Trekking Through History Board Game Review
Updated: Sep 8, 2022
Trekking Through History
WBG Score: 8
Player Count: 2-4
You’ll like this if you like: Splendor, 7 Wonders Duel, Trekking The World.
Published by: Underdog Games
Designed by: Charlie Bink
Charlie Bink starting trekking through board games in 2014 with his first release in this world, Trekking National Parks. He then decided to go bigger with 2020's Trekking the World. After this, what's next? The Galaxy? The Universe? Nope! It's time. 2022 saw the release of Trekking Through History. The spirit of the game remains the same, but a whole new world to explore has been created. You can find out more here. Let's get it to the table and see how it plays.
Getting this game to the table is very simple, and made a lot easier from the excellent insert in the box and the brilliant components within. First, lay out the board, place the component tray out with the lid off, then place the Clock board down. Then give each player their pocket watch tokens, discs, and crystal board in their chosen colour. Shuffle the three age decks separately and place the first age deck down on the left side of the board dealing out five face up cards plus the top of the remaining deck. Each player places one of their coloured discs on the zero space of the score board, and their pocket watch token on the 12 space on the Clock board. Place the ancestor cards on the top left of the board and then randomly take three Time Warp cards from the Time Warp deck and place one face up in the centre of the clock board. (Don't use the Time Warp cards until you're comfortable with the base game). Finally, give each player four itinerary boards for them to choose one from for round one. They keep the others for the next rounds. You are now ready to trek through time! Although feel free to stretch it out and hydrate.
How to Play
Playing this game is as simple as setting it up. Perhaps even simpler! On your turn, you will take one card from the seven available cards. Five are available with an added bonus shown underneath it, the five you just dealt out. One is available from the top of the deck with no added bonus. And finally, you can also choose one of the Ancestor cards if there are any available.
When you take a card you will place it in front of you, either starting a new trek or adding it to your current trek. If it has a date that is later than your top card in your current trek, you can add the new card on top to continue this trek. If the date is earlier, then you must immediately end the previous trek and use this new card to start a new trek. You will score your finished treks based on how many cards are in each one so you want to build up a large pile. The points available is clearly shown on the right side of the board. A one card trek will score you minus three points. Two cards will score zero. Ten cards will get you 30 points. This game, much like all parents, rewards longer walks.
Each card you take will show symbols on the bottom right. When you add q new card into your trek you take tokens that match these symbols. Not forgetting the symbol below the card if you chose one of those five cards. These tokens are added to your itinerary board from top to bottom. The purple "W" symbol is wild and can be placed anywhere.
When you cover up certain spots on the itinerary board you will be rewarded with points and crystals. Crystals can also be gained from taking the card on the far right. The crystals are used to help manipulate your use of time. Each card you take will also force you to use up some of your allocated time. This will be shown on a symbol on the bottom left of the card. Take a card with a 'two' shown in a clock on it for example, and you must move your pocket watch two spaces on the clock board. When your pocket watch reaches the 12 space again, your round is over.
Points can also be gained by completing rows on the itinerary board as shown above, or reaching the 12 space on the Clock board exactly. If you are on the 11 space and you take a card that uses up more than one hour you move to the 12 and wait there. It's fine to overshoot. But if you get there exactly by choosing a card that uses just one hour, or you use crystals to get it down to one hour, you will be rewarded with three additional bonus points, as shown on the top of the Clock board.
When you use up time, you can employ previously acquired time crustal to reduce your time by one hour. You can use as many crystals as there are hours on the card you are taking. You can never move back in time. Faded photos and all that.
If you don't want to take one of the six available time cards, you can either take an Ancestor card, or use the Time Warp card. The Ancestor card moves you forward three spaces on the time Clock board and gives you one wild symbol. You can do this as often as you like and the card will be added to your current trek, it counts as one more card in this trek, and the card counts as whatever year it was placed on. You can do this as often as there are Ancestor cards available. They are a limited resource in the game. The Time Warp card is different each time, based on the three you chose at random during set up. They can only be used once per round. You must place your second coloured disc there to show you have used it. Then move however many time spaces it shows on the top of the Time Warp card using whatever power this card offers.
