You will always need food but don’t be a glutton!
Theme and What is it?
You are in the South American highlands, somewhere between the mountain ranges of Bolivia and Peru, where the altitude of more than 3,000 meters imposes tough demands on the people to utilize the scant vegetation for their needs.
The inhabitants thrive by fishing in Lake Titicaca, mining ore, breeding alpacas, and trading goods that they produce from these resources. But the resources are limited and will eventually run out, so you’ll need to build new production facilities and find new sources of income, like cacao.
Build roads to speed up your development and store goods in your warehouse so that you are able to survive the hard times that are not uncommon in this particular barren region. If you plan cleverly and are flexible enough to adapt yourself to the rough conditions of the Altiplano, you will have the highest yield in the end!
Altiplano is mostly a bag building game similar to deck building. Each turn players draw tiles from their bag and use them to perform different actions. A game round comprises four phases:
- Draw – Players draw 4-8 based on where their location is on the road and place them on their planning spaces.
- Planning – Players now take these tiles and place them on action spaces.
- Actions – Players take turns using actions based on what they planned in the Planning Phase.
- Cleanup – Setting up for the next round.
During the game, players will use resources from their bag to perform actions. These resources comprise food, corn, wood, stone, ore, cloth, wool, silver, fish, glass, cacao and last but not least….alpaca! Ok, maybe the alpaca are not always necessary but they are one essential way to victory.
You will move around the plateau and use these resources to perform different actions at the seven different locations. There are a few other types of actions like moving forward on the road, collecting boats, houses or orders, but mostly, actions are used to get more resources. However, one important action is getting extensions. These extensions give you even more actions available on your turns at the different locations in the plateau.
Using a resource means only discarding it into your container. This is essentially your discard pile! You will always have the resources unless you store it in your warehouse or use it to fill an order. An important part of the process is knowing when to move resources to your warehouse or fill an order.
These two things can bring in a lot of victory points, but if done too early, it will hurt your engine. You will need resources like wood, fish, or alpaca in the beginning to build up to bigger resources like cloth or silver or even the most precious…glass. You will always need food but don’t be a glutton!
The game ends if all the resources at a location have been depleted or you cannot refill the extension row. At that point, players will play one more round.
There are many ways to score: Filled orders, warehouse rows, certain resources that are not on your orders, boats, houses, etc. There is a scorepad to easily determine a winner.
I have been wanting to play this game for a while. My sister and I both love alpacas, so it looked like the theme appealed to us. However, opening the box, there is not much involvement for the alpacas. Although the alpaca is in the game, he serves as more of an icon for the game. This did not turn our eyes from everything included in this box. And there is SO much game here.
Game Build Quality
I have mixed feelings about the components. All the punch outs are sturdy cardboard, but on some tiles, the first layer of the artwork peels when punching. And I am a careful puncher! The containers have to be folded together, but they would not stay together. I ended up just gluing them together and now they look…meh.
The first player marker is the alpaca, and it sort of stays together. Sometimes his hind legs come off when passing. I cannot glue him together or he won’t fit in the box with everything else which brings me to my next complaint, the box. It just is not big enough for all these pieces. There were a TON of punch outs in this game.
All this said, it is not the worst components and it will not keep us from playing this again and again.
The art of the plateau makes me want to travel to South America, hop on an alpaca and roam the countryside. It just looks so calm and peaceful. The artwork does a good job of displaying this very simply. The action board itself seems a little cluttered. Although the art is fantastic, I would have made the action board slightly bigger to as not confuse the locations.
We enjoyed playing this one. I love playing games that don’t have a clear winner while playing. It could seem like one player is steadily head of all players in the beginning but then even out towards the end of the game. In most of the games I have played of Altiplano, the scores have been quite close.
Age Range & Weight
Altiplano has a lot going on. There are many avenues and strategies to discover and arrive at victory, but once it is all laid out, the learning curve is not terrible. The publisher puts the age limit at 12+ and I would say this is a fairly safe suggestion. All players must be committed to the game though or it can drag on. Once all the rules are understood, turns are very quick.
Overall, I have played this three times. It is a beast of a game as far as components so setup can be a bit much but not too terrible. We enjoy the bag building aspect. I consider this indirect competition. The only player impact is certain cards or resources depleting before you get to them but there is still an overall balance so it is up to the player how they want to attempt to win. I really like this game. This is one to definitely try before you buy though!
From the desk of the Editor – I do not generally post......