Friday, August 25, 2017

Horizons (Daily Magic Games)

From the beginning of time, the world was all that you and your people ever knew. It was very familiar, which at times made it boring, but it was home. As time continued to pass, the world felt smaller and smaller and your people began to wonder if this was all there was? Finally, you and a group of fellow explorers decided to take the plunge and see what or who else was out there? You and your fellow explorers will compete to not only discover new planets, but colonize them as well. You'll meet alien species, ally with them, and strategically use their powers to help you advance past your fellow explorers. This is Horizons. Horizons is a game for 2-5 players, age 14+. It takes approximately 15 minutes per person to play and can be yours for a Kickstarter pledge of $.

1. Give each player a player board, a set of matching colored Colonies and Collectors, six Habitat Activation markers, an Exploration League ally card, a Scoring/Icongraphy card, one Knowledge token, two Energy tokens, and two Metal tokens.
2. Place the remaining resources (Knowledge, Energy, and Metal) within easy reach for all.
3. Shuffle the Mission cards and deal two to each player. The remainder for a face down pile.
4. Sort the Ally cards by the Action Type symbol found in the upper left corner. Shuffle each of these five stacks.
5. Place a number equal to the player count of starting Stars in the middle of the table.
6. Place the World tiles in the bag and shuffle thoroughly. Randomly determine a start player and give them the bag.
7. The first player draws a World tile from the bag and places either side face up next to any star. The first player then activates the matching Habitat Indicator of that world on their player board.
8. Repeat this step, allowing the subsequent players to activate any Habitat Indicator present in the playing area, not just of the World tile they chose. The game is now ready to begin.
Game Play - On your turn you take two actions from the list below, including taking the same action twice:
1. Explore - Draw a World tile from the bag and play it around a Star. Then, take one Knowledge token. (Note: No star may ever have more than six World tiles attached to it.)
2. Adapt - Activate a Habitat and/or take the top Ally card from any of the five stacks.
3. Build - Build a Collector or a Colony on a World tile. (Note: You may only build on World tiles that match Habitats you have activated. Also, the cost will vary depending on the World tile you are building on.)
4. Harvest - Gain one resource for each Energy and Metal collector you have built.
5. Conspire - Draw two Mission cards or one Ally and one Mission card.

The game ends immediately when one player builds their last Colony. Scores are based on completed Mission cards, Knowledge tokens, and area control surrounding each Star. Most victory points is the winner!

4x games (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate) are a widely popular genre in both the video game world and the board game world. However, I have never played one and probably never will for two main reasons. 1. They generally take a long time to play and 2. You can eliminate a player from the game. Those two features are not something that overly appeal to me, my wife, or my general gaming group. Thankfully for me (and I'm sure others out there), Horizons has a quick playing time (15 minutes per player) and is being described as a"euro-friendly 4x game" (meaning no eXtermination)! However, the game would have to be more than that to make it stand out, so let's dive a little deeper.

For starters, the game play is reminiscent of another Daily Magic Games creation (Valeria Card Kingdoms) with it's take two actions mechanism. This ensures that turns are quick, but meaningful as you have limited choices and each is one you want to do (sometimes more than once). Do you want to discover a new world this turn or do you want to activate a habitat so you can build on previously discovered worlds? Do I need more mission cards for end-game scoring opportunities or will that ally card on the top of the stack align with the engine I am currently building?

Speaking of ally cards, they are cleverly designed two use cards with the same ability front and back, meaning the first time you use them, they flip, and the second time they are discarded. HOWEVER, what is really ingenious about them is that you can only activate them depending on which action you take. This might help steer you to performing a certain action on your turn at least once so that you can use their ability. There are five specific races (Olo, G'Yetd, Feshar, Algorin, and Dalgryn) each with five unique cards. These races in addition to having amazingly distinct art (what else would you expect from The Mico?) have a different focus. For example, the G'yeto let you use Knowledge (victory points) to bend the rules and do stuff you might not otherwise could do, like building a colony or collector. The Dalgryn, however, let you acquire and spend mission cards (potential victory points) to gain benefits and resources. The Olo are my favorite race though, because they let you acquire Knowledge and give you a direct way to turn resources into points!

I've only played through the game a handful of times, but it seems very balanced to me. There are six different types of planets and 30 tiles. With the tiles being double-sided, this results in there being 10 of each one available so you have pretty good odds of exploring one you need. There are also three which produce energy and three which produce metal, all with similar costs, so you should be able to build what you need without someone monopolizing a certain resource or planet. I especially love the act of placing the tiles around the star. It makes the universe grow and come alive and paints a beautiful picture. This is also a fun way to add area control in a game, as you want to build around a certain star, but other people might see you trying to monopolize a star and move in to your little galaxy.

Horizons clicks for me on so many different levels. I have always loved outer space so having a space-themed game in my collection is something I have tried to accomplish for a while. I could just never find the right one, until now. Secondly, the game is just bright and beautiful. Mix the Mico's art with colorful planets and neon bright tokens and the game pops. It'd probably be pretty cool to play under a black light. Lastly, the game play is smooth and easy to learn. It mixes a couple different mechanisms together, plays quickly, and provides you plenty of interesting choices to make with a near surprise winner each play when you score mission cards in the end. Highly enjoyable and one I will play whenever I'm asked!