Game Profile: Trailblazer: The John Muir Trail

Attention hikers, it is time to trek the John Muir trail starting at Happy Isles and finishing at the summit of Mt. Whitney in Trailblazer: The John Muir Trail, a hiking adventure strategy game. The trek takes place over twelve days/rounds. Hikers need to be aware of changing weather and use their scarce resources to make it to the top. Any hiker not making it to the summit cannot win. Hikers collect field guide cards in sets and explore destinations for points. They have several chances to snare arrowhead tiles for additional scoring opportunities. It’s time to fill your backpack and gather enough food and water to make it to the top. The hiker with the most points at the top of the mountain is the winner. – – 1 to 4 players – – 30 to 120 minutes

Each player represents a hiker and starts the game with three tracks tokens – their workers, six of the natural resources, (water, wind, earth, fire), seven of the personal resources (water bottle, food, zzz’s, endurance), and twelve items that they will want to get into their backpacks (i.e., binoculars, first aid kit, pocketknife, etc.). They also get a player map pack to guide them along, and three trail cards.

Each day of the hike starts by turning over a weather token. Most of the time the weather is good, but hikers may encounter wind, rain, excessive heat, snow or even a thunderstorm. An additional resource will need to be expended to be able to move up the trail on these days. It is not necessary to move up the trail every day, however you don’t want to linger too long, or you might not make the summit. The entire trail is made up of ten sections and you have twelve days to reach the summit.

In turn order, each hiker draws a trail card to their hand and then plays one of the four now in their hand. That trail card will give them a benefit and a backpack gear icon. If the gear is not already in their backpack, they it is added to the backpack. If the gear is already in their backpack, they will instead move their tent marker up an elevation track. Filling your backpack is necessary to gain additional resources and special items that will be needed on certain sections of the trail. Moving along the elevation track grants resources, additional tracks tokens which will increase the number of actions you can take, and arrowhead objective scoring tiles.

After trail cards are played, tracks tokens – your workers will be placed on various action spots on the central game board to acquire resources, field guide cards, and destination cards, and to move along the trail. Resources are used to buy cards, satisfy weather events, and to feed and hydrate your hiker. One food and one water bottle is necessary at the end of each of the twelve days.

During the course of the game, points are scored in many areas: with the purchase of destination cards and when reaching the end of the elevation track. You can score additional points if you are not last in completely filling your backpack with all twelve gear items, in completing all four exploration bonus actions, and in reaching the summit. In each of these tasks, the first player to complete the task gets more points then 2nd, and 3rd place finishers.

The game ends after the twelfth day whether you’ve made it to the summit or not. Only those making it to the summit will advance to end game scoring. End game scoring consists of deductions for remaining hardship tokens in your supply. The more you have the greater the deduction value. Hardship tokens are received when a hiker does not have the necessary trail requirements on sections of the trail. Field cards are scored in unique sets. There are five types of field guide cards: animals, birds, trees, flowers, and rivers. Finally, score the public golden arrowhead bonus and a player’s journey bonus arrowheads. The hiker with the most points is the winner.

Trailblazer: the John Muir Trail has a great theme that comes through during the game. The game looks great on the table and the game play is very engaging. Hikers have to be aware of the weather, the scarcity of resources, and the progress of other hikers.

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