What a beautiful day. The sun is shining on the mountains, and the goats are out to play! As they leap from rock to rock, the goats start to get hungry. Where are the most delicious flowers found? At the tops of the mountains, of course. Let’s go!
Mountain Goats is played with a deck of 18 cards, which will form the mountains. The # 5 and 6 mountains consist of 4 cards, the #7 and 8 mountains, 3 cards, and the #9 and 10 mountains are just 2 cards tall each.
Each mountain has a stack of point tokens – 12 for the Mountain 5 and one less token for each successive mountain.
There are also 4 Bonus Point tokens, worth 15, 12, 9 and 6 points.
Each player has six goats and will assign one goat to each of the six mountains.
Finally, there are 4 dice, which players will use to move their goats up the mountains.
Set up the mountain cards with each number card below its peak. Stack the Point tokens above each mountain, and set the Bonus tokens off to the side.
Hand the 4 dice to the starting player, and you’re ready to play Mountain Goats!
Mountain Goats is a game of dice rolling and set collection. The goal is to earn the most points in tokens, including those Bonus Tokens.
Each turn you’ll roll the four dice and then combine them to move your goats up the mountains.
Once you roll the four dice, look for groups, or single dice which produce the numbers 5 through 10.
For each dice group, you’ll move your goat on the corresponding mountain up by one step.
So, for example, if you rolled a 2, 4, 5, and 6, you could set the 5 by itself, pair the 2 and 4, and use the 6 by itself. You’d then move your goat on the Mountain 5 one step, and your Mountain 6 goat up two steps.
Of course, you could also have chosen to pair the 4 and 6, and the 2 and 5, moving one goat up the Mountain 10, and one up Mountain 7.
Note that if you end up with groups of dice that don’t add to numbers between 5 and 10, those dice won’t move any goats.
Any number of player’s goats may share the same space, except at the top of the mountain.
When you move a goat to the top of any mountain, you take a token from that mountain’s stack. If another player’s goat was already at the top, return that goat to the bottom of the mountain to start its climb all over.
As long as your goat is at the top, when you create a new group of dice with that number, your goat won’t move, it’ll simply grab another scoring token. Just watch out for other goats climbing up from below!
If you collect a set of one token from each of the six mountains, you earn the highest numbered Bonus token available.
In fact, each time you collect a complete set of tokens, take the highest Bonus token available.
The last round of the game is triggered when all the Bonus tokens have been claimed or when 3 mountains have no more Point tokens available. When either of these conditions is met, finish the round so all players have had an equal number of turns.
Players add up the points on all their scoring tokens. Highest score wins the game. In the case of a tie, the player with the most goats on mountaintops wins.
The winner is now the Queen (or King) of all the Mountain Goats!!
Mountain Goats is an excellent re-theming of an older game, Level X. That game made the short list of recommended games by the Spiel des Jahres committee in 2010.
While the base game play is identical, there’s something both fitting and wonderful about this new setting. Now your markers on each mountain are frisky goats, jumping and bumping each other as they bound for the peaks.
Before you were picking up point tokens, now you are motivating your goats higher and higher, all in pursuit of the sweetest flowers.
Why do these changes matter? Because play isn’t just about winning, or out-scoring your opponents, but about the connection the game creates in your mind between what you are doing, and what the theme suggests you are about.
Mechanically? You are using dice to move tokens and gain points. Thematically, your dice allow your goats to scamper up the mountains, gathering tasty flowers, and butting rivals from the loftiest heights.
With this theme, we create an emotional connection. Those are MY goats! How dare you butt them from the top of the mountain?? Yeah? We’ll see about that!
Now, you are invested. This is your team, your family. How dare anyone mess with YOUR family? The pieces and gameplay are virtually the same. What has changed is your commitment.
It’s not business, it’s personal.
Aside from the involvement created by the theme and lovely artwork, Mountain Goats has some strategic considerations. Do you make a blitz to the top of a mountain, hoping to clear it of points?
Or should you lay back, spreading your dice to move all your goats, hoping to nibble away on all the peaks, hoping to earn some of those big Bonus tokens?
And, of course, any other player’s goat at the top of a mountain is automatically a target. You can’t let that goat just stay there to gobble up points round after round!
The other feature added to Mountain Goats is a nice little expansion. Here, a 5th player can join in the fun, and there’s an additional strategy option.
Using the Big Mountain expansion allows players to group dice in totals from 11-24. As long as there’s not another goat already there, you may send one of your goats to these higher peaks.
At the end of the game, the goats on these higher mountains will score additional Bonus tokens, based on how high they climbed.
Mountain Goats presents us with a compact game that plays quickly, and offers just the right balance of strategy and chance for a family-friendly game.
Mountain Goats shows that sometimes, even a good game can be improved. Here, Level X, a classic modern game, has been given new life and brought to a new generation of gamers.
This game allows us all to frolic together on a tabletop without a long trip to the Alps. Bringing delight to gamers of all ages is certainly a mountain worth climbing. Mountain Goats straddles a peak we call Major Fun.
Written by: Doug Richardson