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Horizon Zero Dawn The Board Game Review

Horizon Zero Dawn

WBG Score: 8

Player Count: 1-4

You’ll like this if you like: Dark Souls, Horizon Zero Dawn The Video Game, Kingdom Death: Monster

Published by: Steamforged Games Ltd.

Designed by: Sherwin Matthews

Fans of the video games series will already familiar with this story. For those of you that haven't played that, let me quickly catch you up. It's the distant future. The world has gone to pot. Robot machines terrorise the land. Your job its to clear the area of these monsters, and get a job with the hunters guild. All caught up? Great, let's get to it.

Before I start, I want to declare that Steamforged sent me these game for free for a free review. No money changed hands. The fact that I got the game for free does not in any way affect my opinion.

There has been a lot of chat about this game online recently and I wont to cover four main points that have come up from this.

  1. Is there enough in the base game for a good experience?

  2. How easy is it to learn?

  3. Does the semi-cooperative game work?

  4. Is it any good?

I will cover these in more depth but the short answers are, not really, no, very, and yes.

Learning The Game

Let's start with the rule book. It's a monster. Lots of pages. Lots of rules. Seemingly difficult. But two key points here. It reads really well, and once I read it, I found the game very easy to play. I am left somewhat baffled by the reaction to the rule book and rule set online for this game. It really isn't that difficult and the rule book is mainly pictures! Let me talk you through the basics.

Basic Rules

You are hunting monster robots. There will be a choice of three maps to hunt on. Pick one and discard the other two, then set up the boards accordingly. Another player will choose one event card from three options. On your turn, you will be able to take two actions which includes options of moving two spaces which could alert a near by enemy, moving one space which would sneak by anything, distracting a nearby enemy and making it move one space of your choosing, crafting to get three discarded cards back, or attacking.

When you attack you can attack from range using a ranged weapon and ammo, or from close by using your melee weapon. When you attack, you roll the dice shown on the weapon and ammo card and deal the rolled damaged, minus the enemies armour if it was alert prior to the attack. Any attack will make it alert afterwards if not destroyed. Any successful attack rewards the hunter that strikes the final blow with salvage cards and glory points.

Once all players have used both actions, the enemies have their turn. Non alert enemies will patrol through pre-set paths. If they move off the board they are lost and cannot be attacked. Any alert enemies will attack following their own attack cards, generally targeting the nearest hunter. You can roll to avoid damage using your armour. Any damage you take means you must discard one card. If you run out of cards, you faint. If your hunting party ever collectively faints more than half the number of players, you all lose. If you can defeat enough enemies for each missions points target, you can move on to the next map.

That all seems relatively simple to me. And there really isn't that much more in the rules. Just some specifics about how attacks work, mainly line of sight etc. And what you do between fights, which is where the fun really begins!

The idea of this game is that you will move through various hunting grounds, taking down the quarry in each, before resting at the camp fire. Here, you have the opportunity to upgrade your character both with your own personal skill tree and via acquiring new items from the merchant.

There are three levels of map to hunt on. Completing each level means you can advance one skill. You have a choice to make not only on which skill you wish to acquire, but also which path to take as not all skills lead to the next. Moving up the skill tree will also increase your total deck size, and therefore your durability.

Once you have made this decision and taken any appropriate cards into your deck, you will then be able to spend any salvage cards you acquired from fighting in the previous rounds to buy new items from the merchant. There are three levels based on what map you just hunted on. Choosing suitable items for your character is crucial as each of the four main hunters has their own speciality, focus and fighting style. This brings more than just variety of game play, but also avoids players fighting over the same items at the merchant stage.

Adding the right cards into your hand to increase your chances in the later battles is important. This is a deck and character building game after all, and what you add to your deck each round will come back to help you in later fights.

The variation of the four main characters, the skill trees you can choose from, and the cards you acquire from the merchant, all create a very exciting and enjoyable diverging experience. Each hunter feels unique, and exploring each ones own strengths and specific fighting styles was a lot of fun for me. I like how each character finishes a game with its own distinct characteristics based on your own choices through the game.

Once you have fought your way through four different battlefields, the hunters call will sound and you will face up against the mighty Sawtooth. This foe has a more varied attack, with four behaviour cards instead of just one, and a much larger total hit point value. Taking Sawtooth down will end the game for all hunters.

Each successful hunt will reward the hunter who made the final blow with glory points. At the end of each battle, the hunter with the most glory points will be rewarded with sun tokens. If the hunters make it through all battles then all players win. But the hunter with the most sun tokens at the very end wins the game overall.

With all that said, I think I can now answer two of the four main questions.

  1. Is there enough in the base game for a good experience?

Yes, there is. But the final battle does feel a little anti-climactic. You will find it relatively easy after all your upgrades. The Sawtooth is tough, but you will be tougher by this point.