Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Saturday 3 August 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Horizons

Game: Horizons

Publisher: Daily Magic Games

Designer: Levi Mote

Year: 2018

Horizons is a game from publisher Daily Magic Games, who are perhaps most well-known for their games set in the 'Valeria' kingdom. Horizons was a successful Kickstarter project with interesting cover art by the Mico, that doesn't have a huge prominence in the game itself.

In Horizons, each player is a species, looking to manipulate resources to explore and ultimately control the galaxy. In this competitive game for 1-5 players you'll find some area control, engine building and resource management, combining in a race to gain the most victory points for dominance of the different planets in the galaxy and any more that you've collected throughout the game.


At the start of a game of Horizons each players is assigned a race. These races are double sided, with one side having generic abilities, and the other side being a unique race with special actions and rules. A number of stars are then placed out depending on player count and then each player will draw a planet from the bag and add it to a system. Once set up, the game begins in earnest, with each player taking turns to perform 2 actions before passing onto the next player. There are 5 actions in
 total to choose from which you can do in any combination or order, even 2 of the same one.

Player board
Explore lets you draw planet tiles from the bag and add them to the map. Not only are you rewarded with more space to play on, but also you gain a victory point. Adapt lets you gain the ability to build on a new planet type, there are 6 types of planet, but at the start of the game you can only build on 1 type. In addition you gain an ally card. Build lets you spend resources to build one of 3 buildings; energy collectors, metal collectors or colonies. Each planet type has a different cost to build on and some planes can only support certain buildings. Harvesting gains you 1 energy for every energy collector you have, and 1 metal for every metal collector you own. Finally Conspire lets you draw either 2 objectives, or an ally and an objective.

Every time you complete an action you get the option to activate an associated ally. As there are 5 action types there are also 5 ally types, you can only use an adapt ally after doing an adapt action. Allies let you act quicker, or gain a glut of resources, but you need to have spent some time recruiting them and they can only be used twice before they figure out that you are just using them and go home to eat ice-cream and cry.

There are 3 main ways to gain points, firstly you can gain points during the game by exploring or completing certain ally actions. Secondly you can vie for area control of every planet (2 players) or star system (3+ players), with resource gaining buildings counting as 1 and colonies counting as 2 Thirdly you can complete objectives. You can only carry a handful of objectives so you'll need to grab the ones that suit your strategy. Some are easier to complete than others and some simply cannot be completed together (you want me to have no resources, and yet stockpile resources?). Spending actions early to get the better objectives can be a very valid plan. The game will end once all planets have been explored, surrounding all the stars in the game, at which point the player with the most points wins.

Amy’s Final Thoughts

There's a lot to like with Horizon's gameplay. The action selection works well and the ability to combo into allies for some surprisingly powerful turns is a good time had by all. Playing as the standard races provides a good experience, while the advanced races can present some very unique play-styles. The feeling of building up your empire is really there with the slow gain of resources at first, ending in potentially bumper rewards every harvest late in the game. There's a natural progression as you unlock the ability to build in new planets and progress from building resource collectors to colonies.

Player board, allies and planets.
When playing 2-player there are certainly a few issues. The choice of objectives is limited and could use a little tweaking in my mind. Some of them are pretty much impossible without devoting your whole game to completing one little 3 point card. I'm particularly thinking of the objective to not share planets - a fever dream in a game that also features an objective to share planets. In your standard turn you get 2 actions, and since a planet has 3 building slots it's near impossible to fill a planet in 1 turn to prevent your opponent sharing. Only with careful use of a limited number of allies do you have any real hope.

Furthermore the advanced races vary from perfectly fine, to noticeably flawed in a 2-player game. combine the race that can only build on a couple of planet types with the race which can only build where other players have built and you get a very odd game where half the planets are nigh uninhabitable. You end up playing around your unique powers, rather than leaning into them, which rather defeats the point. Some races are certainly more fun to play than others.

In the grand scheme of things these flaws are unfortunate, but not ruinous. The difficult objectives simply help to create a rush to claim the objective cards early, wait to long and get stuck with the trash! While the alternate races aren't perfect at lower player counts they are at least interesting in scope, and you don't have to play with them. Overall Horizons is a solid, light space exploration game with fast turns and great, consistent symbology that make it a breeze to learn.

Fi’s Final Thoughts

I love the pace of a game of Horizons. Early on, you need to build your energy collector and metal collectors before you can reap what you sow. In an early turn you might only generate one or two resources. By the end of the game you'll be trying to find ways to build two colonies in a single turn to avoid having an abundance of resources you can't deal with. The allies are key to building an efficient strategy that gives you that extra little push with some extra resources, or the equivalent of a bonus turn. However, since each ally only lasts for two activations, you need to stay agile with your strategy and not become a one trick pony. This changing nature of the game is really great to keep variety high and also to avoid one player hitting on a fantastic strategy early on that means they seal in an early victory.

The missions give you a focus that is really helpful to me in any game. With two-players there is a small pool of available missions and you'll likely see them all. With values ranging from 1-2 points, up to 4 or 5 points, you might want to go for these early. Some missions combine really well, whilst others are the exact opposites of each other. You can keep five, so it's fun to choose your strategy early on. Many missions relate to the end-game state of the galaxy, which is pretty easy to guarantee in the basic game, but with some of the advanced factions, presence on the planets can be easily manipulated, making it harder to secure your mission objectives.

Missions from the 2+ player deck
Unfortunately, much like Amy, I'm disappointed in the two-player game of Horizons. Two-player variants of games that should really have been 3+ player games are often frowned upon, and I actually quite enjoy many of them. Games where the two-player mode is just a let down, seem to get less attention. When you get out the player boards for the advanced mode, pick you favourite colour (a kind of orangey-brown, because they don't have yellow), lay out all of your pieces on the board, and then read your special abilities and realise they're just not special with two players, it's immensely frustrating. For many of the reasons Amy has stated, I just feel like 2-player was a bit neglected.

I'd really like to try Horizons with more players, because I had some really great moments in the basic version of the game, as well as when I had a unique faction that felt truly powerful. I'm a little bit apprehensive about a more busy area control game, but I'm hopeful that I'd have a better experience with more players. If you like engine building and space exploration, then I'd definitely recommend trying Horizons.

You Might Like...
  • Asymmetric factions give you lots to explore.
  • There's some really fun combos and engine building with clever use of the allies.
  • Especially for us, it's great that the area control is only a contribution to your scoring and that it doesn't feel mean.
You Might Not Like...
  • Only 3 or 4 of the asymmetric factions feel like they're designed for two players and some of the missions for 2+ players also don't feel at their best for two.
  • The cover art doesn't really flow through into an eye-catching game when it's on the table.

The Verdict
7/10 Horizons is a strong, puzzly, engine building game that makes use of a simple set of actions to create a varied experience from game-to-game. The allies and missions in particular really have the power to change your game and alter your strategy. We'd likely rate Horizons quite a bit higher if it wasn't for a lot of weakness in the two-player game. It feels like two-players limits you to 50% of the content and that limits the variability and the particularly interesting strategies.

Horizons was a review copy kindly provided to us by Daily Magic Games. The components here are from the Kickstarter edition of the game.

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