Board game enthusiasts… aren’t you tired of Settlers of Catan? I mean good grief, how many times is your friend Erica going to ask you for wheat or sheep?
Enter climbing board games.
Yes, they exist. No, there don’t seem to be any groundbreaking ones (although the upcoming First Ascent is a likely contender), but some are a worthy buy.
In this competitive game, each player controls a team of two mountaineers attempting to summit K2, racing to reach the top and get down before other player teams do. Players use identical decks of cards, with each card moving the climbers further up their chosen route on K2. You can also choose to bivy or acclimatize your climbers, among other options. Weather, acclimatization, and oxygen all play a role in your survival. Two sets of weather tiles are included, so you can attempt a summit in both “summer” and “winter” conditions. As far as mountaineering-themed board games go, K2 is one of the most highly rated ones, and it’s won a handful of awards. K2 supports 1-5 players.
This old-school cooperative game (from way back in 1973) features all the players working together to try to summit a peak. You share equipment, plan strategy, and collaborate to find the best way around various obstacles to the top of the mountain. Your team starts at Base Camp, and uses items like picks, ropes, shovels, and crampons to move up the peak, taking care to avoid hazards like frostbite, snow blindness, and avalanches. This is a great family game, and is fairly simple and straightforward, so it’s suitable for younger kids. Mountaineering supports 2-6 players.
Climb! is pretty unique as far as climbing board games go, since you’re actually using your fingers to “climb” by grabbing holds on the board. Think Twister but with your hands. Players climb a route made of cards, earning points for each move. The more fingers they are able to place in various “holds” (holes on the cards) at the end of a move, the more points they earn. Each hold is bordered by a color, and only one finger can go in each color. If you accidentally move the cards, you automatically end your turn. It’s unclear if this French game is still in production, but we did find a copy available on Ebay at the link about. Climb! supports 1-5 players.
Summit is a newer game (2017) that can be played both competitively or cooperatively (and you can also play by yourself). Like K2 and Mountaineering, you’re trying to summit a mountain and either race against the other players or simply summit and survive (in the case of team games). The game includes over 190 unique cards and almost 100 tiles. You can also customize your difficulty and game length, so this is one with a lot of replay value. Several expansions that can further enhance the gameplay are also available. Summit: The Board Game supports 1-6 players.
Another newer game, Mountaineers is notable in that it features a three-dimensional board. Players are competing against each other and AI climbers to earn points while “climbing” around a rotating 3D modular game board that is shaped like (you guessed it) a mountain. The focus, according to the developers, is on “competitive route finding, resource management, character building, and upgrades, while challenging players to react to various exciting and sometimes comical events that occur on the mountain.” Mountaineers supports 1-4 players.