Altiplano review


03 July 2018
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altiplano-36807.jpg Altiplano
If you ever wanted to pack a sack with alpacas, this is the sack alpaca-packing game for you

It’s a tough life at the top of the world. Not only is the air thin, but resources are limited and whether you’re a woodcutter, fisherman, framer or stonemason, scratching out a successful living requires careful resource management and trading strategies. Not to mention alpacas. 

For his spiritual sequel-slash-remake of beloved Euro title Orléans, German designer Reiner Stockhausen has moved from medieval France to the South American highlands of Bolivia and Peru, around 3,000 metres above sea level. The result is a gorgeously colourful and component-rich game that’s also smoothly complex. 

As in Orléans, each player has an action board, on which they simultaneously place circular tokens to plan out a limited number of location-dependent actions, which are then executed in clockwise, turn-based fashion. And, as in Orléans, each player also gets a cloth bag, into which they deposit their gradually increasing token stash, to be randomly drawn at the start of the planning phase. But in Altiplano you’re planning actions with resources like food, cloth, cacao and (yes) alpacas rather than followers, essentially trading them up for new acquisitions. So at the farm, for example, you can use a combo of alpacas and food to earn wool. 

The catch is, there’s a limited, ever-dwindling stack of each resource (plus VP-earning houses, boats and orders, represented by small decks of cards) on each location tile: the market, the forest, the harbour and so on. The resources you spend go back into your supply along with the ones you gain, eventually winding up in your bag once it’s emptied of its current contents. So nothing returns to a central supply (except money) and, as with all pool-building games, the more you personally accrue, the more random your bag draws become, complicating each subsequent planning phase. 

Which is why diversifying is so important, and why there are numerous routes to success. The number of actions you can take increases with the acquisition of extensions – necessarily, if you want to start gathering the most valuable and useful resources – and you can also mitigate your bag bulking out with less valuable things (food, fish, corn and those poor old alpacas are worth zilch on the score sheet) by stashing stuff in your warehouse, filling rows with matching goods to earn further victory points. 

A further difference to Orléans is the central ‘board’, which is here a randomly-placed circular arrangement of location tiles, around which your lone figure can move up to a maximum of three places per turn – unless you pay for extra moves with food and/or additional carts. This means your actions are dependent on how you plan your moves, too; it’s all too easy to mess up your own planning by miscalculating your figure’s movement. 

There is a lot to take in, especially if you’ve never played Orléans, and the first few games of Altiplano will likely make your head spin. Rather like altitude sickness, in fact. But once you acclimatise, there’s plenty to enjoy in Stockhausen’s vibrant, busy, alpaca-packed world. 

DAN JOLIN

 

WE SAY

An attractively-presented pool-building game with a grabby theme and impressive – if initially confusing – tactical depth.

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Buy your copy here.

Designer: Reiner Stockhausen

Artist: Klemens Frans

Time: 1-2 hours

Players: 2-5

Age: 12+

Price: £50

 

This review originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here – or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.

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Finish the game off with a quality, lightweight insert from 

 Compatible with Altiplano®, and The Traveler® expansion.

13,50 €

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