Reviews

Trekking Through History – Board Game Review

If you could turn back time, when would you go?

Game at a Glance

  • Underdog Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 10+
  • Time: 30-60 minutes
  • Availability: Retail and online

A review copy of this game was provided by the publisher; however, my opinions are my own


Skip to Review; Skip to Final Thoughts

Have you ever wished you could have painted with Leonardo da Vinci or rocked out with Freddy Mercury at Live Aid? Trekking Through History allows players to take a three-day tour through time, exploring some of the most fascinating events human history has to offer!

Overview

In Trekking Through History, you will take a chronological tour through time and gather experiences for points. Each day of your tour will have a corresponding deck of History cards, which are shuffled and displayed on the included player mat. Players take turns drafting cards to build their Treks (timelines) and to collect the experience tokens needed to fill out their Itineraries. The longer a Trek’s timeline, the more endgame points it will score.

Each turn you will draft a card from six available historical events, move your pocket watch to account for the time cost of that event, collect the benefits from the card and playmat, and slide cards to the right and refill the history cards. You only have 12 hours to spend on each day of your journey. Fortunately, you may spend Time Crystals to reduce a card’s cost and extend your vacation.

The game ends when all players have completed their third day, then players calculate their scores. Points from Treks and unspent Time Crystals are added to those gained during the game from cards and Itineraries.

Review

Gameplay

Trekking Through History‘s primary mechanic is open drafting. Cards are not drafted to your “hand” but are immediately played to your Trek – a chronological chain of historical events. Because the card chain you are building must be in chronological order, timing is crucial. The card market is unpredictable – sometimes there will be several cards you want for your Trek all at once, and other times there might not be anything suitable. Although there is luck in the card deck, the turn order mechanism allows players options to speed up or slow down their card acquisition to fiddle with timing. 

There is also an element of set collection and contract fulfillment. You will collect sets of Time cards, but you will also gather resources in the form of Experience Tokens from these cards and their position on the player mat. Each day you will choose a new Itinerary Card used to store collected experiences. By completing rows and columns of experiences, you will earn bonuses in the form of points and Time Crystals.

If at any point you are unable or unwilling to choose a time card that works in your timeline, you have two options. You may choose to take a Visit Your Ancestors card which essentially acts as a wild that can keep your Trek going while you wait for a better time card option. Alternatively, you may start a new timeline. You can only be on one trek at a time, so once you decide to start a new Trek, you may not add cards to previous Treks. It was a solid design choice to give players the option to choose whether they prefer to press their luck, or to start fresh.

Trekking Through History is a tactical game and at first glance, it seems players are simply at the mercy of the deck. But there are subtle ways to manipulate time to your benefit, most notably through the turn order mechanism. Turn order is decided by the movement of stopwatches on a clock rondel which can be managed to take turns strategically. The player whose pocket watch is furthest behind goes next. By strategically utilizing time crystals and low-cost cards, it is possible to take multiple turns in a row. This is not always optimal – sometimes slow-playing is best. It is possible to anticipate which cards your opponents might take which could shift the card market in a way that is more beneficial to you.

Another interesting aspect of gameplay is the push and pull between valuable cards (those which the needed experience tokens) and time cost. Naturally, cards with many resource bonuses will likely have a hefty time cost. 12 hours can be spent incredibly fast if you are not managing your time wisely. There is an engaging push-and-pull between filling your Itinerary for immediate victory points, versus lengthening your Trek for end-game points.

Weight

Trekking Through History is lightweight and geared toward families. The short rulebook is easy to understand thanks to the thoughtful layout and liberal use of visual examples. The thoughtfully-designed insert helps to get the game on the table and running quickly, and the simple turn structure means the game can be taught to others in a few minutes.

Replayability

Trekking Through History comes with 108 unique History cards to discover. In addition to that, you will be playing with three out of 24 unique itinerary cards each game. This provides a bit variance to keep the game fresh without overwhelming younger players.

There are multiple ways to score points and manipulate turn order, so some of the replayability will come from exploring different strategies. In addition, there is the Time Warp module included in the game that adds to the decision space (since the game instructs players to open the module once the game has been played at least once, I will not go into details on how it works).

Theme / Aesthetics

The time travel vacation theme is fun and comes through in the artwork and components. The concept of using time as a resource is clever as is the use of the clock rondel.

The component quality is top-notch. The insert is well-designed complete with a removable tray, making setup a breeze. It includes a lovely neoprene mat and the cards within are of nice quality. Even the smallest components are detailed in a way that indicates a lot of thought was put into the design. The symbology is easy to understand, and the artwork pops off the cards. Each brightly-illustrated card includes historical information about that event on the back for optional reading. All the components come together to create a beautiful, eye-catching game.

Interaction / Fun

Although players will work on individual Treks and Itineraries, there is still interaction in the game. There will be competition in the card draft – especially at the beginning of the game when players are likely trying to take the earliest options. But even when players are in completely different time periods it is wise to pay attention to your competitor’s timelines as it can help you to anticipate which cards they are likely to draft, and in turn, the position of the card you will want when it is your turn.

With two players it can feel pretty back-and-forth. It is easy for players to remain in similar eras on their Treks and card choices become obvious. There wasn’t as much to do with turn order manipulation at that count, and the Visit Your Ancestor cards are extremely risky due to the lack of card turnover in the market between turns. Trekking Through History is at its best at higher player counts.

Final Thoughts

There is a lot to like in Trekking Through History. It has simple mechanics and a clean design, making it accessible to a wide audience. It has a bright, appealing aesthetic and offers educational value making it attractive to both younger gamers and their parents. And the game uses the element of time in a creative way – as a resource to be spent, and also relying on timing as a strategic tool.

For a game about time travel, it seems appropriate that timing is so important in this game. Trekking Through History allows you to manipulate the timing through the clock rondel and the Time Crystals. There is also an element of punctuality cleverly incorporated into the game. I found this turn order mechanism to be interesting and was the highlight of the game for me.

That being said, this is not likely a game for those expecting medium- or heavy-weight strategy. The decision space is pretty light and the card drafting choices seemed obvious to me a lot of the time. I also think it’s more enjoyable with three or four players as opposed to two.

This game is fantastic for families with children ages 10 and up (possibly younger, depending on the kid). The mechanics are simple and easy to grasp, and the quick, easy turns are good for those with short attention spans. There is also educational value here, and although reading the card text is not a requirement for gameplay, I found myself enjoying it anyway. This is a family-weight game but the turn order manipulation will likely keep the experienced players engaged. The decision space is a bit lighter than I usually prefer, but there is enough there that I would happily revisit this one with my kids.

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