With the publication of Whistle Mountain from Scott Caputo and Luke Laurie this month, Bezier Games has released a surprising follow up to 2017’s hit game Whistle Stop (also by Scott Caputo). What’s surprising is that it’s not a train game, but it shares all sorts of thematic and mechanical similarities to the previous title, and even more than those, the combos that can be developed during both games are immensely satisfying.
Whistle Mountain is, at its core, a worker placement game. The big twist is that the majority of locations for your workers (in this case, airships) are created by the players themselves. Because of this, players are actively constructing possible combinations of actions and resources, oftentimes in ways that only they know about until they’ve played them. Machines can be placed on the main gameboard in such a way that several can be activated at once by using certain airships, possibly fueled by the resources that are being simultaneously acquired at this time. Once a player “finds” that combo by activating it, it’s suddenly apparent to all the players that the combo exists, and then it’s time to angle their airships to take advantage of it.
But that’s just for commonly-available combo’s. Once players have a few upgrades, or even their unique starting ability, they’ll start to realize that they can make combos that are significantly better for them than the other players. An upgrade that gives you a scaffold for a whistle combined with a starting ability that activates diagonal spaces when you place your hot air balloon next to a machine that lets you build for an iron next to another machine that gives you two iron, plus any resources you happen to be adjacent to….and suddenly you have this great combo that works especially well for you, taking scaffolds from the supply and getting them directly onto the board for points each time you place there.
The different ways that the resources, machines, upgrades and starting abilities can work together is limitless, and every time you play you’ll undoubtedly discover yet another combo that works really well for you.
One of the only drawbacks to finding these combos is that once you start taking advantage of them, the other players at the table will take notice, and as soon as your airship vacates that perfect spot, someone else will jump on it, possibly preventing you from using it for several turns while you wait for their airship to leave. One of the ways to proactively address this is to stock up on some cards early in the game, holding on to three of the most powerful cards in the game: Battering Ram, Dispatcher, and Storm Winds. On your first few plays of Whistle Mountain, these cards can feel like duds compared to the cards that gain you resources, procure a machine without spending an action, or to move or rescue a worker. Until you’re in that situation where someone has taken your perfect combo spot (sometimes even before you get to place there), or maybe you’d like to do that spot again, but would need to take a Forge action to return your airships before you could place it at that location again. Battering Ram shoves opponents out of the way, Dispatcher returns any of your airships back to your dock (remember, you can play cards at any point on your turn, such as the first thing you do), and Storm Winds sends *all* airships back to their docks, setting you up for a clean board and providing you with your choice of placements on your turn. It’s great way to start off one of those amazing combo turns!
Once you have a few games under your belt, you’ll start to see more and more of these possible combos that you can set up, or even sometimes steal directly from your opponents before they have a chance to take advantage of them. Pulling off a great combo is one of the most satisfying things you can do in Whistle Mountain!