*Note* Copy of the game provided by the publisher for review purposes.
In Head of Mousehold players take on the role of the leaders for different clans of mice living in a house and competing for precious cheese. Players send their clansmice out to retrieve cheese from traps. Using a combination of card play and memory players compete to be the clan with the most cheese at the end of the game.
Every round players choose three mice from their clan and send them out to retrieve cheese from mousetraps left in the house. Some cards are played face down and some face up. Players have to choose carefully which mice to send and which to keep. The quicker mice get killed by the trap removing them from the game and leaving the cheese for the second mouse in line. Additionally, some mice are labeled as squeakers and when one of them is killed by the trap they make a noise and summon the cat who kills the second mouse in line.
The game is very cute, as such I was curious as to whether or not it was designed to be played with children. I was hopeful for a good fit for me and my niece. The rules were simple enough and easy to explain and understand. I had decent hopes going into this game.
Quality of Components and Insert
The cards are good, nice and thick, with a decent finish. There’s no shuffling in the game so they shouldn’t need sleeving. Cardboard tokens were solid and sturdy. Even the mouse meeples were cute and well defined.
The quality of the art is very good. All of the different clans have a unique look and thematic feel. It’s cartoony but with a realistic enough slant to be noticeable. The cards and symbols are easy to identify and decipher.
I had fun with this. There’s some good decisions to make and the need to follow up on what limited information you have about your opponents cards. The game can have a small problem with analysis paralysis in the beginning, but as the game goes on and you lose more and more mouse cards it limits your choices and makes decision making easier. All said though, I enjoyed the, “I cannot choose the glass in front of me or the glass in front of you,” style of game play here.
Difficulty and Age Range Suggestion
The Box says 8+ and I don’t think that’s right. There are too many lines of thought to play the game. You want to be the second mouse too the cheese so you don’t get killed by the trap. However, if you think you can set it up to be the first mouse to the cheese and play a squeaker it will also kill the second mouse leaving the way open for you to try and have the third mouse. Additionally, mice are killed in traps every round and sometimes eaten by cats. While there’s nothing that depicts it, it will bother some younger children. I think this game is for a slightly older audience, 13+ or so, when they’ll just start to be into that sort of gallows humor.
Ultimately, the game is good and fast, the art is cute and evocative, and the decisions are meaningful and difficult. It’s an okay social deduction game. It plays in fifteen minutes which makes it a decent filler game that you should be able to play several times in a row. Unfortunately, for what it’s trying to do there are better games out there. The biggest problem is that for as simple as the rules are there are too many steps in a round. First you lay out random cheese tokens, then you set the speed level of the different colors of mice, then you choose your three cards, then you flip an event, then you set out your mice meeples showing what colors of mice you’re using this round, then you play your cards one at a time; some face up some face down, then you reveal all of the cards, then you put them in order…and by now I’ve had more interaction playing Coup.
The game is fun but the entire second half of the game we kept thinking of other games that did this better. This feels like it wants to be a social deduction game and yet, there’s no social part. I’m trying to remember which of my opponent’s mice have been killed but I’m not talking to them about it. The first few rounds were in silence except for the occasional rules question. That to me is where this games biggest failing lies, there no social to the deduction; it’s all memory based.
For the fifteen minutes the game takes it’s entertaining, but near the end of the round I started to feel the weight of the genre. Head of Mousehold has the unfortunate luck to be coming into a field with a lot of inexpensive games that do what it wants to do better.
In the end I think Head of Mousehold is worth trying, sit down at a convention or local game store and pull it from the library. Give it a try; it’s worth a look and you’ll probably have fun. The question is, will you have enough?