9th February 2022
It's Wednesday night and we're round Simon's for some gaming fun. The evening's game was In the hall of the Mountain King.
Ask yourself: What is it that trolls like to do? Live under bridges perhaps; no. Chase goats maybe; no. What about make trouble on the internet; no. What trolls really like to do is dig tunnels (The fancier the better.) and move statues!
What's in a game?
There's certainly a good amount of wooden tokens and meeples here, the acrylic crystals are also a nice addition.
None of the other components struck me as being poor quality and they're typical of what is expected in a modern game.
There are a couple of minor quibbles though.
The pedestal points tokens are a bit small and fiddly to handle
The second is a bit of personal grumble - which is that all the carts are brown but depending on where the carts are acquired from will represent different colours. Carts in a player's central area can be used for any colour of statue. But carts from icons on troll cards can only be used to move statutes of a certain colour - which is indicated by the colour of the icon used to acquire the cart! Makes sense... right? Maybe not? Surely it would have been useful to include some carts of the relevant colours?
There isn't a great deal of art in the game, mostly on on the spell and troll cards but it's all well illustrated with bold colours and and is fairly varied. There are 4 types (Or clans.) of troll cards and 3 types correspond to the blue/orange/white colour motif that runs through the game and I quite like how those trolls cards have a colour pallet to match it their types.
Having said that; the starter cards all feature the same piece of artwork that has been coloured matched to each player colour which is a little disappointing.
For the most, the game's iconography is actually straightforward and easily understood. Only the aforementioned issue with carts being a small problem. If the cart icon has a coloured background then a cart that is sourced from that icon can only be used for that colour of statue.
Luckily it's not a gamebreaker although it's finicky rule to remember.
How's it play?
On to play
Play during In the Hall of the Mountain King will have active player performing 4 actions before play moves clockwise to the next player.
The endgame is triggered when there no coronation tokens left to acquire.
The current round is completed and 2 more rounds are played.
Players then calculate VPs, a player's VPs may come from the following sources.
Statues - depending on their position in the 5 zones and doubled if the player managed to place them on a pedestal.
Great hall tokens in a player's network - with or without statues.
Pedestal points for placing pedestals.
Unspent resources; these can earn points. Every 3-of-a-kind scores an extra VP.
Points are tallied, highest score wins.
Despite having quite a few rule to remember and sounding quite complicated, In the Hall of the Mountain King is actually pretty straightforward in practice and many of the rules are obvious when in action.
There's definitely a couple of finicky rules though, and again - it's to do with the carts and pedestals. It feels like an unnecessary complication to have these differently coloured carts to move statues.
The rule that restrict pedestals to 1 per colour in each zone also feels a but cumbersome. I know why the rule is there: It encourages competition in a game that otherwise has little interaction between players.
Players will want to be the first to get a pedestal as close to the Heart of the Mountain as possible. It locks out completing players and offers a big scoring opportunity.
It means that players are put into a balancing act of needing build their tunnel network but also acquire resources to make this expansion happen. Clever placement of tiles will earn players some resources but recruiting trolls is the best way to get them and you'll note that digging and recruiting are pretty much the only 2 mutually exclusive actions in a turn.
There's more to tunnel tile placement too, pedestals and thus statues have to go on anchor spots and it's these need to be as close to the centre of the board as possible, sometimes it'll be tricky to get it right, or it'll require not getting something else. Being able to avoid rubble spaces helps as well.
Resource management also has more to it. Spending resources from troll cards first is prudent, as is using workshops to change them into other resources - because they go back on to the storage space and not the troll card. It does involve trying to think ahead about what resources can be acquired and what will be needed.
This brings me neatly to the Trollmoot/Horde elements of the game, with their overlapping and cascading mechanics for both buying cards and acquiring resources they almost feel like a different game to the tile placement taking place on the game board.
I have to say that I like the cascading mechanic, it's simple but provides some interesting decisions for players to make. Building up a Trollmoot, like much of In the Hall of the Mountain King requires a little forethought.
If my calculations are correct, the cards in the centre columns will be activated the most. Players will want to identify and prioritise what resources they'll need in their Trollmoot setup. Additionally, deciding where to place a troll card will determine what resources the player immediately.
I do also have some concerns about the game, I found using the tunnel tiles, creating pedestals and moving statues more of a chore than satisfying and the game it didn't quite gel with me.
I'm also not sure how much value there is in replaying the game. The player and statue starting positions and workshops may vary but mostly the board's resources stay unchanged. And while the card mechanics are good, the cards themselves only vary in which resources they provide.
In the Hall of the Mountain King is another one of these games that does nothing really wrong and I've got nothing against the game. If someone else wanted to play it I would happily join in but somehow it's missing that special something that makes me want to play it again.
I play, I paint.