#890 – 7 Summits [Mini]

Base price: $20.
2 – 5 players.
Play time: 30 – 40 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)
Logged plays: 2

Full disclosure: A review copy of 7 Summits was provided by Deep Water Games.

I was really stoked, because I thought I was getting three weeks ahead, only to realize that in the time I had thought that, another week had gone by, and suddenly I was back to only being two weeks ahead. I’m not going to abide it. I’ll figure out a way around it, but it looks like the only solution to my problems is to just … write more. So I’m writing! We’ve got another Deep Water Games title, here; this reminds me that I need to get Gladius to the table again sometime soon. I have so many games that are firmly in the “ah, once I can host an event with 3+ people again” pile, and what a glorious day that will be. But in the meantime, let’s focus on the task at hand. One mountain at a time.

In 7 Summits, you mean to climb them all. Seven continents, seven peaks, and some of your best rivals at your back trying to beat you to it. Unfortunately, you are finite and cannot be in seven places at once, so it’s very possible your rivals will beat you to a few. But you’re pretty sure you can make a name for yourself as the greatest mountaineer despite that. Or, at least, you’re going to try to. Can you successfully climb every mountain?

Contents

Player Count Differences

Yeah, we didn’t love this at two players. With two, you’re kind of at a weird impasse of “either I’m first or you’re first”, which defeats some of the urgency of getting … anywhere, I feel like. I suppose, once one player hits the top, it’s still important to get up there for the second-place points, but all it really does is make me just turn my focus elsewhere and worry about that mountain, instead. With more players, it’s a bit more interesting, since the drafting also tends to be more compelling, as well. Additionally, Teamwork fires off a lot more with three than it does with two, so more players tends to increase the interaction threshold a lot. The challenge is, the board isn’t quite big enough to hold a ton of climber meeples on the same space, so the board starts to lose some of its utility as you approach five players, unless you have some truly gracious types who are cool playing the game entirely upside-down. Doesn’t solve the meeples-on-spaces problem, but at least makes it so you don’t have to have everyone on the same side of the table, I suppose. I’d probably say three or four players is about the best possible count for this one.

Strategy

  • Sometimes you’re going to just have to go for it. Just throw the dice, take the big risk, and try to summit the peak in one! It can sometimes be the difference between winning and losing, much to the consternation of other players, if you can get the right roll enough times.
  • Equipment is your friend. Some equipment can boost you up a peak, help mitigate bad rolls, keep you above the plateau, or move everyone up the mountain, for instance. Having a good hand of Equipment Cards can give you a lot of options, especially if you’re looking to make an otherwise-speedy ascent.
  • Discovery Tokens can be handy, especially in the early-game. The reason I recommend Discovery Tokens in the early game is that some of them allow you to move up one space on certain mountains, which doesn’t benefit you as much once you’ve already … done that. So if you get enough of them beforehand, you can reap the benefits while the benefits still have some additional utility to them. That said, some of them are pure points, which are always useful.
  • Making friends with another player who’s behind the leader can benefit you both. Racking up that Teamwork skill can really benefit you both, since it’ll help you move up the mountains and can quickly propel you up Everest, a bit. Just be careful; you’re still competing with that player, as well, so if you both are working together, it’s because you both think that you can still end up winning over the other one. Make sure they don’t know something that you don’t!
  • While your goal is an expedient summit, leveling up your skills can help you develop some flexibility, as well. Reaching the top of the Skill Tracks can let you modify your dice values or use dice for adjacent peaks, both of which can help you get out of complicated drafting situations and potentially let you summit peaks more quickly (since you have to roll perfectly to land on the summit). It might be worth stopping (or worth not rerolling, if you already successfully landed on a Skill space).
  • If you’re not sure what to do, Everest isn’t a bad idea, though you get very few benefits outside of points for climbing it. It’s a bit boring, in that regard, since there’s nothing to do but climb (and it’s much riskier to do), but it is pretty valuable, if you can make it to the top.
  • Do your Mission Card. This isn’t really a Strategy Tip; it’s just a pretty on-the-nose good idea. Game gives you points for doing a thing that it doesn’t reward other players for doing? Well, do the thing, then.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • I do love seeing dice that aren’t just d6s in games. I’m always excited when I open a box and there’s something other than d6s in there. I’m actually a d12 kind of guy, but that’s significantly less common, so I’ll take a few d4s, those weird little pyramids. I love them.
  • Kwanchai Moriya’s cover art is, as usual, spectacular. I particularly love the framing choices around the peak; it really is a beautiful cover for a game. His art on the Equipment Cards looks great, as well. Art-wise, it’s a great-looking game.
  • I like that there’s variable Discovery tokens; they’re fun to pick up and the benefits are entertaining. It gives you something to shoot for, and it’s always worth picking one of them up, if you’re close. Except when you pick one up that’s actively not useful, I suppose, but that’s half the adventure. I like little things like that in games.

