Theme and What is it?
Horizons brings up to 5 space-faring civilizations with their own established origin galaxies and brings them to a new galaxy. These civilizations are all bent on exploring the best places to be in the new galaxy. They want to get the best local resource collections. They want to befriend the local aliens and leverage these contacts to get ahead in the colonization race. Players will explore, expand, and exploit the new galaxy. A notable thing MISSING from this game is extermination. This is not a standard 4X game.
Horizons is quite quick to learn and play for the punch it delivers. Players will take two actions on their turn. They have 5 possible actions to pick from. In a learning game, players will have the same 5 actions but the full version gives unique player powers to each empire board. The game is most exciting when each of your actions allow you to trigger one alien ally card.
There are 5 stacks of aliens each with a specialized power that can be used up to twice before being discarded to the bottom of that stack again. The same aliens can come up multiple times in the course of a game. This can lead to some very tactical advanced plays when an experienced player makes decisions knowing what alien is 2nd from the top of the stack.
Winning the game requires controlling enough territory dominance, gaining enough knowledge, and any completing critical bonus objective cards to distinguish your empire from the others in final scoring.
I was expecting this to be a relatively middle to high complexity game. It wasn’t. It was pretty simple to learn how to play and turns flowed way faster than almost any new game with 5 players I have tried. We really liked the number of pieces for the setup. It wasn’t barren of components but with each player taking the pieces of their color it only took about 40 seconds to setup each player board and put the 3 resource pools out. This is the most comfortable game I have ever played for component count given the number of players.
Game Build Quality
The cloth bag for the world tiles is a very nice gaming feature. I am a big fan of blind bags and often use them even in games that do not provide one for me. The wooden energy, metal, and knowledge tokens are exactly what I expect in a well made euro game. The wooden player pieces are just more of the same simple quality components. The ally cards are easy to shuffle, separate by symbol, and give enough space to provide all the necessary details for use. I am very pleased with the build quality and thrilled that it provided a blind bag.
Each card has its own unique art for the alien or objective shown. Each player board has a unique human leader side and a drastically different alien creature side. The art is a little on the cartoonish side but not to the point of being a caricature. I like that each species of alien allies shares a distinct race look but has totally different perspective or features to distinguish between the individuals.
Two actions is not a hyper long turn. But, it does offer critical combos to the players. Since each main action can also activate an alien ally for what can feel like another action it ends up being a 2-4 action turn instead. The fun for my group was entirely centered around trying to make strategic action paths. Each action sets up combination actions for the next turns and each action flows into another action.
You grab an alien so you can gain resources and use the alien so that you can build a thing. Then you use another alien to skip needing to restock resources and can repeat building again immediately. After that, you will need to get more alien allies and setup new action combos. It is very satisfying to chain everything together like this while competing with the other players on critical timing and locations for each structure.
Age Range & Weight
14+ seems way too high for this game. There is no thematic violence or negative player interaction space except competition to be first to a spot. The theme of space exploration and building doesn’t justify any parental control. The actions you can take are limited to 5 things on your player board plus one alien of matching symbol per action taken with a simple sentence of what the alien effect is.
I found this to be fast playing and simple. A low-moderate complexity. Perhaps I just have too much experience with similar games and this is the easiest form of a 4X style I have found to appreciate that there is still any difficulty to it. But I doubt it. It just is very accessible and should play well as low as 10 and definitely by 12.
Horizons was a gem of a game to find. The box says 60-75 minutes to play but after our first learning game was done our 4 and 5 man games have been finishing under the hour mark. There are very few games that actually over estimate the time it takes to play. And the fun comes from setting up the combo plays for resource management to then take control just enough to be ahead in as many solar systems as possible. The final critical colony that ends the game immediately is a great way for a player to snatch victory from defeat with the final swings in control points. We enjoyed Horizons and are looking forward to what is coming next in the series or with any expansions.