Going to Camp Pinetop

Going to Camp Pinetop

January 24, 2020 0 By Ryan Sanders

Ryan looks at Camp Pinetop, a family game coming later in 2020

Camp Pinetop is a family/gateway/light euro-style game (we will just call it gateway game henceforth – with the most positive connotation you can think of for that label) for 1-5 players (both the solo story mode and the 5 player mode will be stretch goals in the Kickstarter campaign). Players are leading a group of animal scouts attempting to earn patches and be the first to be promoted from the starting rank of a possum to the wilderness veteran rank of the badger. You will do this with a mix of some set collection and engine building.

Editor’s note: A version of this article was originally published on our brother site, The Inquisitive Meeple back in 2019 before the Kickstarter. The Kickstarter is now over, but we thought we still publish this preview ahead of the games 2020 release.  This article has been edited (including the cutting out of an interview with the designer) to better fit the style of Adventures in Gameschooling. 

Basic Rules

I don’t want to get too much into the rules, as you can always read the rule book yourself. However, some need to be explained to understand the review. On a turn, players do 1 of 4 possible actions on their turns:

  1. They can draw 2 supply cards ( or only 1 faceup wild card)
  2. They can draw a single supply card and move one meeple orthogonal on the board (to a different map card)
  3. Move one of their meeples to a map card and collective a patch (or upgrade a patch they’ve already collected)
  4. Place a new meeple on the board.

The core of the game, of course, is to collect (and upgrade) enough patches to level up to the rank of Badger Scout, to automatically win the game. To do that you have to collect supply cards with various symbols on them and trade them in at the right moment, to collect a patch. If you already have the patch, then you get to upgrade it. There are 3 patch types and each one helps you out in some way. Circle/green patches have a 1-time use power you use immediately, square/blue patches give you a new ability to use for the rest of the game and finally diamond/grey help you out by either letting you use one resource as another (wild) or by letting you pay once resource type when trading in your resources for a patch.

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So how do you collect patches? This is one of the things that stands out different from other set collection/engine builder games. You have to move your meeple around a randomly generated map (generated at the start of the game) – and when you move over the map, the patch you cross (each map card has a patch on north, south, east and west direction of the card) is the patch that you can earn. Now you just have to pay the price that map card tells you via supply cards and then find the patch card in your stack of patch cards and place it in front of you. If it is already in front of you, you flip it to the advanced side and gain an even better ability. There is also another way to earn patches that don’t cost supply cards. At the start of the game, 4 Mastery Cards are placed on the table, if you can meet a requirement of a Mastery Card (like “Bushwacker: Have at least 3 scouts on edge of map cards”) then you get to choose 1 of the patches on the card and cover it up with a cube of your color. You do have a limit of 1 cube per master card, and it’s first come first serve as to which of the 4 patches you can get.

There are of course others rules, like how you pick up cards in the supply deck, what happens if you land on a card that has someone else meeple on it (you have to pay them a supply card), etc – but this is the general gist of the game outside how ranks work.

If you look above at the picture of the player board, you will get a general idea about how ranking up works. To Upgrade from Possum to Skunk I need to have in front of me either 2 circles, 2 square or 2 diamond patches.  To move from Possum to Woodchuck, I have to meet the requirements there PLUS have 1 of my patches turned to its upgraded side (that is what the arrow with the 1 on it means), etc. You play until one person ranks to Badger, and they are the winner.

How it Plays

The first time you play,  the game can have an AP (Analysis Paralysis – or taking forever due to choices) feel since players are all looking at their cards, the table, and the Mastery Cards and deciding what patches/badges you want to achieve (and trying to figure out what power each of those patches gives you). However, once you start to learn what the patches do, you will have a good feel for the game and then the gameplay is MUCH faster by second or third play. Let me also say that the majority of my plays have been 2-players. Though I have played 3-player, and with 3-player there is more player interaction in having to pay your opponent a resource to go onto a space they are currently occupying. With 2-player, this is much easier to avoid. 


