Tararua Range Hut-Bagging Board Game Experiment

A loose symbolic representation
of The Tararuas?

A few weeks back, in a comment, I alluded to a thought that the Tararua Hutbagging Competition concept could make an awesome board game. I’m thinking towards the more complex and strategic Ticket to Ride kind of board game than the Ludo or Monopoly kind of board game.

The thought hasn’t really gone away, and since that time I’ve been wondering how such a game might work. The rules could potentially be based on something like those of the recent LandSAR hutbagging competition. eg. Players get three “48 hour” attempts to enter the range, visit as many different huts as possible before getting out again, and tally up points in doing so. Strategies might be similar to what people and teams try to use in the real world competitions.

Maybe there’d be a way to represent unpredictable weather that doesn’t match the forecast, maybe some routes would be impossible with too much sustained rain. Some routes would become exceedingly slow or near-impossible if players were caught there during overnight hours. Players could have various weighting statistics for things like speed, endurance and off-track navigation, with those less-adept at navigation being more likely to lose their way on the tops in fog and get stuck in leatherwood. A player’s team could travel twice as fast as usual for a set period of time if they stand and dutifully sing the lines of a song from the TTC songbook. Bonus points might come from something like completing an SK during a 48 hour period. I asked on twitter a couple of weeks ago, and it was suggested that such a game should take into account the Revolving Table Top and the Kapakapanui Triangle. (Thanks, Ross!)

Rules and mechanisms aside, I’ve also been wondering about a board. I figure that if anyone’s to play this while out tramping, it’d probably need to be light-weight and easy to transport, perhaps a giant A1-size board that can be printed from a PDF in segments and packed reasonably easily for tramping. It follows that whatever other game pieces exist would need to be similarly easy to produce and manage, and light to carry.

The most obvious board design I can so far come up with is a simplified symbolic representation of the Tararuas. With this in mind, I found a diagramming tool (called yEd), and mapped out some relationships between landmark points in the Tararuas, including at least most of the huts, most of the main tracks, and a small number of the more well-known off-track routes. The diagram below, and at the top of this post, is what I came up with after a couple of hours. Click it to get the larger version that might actually be readable.

Obviously this is not a genuine map of the Tararuas for use in the field. It’s clearly not to scale and very geographically skewed in places, and some of the nodes (like North Ohau Hut) appear slightly incorrectly for now thanks to the auto-layout engine combined with my slackness. Instead it’s intended to display access links for landmark points in the range than to represent actual positions. It exaggerates spaces that have things of interest to hutbaggers and some of the routes they might take, so there are large amounts of the western and eastern foothills of the range that are underrepresented because there’s not much of that nature in them. Still, I find it interesting as a way of representing how commonly visited points are linked together. Longer term, I think all the routes would need to be weighted properly so as to represent how hard or easy they actually are in various respects, but I haven’t even bothered to start trying just yet.

So far it’s very early. I’ve almost certainly forgotten some important landmarks and routes for starters, and I’ve left some off intentionally for now, such as North Mangahao Biv. I’d like to include more river and off-track routes, or have some kind of game mechanism for players to formulate their own off-track routes if they have sufficient skills, if it doesn’t become too complex, but doing so seemed too big-a-step for the first effort.

Thoughts are welcome in the comments below, as always, whether it’s nit-picking about the early map draft or ideas about how the game could work. I really don’t know if this will go anywhere, or how long it’ll take if it does, but for now it’s quite an interesting side project.


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