Monday, March 18, 2024

Outdoor Survival wishes it was Waypoints

 Ah, Waypoints. The third game that Matthew Dunstan and Rory Muldoon designed for Postmark Games. I really liked their other two games, Voyages and Aquamarine, so I was curious to see how Waypoints would go.

Waypoints is a game about hiking in a park. The boards are topographical maps with a grid overlay. Each turn, you get a certain number of action points. You draw your path freehand and it costs an action point to cross any line. Which means both topographical lines and grid lines.

The map has a variety of waypoints, which are actually just dots with different symbols by them. They are also where you have to end each leg of a hike. (If you can’t reach one, you have to rest, which gets you a water but what you really want is to hike) Collecting symbols is how you get points and bonus powers.

So here’s where it goes interesting. You roll one six-sided die to determine how many action points you get each turn. Now, you don’t get the number you roll. Instead, you move that many spaces on the weather track. The space you end on tells you how many action points you’ll be getting.

Now, anytime a Roll and Write has me use just one die, that’s a red flag. Only one die flattens the odds and limits the outcome. Even two dice, just one more die, makes a big difference in decision tree. I’m not saying there aren’t good Roll and Writes that use just one die but I definitely view it as a design obstacle.

That said, Waypoints has a number of ways of letting you deal with random luck. Water lets you get additional action points. Jackets give you bonus action points on cold weather (which is when you get only one or two points) Kayaks and hang gliders give you special movements. Later maps add more stuff.

The only actual problem that I have found, and this has happened to me, is that I have had hiking days that only lasted three turns. The number of turns you get can be pretty variable.

I have only played the game solitaire, which requires you to end each day at a campfire, a requirement that you don’t have in multi-player games. I lost my first game because I couldn’t do that. I don’t view that as a bug but a feature. The soliatire game would be too easy without that extra challenge. That said, I have had to hustle on some hikes.

I honestly feel Waypoints is a very close third behind Voyages and Aquamarine. The theme is very strong and well connected to the mechanics. The action points make the freehand drawing work well.  Waypoints is engaging and interesting. It feels both innovative and intuitive, at least to me.

However, the variable turn factor is a ding for me. I can see how it might be a plus for some folks, since it definitely adds tension to the game. And I think it might be less of a problem with multi-player games where you don’t have to end on a camp fire.

Waypoints is gojng to see regular play from me. It is what people who actually wanted to play Outdoor Survival wanted Outdoor Survival to be.

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