  • The powers that patches give you don’t feel overpowered but are well thought out to the gameplay
  • When drawing cards, the draw deck is in the middle with face-up cards on either side. Players must only take face-up cards from one side (or a facedown card). This standout among other card drawing gateway games. Making it feel fresh.
  • The direction you come on a map card matters in what badge you collect is a great twist to the gameplay. 
  • Both the Random Maps (and how collecting patches works) and the Mastery Cards can affect your strategy in the game, possibly making it different from game to game.
  • That there are a number of map cards and you don’t use them all in every game, making each game setup slightly different, as all the map cards have different costs. So one game may have a lot of walking sticks out and not so many fishing rods you have pay, and then the next game maybe vice versa.
  • The theme and art are great and unique. 

Nays: I have only one negative with the game, it’s more of an annoyance than anything else and it may even be fixed with the final version (we shall see). That is – the 12 badge cards in the game that each player gets, if they get mixed up you have to sort them and make sure everyone has the correct 12 badge cards (that is 60 cards so go through to pull out 12 specific cards for each player). Hopefully, they will fix this by putting a tiny player color (paw print like player boards) on the bottom corner of the cards. Then I can sort through the 60 cards fast finding 12 of a certain color and handing them to that player. 

Also, there is one very minor annoyance about setting up so that you have at least one blue tent card in the middle of the map. It’s not a huge deal, you just gotta remember that tiny rule during setup. 

Camp Pinetop Prototype in Play

Final Thoughts

I have not played any Talon Strikes Studios games in the past, so Camp Pinetop is my first Talon Strikes game and I was very pleasantly surprised. Camp Pinetop kind of feels like a cross between Ticket to Ride and Splendor, with its own unique game twists.  Now, you may think that marrying those two games, previously mentioned would make the game feel clunky, but that is not the case at all. It plays very streamlined and doesn’t show any hint of clunkiness in its gameplay.

The twists like of moving the scouts on the various maps and how those maps work (you get the badge on the side you cross), as well as, the gameplay of picking from only one side of the deck or the side of the map you cross on to mattering in gameplay, are extremely smart and fresh feeling to this type of game. I also really enjoy pulling off a combo with the Mastery cards, to win a game, it feels very satisfying (I have had this happen to me two different times thus far).  Also, I want to note that Camp Pinetop also has a big game in a small box feel to it – that the game feels bigger than the box size may believe you to think. For example, Traders of Osaka (aka Traders of Carthage) from Z-Man Games would also fit in this category.

Those that follow me on social media, may know that this year we are gameschooling our 5th grader (using games in homeschooling) and this semester he has a 10×5 game challenge to complete. The very first game he chose for his challenge was Camp Pinetop  (it didn’t take him to long to fill in his five plays). He seems to enjoy the game as well. Really and true everyone and anyone looking for a new gateway or family game should at the very least try Camp Pinetop, if not outright buy a copy. It’s a wonderful game.

The last word

Meeple-Sized Summary:
Camp Pinetop feels like an extremely streamlined classic gateway game, albeit a little think-ier than the average gateway game. I am even willing to take my assessment a step further and say it’s one of those rare ones that feels both classic and fresh at the same time. 

The last word

Thanks to Talon Strikes Studios for sending us a preview copy for an honest review.

Camp Pinetop will be released later in 2020 

Note: While the Kickstarter may be over, you can still late pledge a copy at: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/693352677/camp-pinetop

Ryan Sanders is the founder, owner, and editor-at-large of Adventures in Gameschooling. He’s also the guy behind its social media accounts. God has blessed Ryan and his wife Mary, with five children, which he homeschools. As a Christian, he believes that he should not only look out for your own interests but other peoples too (Philippians 2:4) and this is one of his guiding principles for Adventures in Gameschooling. Ryan’s expertise is informed by almost two decades of experience as a stay-at-home father and from the running The Inquisitive Meeple where he performed over 300 written and podcast interviews within the board game industry.