Full disclosure: A review copy of Hórreos was provided by Button Shy.
Back with more Button Shy games! I think I’m actually starting to run … out? Close to out? I’ve powered through a bunch of them since we’ve started talking about them in the last few months. At least eight of them, but there are still depths to plumb! So, get excited about those depths. I’m writing this tonight before I head out tomorrow for GAMA, so this will be one of the last reviews I write before I’m post-convention, unless I get it in my head to do the incredibly-bad idea of writing reviews AT GAMA. But we’ll see about that one. In the meantime, let’s check out Hórreos!
In Hórreos, you’ve got a bit of a problem. Mice, you see, keep getting into your granary, and that’s not a great thing. Mice aren’t the cleanest, among other issues. You’ve got some owls that are smartly hanging around looking for a quick meal (this is how you know owls earn their graduation caps; they’re intellectuals), but you figure you can propose an innovation. Put the granaries on little pillar feet so they’re off the ground. This way, fewer mice. It’s genius, so now you just need to build the longest one possible. Your opponent wants the same thing, so as is typically the case, you make a bit of a game out of it. Who will be able to make the longest granary?
Pretty effectively none. You give each player two different Action Cards:
Then, shuffle the hórreo cards, flipping some over so that you get a good mix, since they’re double-sided:
After doing all that, set the deck towards the top (or middle) of the play area, putting one card to the side of the deck so that there are two available cards to take. Place the Leader Card so it faces any player, and you’re ready to start!
Over the course of a few rounds, players are going to build their hórreos, adding different cards on top of each other to extend it ever farther. How you do so is by choosing an action! Each round, players simultaneously choose an action from one of the four cards available, keeping their chosen card face-down with their chosen action facing their opponent. Note that you cannot choose the action you chose last round. Then, players reveal! Actions resolve in the following order, and if both players chose the same action, the player that the Leader Card faces chooses who goes first and then flips the Leader Card around to face the other player.
- Sabotage: This action flips your opponent’s card around. Note that this means that your opponent’s resulting action changes, but their chosen action does not. If you Sabotage another player’s Build, changing it to a Steal, they cannot choose Build the next round, even though they ended up not Building. Through a complex series of actions (you Sabotage your opponent’s Plan, which turns to a Sabotage, Sabotaging your Sabotage and turning it to a Plan), you may see both cards flip and may take more than one action in a given round.
- Plan: Here, you can take either of the face-up hórreo cards and add it to your supply, in front of you.
- Steal: You may take any card from your opponent’s supply and add it to yours. You cannot steal cards that are already part of your opponent’s hórreo.
- Build: You may take any card from your supply and add it to your hórreo. Note that if you choose this action and have nothing to Build (because your opponent stole the only card in your supply), you do nothing and cannot choose Build again next round. Tough break. When you build, you may cover one or more spots on the cards below, but you can’t tuck your new card under existing cards. Play wisely!
At the end of each round, check the market and player supplies. If one or fewer cards remain between the market and player supplies, the game ends! Then, move on to scoring:
- Crosses & Pikes: Each pair of one cross and one pike earns you 3 points. You can only score each cross and each pike once.
- Owls & Mice: Each owl eats exactly one mouse, removing it from scoring. Each remaining mouse scores -2 points.
- Doors: Doors score 1 / 4 / 3 / 8 / 5 / 12 for 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6+ doors! They don’t have to be adjacent, but you can see that even numbers of doors score more than odd numbers of doors.
- Pillars: Each adjacent group of pillars scores 0 / 1 / 2 / 5 / 8 / 12/ 17 / 23 points for 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 adjacent pillars. Multiple groups each score.
- Longest hórreo: The longer hórreo scores 5 extra points!
The player with the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
None! Game is two-player only.
- Keep an eye on the mice! Sure, they’re only -2 points, but that can add up if you’re taking more than two or three mice. Don’t let them get out of hand, since the whole point of these hórreos is specifically not letting the mice get out of hand, even if you have the aesthetics on lock.
- Building up an early-game supply of owls will help you keep moving as the game progresses. It’s nice to have a bit of a buffer, though owls are frequently in high demand by both players to keep their mice population at a minimum, as you’d expect. If you take a bunch of owls, expect to get them stolen. Though, this also means that you can potentially focus on taking some owls so that you can use them as Steal fodder and build the cards you actually want, but, that depends on your opponent, a bit. All worth considering.
- Pillar groups are a great way to score points, but they’re also a very easy thing to get messed up, since it’s pretty obvious what you’re doing. I probably wouldn’t let you build a big group of pillars if I can avoid it, and it’s not hard to see what you’re after once you’ve placed two or three cards. It’s not really something you can be sneaky about, so you either need to hope that your opponent thinks they’re doing better than you (and that they’re wrong) or that they just aren’t really looking at your hórreo at all. If they’re not, well, that’s to your benefit.
- Ideally, you’d have an even number of doors. Doors score more when you have an even number. Not sure if that’s an aesthetic thing or not, but it’s in the rulebook. Note that this restriction goes away once you have six doors, because six or more doors all score the same value. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend having more than six doors, though.
- It’s much harder to notice the groupings of crosses and pikes on your hórreo, so if you’re looking to surreptitiously gather points, do that. At the very least, it’s not something I actively look for, so if you’re looking to mess with me personally, that’s the way to do it. And I don’t necessarily speak for everyone, but, I feel like they’re smaller and they look a bit more similar than, say, doors and no doors or pillars and no pillars, so I may just think you’re grabbing a lot of crosses or pikes, rather than a lot of pairs of both.
