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Horizons Review



Quick Look: Horizons

Horizons from Daily Magic Games board game review by Benjamin Kocher, photo by Benjamin KocherDesigner: Levi Mote
Artists: Mihajlo Dimitrievski
Publisher: Daily Magic Games
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 2-5
Ages: 8+
Playing Time: 60-90 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

Review:
While I do love fantasy books, movies, and board games (don’t even get me started on that topic!), a lot of my favorite board games are those with a science fiction theme. I don’t know what it is about the genre, but I absolutely love it. With that bias in mind, I had the opportunity to review Horizons by Daily Magic Games. Horizons is a 3X game where players explore star systems, expand their influence to these systems, and exploit the resources found on the systems’ worlds.

While Horizons isn’t too difficult to learn or play, there are a lot of things to keep in mind. Between managing resources, working toward endgame goals, and staking claim to planets before your opponents do (just to name a few), Horizons really puts a player’s management skills to the test. 

The actions that players can take are simple and easy to understand, but knowing when to perform them takes a bit of forethought. Like I said, it’s nothing too dangerously deep, but it’s certainly deep enough to satisfy the needs of more experienced gamers, while at the same time not be overwhelming to new gamers. It’s a good balance of rules and mechanics, and while players may not be exterminating each other throughout the game (unless the expansion is added; see Extermination Expansion under “Gameplay” below for more on that), there is definitely rivalry as open building spaces on planets start to fill up, players start looking as if they’re about to end the game while you’re still dilly-dallying around exploring systems (guilty), and one player snubs another as he constructs a building on a planet with a third player, thus granting both players present on that planet with bonuses. While exterminating others is always a blast (Pew! Pew!), Horizons isn’t left wanting because that part was excluded from the core game.

My Experience

Horizons board game by Daily Magic Games Exploring

Without a doubt, one of my favorite aspects of science fiction games is exploring. I believe I mentioned that in my review of Blueshift last year, and the same holds true today. Exploring is fun—even if it’s just pulling tiles from a bag (which is how exploring is done in Horizons). I’ll be honest, I didn’t explore as much as I would have liked during the game, because there was a lot more I needed to do. Building resource collectors and colonies, figuring out how to accomplish my secret missions before the end of the game, and constantly trying to keep my supply of resources full (or full enough) took a lot of consideration. 

I found that managing resources in Horizons is crucial. Without them, you can’t build, and you can’t win. However, one other aspect of the game also demands to be utilized, and that is the varying allies. Allies activate after taking an action that matches the their symbol. The active ally then grants perks or bonuses, or provides varying ways to help achieve your goals. Not using them enough can make for a poor endgame score, something I learned from experience.

Each planet has a different cost when building structures, which made for some interesting decisions when looking for a place to build. While some planets allow for any type of structure, some only allow for energy collectors, and some for only metal collectors (both also allow for colonies, too). Spreading yourself out among the planets takes careful thought and consideration, especially since each player’s character needs to become adapted to a certain type of planet before building there.

Daily magic games board game Horizons, Species has adapted to planets
This gelatinous-looking species has already adapted to the arboreal, gaseous, and volcanic planets.

Turns went rather quickly, which was nice, and the next player could occasionally begin their turn while the active player finished up their own. That helps speed the game up a bit, and while the game isn’t inherently long, quick turnaround is never a bad thing.

I couldn’t help but be drawn to the look of the play area as we continually explored and added new planets to the systems. The allies were intriguing, and their abilities were wonderfully helpful in gaining that little extra boost needed to keep up with the rest of the players. I especially liked how the player boards are double-sided, one side a generic character (which is the same on all player boards), and the other side a unique alien species whose actions and inherent abilities differ from the others. While Horizons was fun with just the generic characters, the unique characters added more depth, play style, and of course, replayability to the game.

Horizons from Daily Magic Games board game review; photo by Benjamin Kocher

But enough about me. Let’s see the stars as we dive into Horizons!

Setup:

Horizon board game from Daily Magic Games, setup
Setup for a 3-player game. (Note that the starting allies shown here are on their red side; they should be on their green side to start. My bad.)

Take out as many sun tiles as there are players and place them in the center of the table. Each player chooses a player board—as well as a side of the player board to use—and takes all of the components in their player color. Each player also receives two energy resources, two metal resources, and one knowledge token. (Knowledge is used as points in the endgame, but can also be spent to gain certain benefits throughout the game.)

Separate the ally cards by race, and place each race in a separate pile, face up. The top card is the ally available to recruit throughout the game; when that card is taken, the next card then becomes available. Give each player two secret mission cards and one starting ally.

Mission cards in Horizons board game from Daily Magic Games; photo by Benjamin kocher
Mission cards

Beginning with the starting player and going clockwise, each player draws a planet tile from the bag and places it next to one of the available stars. Following that, the player then adapts to one of the planet types that have already been played in their system. The first player will only have one option (which I suppose isn’t technically an “option” if there’s only one…), but the other players may choose any planet type available. Once everyone has done this, the first player begins the game.

Gameplay:

Horizons the board game from Daily Magic Games, Gameplay; photo by Benjamin Kocher

Each player takes two actions on their turn. Those actions could be two different ones, or two of the same actions. Actions allow players to explore (draw a new planet tile), adapt (adapt to certain planet types—such as volcanic—which allows that player to build on that type of planet), harvest resources (from already-constructed buildings), build (construct resource collectors or colonies), and conspire (acquire new allies and secret missions).

If a player takes an action with the same symbol as one of their allies, that player is able to use that ally’s ability. Only one ally may be used per action, so if you have more than one ally with the same symbol, you’ll have to choose which one is graced by your choice. Once an ally’s ability has been used, the card is flipped over to its red side, indicating that it has one more use left. Once that ability has been used a second time, that ally is returned to the bottom of its corresponding ally deck. Players may only have a maximum of five allies at a time, so if they want another one, they must first discard one from their play area.

