Trailblazer is a worker-placement and set collection game in which you travel through the historic John Muir trail in the mountains of California.
Trailblazer is played over 12 days. Each day is different so you may need more resources for some actions. You start each round by drawing and playing trail cards that give you resources or items for your backpack. This is followed by a phase in which you can place workers. There are a number of places you can visit. One of the most important is the John Muir Trail itself. You have to pay resources here to be able to continue hiking. If you are the first to reach the end of the trail you will receive bonus points. If you don't get to the end at all before the game is over, you lose either way. Each round you may advance 1 time on the John Muir Trail.
In addition to the John Muir Trail, you can visit destinations along the way that require you to turn in resources to get points immediately. You keep track of these points on the points track. As a condition or reward, you can sometimes get items for your backpack. If you get something that is already in your backpack, you can move your tent one place forward on the tent track. On this track you get bonus chits and can unlock additional workers.
Finally, you can look for animals and plants with the field guide maps. This section works with set collection. You get more points the more of a set you manage to get. The player who has the most points after the final count after the 12th day wins the game! Unless that person has not reached the end of the John Muir Trail of course!
Trailblazer is a board game that managed to capture our attention with just one photo on Instagram. After we saw the artwork of this Kickstarter, our interest was immediately piqued. When the mechanisms set collection and worker placement were mentioned, we were already curious. So we're thrilled to have had the opportunity to preview this Kickstarter!
Trailblazer's artwork was created by Andrew Bosley, known for Everdell among other things. Andrew Bosley's artwork rarely disappoints. This is certainly not the case with Trailblazer either! The artwork is incredibly beautiful and fits the theme very well. It is a gem on the table!
Trailblazer: the John Muir Trail is a game with a lot of attention for the theme. This is reflected in the artwork, on the game board, but certainly also in the actions. You can perform various actions throughout the game. Most actions are self-explanatory and, thanks to the theme, feel intuitive. For example, during your daily hike you must pay for water and food, but you can also get injuries that give you minus points. Furthermore, you play trail cards daily with fun thematic expressions. This way you can get lost, help other hikers or have a delicious breakfast along the way. While playing it is not only fun to look at the beautiful artwork, but also to the texts.
The combination of set collection and worker placement works very well in Trailblazer. Personally, we also felt like you need to build up a bit of a motor for yourself. The game really gets going after a few rounds. After a few rounds, some actions will provide nice bonuses and chain reactions. The actions you can perform are not difficult, but you have to take many things into account. Trailblazer is definitely a challenging game. Is it easy to hike the John Muir Trail? Definitely not! In fact, don't make it to the top? Then you won't get any points. So the game definitely contains a fun brain teaser.
The theme and artwork of Trailblazer are both a bit like Parks. A popular game that many people like, but unfortunately we don't. We found Parks very simple and the game did not appeal to us at all. For us, Trailblazer is what we had hoped Parks would be. It is a beautiful game, with a strong theme and challenging, interesting gameplay. Trailblazer captivated us throughout the game not only because of its looks, but certainly because of its gameplay. The game continues to be fun. Our 1st game was a bit on the long side, namely 1.5 hours. Personally we find that a bit long, but it certainly doesn't stop us from playing Trailblazer more often.
Trailblazer is highly recommended as far as we are concerned. The game has an awful lot to offer, from beautiful artwork, to challenge, to replayability. We can't wait to see the final game. We had a lot of fun playing the prototype and have already reserved a spot in our game cabinet for the real game!
Pros and cons
+ Fun theme and beautiful art
+ Challenging gameplay
+ High replayability
- Duration is a bit on the long side