Review – Hoyuk from Mage Company
2-5 players, Age 10+
Designer – Piere Canuel
Art – Anthony Cournoyer
Many thanks to Mage Company for providing a review copy of this game.
In Hoyuk, the players clan leaders during the Neolithic period who are trying to build part of a village. You will be building houses, pens for cattle, shrines, ovens and populating your houses. Life isn’t so simple as you will be competing to build effectively and strategically as well as dealing with the effects of natural catastrophes.
In essence, this is a tile placement game with extra building twists.
The first thing that you notice about Hoyuk is the physical weight. It’s pretty heavy and the components are thick and chunky and will stand up to a lot of plays.
1 Game board
5 sets of 25 houses
40 pens, 20 ovens, 20 shrines, 20 villagers, 20 cattle, 1 shaman, 1 player marker, 5 player counters
24 catastrophe cards
15 construction boards
70 aspect cards
The production quality is excellent. The art relates the theme well. The images are clear and illustrate what is required in a functional way. The colours are pretty reasonable although only the red is bright enough. The other colours of the tiles stand out against the game board which depicts the village area. Likewise, the art on the cards is attractive and effective.
Without going into great detail, here is how the core game works.
First player – An unusual feature of Hoyuk is the choice of first player. The first player who holds the starting player tile, must choose who will be the next starting player. And no player can be the starting player for 2 consecutive turns. This is an interesting rule as it brings a decision as to where the current starting player sees the most benefit to giving a carefully chosen opponent the start tile.
Each round has 4 phases -
Construction (x2) – Each player builds a set of 3 Elements in turn based upon the 1st Construction tile, which can include houses, temples, pens, or ovens. Once all players have used their first construction tile, they then do the same again with their 2nd construction tile.
Houses are the core building unit and can have a 2nd story built on top or pens built alongside. Shrines and ovens are placed on houses. There are rules governing the placements. Adjacent houses of the same colour create families, Blocks are created of adjacent houses, pens and ruined houses, regardless of colour.
This all sounds a bit cozy but then there are catastrophes…
After the first round, the current round’s first player chooses a catastrophe card and all effects are applied. Yes, this is a random factor which you don’t find in too many Euro-style games and for me, it makes sense historically as Mother Nature is unpredictable and can be mean and arbitrary. Each catastrophe will affect 1 or more blocks in the village, ruining houses, an aspect card, etc.
Catastrophes include -
Bad Seasons, Droughts, Epidemics, Earthquakes, Fires, Floods, Locusts, Looters, Sacrifices, Tornados, Volcanos and Wolves. Each with their own effects.
Tip – No amount of planning will protect the players completely so it will be important to diversify and spread the risk by building in a number of areas.
Each Block is inspected to determine which player(s) have the lead in each of the 3 aspects (ovens, shrines and pens). These players get an Aspect card corresponding to the aspect they lead in. Aspect cards are only awarded to regarding blocks where more than 1 player has built. So you must connect with other players to create combined blocks to score Aspect cards.
The Aspect cards start in decks for each of the 3 Aspects noted. However, when you spend your Aspect cards, you can place them in any of the piles as long as all cards spent by a player in a turn must be placed in the same deck during a turn.
Aspect cards let you build extra Elements. They can also be used to score victory points by collecting sets.
End of Round
All Aspect cards used are placed in decks. A new start player is chosen.
When a player places their 25th house, the last round is triggered. Then Final scoring determines which player has won.
Additional rules add villagers, cattle, a Shaman, more Aspect cards and construction cards and finally, individual clan powers.
I’ve only played the core rules version as this was plenty for me (see below).
Did I enjoy Hoyuk?
I must be honest and say up front that I am generally not a fan of most Euro-style games as they tend to do my head in. Having said that, I do tend to enjoy simple Euro games.
The feel of the game is logical and interesting as you are placing tiles and also other Elements in order to get points for majorities. So there are some interesting choices to make. The mechanics and game flow work.
The rules are a bit harder to get through than perhaps is necessary and it does take a couple of rounds to get into the flow of things so it is not an elegant game as such. A “quick start” sheet would not go amiss.
The use of Construction boards is a good mechanic. As you get them randomly, you have to work with what you get and I personally like this. If you like to develop a strategy and planning ahead, you are limited by this randomness.
For me, there are a perhaps slightly too many choices, even with the core rules with the construction boards and later as you build up the Aspect cards and have choices how to use them. It works, but it ups the complexity and slows the game for me.
I certainly wouldn’t add the extra rules beyond the core game as it would increase the time length and and “thinkiness”. I would hesitate to play Hoyuk with non-gamers, definitely not beyond the core rules.
On the one hand, I like the use of the random Catastrophe cards as they level the playing field for those of us who aren’t strategic planners. And they aren’t so much a “take that” mechanism as a risk to anyone or all. Having said that, because there are a number of choices to be made, some players may feel frustrated with getting hit randomly after investing in a strategy.
So where do I stand regarding Hoyuk? Mixed, I’m afraid. I like parts of it, but I essentially wish it was simpler and more elegant. If I compare it to say, Carcassone, for example, I much prefer that game. Hoyuk has too many moving parts for me, even in the core game, for the type of game it is. It leans towards a heavier game and with more players, and advanced rules, is more than what truly works for me.
So overall, its definitely worth a play and some folks who enjoy having a lot of choices will like it more than me but with so many other games competing for my time, I personally won’t be in a hurry to come back to it.
For more information go to – http://magecompany.com/hoyuk.html