- Throwing a Sabotage action every now and then can really throw your opponent off. Sabotage isn’t really to help you out; it’s mostly to mess with your opponent’s flow. Sometimes you can really mess them up and force them to Build a card out of order. My personal favorite is Sabotaging a Plan, so it becomes a Sabotage for them and they Sabotage you back into a Plan, so you essentially swipe their Plan action and prevent them from doing it next turn. Naturally, next turn, they’ll just Steal from you, but, you know, you can always Steal right back. Sometimes.
- Keep an eye on the Leader Card! Being the Leader can be helpful from time to time. The Leader is particularly helpful if it means that you get to negate an opponent’s action. So, take the previous example. Let’s say your opponent has a card in their supply. You don’t. You both Steal. If you’re the Leader, you choose who goes first. So you choose your opponent to go first. They can Steal any of the nothing you have in your supply, and you get their card. If it went the other way, you’d Steal from them and they’d Steal it back. Not ideal. Just remember that when you use the Leader ability (and you must, if you pick the same action), your opponent becomes the Leader. So what goes around might come around.
- If you can preempt your opponent, you may be able to get them to waste their turn. A particularly fun move is the Steal / Build move. It’s mean, but if you Steal someone’s only card and they Build, you quite literally pull the rug out from under them. They still get to take a Build Action, but they have nothing to Build, because you stole it. So they just kind of pass their turn in angry silence.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I learned about something completely new! That’s fun. I had no idea what a hórreo was until I played this game, and now I know what they are! How about that. I do really like it when games are themed about something I know nothing about and, by playing it, I learn a bit more history or culture or art or science or whatever. It’s a really nice experience, and is one of my favorite things about novel themes in games. I love learning about something that’s important to the designer or culturally relevant or just a cool thing that the designer knows about that I don’t.
- I like the multi-use cards for action selection. It’s a nice way to make something work with limited resources, as is always the case with Button Shy games. I like seeing how designers function within the very explicit constraints (or how they work around them). Both are fun! Constraint inspires creativity.
- Each of the four actions has some fun applications to it, if you use them correctly. I think you can do clever things with every possible action, especially if you start manipulating the order in which your actions fire (since every phase has an activation hierarchy). There’s a pacing to the game that can get really good once players are very familiar with the cards (and each other).
- Once you and your opponent get desynchronized, the game gets a bit more interesting. The game isn’t at its best when you and your opponent are constantly doing the same action, so eventually that will break a little bit and you’ll only intersect for critical moments, which is kind of fun. It’s sort of watching an echo of your game happening across from you. A variant? It’s very similar, but not quite the same. It’s interesting to see how your goals and choices start to diverge.
- I also like the variability of the double-sided hórreo cards. It’s nice that it’s not always the same hórreo cards every game, or even the same ordering or configuration of them. Just prevents people from having an Ideal Hórreo in their brain every game, if such a thing were possible.
- The art style is fun! It’s a bit muted, but I like it? It’s almost wistful, in a way, since it’s not particularly saturated. It makes me think it’s a game about something that took place in the past, and since it did, it seems like a solid fit.
- As always, very portable. The classic Button Shy praise. I just like being able to take these anywhere, especially while I’m thinking about packing for a trip. I’m going to take probably 10 or so with me, so, they won’t take up basically any space, and I love that.
- Games where you make a Very Long Thing are always a bit goofy, from a table-space perspective. It just ends up taking a lot of space, especially if you’re playing on a square or round table. Both are common enough (and on a round table you can always add a bit of a curve to your cards to make things interesting), but the game can often push a bit uncomfortably close to the edge. Thankfully, it never gets anywhere near it, so this is just a Meh.
- There are possible stalemate-ish parts of the game, which can be a bit annoying. If we keep trading off doing Steal / Build, the game will literally never end. We’ll always have stolen the card that the other player was about to Build, right before they could do so. The back and forth forever and ever is a bit annoying. In practice, players likely won’t stand for a fully-infinite game, so one player will break first, but a functional stalemate seems like something we should have a workaround for, to some degree.
- The take-that aspects aren’t my particular cup of tea, though I’ll acknowledge that’s more of a personal preference. I just don’t love having to consistently junk up my opponent’s plans, but functionally, that’s this entire game. You’re either building up or tearing down, and you can’t do the same thing twice, really, so unless you and your opponent are perfectly desynchronized, you’re going to be in need of the occasional take-that to progress. It’s not bad, if you’re into that sort of thing, but I’m not really as fond of take-that, especially when I’m trying to build a long granary.
Overall: 6.75 / 10
Overall, I think Hórreos is interesting! The stalematey issues kind of stand out, which is unfortunate, but if you just kind of … ignore that, as you play, there’s a fair bit of interesting play, here. Hórreos is at its best when players get interestingly off-sync with each other, as they’re kind of moving through the market (and each other’s supplies) at an interesting clip, and the ebb and flow of that is pretty interesting. That said, that doesn’t always happen with the action selection mechanic, and that can be frustrating. The game can have a perfect stalemate, if one player has a card in their supply and players keep choosing Steal / Build in each round, alternating. That’s … odd, that that is even possible. I’d love to see something else for that. This also means, a bit uncomfortably, for me, that half of the potential actions are take-that, in some way. Normally, this would be more of a problem, for me, but since it’s exclusively a two-player game, while it’s not always pleasant, it’s less vulnerable to players ganging up on each other because there are no other players to gang up on. That all said, this is definitely one of the meaner games I’ve played from Button Shy, so, I tend to prefer nicer titles. But there are some fun things about this! Building an exceedingly long hórreo is kind of goofy, which I appreciate, and it was fun to learn what a hórreo even is! I like games where I end up learning something. And the muted art style is pleasant, too. This is all to say that if you’re looking for a kinda-combative two-player game, you are really into raised granaries, or you just love wallet games, you may enjoy Hórreos!
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