability as soon as you take it). Note that each animal may only be used once, so slide it downwards once you’ve used its ability. The other two animals are a wild animal (useful for trading) and an animal that gives you +1 VP immediately. One note, though: if you ever would stop on the same scoring space as your opponent’s cube, move one space extra. It’s a free point!
Speaking of scoring, there are a few different ways to earn points. Groups of contiguous hikers can be converted into camps, resulting in points for the specific size of the group. If you choose to score them, remove the hikers and replace them with camps, and then place a cube on a square in the top left corner corresponding to the number of hikers removed. Keep in mind, though, if that space is taken, you either need to wait and get more hikers or settle for fewer hikers and a lower score! The hikers are removed from the game. Same goes for sets of the same animal or sets of all different animals; that’s the push your luck element of the game. Animals can be traded in regardless of whether or not they’ve been activated. Note that you may only place one scoring cube per turn.
After all hikers have been played or once one player has run out of score cubes, the game ends after both players have taken the same number of turns! The player with the highest score wins!
For a quick variant, go through each region and award players with 4 / 5 / 6 hikers or camps in that region 1 / 2 / 3 bonus points. See how that affects your games!
Player Count Differences
None! This game only supports two players.
- Try to pin your opponent. You should be working pretty constantly to back your opponent into spots that it’s hard for them to get out of. One way I work to do this is by always going after the animal that lets you move the Guide; once those are used up, my opponent is stuck wherever I send them. If I can do that, then I can also flexibly move myself into advantageous positions that they can’t escape from. And that’s how I win.
- Going for the wild animals is a good idea, but don’t let yourself be tricked into making mistakes. This is a common new player goof. Wild animals are useful because they can be easily converted for points, but if you make it clear your goal is to collect them all, the other player can leverage that against you so that you can be forced into increasingly bad spots.
- The +1 VP animal is fine, but getting it to jump over your opponent is better. Taking this first is okay; taking it second is better. That way, when you get the +1, you would land on your opponent’s square, so you get a +2 instead. That’s a whole bonus point, for free.
- It’s worth taking the 3-of-a-kind bonuses relatively early, in order to better restrict your opponent’s late-game options. Just, in doing so, don’t allow your opponent to claim all the high-value bonuses on the board or you’ll be experiencing a deficit that’s hard to come back from.
- Try to invest in splitting up your opponent’s camps so that they can’t score too often. This is definitely a power move, but trying to limit your opponent to groups of two Hikers or fewer does make it impossible for them to score on that front, which can be huge for you. Naturally, you’d rather get to 6 yourself, but if you can prevent them scoring entirely (or at least for as long as you can), that’s going to be very valuable.
- Forcing your opponent back to the same location is good, but you run the risk of letting them build up a large camp base. Once they’ve done that, they can cash in for a lot of points. You’d like to avoid that, so, instead, try to divert them around to each location on the board. Not entirely at random, but enough that it’s hard for them to plan or attempt to thwart your plans. Plus, if you’re playing with the variant, forcing them to play wide means that they will miss out on bonus points that you wouldn’t.
- Try to figure out what animals your opponent needs or wants, and then direct them to locations that don’t have that animal. This one is pretty basic, but it is worth mentioning. Worst case, they then have to use one of their animal abilities to get the animal they want, meaning you just wasted that ability for them. And that’s good!
- Be petty! Use your abilities to mess up your opponent. I’ve definitely moved my opponent’s hikers around to try and break up their scoring potential. It’s incredibly rude, but it can totally win you the game. If you’re going last, also consider being the one to end the game. You may be able to use that to get the drop on your opponent and win!
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I love the animal tokens! They’re very fun and a variety of colors. We love that kind of thing around here.
- It’s also got great art. I particularly like the player boards and the main board. The graphic design is crisp, clean, and makes quick sense (very appreciated), and the board art is very pleasant in color and style. Combine that with the fun of having all the animal tokens and for a small game it’s got a great table presence.
- I think a place where this shines is the almost chesslike notes of trying to trap your opponent and outwit them by thinking several moves ahead. I think it’s a great little game for that. It reminds me of that recursive tic-tac-toe where you play in a square and then move to that square’s location in the larger meta-square, which is fun and interesting for me.
- Relatively low complexity, too. It’s surprisingly simple for what it is. You just choose an animal and then move to that numbered location. That’s the whole game, with a bit of extra set collection. I think it’s a great fit for the line of games from Dr. Finn, at least among the ones I’ve played.
- Plays pretty quickly. The nice thing about low-complexity games is that it’s easy to pick up and play, so the games don’t take a particularly long time, either. I think that’s a nice feature of these types of games.
- The animal abilities lead to some interesting prioritization and strategy, which is always nice. As I mentioned in the Strategy section, it’s imperative that you use these abilities to mess with your opponent or help yourself collect the sets that you need to score even more points. I think that it’s a nice touch that helps it avoid being too abstract of a game.
- It would be nice if the tokens were a bit bigger. The whole game could benefit a bit from being larger; it’s fairly common for players with larger hands to kinda move stuff around accidentally. I think this is a problem I had with both of the games I was sent, though, so it might just be that I’m feeling larger games at this time in my life?
- Having the scoreboard wrap around at 25 leads to some really unintuitive math. This is probably my biggest gripe about the game, by far; I’ve only generally seen scoreboards (or at least I prefer them) that wrap around on a multiple of 10; this means if you’re going from 21 to 43 and the board wraps at 30, you know you’re at 17. Simple math. If you’re going from 21 to 42, and the board wraps at 35, suddenly that’s a hiccup in the math. It’s not … that hard, but it’s definitely unintuitive.
Overall: 7.5 / 10
Overall, I think Nanga Parbat is a solid title! I think it doesn’t necessarily have all the bells and whistles that the Discerning Kickstarter customer may want, as it’s a relatively light game with few additional components. That said, I think it’s a lot of fun! I really like the abstract aspects of the game and how straightforward it is to set up and play. I partially think the big hook for me is all the tiny animal pieces, yes, but I would definitely not mind a larger physical version of the game (though I assume the game’s current size has its own advantages, likely around portability and price). I’m generally not big on area control-style games, but I think this has a bit more of a set collection feel to it than pure area control, as you have to get groups of similar or dissimilar things to score points. That also contributes to the nice push your luck effect, where you may decide to hold on to what you have for longer to try and score more points, only for your opponent to swoop you (or worse, end the game before you have a chance to score those points). Either way, I think generally it’s a good vibe for the game, and I’ve enjoyed playing it each time I’ve gotten it to the table. I’ll be interested to see what the Kickstarter has in store for it, but in the meantime, if you’re looking for a kinda-abstract game with a bit of set collection, I would definitely suggest you should try Nanga Parbat! I’ve had quite a bit of fun with it.