Mehs

  • It would be helpful to have a dedicated start space for the climbers. On the board, the thing that looks like a start space is actually where the die is supposed to be placed, and the board is small enough that things can get crowded with three climber meeples, much less five. Having more space would make the board feel less congested and make it easier to see which space each climber is on, which feels a bit critical for a game centered around counting.
  • The push-your-luck element isn’t going to be for everyone, especially because failure is pretty costly. Falling down the mountain can be mitigated by certain Equipment Cards, but if you don’t have them, there’s nothing that the game gives you for missing out, which can feel pretty bad. I’ve seen players get pretty frustrated when a risky roll causes them to lose several turns worth of progress, especially when that same outcome is seemingly I’d contrast this with, say, Creature Comforts, where missing a placement with a worker earns you a token that lets you increase or decrease a die by 1 in a subsequent round as a consolation prize. Those types of interactions are nice for players who feel like they’ve otherwise missed out on a big turn, even if the disaster is fully of their own making.
  • The meeples are a weird shape? This isn’t really a complaint or anything, just a “huh, never seen a meeple shaped like this before” sort of comment. Maybe you’re into it. I have no idea. Their arms and legs are just weirdly thin, which is amusing.
  • I received one of the promo packs and the included Equipment cards are noticeably a little larger than the base game’s Equipment cards. It’s not to the point that I could, say, Svengali them out if I wanted, but looking at the shuffled deck, I can pick out all of the promo cards from the base game cards, which is a shame. This is kind of the hazard inherent to different card printings, though; this happened with Dominion, as well. The sets printed in the US have a noticeably lower-quality cardstock, so they’re flimsier cards compared to the ones that weren’t. For Paperback, they had to send out a new set of cards to some folks who got the expansion because the cards were cut differently than the base game’s cards (which makes deckbuilding hard). It’s a problem, but it’s not a particularly uncommon one, so you gotta tolerate it a bit, I suppose.

Cons

  • The Missions can be a little variable in their ease of completion. There’s one that’s just “Most or tied for most first place summits” (worth 2 points) and another that’s just “Summit {SPECIFIC MOUNTAIN}” (worth 3 points). Strikes me as a bit odd, given how arbitrarily difficult the first one can be versus the second one. Some of them are just “reach the top of {SKILL} track”, which isn’t something another player can really keep you from doing. They kind of lack a cohesiveness to them, which is unfortunate.
  • We were pretty critically underwhelmed by the two-player game. This isn’t surprising, given the structure of the game. The Teamwork track hardly gets used, and the lack of during-turn player interaction otherwise means that you’re kind of just watching both players roll dice and waiting for something else to happen. Having played the game with more players since then, we had a more interesting time (a bit more of a race between players for summits, for instance), but we found the two-player game lacking.
  • There were several graphic design choices that I found odd. The back of the box, for instance, doesn’t quite have the same majestic intensity as Kwanchai Moriya’s art on the front, and I found that contrast to be odd. Similarly, I was a bit baffled by the “Equipment” text on the backs of the Equipment cards. It’s just kind of … there? Even the “Rulebook” text on the front of the rulebook is hard to read, since it somewhat blends into the mountain art. I think there are just a few elements of the graphic design that don’t really click, for me, and the game feels less cohesive as a result.
  • Weirdly, for a game where the turns are relatively short, the downtime feels noticeable when it’s not your turn. This kind of exacerbates the problem with additional players, but you really are just watching one person roll dice and see what happens. It would be nice if there were more of a reason for players to be invested when it’s not their turn beyond the Teamwork Track, especially because that doesn’t fire as often as I’d like to see. In my games, players mostly rushed the smaller summits and then once those were full everyone made a run for Everest, which is fine, but I just never felt fully engaged.

Overall: 4 / 10

Overall, 7 Summits missed the mark, for me. I think part of it was just that we were pretty bored, for lack of a better word, by the two-player game, to the point that my housemate still remembers it and makes fun of me occasionally about it. And I own that; that’s the risk of reviewing board games from time to time. But while the game is interesting with more players, I think, for me, the push-your-luck elements never really end up exciting me the way some other push-your-luck dice games do, like Cubitos or even Can’t Stop. If anything, I’d love to favorably compare 7 Summits to Can’t Stop, but I find myself preferring the latter when I’m looking for a quick dice game with some push-your-luck. Sure, I end up losing by 100 points, but I’m trying to get better. It’s really a shame, because there’s some cool stuff happening here. I love Kwanchai’s cover art (though I find the back of the box baffling for many reasons, including that the meeples pictured on the back component shot are different than the ones that appear in the game), I love that there are four-sided dice driving most of the game’s main actions, and I do find the game easy to pick up and learn; I just haven’t played a game yet that I find compelling, and I’m inclined to just move on to the next thing. And that happens. Not everything is for everyone, though I was kind of hoping I’d be more enthusiastic about this one than I ended up being. Oh well. If you’re a fan of d4s, you want to try your hand at mountaineering, or you don’t mind consequences when you push your luck, you might enjoy 7 Summits! It wasn’t for me, unfortunately.


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