We are taking a 3 day tour of human history in the light but wonderfully crunchy and colourful Trekking Through History by Underdog Games!
*Set Collection * Card Drafting * End Goals * Turn Order Time Track * Light * Fun * Colourful * Strategic
Trekking Through History is our first Underdog Games title and it has been an instant hit! I don’t usually write a spoiler in the first sentence, but by husband’s reaction to it was so genuine and direct that it had to be where this review begins!
You see, my husband has gaming preferences that are often tricky to satisfy. Even when I think a game works perfectly on paper for him, it can be a resounding failure on the table. But that’s not his fault. His engineering mind lends itself so well to a lot of mechanics. As such, elements my ND mind struggles with (hello spatial and dexterity and well, most games!), are a breeze for him. Programming options 3,4 or even 5 turns ahead doesn’t make him sweat in the slightest. My overwhelming need for consistency probably helps him predict my moves. But I don’t mind losing so long as he has enjoyed winning. After all, it’s my job to bring games to the table! And I want to keep playing! Anything that doesn’t present enough of a crunchy experience gets THE face. And that means no-way-no-play.
But Trekking Through History produced a very surprising reaction. Despite being on the lighter side of his usual predilections, it was an instant hit! A satisfying smile crossed his eyes and lips when he totted up the end scores (which, even more surprisingly were in my favour! Subsequent games have reverted to form haha).
Trekking through Time!
Trekking Through History takes players on a 3 day tour of human history dating back to 37000BC. The idea is to build up treks over three days (rounds). The longer they are, the more points they are worth. But, with itineraries to follow, the experiences you have along the way unlock benefits that will award instant points and time crystals which you can use to slow down the clock that’s ticking down the days!
It’s super simple to learn. Each turn in a given day, you select a card from those available. The reference chart shows you which time periods are covered on each day (and note that there is an overlap). Your treks must go in chronological order, so each new card you add must be further ahead in time than the last. If you can’t place a card that obeys the timeline rule, you can either use an ancestor card that will award you a wile experience token and will act as another card in your trek. Or you can collapse your current trek and take a card to begin a new one.
When you pick a card, you also get the experience tokens shown on the card and on the slot it was on. These immediately transfer to your itinerary board. Each card has its own cost in time, however. So if you take a card that has a 1 on it, you will move 1 space around the giant clock. Like Patchwork and Tokaido and others, the player at the back of the clock, always takes a turn. So that could mean one player taking successive turns (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as I will explain soon!). You can spend time crystals to reduce the time cost and the price is one crystal for each time space deducted. Once a card has been taken, all existing cards move up one slot and a new card is added to the pool.
Whilst your itinerary ends with each day, your treks persist so you can keep adding to them (the overlap now makes sense, right?!).
When all players reach or go past 12 on the clock, the day is over. And if you land bang on 12, you’ll get a punctuality bonus! The remaining cards for that day (including those face up on the board) get discarded and the next day’s cards are laid out. Your tokens and itineraries also get discarded, but you get to keep your time crystals going into the next round. After 3 rounds, the treks are tallied and converted to points on the score tracker. And the player with the most points is the winner!
Crunchy under foot!
Trekking Through history is one of those special games which are light, gorgeous to look at, and easy to the table. And as such you might worry that you’ll be left a little wanting. But that’s not the case. Each card draft in this game presents a delightful dilemma. Go for the experience token heavy cards to pack out your itinerary but pay the price in time? Go for lower cost cards to increase your trek sizes and nibble your way up to the bigger point scores but risk missing out on vital tokens? Collapse a trek and forgo the chance to get into the double digits but begin a new one with a nice low value date ready for the next day? Even deciding whether to sacrifice something to land straight on 12 for the punctuality bonus will factor is a consideration.
And that’s because Trekking Through History, like all the games we love the most, is a series of trade-offs. Everything has the potential to give or build up to points. But devising which option gives the MOST points or opportunities that turn and future turns is the crunch punch! And even more awesome-sauciness is the fact that sometimes you won’t want to take any cards at all because you know that your opponents will take advantage of the new card coming off the deck! Ooft!
The way the days overlap is also a neat trick. Yes there is luck of the draw when the cards are laid out. Some runs will be filled with high costs cards and others will have dates that work for no player. But mitigation via ancestors and collapsing treks is all integrated within the gameplay. And at higher player counts, cycling through more cards each turn means that different cards become available faster. But we are loving this game at 2P – for us, it’s just a nudge to tighten our laces and work more tactically for our wins!
In addition to the basic gameplay, there’s also an added module called “Time Warp” which ups the ante by adding in extra benefits piling even more enticing options and drafting dilemmas into each turn! I won’t spoil the surprise, but needless to say we have just started exploring these and really enjoy what they are adding to the mix!
Trekking Through Beauty!
The components in this game are gorgeous! From the saturated rainbow colours on the cards to the sturdy tokens and the amazing neoprene mat board, everything is top notch. The token themselves are contained in a removable tray that works straight out of the box, and the cards are also stored ready in their day decks. Having been spoilt with Stonemaier’s dedication to excellence when it comes to components, many games fall short in comparison. But not Trekking through History! Even the cards are double sided, and each one includes an explanation of the event depicted in beautiful illustrations on the front.
We love Trekking Through History. As mentioned above, it is our first experience of Underdog Games but I am very hopeful that it won’t be our last. I know there are other Trekking games in the series as well as a host of other titles. As such, I am going to explore what Underdog games has in their collection now as well as what they have in store for us all going forwards!
Please note that a copy of this game was kindly provided by the publishers for review. I am not paid for my comments, however, and all opinions are my own. I am also not affiliated to or sponsored by any retail store.