Press-your-luck games have two great selling points: they’re easy for everyone to understand, and that mechanic helps level out the playing field between more and less experienced gamers. The Quacks of Quedlinburg, a game built almost entirely around a press-your-luck mechanic where you’re drawing tokens from a bag, won the Spiel des Jahres a few years ago. Clank!, Port Royal, Codenames, and Half Truth all have some element of push your luck in their rules, but even if you’ve never played any of those, maybe you’ve played blackjack, or Yahtzee, or the stock market—anything where you’re faced with a choice between stopping and banking what you’ve gained so far, or pushing on for greater gains at risk of losing it all.
7 Summits is the newest game from the designer of Sagrada, and it’s a superb, quick-to-learn game with a strong press-your-luck element, but also has room for players who want to try to play it safer and hope other players push their luck and bust. The seven summits of the title are the tallest peaks on each of the seven continents, a challenge for serious mountaineers who also have the means to get to Antarctica to scale Mount Vinson. In 7 Summits, each player has seven meeples and will use dice rolls and bonus cards to try to scale those peaks before other players do, choosing whether to carry on up the mountain at risk of falling all the way to the base with further rolls.
The 7 Summits board shows the seven mountains, with the shortest ones at the left and right edges and Everest in the center. Six of the mountains have their own four-sided dice, and at the start of each round the start player rolls all six of those dice and places them each under their respective mountains. On your turn, you choose one of the six dice and advance your meeple the shown number of spaces, after which you must choose to stop or to ‘press on,’ re-rolling that die while also rolling a six-sided risk die that shows four different outcomes: safety, -1 space, -2 spaces, or a rockslide. If you get one of the safe sides, you move up the number of spaces on the four-sided die and may choose to stop or press on further. The -1 or -2 spaces adjust the die roll by that much, after which you must stop. If you get the rockslide, your meeple drops to the base of the mountain, even if that’s not where you started your turn, and your turn ends. Everest has no die of its own; if you want to try to scale it, you take a die from another mountain and advance that many spaces. To press on, however, you must roll two risk dice.
To reach a summit, you must land on the top space by exact count on the die—you can’t overshoot, although if you get a die result that would put you past the summit, you can just stay put, and re-roll with a risk die if allowed to do so. When you land on certain spaces, you can gain equipment cards, which are single-use items that can help you move up mountains, re-roll dice, or stop your fall at a mountain’s mid-point if you’re already past it. You can also pick up Discovery tokens that are randomly distributed on the board before each game and that go only to the first players to land on those spaces, with rewards that can include a straight two points, moves up specific mountains, equipment cards, or more. Each player also has a personal board with three tracks for expertise, preparation, and teamwork, with rewards each time you move up and permanent abilities when you get to the top of a track. You only move up the teamwork track if you land on a space with another player’s climber, which allows both of you (or all of you) to move up one space on the track.
The main scoring in the game comes from summiting each mountain, with the highest point total to the first player to reach the top and lower scores for the second and third to do so. Each player also begins the game with one Mission card that provides a private objective that can range (pun intended) from awarding bonus points for finishing second or third on certain mountains to points for unused Equipment cards to 3 points for summiting a specific mountain regardless of when you did so. Some mission cards award you extra points for reaching the top of one specific track on your personal board as well.
The game itself is fantastic, but I do think the board and graphics could be clearer. The board is quite small, which can make deciphering the different spaces difficult, especially since some of them are the same colors as the background, and also doesn’t allow room for more than two meeples to occupy them at the same time. The icons used in the game are also small and not always easy to tell apart. The dice are all identical except for color, which would present an accessibility problem for any color-blind players.
7 Summits plays two to five players and games take under 45 minutes. With two or three players, everyone will get to choose multiple dice in a round, going until all dice are selected; with four or five, each player chooses one die, and after everyone has taken a turn, the remaining dice are discarded. The game ends when players have reached the top of six of the seven mountains, which happens faster than you might expect. The game is suitable for any player with solid reading skills for the mission and equipment cards, certainly down to as young as 10 and perhaps as young as 8 depending on the player’s game-playing experience. The racing and press-your-luck aspects make it a fun family game, and there’s a streak of competitiveness in it to satisfy even some more experienced gamers.
Keith Law is the author of The Inside Game and Smart Baseball and a senior baseball writer for The Athletic. You can find his personal blog the dish, covering games, literature, and more, at meadowparty.com/blog.