The annual Mountain Maker competition is upon us! Up to 4 moles compete to create molehills that outscore their competitors. Mountains out of Molehills is a card drafting and movement programing game that takes place on a unique, multi-tiered board published by The OP. Let’s dig in and see what these subterranean mammals have to offer.
The Best Laid Plans…
During the 6 rounds of the game, players start by drafting from a grid of movement cards. Players select 4 movement cards and can arrange these in any order they choose. Once each player has arranged their movement cards, they are locked in and placed facedown in front of them. Let the mole movement begin!
Players reveal the top card that they programmed and executes their movement on their mole. Play continues around the table in turn order with each player revealing the top movement card and executing.
Since this is a programming game, players will find themselves bumping into other players (stopping their movement) or getting sabotaged by another player who put the rock token right in their path. This has the potential to completely derail a great plan. Picking versatile cards that give you options of turning right or left can be a life saver.
The Ground is Shifting
As your mole moves underground you’ll place molehills of your player color on the board above your mole. Molehills are added for every space that the mole enters during their turn. As you make more paths, you get more scoring opportunities at the end of the round.
Molehills are always added to the bottom of a stack on the above ground board. The player who has the molehill at the bottom of a stack will get the points for that particular tower of dirt. For instance, if the red player has their molehill appear at the bottom of a stack of 4, the red player will earn 4 points at the end of the round.
Mountains out of Molehills does an excellent job with the pacing of the game. Each round builds on the previous one and also gives players a height limit for that round. If you exceed the height limit, that stack will topple over, redistributing molehills onto other stacks across the game board. You can even draft topple cards which will trigger no matter what the height of stack is. There is a ton of strategy of toppling these hills at just the right time!
After 6 rounds of the game, players add their points from each round to determine the winner.
Get With the Program
Mountains out of Molehills knocks the theme out of the park. The double-tiered board is immediately engaging and has a nice table presence that begs people to come watch or take a seat at the table. There’s a real “toy factor” with this game due to the material of the molehills. These colorful and slightly squishy tokens are really fun to play with. I also love the acrylic mole standees that each player is moving around on their turn.
We have a couple programming games on our game shelf and Mountains out of Molehills does a great job of setting itself apart. In a game like Colt Express, it can feel punishing when an entire turn gets derailed and you’re sitting there with not a dollar to your name. In this game, there’s enough flexibility to recover from a bad turn. With 6 rounds and each round only being 4 movements, there’s plenty of time to recover when you get stuck.
Before I share some criticisms of Mountains out of Molehills, I need to make sure it’s clear that I really dig this game. Whether drafting or moving, players stay engaged with the game and are always looking ahead to what path they want to make next. Each round has a nice flow to it and scoring moves quickly, even in a 4 player game.
It’s easy to assume that this game leans toward a younger crowd based on some of the color choices and art style. After playing half a dozen times with teenagers and adults, I couldn’t imagine trying to play this with a child under 10 years old. I say this because even as adults, we regularly knock over a stack of molehills 2 or 3 times during a game.
Playing on any surface other than a very stable table isn’t even an option. As you get into rounds 5 and 6 of the game, a child bumping the board might be un-recoverable unless someone remembers the location (and order) of every stack that fell over. The gameplay and art style screams to kids “come play me”. This could lead to some frustrations because of how fragile the board gets in later rounds.
While I’m a huge fan of the multi-tiered board that fits the theme perfectly, this design choice comes with some issues. I’ve played this game in 4 different locations and no amount of lighting seems adequate. The bottom board has so many shadows that it can be tough to make out the gridlines as players move. This is something I’m looking to fix by taking a white paint pen and going over the gridlines on the bottom board.
None of these issues are going to stop me from enjoying an otherwise excellent game. But, these two issues came up frequent enough that I had to share our experiences.
Before Mountains out of Molehills, I had no idea that I needed a programming, card drafting, puzzle game featuring moles. This game is an excellent fit for teaching friends and family that are newer to the hobby. It’s also a game that my teenage daughter and her friends really enjoyed. I’m sure Mountains out of Molehills will become a staple as game nights become a regular thing again in our home.
You can purchase Mountains out of Molehills from your local game store or from The OP webstore.
This game was provided to us by the publisher for review. Read more about our review policies at One Board Family.
- Players stay engaged from drafting through movement
- Each of the 6 rounds move quickly
- Player interactions can ruin or change your opponents plans
- Excellent art and components throughout
- Creative use of game box and two-tier game board
- Bumping the board in later rounds can ruin a game
- Must have plenty of light to see the lower board