Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Why I Like - Himalaya

“I've been staying at their lodge in the Himalayas for years, ... They have this beautiful lodge. You look out and there's Ama Dablam. Oh man, it's like heaven.” --Pete Shelley of Buzzcocks

You know it's always funny to me that some games get released and whether great games or not they get a huge amount of recognition. People buy them up and a few months later or maybe a year or so the game is in over abundance of copies and they are selling for under 20 bucks or being traded away as sweetners. Then other games can be released with relative obscurity and not much fanfare so the game doesn't get republished and goes out of print. Once this happens the gaming community starts scrambling to gather up their copies because now it's out of print and so everyone has to have a copy of the 'rare' game. When I purchased my copy of Himalaya it was readily available and very affordable. I simply put in an order to my favorite (at that time) online retailer and got my copy and have never looked back. Now visiting the game's page it's $90-$100 US . . .Why? There are (again at the time of this writing) 209 people wanting a copy of this game and only 861 owners of which 11 are offering it for trade. Had the populace embraced this game with this sort of fervour upon release surely Tilsit would have been inclined to reprint it. SIGH OK I'm gonna get off my soapbox now because hey I got my copy!

So let's get to the "Why I like" it part of this review. First off it's one of the handful of games out there that I thoroughly enjoy teaching. I teach a LOT of games as most of us do I would assume and I really like to teach games but once in awhile it's just a sheer enjoyment to explain certain games and this game is one of them. I like talking about the beautiful people of the Himalayan mountains and how they so warmly welcome visitors to their villages and will gladly offer up their goods for free to those who ask (once per turn of course.) I further explain that these gentle spirited people are not to be taken advantage of though and therefore you are obliged to take only their lowest valued resource when they offer it. Letting people know that these recently acquired goods are desperately needed in villages elsewhere and that they can take their loaded yak to those villages and trade with them in exchange for favors is very satisfying...and so on. It's just a very enjoyable experience for me to explain this game and embrace it's theme so dramatically, I my approach also helps not only with an understanding of the game but also with immersing the new players in the theme which just adds to their enjoyment of the game.

I further like this game because it's a programming game. I really enjoy the programming mechanic in the few games that have it. This game however is a nice little euro game with programming and that (to me) seems highly unusual. Seems to me the typical programming game is one that has combat (Wings of War) or chaos (Robo Rally.) Being able to function in this manner in this type of pick up/deliver game is simply a lot of fun to me.

I had already ordered my copy of Himalaya but it had not yet arrived when one day I was in a flea market and for $0.25 I found a stand up figure of the abominable snowman from the Monsters Inc. movie. Knowing it was on it's way I snatched him up. At that time I had no idea the role the yeti played in the game but I figured worse case scenario I'd have him in the box and put him out simply as decoration and thematic purposes. Then when I saw that the "yeti" in the game was merely a small round chip with footprints on it that was suppose to deter travelers from taking said path...yeah right! Now my copy has a much more intimidating guy to put in the path! Sure if more than 1 person plays the yeti on the same turn only the first get's to use him but that actually is part of the fun too!

I love the elimination process of this game. It forces players to be aggressive about stupa placement and creates a lot of tension. Yes I talk the talk of a tranquil journey through the montains but it really does create a fantastic struggle for area control and yak collecting. All in a relatively quick game, something you don't find very often but is yet another thing I like about Himalaya.

Finally I like that this game transcends people. I've thrown this one down with hard core gamers and they enjoy themselves. I've brought it out with total nongamers and they've enjoyed themselves. Males and females alike seem to have an appreciation for the game as well as it appealing to both an young and older audience. I don't know what to attribute this to but there's something here that make this a very palatable to such a large cross section of people.

At this point I would normally be suggesting you go out there and get yourself a copy of this game but as mentioend earlier that's not so easily accomplished now-a-days. So maybe what you should do is to contact Tilsit and request they reprint this baby. It'd be well worth it for them if they did.

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