Roll & write games have been the surprise hit of the past few years. Developed out of Yahzee and children's Beetle Drive games, we've seen abstract roll & writes like Ganz Schon Clever (Schmidt Spiele/Stronghold) that have used conventional six-sided dice distinguished by colour and we've seen thematic games like Railroad Ink (Horrible Guild) that use custom dice. We've even seen games like Rome & Roll (PSC) and Hadrian's Wall (Garphill) that push the complexity to create full-on euro strategy games. What's the deal then with Trek 12?
Designed by Bruno Cathala and Corentin Lebrat, and with art by Jonathan Aucomte and Olivier Deroutteau, the notional setting of Trek 12 is mountaineering in the Himalayas. The theme lends itself to an 'adventure' structure so that three different roll & write sheets can be chained together as a campaign game. The added bonus is that the game also comes with a set of sealed envelopes that are only opened when certain conditions are met in the campaign game. This gives Trek 12 a novel 'legacy game' feel. To avoid spoilers tho', we've not shown off the contents of any of the envelopes in our Board's Eye View photos.
Trek 12 uses just two six-sided dice. One has conventional 1-6 numbering; the other has values 0-5. Each turn, both dice are rolled and players all use the same roll to decide what number to record on their sheet. They can take the highest number, the lowest number, the sum, the difference or the product. Players mark off which result they are using and, in normal play, the maximum use they can make of any of these is four (eg: you can pick the lowest number four times). Jarring slightly with the mountaineering theme, players can record the number anywhere on their mountain sheet (you're not ascending from the bottom or descending from the top). Players score for creating ascending or descending sequences, and for creating 'zones' of adjacent identical numbers. Certain spaces are designated as 'dangerous', which means they cannot take a number higher than 6. None of the spaces can take a number above 12, so if you find you have to record a larger number (for example, because you have no choices left other than to accept the product of the two dice), then that will give you penalty points, as will any orphaned number that doesn't connect up with others.
Lumberjacks Studio have given us a versatile game: we especially liked having the option of being able to string three different sheets together to form an 'expedition'. Some tool cards introduce extra ways of squeezing in some additional points, and with the option of scoring at the end for any cards that remain unused. And, yes, there's an element of anticipation when you open up the sealed envelopes for the very first time.
The game comes with a solitaire mode but it's not as satisfying as player vs player mode. For us, Trek 12 is at its best with three or four players. We noted that the box suggested it could be played by up to 50(!), presumably reflecting the size of the pads of recording sheets, but, even post-Covid, we probably won't be trying it with quite that many :-)
If our review of Trek 12 has piqued your interest, don't dither about. We've been warned by the UK distributors, Hachette BoardGames, that this game is close to being sold out. And our followers in the US will have to treat our Board's Eye View as an advance preview: Pandasaurus have just announced that they'll be publishing Trek 12 in the US but it looks like you'll have to wait till November for copies to arrive.