In the Hall of the Mountain King
Play as trolls rebuilding your abandoned kingdom under the mountain in In the Hall of the Mountain King. With muscle and magic, you'll unearth riches, dig out collapsed tunnels, and carve out great halls as you raise the toppled statues of your ancestors to their places of honor at the heart of the mountain. Gameplay is driven by the innovative cascading production system. Timing and tactics are key as you work to restore your home to its former glory and win the crown!
Working on the same game board with the other players (but beginning at your own entrance), you'll dig a competing network of tunnels by spending increasingly valuable materials to lay polyomino tiles onto the map. You want to extend your tunnels to connect with buried gold and materials, with workshop locations that can transform resources, and especially with toppled statues. Statues are key to scoring, and you'll spend carts to move them through the tunnels to prime scoring locations near the heart of the mountain.
A major aspect of the game is the cascading production. You begin with a line of four trolls, and every troll shows the combination of resources — gold, stone, iron, marble, carts, runes, and hammers — that it produces. When a new troll is hired, place it above two other trolls, forming a "pyramid". The new troll activates, gaining its resources, and any trolls beneath it ALSO activate, gaining any resources that they have room to carry. In this way as you hire more trolls, you gain bigger and bigger windfalls of resources as the end of the game nears. The timing of your hiring turns versus your building turns is important as you try to maximize your cascades while making sure you get the trolls you want from the shared market and also stay competitive on the map.
The game ends shortly after the last player hires their sixth troll, then the player with the most honor (earned for digging tunnels of increasing quality, for excavating great halls, and for moving statues closer to the heart of the mountain, especially onto matching pedestals) is crowned the Mountain King and wins!
Resource management, Tile laying
In the Hall of the Mountain King is a tile-laying game with a very cool system of resource production. With a stylized aesthetic and a streamlined ruleset, this mid-weight euro is a good choice for gamers looking for a “next-step” experience.
In the Hall of the Mountain King taps into some great fantasy tropes. In this game, players are clans of hulking trolls, working in subterranean smithys, vying for supremacy of a mighty mountain. The goal of the game is to earn the most points, and players accomplish this by excavating the mountain’s depths and moving statues toward its center.
To begin, all players receive 4 troll cards. Each of these trolls offers one-time, starter resources, as well as resources that will continue to produce throughout the game. Players each take their starting resources and then tuck the troll cards behind their player boards, such that only the ongoing resources are showing.
The game takes place on a central board, which features different zones and an assortment of statue pieces.
Players can do several things on their turn, but their main action involves either a) recruiting a new troll or b) digging a new tunnel. If a player wishes to recruit a troll, he/she may purchase it from the tableau of available cards.
This card market is divided into Level 1, 2, and 3 trolls – the higher the level, the stronger the card. As players recruit them, trolls are placed onto their tableaus to form a 4-3-2-1 “pyramid” of cards. Recruitment also provides resources; the newly-placed troll generates its listed resources, and then both trolls below it generate theirs, and so on in a “cascade” pattern. As an example:
If a troll already has a resource on it from a previous turn, it does not generate another copy of it. This means it is in players’ best interest to completely clear their troll cards before recruiting a new one, to maximize its utility.
If a player wishes to dig a tunnel instead of recruiting, he/she spends resources of a single type to place a tunnel tile on the board. The number of resources spent determines the size of the tile that can be placed. For example, 3 stone (gray resources) can be spent to place a size-3 tile, or 5 iron (black) can be spent to place a size-5 tile. The type of material chosen matters, because tunnels dug using higher-value resources yield more points.
Players’ tunnel systems can never merge; that is, it must always be clear whose tiles are whose. To help keep track of this, each player has an entry point on the board, where his/her tunnels originate.
Sometimes, a tile will cover something on the board, such as a rubble space, statue, or resource icon. Rubble must be cleared, and to do this, a player must spend a pickaxe resource for each covered rubble space. If a tile is placed over a statue, the player lifts the statue to place the tile and then replaces it on the same space. This statue is now in the player’s tunnel network and can be moved around using a cart resource of the same color. Lastly, any resource icons that are covered earn the player the appropriate materials immediately.
Statues earn points at the end of the game, based on their location on the board. The closer a statue is to the center, the more points it scores. Additionally, if a player can get a statue onto a pedestal of its color, its value doubles! (There can only be one pedestal per color in each “zone” of the board, however, so players need to be strategic about when and where to place them.)
If a player is able to construct a certain shape with his/her network of tunnels – say, a 3×3 square – he/she can dedicate a Great Hall. This involves placing a tile of that shape on top of his/her network. Great Halls provide additional scoring opportunities. Players earn points just for building them, but if statues get placed on them, they can be worth mega-points!
There are a few other aspects to this game, including:
- Workshops, which allow players to trade resources for different resources…
- Spells, which allow players to spend runes to earn special abilities…
… and even more beyond that. For the sake of brevity, I’m glossing over some of these finer points, but suffice it to say players have decisions at every turn. At the end of the game, the player with the most points wins!
In the Hall of the Mountain King is a solid euro game experience. It moves surprisingly quickly compared to many other games of similar weight. The production quality is high, with stylized artwork, a comprehensive rulebook, and a boatload of cool bits.
The game has a very strong depth-to-complexity ratio. Often, a player’s turn will consist of merely placing a tile or drawing a card, and that’s it. These choices are incredibly simple to understand, but the amount of thought that goes into them can be staggering. When placing a tile, for example, there can be literally dozens of possible positions for it, each with its tactical pros and cons.
Speaking of tough decisions, another aspect that I really enjoy is this game’s tightness. This is one of those games where players want to do everything, but they can’t do it all, so their strategies have to contend with limitations. Without resources, for example, players cannot hope to build a robust network of tunnels, but in order to get resources, players need trolls, which cost money to acquire. To get money, players either need to dig it up by building tunnels or recruit trolls that offer money, and so on and so on. The strategic facets of this game are beautifully interwoven, and they lead to some very engaging decisions.
The system of cascading resource production is the star of the show, without a doubt. Simply put, it is one of the coolest game ideas I have ever seen – super clean and straightforward, and immensely cool.
All told, I enjoyed In the Hall of the Mountain King. It works well as a “next-step” game, and I expect it will be very popular among fans of resource management and engine building. Definitely recommend checking this one out.
A review copy was provided by Burnt Island Games.
+ Great looking production
+ Rulebook is clear and comprehensive
+ Decisions are deep, with multiple avenues to victory
+ Resource production system is super-cool
- Does not work as well with 2 players