Whether you’re the top dog, on top of the world, the Top Chef, or in the top 10, being on top of things plays a big part in our board gaming life. In so many games we seek to outscore our opponents in order to win the game. In so many games we seek to get the top score on our path to victory.
The Climbers is a game that distills this idea of being on top into its simplest possible form: be the person highest on the structure at the end of the game. That’s easy enough and the rules of the game are simple, but as you’ll quickly discover, the game has both meaty decisions and teeth.
See, the gameplay in The Climbers is simple. On your turn you can move your piece onto any space that your piece can see over that is either your color or the neutral color. You can then move and rotate one block and move your piece again, using the same color limitations. If you cannot or choose not to move up, you can pass. You repeat this process until every player in a row has passed; at that point the game ends and the player highest on your structure wins the game.
What makes The Climbers a special game is written on the box: the game is “Simply Complex”. Beneath the simple rules lies a game with deep and nuanced decisions. Included in these decisions are three objects that the game gives you: two ladders to let you move up further and a blocking stone which can reserve a piece for you until your next turn.
The trick with all of these objects is that you can only use them once throughout the game. Making the decision to use your ladders to jump up the structure, and how to use your blocking stone–either offensively or defensively– is one of the most important things you’ll need to do throughout the game.
But beneath this simplicity you’ll find that both the decision of where the block comes from and what you do with the block are interesting. Early in the game you can move blocks that your opponents will be counting on for their turns.
As the game progresses, you may decide that you don’t need to move up on a turn, but instead decide that using your block placement to block an opponent is a better move. Plus, the simple addition of the ladders and blocking stone create tense moments where you weigh the benefit of either using the ladder to shoot ahead of your opponents or using the blocking stone to either reserve a piece for your next turn or attempt to eliminate an opponent from contention.
The Climbers is a “good move” game. What I mean by this is when someone makes a good move throughout the game, I tend to find myself smiling and complimenting that opponent’s creativity in their move. That light-hearted but tense dynamic of the game really brings the participants of the game together and creates for memorable and fun games.
Beyond the gameplay, The Climbers is an absolutely beautiful game. In every game I’ve played, there has always been one or more moments where several people around the table have had their phones out taking pictures. Lately, whenever I’ve gone to new game nights where I don’t know many people I’ve brought The Climbers with me and set it up on a table. It’s the kind of game that draws a crowd for its aesthetics, though the crowd tends to stay for the interesting gameplay.
Final Thoughts on The Climbers
I only have one complaint about The Climbers and that is the production quality could be higher. Some of the blocks aren’t completely square and that can create some frustrating moments during game play. Given the price of the game, I would have expected a slightly higher quality of the components.
I hope it’s clear from this that I really enjoy The Climbers. It has quickly become my gateway game for new gamers and a game I enjoy playing every time it hits the table. The Climbers is not just a gateway, and it’s also not a dexterity game. A friend of mine recently described it to me perfectly: The Climbers is Jenga for people who want to be mean to each other, and boy do I love it.