Designed by Nika Mlinaric and Blaz Hribar, and published by the appropriately named Snow Board Games, Hike! is a race game for 2-6 players where you are driving a team of huskies through a randomised landscape course variously made up of snow, ice and powder. But before you can race, you have to assemble and equip your dog team...
The race is really the second part of the game, and tho' winning it is the ultimate objective, the red meat of the game is in the first part: open drafting. The course you'll be racing along is only gradually revealed (one face-down card flipped each round) and players assemble the team for their sled by selecting cards from the unfolding display. Each 'experienced' husky has 1-3 movement icons showing the terrain type on which they perform. You'll need to utilise a husky with an ice icon, for example, to traverse the ice in the landscape. You're not tho' just grabbing from the available display the dog with the most icons; your dogs need to work together and this aspect is represented by the colour at the edge of each husky card: if your husky has a red border on the left-hand side then you can only place next to it a husky with a red border on its right-hand side. The same goes for the dogs ahead or behind it; so completing your team of eight dogs (six in a 5- or 6-player game) can set you quite a puzzle. You can utilise an inexperienced young dog within your team; it won't give you any icons you can use for movement but the inexperienced dogs can be harnessed anywhere in your team so can be used to fill an otherwise difficult-to-fill gap.
You can and should pick up care cards that let you refresh and reuse the icons on a dog that has been exhausted when you race, and equipment cards can be used to add a second movement icon to a husky with only one icon. This gives players further flexibility and more of a puzzle to juggle as the second icon can match any of those of an orthogonally adjacent dog in your team. You might also need an unallocated equipment card to meet the requirement to discard it shown on a couple of the landscape cards. If during the race you reach the symbol requiring an equipment discard and you are unable to comply, your only alternative is to exhaust two of your huskies.
And you can't just worry about optimising your own team. You need to keep an eye on the state of preparation of your opponents. Any player with a completed sled (ie: eight dogs in position) can declare they are ready to race. They continue to collect care cards for up to three rounds while waiting for others to join them on the track, so they can be sitting pretty while you're struggling to complete the assembly of your team.
Tho' Hike! isn't a programming game, the choice of cards for drafting offers a similar challenge, subject to you being able to fit your optimal choice of dogs within your team. With the imminent threat of another player calling time on the 'preparation' phase, the game is exciting throughout, at least as much so in the card drafting as in the actual racing.
The core game comes with a 'Husky on the loose' mini-expansion that adds more player interaction in the preparation phase and you can add an Events & Traits expansion deck to further shake up the game. The Traits add single-use special actions that are taken in the preparation phase and Event cards that are played during or at the start of the race. They add a healthy degree of chaos into the game: enough to add to the fun of Hike! without wholly undermining players' core tactics.