The genre of the so-called 4X games in the science fiction setting does not yet have many representatives. Especially none that require less than six hours of gaming time. Then Horizonte, a board game that shouldn't last more than 75 minutes and is considered a family game, hit the market. The following board game review deals in detail with Horizons from Schwerkraft Verlag.


Nice 4X style family board game

The game Horizons was created by Daily Magic GAMES financed as a project via Kickstarter and localized in German by Schwerkraft Verlag. Its theme is the exploration of distant and alien galaxies by humans and alien races. The publisher is best known for the game "Valeria". While the author and designer Levi Mote is rather unknown, the illustrator The Mico is already known through his characteristic drawings for the “Robbers of the North Sea” series, among others.

The unmistakable design of The Mico. Photo: Melanie Dürbeck
The unmistakable design of The Mico. Photo: Melanie Dürbeck

Spread to distant galaxies

In the game Horizons, human organizations and extraterrestrial peoples compete for expansion into alien galaxies. Each player controls one of the factions.
You explore the star systems and discover new planets, establish colonies and so-called resource collectors, collect resources and complete missions. Furthermore, alliances with other alien races are made, which always bring advantages.

As is usual in many games, the player who has collected the most victory points at the end of the game wins. The players get to this via knowledge tokens, each of which earns one victory point, as well as completed missions.

One of the star systems with planets already discovered and buildings built. Photo: Melanie Dürbeck
One of the star systems with planets already discovered and buildings built. Photo: Melanie Dürbeck

The most interesting thing about Horizons, however, is the control over the star systems in the game. Because through buildings built on the planets, the players gain control points in the respective star system. If they have the majority or the minority, i.e. the most and the second most control points, they receive victory points for this.

The game ends immediately as soon as a player has built his last colony.

Fast, easy - satisfactory

The game material is overall to be rated as satisfactory.
Because the game box, the player boards, as well as the cardboard planet and star parts are nice and thick and valuable. The player boards have two different sides with different alien races or human organizations. Each tableau has a page on which the actions are all the same. They are marked with a star symbol. On the backs are different and modified actions and skills, which gives the game more pizzazz.

The materials of the cards are good, the markers are made of wood. Unfortunately, the latter has flaked off in some places, but it's just an optical flaw that I can live with. There are alien ally cards as well as mission cards, all of which are unique. There is also a help card for each player, which is printed on both sides.

Also included is a black fabric sack that is filled with the planets. There is already a black custom plastic inlay in the box, into which the material can be easily sorted. However, it is brittle in some places. However, there is enough space in the game box for the material for the expansion. German-language instructions are included with the board game Horizonte.

Material quality not completely convincing: corners of some markers have broken off. Photo: Melanie Dürbeck
Material quality not completely convincing: corners of some markers have broken off. Photo: Melanie Dürbeck

The player boards are randomly distributed to the players. Everyone receives all wooden markers in their own color and places them on their tableau, as well as the color-matched activated type markers made of cardboard that are to be placed over the tableau. Each player receives starting resources, a starting ally face up and two mission cards face down.

The mission cards are laid out face down and the alien ally cards are placed face up and side by side in five piles. Star tiles are distributed in the middle of the table according to the number of players. The planet tiles are put into the bag. The further setup of the game requires the cooperation of all players. Each player places a planet tile next to a star tile.

You can then mark a planet type as activated on your tableau by placing an activated planet type tile directly over the planet.

Board game horizons without phases

The rulebook is well structured and contains easy-to-understand texts. I was able to read the rules in one evening and explain them freely at game night the next day. The course of a turn is very simple: Everyone can perform 2 actions, the same action can be done twice. The key words on the player boards and the help cards support the player in his turn. There are a total of 5 actions to choose from.

For each main action, an action or ability of an alien ally card whose symbol matches the selected main action can be activated. The order can be freely chosen here and thus offers more freedom in decisions and options.

The alien ally cards are turned over after use and can only be used once afterwards. After the second use, it is thrown off, which is shown by a symbol in the lower right as a reminder. At the end of his turn, each player must discard excess resources and cards according to a fixed limit.

This is what a player board looks like at the beginning of the game. Photo: Melanie Dürbeck
This is what a player board looks like at the beginning of the game. Photo: Melanie Dürbeck

Getting started is relatively quick because you already have starting resources and cards. You have also already researched a type of planet on which you can build a colony. It would be advisable to start with a resource collector so that the “Harvest” action gives you early access to resources for building and swapping. But everyone is sure to find their own strategy quickly. The game allows a lot of gut decisions, but you can also work tactically against it. The Alien Ally Cards are a great way to do this because they have a lot of potential.

The rest of the game continues quickly. The potential for anger is in the middle here. Players can only bother each other if they grab each other good alien ally cards. Another possibility is the limitation of three buildings per planet, which bring control points in the star system.

Are strategists at an advantage?

As soon as a player has built his last colony on a planet, the game ends immediately. This means that the round is not played to the end. So it could happen that the starting player has a certain advantage that is not compensated for. At least that's what happened in our game. I was the starting player in the test game, finished the game and won with 40 - 28 - 23. Should the advantage actually crystallize in the next few games, I would like to compensate for it, e.g. B. through more starting resources to the other players.

The end can actually come faster than you think, because there are only five colonies per player. I was almost there in the game after 50 minutes, but I wanted to increase my control in the star systems, which is why I then diligently built resource collectors. I think the specification of a playing time of 60 to 75 minutes is very realistic.

The question arose as to whether the game wasn't too simple. I think, however, that the advanced actions on the player boards create more tension. So I recommend frequent and advanced players to use the backs immediately.

The game is simplified by information on the game board. Among other things, you have a direct view of which and how many resources the player receives during the “Harvest” action. Photo: Melanie Dürbeck
The game is simplified by information on the game board. Among other things, you have a direct view of which and how many resources the player receives during the “Harvest” action. Photo: Melanie Dürbeck

Also, don't forget that Horizons is meant to be a family game. As such, I find it ideal and playable for older children too. The game is greatly simplified by the information on the player board. What I find strange, however, is that the game should be playable on the game box from 14 and, according to the Schwerkraft Verlag website, from ten years of age. I am of the opinion that the latter can be done well.

The replay value seems high: To be honest, for a change I'm sometimes very happy about games that don't last more than two hours or some other representatives of the 4X SciFi board games, six or even ten hours.

The mini-expansion called "Attack of the Viliox" brings a breath of fresh air into it. It contains three modules. This includes new starting alien allies as well as alternative star tokens that add skills, advantages or conditions that will make the game a lot more exciting. The third module contains the eponymous new alien race, which as allies bring very aggressive skills and special actions.

Images of horizons

Infobox

Number of players: 2 to 5 players
Age: from 14 years
Playing time: 60 to 75 minutes
Difficulty: easy
Long-term motivation: high

Published by Schwerkraft Verlag
Author: Levi Mote
Year of publication: 2018
Language: German
Cost: 50 Euro

Summary

In my opinion, Horizonte is a good and solid family game with simple rules and game aids that ensure that re-entry is made much easier after a long period of time.
On the other hand, the game didn't have a lot of depth and a little brooding factor. The game was still fun, it was entertaining and not too long, which can add variety to a game evening.