Trekking Through History Review
Sometimes you want a game that cuts through the layers upon layers of complexity of modern Euro games and instead emphasises doing one thing, and doing it well. Trekking Through History‘s thing is set collection, and it’s something it does very well. Designer Charlie Bink has put together a simple. streamlined, and very pretty game, and it’s one I’ve really enjoyed playing with my family.
Not all those who wander are lost
The premise of Trekking Through History is pretty out there. You’re tasked with going on a three-day tour of human history in a time machine. No biggy. To make things easier on the ol’ time machine, you’re trying to visit each year in chronological order, so you head back as far as you dare, and then step forward through history. If you ever need to go backwards, that ‘trek’ is over, and you have to start a new one. As you might have guessed, longer treks score more points, so ending treks isn’t ideal.
Choosing where – or more accurately, when – you go to is as easy as choosing a card from the central market and adding it to your splayed collection of cards. That on its own would be pretty dull, so instead the game offers you these cool plastic experience tokens for taking cards. Some come from the card you choose, and others from the slot you took it from in the market. The tokens fill in spaces on your Itinerary sheets, which get swapped out after each day (round) is complete. Fill in the correct spots on your itinerary sheets to get points and time crystals.
So now you’ve got headache of choosing not only a card which fits into your trek nicely, you also want to maximise the benefits from collecting and placing the experience tokens too. On top of that, each card you take also has a number of hours printed on it, and you’re forced to move your counter around the clock that many spaces. Bigger rewards generally mean better bonuses, but it’s always the player furthest back on the clock that takes the next turn, so it’s possible to take cards which keep you at the back, giving you consecutive turns.
Not as easy as it first seemed, eh?
Collect moments, not things
One of the things I really like about Trekking Through History is the amount of care and attention that’s been lavished on it. It would’ve been easy to make the cards have a cursory title and date, and not really get into the detail of the place/time you’re visiting each time. Instead, the back of each card has a proper explanation of the event you choose, giving some flavour and context to what would otherwise be a very abstract trip.
For example, the 500BCE card is titled Drink “hot chocolate” with the Mayans, and it gives some nice background to it. I now know that the Mayans didn’t drink their chocolate hot, it was served cold, but the addition of chilli peppers certainly made it taste hot! From travelling the Silk Road in the 13th-century with Marco Polo, right through to tearing down the berlin wall in 1989, many of the world’s important times and events are covered. I really appreciate it when a game’s designers take the time to add this level of colour and flavour.
The moments from the game aren’t the only ones I’ve been collecting. It’s been one of the few games that my whole family universally enjoys. My son doesn’t have the patience for games that drag on, and my wife doesn’t like it when games start ramping up the complexity. To have this game which plays out pretty quickly and is really easy to not only teach, but also understand, means we’ve been able to enjoy more time playing together, as a family. That’s worth a lot to me.
I’ve made Trekking Through History sound like a light game, and it is, but that’s not to say there isn’t plenty in here for a hardened gamer to enjoy. Deciding how to fill your itinerary and weighing up turn order against the cards on offer is plenty to get your brain chewing over. The time crystals I mentioned earlier are a great tactical asset. When you take a card and move your stopwatch counter around the clock face, you can subtract one from the total movement for each crystal you spend, down to a minimum of 1. It makes for some really interesting combo opportunities.
It’s true that it’s another of those games where you’re at the mercy of the cards that come out of the deck and the order they come out, but it’s not as bad as it could be. Each day has its own deck, and a reference sheet which tells you which dates are available in each deck. This proved to be priceless during our games, because planning your trek out is really dependent on what’s possible. You don’t want to try to keep stringing out a trek in the hope of a later date, only to find there aren’t any in that particular deck.
Once you’ve played a couple of times, I recommend opening the little Time Warp packet inside the box and adding those tiles into the game. They just spice things up a bit with a random choice of additional rules or actions each day, and it’s enough to elevate the game from ‘by the numbers’ to something with a little more bite.
When the folks at Underdog Games asked me to take a look at Trekking Through History, I was keen, but seeing the low Weight rating on BGG (1.8 at the time of writing) made me wonder if I’d get much out of it. I am very happily surprised. I taught myself how to play with a two-handed game, which is the way I usually learn, and after just ten minutes I knew that I really liked the game, and I knew that I wanted to get other people to play.
The whole game feels like the deluxe edition of a standard game, with the custom plastic tokens, stopwatches, and GameTrayz insert, which is a great feeling in a game that costs £36/$40. The artwork is great throughout, with bright, vivid colours, and the various tokens tracks all have unique symbols too, to make them colourblind-friendly.
If your group likes things on the lighter end of the board game complexity spectrum, or you have a family who enjoy playing together, I highly recommend Trekking Through History. If you’re only really interested in heavy games, or games with no degree of randomness in them, it’s not for you. For the rest of us, however, it’s a great addition to our collections, which happily sits alongside Ticket To Ride and The Quacks of Quendlinburg (review here) on my family games shelf.
Review copy kindly provided by Underdog Games. Thoughts and opinions are my own.
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Trekking Through History (2022)
Design: Charlie Bink
Publisher: Underdog Games
Art: Eric Hibbeler
Playing time: 30-60 mins