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ALTIPLANO: THE TRAVELER

Reviewed by Herb Levy

ALTIPLANO: THE TRAVELER (Renegade Games/dlp, 2 to 5 players, ages 12 and up, 60-120 minutes; $30)

 

One of the best games released in 2017 was Altiplano designed by Reiner Stockhausen, a game set in the high mountains of the Andes as players traveled to different locations, gathered resources, fulfilled contracts and more. Fast forward and Stockhausen, along with co-designers Louis and Stefan Malz, return once again to the Andes with the first expansion to the original game: Altiplano: The Traveler

The base game of Altiplano is a “bag builder”: resources collected get placed in each player’s individual bag, drawn each turn and used so players can do a host of actions to score the most points and win. (For those unfamiliar with the original game, you can “flashback” to our Spring 2018 review of Altiplano by clicking on the link below.) Altiplano: The Traveler adds a few more things to consider in your travels to victory in the form of Event cards, opals, asset cards and The Traveler himself!

At the start of each round, before any resources are drawn, one Event card is revealed. Generally, Events are beneficial bestowing goods upon players, opening up another planning space, allowing for goods not usually sold to be sold, permitting advancement on the road and more. Many of these cards also have an effect on The Traveler by placing resources in his trading area which may be obtained by using the new resource of the game: opals. (More on that later.) 

All players receive a “traveler strip”, an auxiliary board which ties in to The Traveler and placed above the players’ action boards. Like the standard board, there is room for resource placement there. There is also a “trading point”, a new and additional location, placed in the center of the play area where players put their matching color cubes (included in the expansion) on a section (facing them) to mark their own “trade area” with one area reserved for The Traveler. Once players have placed their pawns on the various areas of the game, the white Traveler pawn, in keeping with the “travelling” theme, is placed on the road location. Play continues as normal unless you want to interact with The Traveler. 

To interact with The Traveler, you need to be at the same location. (At the end of each round, The Traveler moves clockwise to the next UNOCCUPIED location.) Then, you may take several new actions. 

Buy Opals – One or more goods from your traveler strip get placed into your container. For each good spent, you get 1 opal. 

Buy an Asset – Assets come in two levels, the first level being available immediately; the second becoming available when triggered by an Event later in the game. These assets cost 1 good (the type depending on the icon on the card and shown on the traveler strip). Assets are all good and grant you all sorts of advantages and bonuses including money and Victory Points which is why no more than 1 asset may be bought each turn. Goods used to pay for assets are placed in that player’s TRADING area. 

Buy a Good – Using opals (1 or 2 depending on the good), a player may buy ONE good from the trading area, either from another player OR The Traveler. (You may NEVER trade with yourself.) Opals spent are returned to supply. At the end of the game, every 2 opals held by a player are worth 1 Victory Point. 

In the base game, resources needed, for one reason or another, can run out and someone can feel handcuffed by the lack of a critical resource. With The Traveler and trading option, players now have another avenue available to collect a vital resource. By using a plentiful good to buy an opal to give you a chance to obtain a rarer and more essential good (for you) in an exchange, a player can circumvent that condition. This rewards shrewd trading. Because trading is now so important, the expansion works best with more players so that a (potentially) wider selection of resources will be in play. But even if you cannot get the particular resource you have in mind, opals do convert to Victory Points at the end of the game so they still have value. While the expansion allows you to play with just the Event cards if you wish, in our experience, both Events and The Traveler are worthwhile additions to help you get the most out of an excellent game. 

Far too often, game expansions do not add as much to the original as promised. Fortunately, in this case, Altiplano: The Traveler makes a significant contribution to the game dynamics. Event cards are just fun, mainly because they are not painful and help players implement their strategy, often giving it a much needed boost. Meanwhile, the Traveler presents a whole new facet to the game.  If you like Altiplano, then adding Altiplano: The Traveler is a trip worth taking!- – – – – – — Herb Levy


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