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Tararua Range Hut-Bagging Board Game Experiment

A loose symbolic representation
of The Tararuas?

A few weeks back, in a comment [2], 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 [3]. 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 [4]. 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 [5]), 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.



21 Comments (Open | Close)

21 Comments To "Tararua Range Hut-Bagging Board Game Experiment"

#1 Comment By Mike McGavin On 6 February, 2012 @ 9:31 am

Oh, look at that. I completely forgot the slippery slide from Table Top down to Penn Creek.

#2 Comment By Mike McGavin On 6 February, 2012 @ 11:52 am

And also the North Manakau Road entrance on the western side, although I’m not sure it’s of much use to hut-baggers.

#3 Comment By Mike McGavin On 6 February, 2012 @ 7:16 pm

…and Cattle Ridge to Waingawa/Bannister/Arete, or down to Cow Saddle. Maybe a Ruamahanga River route from Roaring Stag towards the track from Cow Saddle…

This is fun.

#4 Comment By Millzy On 17 February, 2012 @ 10:23 am

For a board, what about some of that closed cell foam that they use for sleeping mats. You could print the playing board on it and people could slide it down the inside back of their pack I use a piece of this material as a checkers board and we use M+M’s as playing pieces. As you get jumped the other person gets to eat you playing pieces…kids love to play

#5 Comment By Mike McGavin On 20 February, 2012 @ 11:58 pm

Thanks Millzy. That’s possible, although for starters at least I was just thinking it might be printable on paper (probably in sections) for minimal volume and weight. I’m really not sure. It’s probably a long time until that, at least. 🙂

#6 Comment By phil_b On 14 March, 2012 @ 1:03 pm

Can you incorporate some kind of playing cards that have colour pics of the huts/geographical features….. it may show the users what they are missing when they are out tramping in the white stuff…..

#7 Comment By Mike McGavin On 17 March, 2012 @ 1:29 pm

Maybe. I’m trying to think of some way to have rolling weather patterns during which a player has to decide exactly when to start, but which can unexpectedly get worse (or better) during the 48 hours that they’re running around. It’s at risk of getting overly complex. 😛

#8 Comment By Mike McGavin On 17 March, 2012 @ 1:31 pm

Oh, and pictures of things are probably beyond the scope of anything I’ve really thought about so far. The mechanisms of playing the game seem tricky enough at this point, but I haven’t had a chance to spend much time thinking about it for the last few weeks.

#9 Comment By rebecca On 18 June, 2012 @ 5:50 pm

the board looks like a game called “scotland yard”, and the game “risk”. both could be handy for ideas and rules. also what about a dice you have to roll to predict the weather for your turn? and different colours for track sections to depict the type of terrain, eg light green for easy, the darker the harder, white for snowy areas. what about that waterproof paper that some maps are printed on? i know it is a bit expensive, but could be worth a look into using for the board…

good luck and have fun.

#10 Comment By Mike McGavin On 3 July, 2012 @ 5:24 pm

Hi @rebecca. Thanks, yeah I’ve played both of those games but still haven’t narrowed down exactly what I had in mind. I’m really intending to have something ultra-cheap that could be printed off by anyone before leaving home, maybe on a collection of A4 or A3 sheets.

#11 Comment By Matt On 1 August, 2012 @ 1:24 pm

Brave man – I can see all sorts of potential conflict over the inclusion / exclusion of favourite routes and shortcuts. Not to mention all those unmarked huts – which would, of course, have to be unmarked. You should get bonus points for finding them. In fact – maybe the arguments involved in drawing up the board and nailing down the rules would be the most fun part of the game.

On a separate note I clicked eagerly to see how you’d incorporated Nth mangahao into the board … only to discover you hadn’t.

#12 Comment By Mike McGavin On 1 August, 2012 @ 1:33 pm

Hi Matt. Yes, the board (or graph or whatever it is) isn’t the latest one I came up with but I didn’t want to keep updating and re-posting any time I changed something. I can’t remember if I put North Mangahao on that or not, but it should be there if it isn’t. I’m sure whatever I came up with on my own, anyone who played it would adapt the board and the points lists and the rules to suit themselves. But this whole thing’s been sleeping for a while with other distractions. It’s still an idea in many respects but someone could beat me to it with the way I’m going. Every time I try to advance it I get bogged down in complexities, but that’s half the fun. 🙂

One of those complexities has been to wonder about a mechanism that could let you set a vector and just roll the dice against a group’s bush-bashing or navigation skill and/or fitness attribute and push through un-marked territory. It depends how complex it’d be, I guess.

