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Longhorn Review

Quick Look:

Designer: Bruno Cathala
Artist: Vincent Dutrait
Publisher: Blue Orange Games
Year Published: 2013
No. of Players: 2
Ages: 8+
Playing Time: 15 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

Longhorn by Blue Orange Games is a quick, abstract strategy game for 2-players. With only about 15 minutes of game time, the strategy involved is surprisingly deep, and is a solid game for both kids and adults.

Rules and Setup:

Setup is quite simple. First, mix up the 9 location tiles and randomly place them on the table to form a 3x3 square. Randomly choose 9 action tokens and place then on each location on the off-colored box in the bottom right of the location cards. NOTE: If you chose the Sheriff token, it always goes on Nugget Hill. The others are placed randomly.

The Sheriff always goes on Nugget Hill.

Next you randomly place the various cows on the location tiles according to the number of cows stated on the bottom right of each tile.

Blackstone Corral shows 5 cows go here for setup, so here are 5 random cows.

Each player chooses one of the two outlaws. To decide who goes first, flip the Outlaw token in the air, like a coin. Whichever side is facing up will begin play. The other player (he who goes second) chooses the starting location from the location tiles that show four cows. The Outlaw token is placed on the chosen location with the starting player's outlaw picture facing up.

The rules to Longhorn are also pretty simple. The active player must do two things.

  • Steal cattle
  • Move and turn over the Outlaw token

Game Play:

As mentioned above, game play happens in two parts: stealing cattle and moving.

Steal Cattle
The active player must steal cattle from the location in which they are placed. To do this, the active player chooses a color and must steal all of the cattle of the chosen color. That player then keeps these cattle in front of them, forming the herd. Each player will have a herd, and the herd will score points at the end of the game. The points vary, however, so more will be spoken of that later.

If the active player steals the last cow on a location tile, then that player must apply the effect of the action token. Most of the action tokens help the active player (i.e. Gold Nuggets give you more points at the end of the game), but there are some to watch out for, including the Rattlesnake—which discards cows from your herd—and the Sheriff—which makes you immediately lose the game (drat).

Jessie Artist Bird stole the last of the cattle from Blackstone Corral, so he gets the Snake Oil, which lets him take another turn immediately.

The number of location tiles moved depends on how many cattle you stole on your turn. In a nutshell, you move the number of cattle stolen. For example, if you stole four cattle, you would move the Outlaw token four location tiles away.

No matter which color this player chooses, he will move 2 spaces.

Sound easy? It is. And yet…

When moving, you may only go vertically or horizontally (never diagonally), and must never return to a location tile you have already been on (i.e. the one you started your turn on, or one you passed along your move). Once you’ve moved the appropriate number of spaces, flip over the Outlaw token. It is now the other player’s turn.

If you have the choice to moving the Outlaw token to a dangerous location (i.e. Sheriff or Rattlesnake) that the other player had just been on, you must move the outlaw token to a different space, if that option exists. Basically, you can’t have one player start on the same dangerous location twice in a row. A different dangerous location, yes, but not the same one from his or her previous turn.

Yessiree, Nugget Hill is one dangerous location.

Game End and Scoring

There are three ways the game can end:

  • An outlaw is forced to activate the Sheriff token (this player loses)
  • An outlaw acquires 9 cows of the same color (this player wins…unless he is forced to activate the Sheriff token at the same time, in which case he loses)
  • There are no locations with cattle to steal within the range of the last raid (add scores; highest wins)

If end condition #3 is met, then each player tallies their score in the following manner:

Each cow in your herd is worth $100 for each cow of the same color still on the main board. Meaning, if there are 2 red cows left on the board, and you have 3 red cows in your possession, you get $200 for each red cow you own, for a total of $600. If there are no cows of a particular color left on the main board, then those cows are worth nothing (single tear).

And, of course, any Gold Nuggets you collect from action tiles are added to your score. The player with the most money at the end of the game wins.

Scoring for Eagle Perkins goes as such: $200 for each red cow (total of $800), $100 for each black cow (total of $500), $0 for each beige cow (total of $0), $400 for each white cow (total of $800), and $300 for the Gold Nugget token. This gives Eagle Perkins a total of $2,400.

Theme and Mechanics:

The Old West theme is well incorporated into the game, with detailed location tiles and action tokens that relate to the theme as well. And, of course, the “Wanted Dead or Alive” mug shots that make up the players’ character tokens.

The mechanics are varied, including set collection, area influence, and grid movement.

The moving mechanic is interesting, and makes for some pretty interesting decisions. You don’t want to move to a particular location because it would give your opponent the opportunity to use an action tile (possibly against you). However, moving to a different location might set up the other player to place you in a not-so-good location.

The set collection is used for scoring, and the number of cows of a certain color you want to collect will vary throughout the game, depending on how many the other player has and how many are left on the main board, in order to maximize your points.

Grid movement is pretty simple to figure out in Longhorn. Simply move the Outlaw token in an orthogonal fashion according to the number of cows stolen each turn.

Artwork and Components:

The art is your classic Old West images, with everything from homesteads to abandoned mines. The is well done and highly detailed, and help convey the theme quite nicely. I’m a fan.

The Good:
The gameplay is simple, yet engaging. Likewise, the games don’t last long (about 15 minutes), but the strategy involved is surprisingly deep.

It’s great for a younger audience as well as adults.

The artwork is wonderful.

The Bad:
While fun and enjoyable, I can't see myself playing this game a lot in a short span of time. It's good for a game or two here or there, but feels like it would get stale after quite a few plays. Of course, that's just my opinion, and could be much different for you.

Final Thoughts:
As far as short, light strategy games go, Longhorn is a solid choice. It’s easy to learn, and your young kids could most likely pick up on the strategy without a problem. It’s a good choice for those times when you want to play something, but don’t have the time (or brain power) for something longer.

Players Who Like:
If you like to play games with your significant other but they’re just not into the heavier games you are, this one will make both of you happy. If you like quick games, or games with set collection, Longhorn might be a good addition to your game library.

I am giving Longhorn 7 out of 10 super meeples.

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About the Author:

Benjamin Kocher hails from Canada but now lives in Utah with his wife and kids. He's a freelance blogger and budding game designer. As an avid writer of science fiction and fantasy, it comes as no surprise that his favorite board games are those with a rich, engaging theme. When he’s not writing or playing games, Benjamin loves to play ultimate Frisbee, watch and play rugby, and read the most epic fantasy books available. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminKocher and read his board game-inspired fiction at BenjaminKocher.com.

Longhorn Review Longhorn Review Reviewed by Dave Merrell on January 26, 2018 Rating: 5

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