For generations your kin have been banished from the sacred mountain that they called home. In a brutal war, the Gnomes were able to drive the rightful Troll owners from the underground world they had carved out for themselves and since then, your people have been scrounging for survival off the land. It was tough, but they were resilient. They kept one eye on the future and one eye on the mountain waiting f
or the chance to one day return. That day has come. A rumble shook the earth, and with a resounding crash, the mountain collapsed taking its own revenge on the invading forces. Now the mountain calls to you and your fellow Trolls. It’s time to return and restore it to its former glory. It’s finally time to go home.
In the Hall of the Mountain King (HotMK) is the second published game by Burnt Island Games, following a successful Kickstarter of Endeavor: Age of Sail in 2018. HotMK was over 900% funded and the retail version will be coming to local gaming stores in February 2020.
In the game, you take on the role of Trolls trying to rebuild your ancestral mountain home. Each turn you either spend resources to build tunnels or hire new Trolls to join your ‘Troolsmoot’.
One of the keystones of a Burnt Island Game is their unique approach to story and mechanics. HotMK, designed by Jay Cormier and Graeme Jahns, immediately caught the attention of owners Helaina and Josh Cappel. The game presents dual puzzles for players to figure out, each one a fresh take on a Euro-style game.
At its heart, HotMK is a resource management and area control game, however it approaches both aspects in very interesting ways.
The main board represents the mountain itself. Every player has their own entry point where they build their network of tunnels out from. The deeper your Trolls dig into the heart of the mountain, the more prestigious the layers you uncover. Through your tunnelling efforts, you may uncover resources, workshops, and even statues of ancient Troll leader from the past. The tunnels are represented by polyminos of various sizes and shapes. At the beginning of the game, the mountain seems like it will be big enough for everyone to expand their networks, but very quickly it becomes a race to control territory and block the competition.
To acquire the various resources in the games, each player hires workers to their own personal Trollsmoot. You can hire new Trolls from the horde to join your Moot. As you hire new Trolls, you place them above two on a lower level forming a pyramid-like structure. Once a new Troll is added to your Trollsmoot, a cascade of resources occurs. The new Troll receives the resources depicted on its card, and each Troll descending out beneath it also receives the resources on their card. However, as resources come, they are stored on the Trolls themselves. If you haven’t spent them by the time a cascade happens, you don’t receive that particular resource, making for a less than optimal hiring. It becomes an interesting timing puzzle, to decide when to hire a new Troll and when to spend your resources to clear space off the Trolls you already have.
Trollsmoots also work as a timer for the game. When a second player has capped their Moot, game end is triggered and everyone has two more turns to complete whatever projects they’ve been working on.
HotMK is one of those games where the rules are quite simple, but the decisions you have to make along the way can be excruciating. Finding the right time to make a bold expansion of your tunnel network, or to hire a Troll that gives you a resource you desperately need can lead your Troll clan to glory or disaster.
Burnt Island Games is quickly building a reputation as a publisher that takes risks to bring players something they’ve never seen before. HotMK is a perfect example of a game that approaches traditional mechanics in a whole new way. You can look for it in retail in February 2020.
This article was written for Around the Table Magazine. Find more information here.