The Yeti Slalom
English language edition
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The players have teams of downhill snowboard racers and are competing with each other for the coveted Yeti cup. Movement is managed by playing cards to move their racers, but all players also have cards which cause the Yetis, watching from the hills on each side of the race course, to throw snowballs at the racers, trying to knock them out of the race. Thus, it becomes a sort of obstacle course as the racers race down the course as fast as they can, but always on the alert for snowballs. The player to get his entire team across the finish line first, wins the Yeti cup and the game!
Silly themes are rather rampant in games. Sometimes I wish that the Gamers Games would have sillier themes as it adds lightheartedness to the atmosphere. One problem with a nonsensical theme, however, is that it turns some people off as they believe that such themes are for kids. Of course, much of the time this is actually true, so when I saw Yeti Slalom (Rio Grande Games and Amigo, 2001 Ral Menzel), I assumed that it was a kids game. Then I thought about it, and realized that Im usually wrong about such things, so I prepared myself for a fun game for all about snowboarding in the Himalayas, while avoiding Yeti.
Well, what do you know it IS a game for kids. The game is fun, theres no denying that, but the luck factor is huge and adults will find that theres not enough game to match the fun theme. The theme works well on the game, and there are enough strategic decisions in the game that teens can be kept excited about the game, but huge swings in luck can often determine the winner, and this would frustrate older players.
A game board is placed in the middle of the table, with a grid of spaces running down to the bottom simulating a mountain slope in the Himalayas. There are five starting spaces at the top, and each heads a column of six rectangles. The five rows after the starting row have a space on each side, depicting a Yeti in the act of throwing a snowball. Each player is given four snowboarder cards, numbered one through four, some snowball cards (determined by how many players are in the game), and some Yeti cards (from a deck of 20 number for each player is determined by number of players). The youngest player goes first, and then play proceeds clockwise around the table.
On a players turn, they can place one of their snowboarders in one of the empty starting squares, move one of their snowboarders, or attack with a Yeti card. When moving a snowboarder, the player can move the card one rectangle sideways, straight down the hill, or diagonally downward. The snowboarder must move into an empty square, and can never move up the hill. The first player to move one of their snowboarders down from the last row, places that snowboarder card on the first place square at the bottom of the board. There are also spots for second, third, and fourth place every snowboarder who finishes after that is placed face down in front of the player controlling that snowboarder.
There are five Yeti pictures flanking the rows on each side green on one side, and red on the other. Each picture is in a different pose, and there are two cards in the Yeti deck that match each pose and color. If a player plays a Yeti card onto the space it matches, that Yeti throws a snowball at opposing snowboarders who happen to be in that row. The player rolls a die to simulate the snowball throw, with a 1 or a 2 always missing. A 3 or higher hits the space directly next to the Yeti, a 4 or higher hits the next space over, etc. The space farthest from each Yeti cannot be hit by that Yeti. Multiple snowboarders can be hit by a single snowball throw, as long as the number equals or exceeds the number on the space where the targets reside. (The die numbers are noted on the board for easy reference). Every opposing snowboarder that the player hits is given to that player, who places it face down in front of him. If a player does not like the roll they get when throwing a snowball, they can discard one of their snowball cards to reroll the die, taking the higher of the two rolls.
Once one person has finished all their snowboarders (or had them pegged by a snowball), the other players may no longer move their snowboarders sideways. When all the snowboarders are finished (or wiped out), the game ends. Each player gets points equal to the values of all cards placed in front of them, as well as racers that they had finish in a final position. First place awards four times the value of the snowboarder to the player who achieved it, second place three times, and third and fourth place four times. The player with the most points is the winner!
Some comments on the game
1.) Components: One word springs to mind as I open the box for the game, and thats bright. The game has a Hanna-Barbara feel to it, and everything is done in a light-hearted way. The cards artwork is especially delightful, and really invokes laughter especially the team of ninja bunnies. The Yeti cards are also humorous and I especially liked the names the rules gave each Yeti Ambidextrous Yeti, Crooked Yeti, etc. The card quality was superb, with the cards being about half the size of a typical playing card. The board continues the tradition of brightness, and the way the artwork of the Yetis on the board matching the Yeti on the card was very helpful. Everything fits into a sturdy medium-sized box again with artwork that continued the theme.
2.) Rules: The rules were very clear with excellent formatting and color illustrations. A few variations were included such as using the snowballs more sparingly, or forcing the player to take a re-roll, rather than the higher of two rolls. Every variation makes the game slightly more complex, although thats very relative and at its most complex, this game screams ease of play. The game can be taught in a minute, and its very well understood.