#13 Comment By Mike McGavin On 1 August, 2012 @ 1:39 pm

I should add that the perfect game-board in my head at present would been super-imposed over the top of [13] (the one with the famous John Pascoe quote imprinted on the edge). There would probably be some copyright issues with producing a board on that and making it available for download.

#14 Comment By Matthew On 26 August, 2012 @ 5:36 pm

Firstly I think this idea is totally nuts, in a good way. I was playing the India board of Ticket to Ride this week and my Indian friend said to make it authentic he should take a dump on the tracks. I think to make the Tararuas authentic the board should be made of a mixture of mud, sweat and snow. The huts should be a little bit further away than they seem on the map and playing the game should bugger your knees.Ideally between every pair of huts I should have the opportunity to fall on my arse, and to trip and rip my shorts. Keep up the good work.

#15 Comment By Mike McGavin On 27 August, 2012 @ 6:47 pm

I hadn’t realised Ticket to Ride had an India board. That must be new. Yeah, I was inducted into a board game group a few years ago and the idea sort of stuck since then. As I’ve already mentioned a few times, it’s stalled a little due to other things, or maybe someone will beat me to it. I sort of figure that any rules would only be guidelines anyway, and people would adapt them as much as they like to match the type of game they want to play. 🙂

#16 Comment By Sarah On 10 September, 2012 @ 10:50 pm

I like this idea! I have a NZ-made game called Stonewall, which uses a cloth “board” and holds the pieces in a cloth zipped pouch. Maybe a cloth board using vegetable inks would work – people can squish it into any shape to fit in a pack, and it could always double as a tea towel / neck wiper / handkerchief if necessary.

#17 Comment By Mike McGavin On 8 October, 2012 @ 7:29 pm

Hi Sarah. Yes I’ve seen Stonewall (actually own it, bought it off a fantastic board games enthusiast in Northland a couple of years back). Ideally I’ve been thinking of something that can just be printed out using regular home/office supplies after someone downloaded the relevant files… partly because I’m too lazy to want to produce anything commercial but also because I think it’d make it more accessible. Right now it’s more of a challenge to find the time to get game mechanics sorted. 🙂

#18 Comment By Ash On 16 January, 2014 @ 9:02 am

I think this is a great idea. I’d love to see it come to fruition….
Has there been any progress since the last post?

#19 Comment By Mike McGavin On 16 January, 2014 @ 9:17 am

Hi Ash. Thanks for the encouragement. It’s really only happening at odd times when I get motivation and threre’s no progress worth reporting in great detail at this point. A few weeks ago, I was playing with it again and decided I’d really need some kind of proper game-board concept to work with before being able to develop any kind of rule-set to go with it.

It’d be nice if it were based on a vaguely realistic context so I’ve experimented with [14] to re-render parts of the TOPO50 and TOPO250 vector data [15] into a custom map of the Tararuas, onto which I could plot a heap of movement spaces that might help to represent movement constraints. (Up-hill, down-hill, rivers, areas off-track, etc.)

Ultimately it’d be great if I wasn’t trying to dictate whatever specific rules potential players decided they wanted to play with, but it’s getting the concept to something more than just vapour to begin with that’s the harder part. 🙂

I’m still working out QGIS, though, and most of what I have at this point is a really funky Tararua map with bright pink rivers and yellow trees. It’s quite neat what you can do if you design your own map using GIS tools with the available data. 🙂

#20 Comment By nzbazza On 28 November, 2014 @ 4:38 pm

At a first look at the board, “A ticket to ride” type gameplay would work well for building tracks between huts/roadends. Not sure how you could incorporate bonuses in passing through peaks or POI though, or the relative difficulties in building tracks on open ridgelines vs. those in the bush.

#21 Comment By Mike McGavin On 15 December, 2014 @ 10:27 am

Hi @nzbazza. Yes it could work quite well. In the back of my mind I really want to get some kind of mechanics which closely mimic running around the Tararuas trying to bag huts in a limited time. I don’t know how realistic that is and it might make the whole thing less fun or less playable, though. I see in the recent Wilderness Magazine that someone’s made a Tararua Monopoly game, which is quite cool, but also very different. 🙂

[Sorry, I’ve only just noticed your comment was stuck in the moderation queue!]