The game starts in turn order, but then works based on who ever is the furthest back on the Clock board. For example, if one player moves two hours on their first go, then all other players move three or four, the player who move two hours will go next. If they then move one hour, they will be on top of any player who previously moved three hours. That means they will go again, as their pocket watch is on top, furthest back on the clock. In this regard, you can have multiple turns in a row. Maximising the most amount of turns each round is crucial to getting more cards, more tokens, and of course, more points.
The game runs for three rounds, with all players getting a new itinerary board but keeping their current trek between rounds. After three rounds, all players total their final scores and the winner is declared.
How Does it Look
It is worth saying at this point that this game looks stunning. The components are second to none. The tray is great. The tokens are nice and chunky. The card stock is thick, and the roll out Neoprene mat from this Kickstarter version is gorgeous. The art on all the cards is unique and wonderful. Each card is double sided showing a bit about whatever part of history you are visiting. Although I doubt you will pay that much attention to that! But it is a nice touch. And perhaps useful for some home schooling!
Something very much worth noting is the insert which is fantastic. It's well built, well thought out, practical, and perfect in every way. I'm a little bit in love with it. It doesn't add to the game, but it sure adds to making the set up, tear down, and overall feeling of quality within this production even higher. Well done to all at Underdog Games.
Is it Fun?
Playing Trekking Through History is surprisingly satisfying. Considering you are only doing one thing on your turn, taking one card, it feels great to play this game. You feel a constant sense or progression as you add your card to your trek, making that worth more points. You add more tokens to your itinerary and get more points there too. And doing all these actions physically feels nice, as all the components are so well made. There is a sensory reward here too.
Scores can get quite big in this game. We regularly started getting into three figures from game three onwards. As you figure out the ways to get more turns, pick the right cards, and maximise your treks, your scores will get bigger and bigger. The key seems to be understanding the cards that are in each deck. Planning your choices to maximise the length of your treks. There is a reference sheet for this, showing each year on each card for each deck. But there are only three decks, and only 36 cards per deck. So, after a few games, you will become accustomed to the span of years. Deck one has just one card in the 1900's for example. Whereas deck three has 14. Nearly half the deck. Building longer treks and getting up to 30 points for this will significantly affect your overall score.
I very much enjoy trying new itinerary board each round, and working out how each one can be best used. Some need a consistent spread of the different types of tokens. Others need you to focus on just one of the four columns. There are 24 itinerary sheets in the box, and they are all very different. I like to rotate the board round each player between rounds so that each player uses the same ones in the same game. The rules state you are dealt four at random at the start of the game and you then choose one for each age. This works fine, but I think it more fair if you all use the same ones through the game, and just pass the one you just used clockwise round the table. This works perfectly in a three player game with the three rounds.
This game is very light, highly accessible in terms of the rules and strategy, but incredibly rewarding as you play. There are two main ways to score. The number of cards in your trek, and the points gained from your itinerary board. You also get one point for any unused crystals at the end of the game, but they are generally much better used in the game to get more turns.
With only one action available to you each turn, picking a card, and only seven available cards, eight if you include the Time Warp, you would think it would be easy and obvious what to do each time. And sometimes it is. You want the nearest card in year order to the one you previously visited, that also offers the most useful reward to you according to your current itinerary board. However, these two factors are often in conflict with each other. One card may be perfect for you in terms of the year you are visiting, but offers no suitable tokens. However, another card may give you all the tokens you need but is either earlier in time than your current trek card, or too big of a jump from it. Finding the right card that hits that sweet spot is incredibly satisfying.
There is a solid solo mode available in the box, and the game scales very well to all player counts. There is minimal down time due to the quick and limited actions, and the frustration of players taking the cards you want happening more often with more players, is easily appeased by the opportunity to get through and see more cards.
This is a great game for families looking to make a step up from basic card games, but that are not quite ready yet for mid weight or heavier strategy games. It sits in the Splendor mold as a light filler, that delivers a high level of fun and satisfaction whilst remaining incredibly simple to play. Will you ever really care about what year you visit, and pay attention to the theme and text on the back of the card? That's up to you. It's fascinating if you do, but all players round the table have to buy into that. Otherwise people will get irritated by the slow play as you read all the text! However, the art on the front is gorgeous and tells the whole story well enough most of the time. So, what you are left with is a pure, simple, rewarding game that plays as good as it looks. And by golly does it look good! (Yes, I said "by golly" and I am ok with it).