Horizon board game allies, daily magic games
The Exploration League (starting ally) and Bounty Hunter allies have already been used once; one more use and they are returned to their corresponding decks (or out of the game entirely in the case of the Exploration League). The Engineer ally has yet to be used, as indicated by its green coloring.

Each player starts the game with two secret mission cards, but they may acquire more as the game progresses. These cards grant points at the end of the game if the requirement is completed by the game’s end. Scoring on these only happens at the end of the game. Each player may only have five secret mission cards, so if one (or two, or three…) aren’t working in your favor, take an action that will allow you to draw more, and swap out the ones you most certainly can’t achieve (all thanks to Player 3’s ridiculous building placement…). 

The end of the game comes about immediately when one player has built their last colony. Paying attention to where each player stands (as far as buildings go) is crucial to determining how much time is left in the game, and by association, how fast you’re going to have to catch up. (Take it from me, though, that it’s best to keep tabs on the other players before it’s too late.)

Extermination Expansion

Extermination expansion pack for Horizons board game by Daily Magic Games; photo by Benjamin Kocher

My copy of Horizons came with the Extermination expansion (sold separately), which adds a touch of extermination to the game. There’s no exterminating a player completely, so it doesn’t exactly add a full-on “X” to the 3X game it already is. However, there is enough going on that it does add to it, so instead of a 3X game, Horizons becomes more of a 3.5X game, which is great. 

New allies are introduced, two for each core-game ally deck, which can target player buildings, effectively destroying them—or replacing them. This is a fun addition to the game, since it seems there’s always a player who seems to be building right where you need to place your own buildings. Destroying their buildings frees up much-needed space on a planet, allowing you to build there yourself. Of course, you could always just transfer control of an opponent’s preexisting building by replacing theirs with yours. And let’s not forget about the new "Terraformer" ally, which allows the owner to flip a planet tile over to the other side, effectively destroying all buildings already built on that planet—including your own.

Allies in the Horizon's Extermination expansion pack by Daily Magic Games
Some of the new allies and their abilities from the Extermination expansion pack.

The Extermination expansion also includes new suns, each with a special rule attached with it. Some of these suns cannot have certain planets placed in its system, while others grant bonuses for buildings. While the base game was fun with non-restrictive stars, the addition of restrictive star systems adds a new spin on the game. I only wish there were more destructive allies available to use—combative abilities are so much fun!

Theme and Mechanics:

Horizons board game star system with planets, from Daily Magic Games; Photo by Benjamin Kocher

The science fiction theme of space exploration, expansion, and exploitation is served well by Horizon’s mechanics. Tile placement, area control and influence, and resource management all fit together nicely to simulate exploring the boundless regions of space, along with all that it entails. And what’s space exploration without a little conflict? Add the Extermination expansion pack to dish out some payback!

Artwork and Components:

Components from Daily Magic Games' Horizons board game; photo by Benjamin Kocher

The artwork is wonderful, and the detail on the cards is fantastic. The artist, Mihajlo Dimitrievski, did a great job. Dimitrievski also did the artwork for the Valeria games, so expect to see the same type of style (just in space, and without dragons).

The components are all standard, and nothing seems out of place or amiss with any of it. It’s what one would expect, which is a good thing. I will mention, however, that the box insert actually fits everything really well, keeping it all organized in the process. Two thumbs up for good inserts!

The Good:
  • A good balance of different mechanics without being overly complicated
  • Variable player abilities
  • SPACE EXPLORATION
  • Good box insert
  • Great artwork
  • While a wonderful game experience on its own, by adding the Extermination expansion, Horizons gains more conflict, depth, and gameplay
The Meh:
Nothing really stood out to me as lackluster in the game. Everything worked well, and each game’s experience was wonderful. Since nothing comes to mind that I would improve, I’m just going to give this section a pass.

Final Thoughts:

Horizons Board Game from Daily Magic Games, planets and buildings; photo by Benjamin Kocher

Horizons was a surprise hit. Not that I didn’t think I’d like it, but because I didn’t know it even existed until I got to review it. After playing it the first time, I wanted to go back and play again, this time with the Extermination expansion pack. This expansion pack adds new allies and stars, which also come with varying powers, benefits, and restraints. Whether played with or without the expansion pack, Horizons is a splendid game, and it's one I’ll always be happy to play. 

The gameplay is appropriately deep for any type of gamer. Anyone can sit down to play it and, most importantly, enjoy it. The varying races add extra depth, and the expansion takes that a step further. I really like Horizons, and not simply because it’s a science fiction-themed game. It really is good, and when you play it (note I said “when,” not “if”), I’m sure you’ll agree with me. If you’re scouring the horizon for your next board game purchase, I’d definitely recommend Horizons by Daily Magic Games.

Players Who Like:
Fans of 4X games and science fiction-themed games should definitely give Horizons a look. Fans of resource management and exploration may also find this right up their alley. Also, if you want a 4X experience without extermination, give Horizons a go (you can always add the expansion—and start exterminating—later).

Check out Horizons on:

                     


About the Author:



Benjamin Kocher hails from Canada but now lives in Kentucky with his wife and kids. He's a freelance writer and editor, and covers everything from rule books to novels. An avid writer of science fiction and fantasy, it comes as no surprise that his favorite board games are those with rich, engaging themes. 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 Instagram @Kocherb, and read his board game-inspired fiction at BenjaminKocher.com.

Check out Benjamin's reviews here.


Horizons Review Horizons Review Reviewed by Benjamin Kocher on November 22, 2018 Rating: 5

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