3.) Luck: If you dont like luck in games, stay away because this one has luck in huge amounts. With the re-roll cards, the race becomes more a carnage-filled battlefield. Very few games Ive played had more than three snowboarders even make it down the mountain. And Ive seen someone use all their re-roll cards, and still roll several 1s in a row. This can be extremely frustrating, and while there is some strategy in the game knowing what areas to move your snowboarders to, and which number to send down the mountain first the strategy is extremely limited.
4.) Theme and Fun Factor: With the luck aforementioned, I normally wouldnt really want to play the game. However, the theme makes up for but only with kids or teenagers. Yells of laughter as the kids whoosh their snowboarders down the mountain, or unload the mercenary Yeti snowballs at opponents. Dire threats and laughs of revenge pepper the game and even though I knew the game was almost a total luck fest, the kids I played the game with had a blast. They thought that the game gave them some degree of control and indeed it did, but it wouldnt be enough to satisfy adults.
So, if you work with youth or children, and want a game that theyll really enjoy, but one that really isnt taxing on the brain, then this is a good bet. Also, if the theme of snowboarding down a mountain while avoiding the slings and arrows of outrageous Yetis tickles your funny bone, then this may also be your cup of tea. But for most serious gamers, this game will only give them a taste of extreme luck and annoyance, and I dont think they should pick it up. Id much rather play this game with my kids than Uno or other childrens games but even with my teenagers, this still is only an occasional hit at our table. Still, that skateboarding giraffe elicits chuckles every time that it hits the table.
The theme has potential, but the game is sub-par.
Overall, the artwork is confusing and the game is too elementary to have any real replay value, even for our young kids.
The drawings of the snowboarders and Yeti's are unclear which makes it challenging to just determine what racer you have and which Yeti is which. I would have preferred Snowboarder game pieces instead of cards so at least the game pieces would have looked cool.
In the end, even improved game pieces wouldn't make up for the over simplistic movement of the pieces and the random luck of rolling the dice to see whether you knock over your opponent or not.
We've tried to like this game, but it doesn't engage either the kids or the parents.
Unfortunately, Yeti Slalom won't get many more runs on our slopes. It has quickly found it's way to the back of the closet.
This game is at the lighter end of the gaming spectrum. It's a simple race where you score points for reaching the end of a course, or more likely, you earn points by knocking slalom riders off the course by throwing snowballs. You see -- it really is light and fluffy!
The course is a board 5 spaces wide and 6 spaces long. Players get a hand of four slalom racers worth 1 to 4 points. Each racer will score points for reaching the end of the track -- the earliest ones will score more than later ones, though in the games I've played so far, only 2 racers have reached the end of the course.
Each side of the course is guarded by Yeti, who throw snowballs at the racers. Each of them can hit the four nearest spaces, so there is an overlap on the middle three squares and one only square which the yeti on the other side of the course cannot affect. The twenty yeti are evenly dealt out to each player at the beginning of the game. That makes two for each row of the five rows of the course. When a yeti throws a snowball, it knocks off slalom racers according to the throw of the dice. A six will knock off any racers from all four of the nearest squares, a five will remove them from the nearest three squares and so on, with a 1 or 2 always failing. The points scored are the points of each person's racers.
Since you only know the yeti cards that you own, you can plot a course, which might minimise the chance of your racers being knocked off the course. Since you either have to move a racer or use a yeti, one tactic seems to be to send down your lower valued racers, hoping to draw the fire of other yeti, so that later racers can choose a safer route. Much will depend on the yeti cards you have been dealt. If you have more on one side than the other, then that side might be favoured; if you have duplicates, then you know certain squares are safe as only you can affect these.
Obviously there is luck when throwing the dice, but the rules allow you extra throws if you hand in one of two snowball cards that you are given at the beginning of the game. These let you re-roll for a poor throw, with the better roll being the one that counts.
Skilful players, who like to control a game will avoid this one, though the graphics are cute. I also guarantee that someone will try to use a yeti card for a position that belongs elsewhere. After all if you've seen one yeti throwing a snowball, you've probably seen them all, but they do have similarities and these can cause confusion, especially if you're playing late at night and couldn't care less anyway.
So, should you get this game? It's light and fun and will probably appeal to children, but it will get more plays with children under 50 than with those of a more advanced age.