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Subject: Horse Show - A Light Review rss

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All of my 'Light Reviews' aim to offer a brief overview that allows people to get a good feel for what a game may offer them, the options involved and general flow of play. My modern Light Review format aims to keep the length under 2000 words, which may sound like a lot but is really quite succinct.

Image Courtesy of mixmaster

Summary

Game Type - Card Game
Play Time: 15-30 minutes
Number of Players: 2-4
Mechanics - Hand Management, Trick Taking
Difficulty - Pick-up & Play (Can be learned in under 10 minutes)
Components - Good
Release - 1997

Designer - Anne Stambler and Elisabeth Stambler(Alien Hotshots, Frog Juice, Lilly's 3 for All, Mummy Rummy, Rat-a-Tat-Cat, Slamwich, Stone Soup)



Overview and Theme

As my boys get older I am looking to the Gamewright children's games less and less so it had been some time since I had played a new one to review.

Then up pops a Year 4 student of mine that found it at home and brought it into class in the hope that I might teach her. I was all too happy to do so. meeple

She was also very excited to see that I had reviewed a game that she owned. I was then able to use it to explain some of the things I do as a writer when I cover a game. So I was able to make this a teaching and learning focus for my class as well. mb

Horse Show is another game in the Gamewright stable of games for children and families to play together. Each player is hoping to take their stable of horses to a series of shows in the hope of winning blue ribbon events.

It goes without saying that the theme is perfect for luring girl gamers in and perhaps only ranks behind Sleeping Queens in the 'girly-cute' factor stakes. That's not to say that boys can't enjoy the game as well but the theme is more likely to appeal to young ladies.

So saddle up with me as I look to whip this review into shape...shake

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The Components

Cards are all that are needed to drive Horse Show and it offers up a total of 59 in all plus the one obligatory promo card to round out to 60. The game was re-released in 2007 and I have used images from that release simply because they were more plentiful.

d10-1 Horse Cards – These are the main cards used in-game to help win blue ribbon events. The Horse Cards come in one of four colours with each having a name, an event type and a set of values across the top (or down the side based upon which version you have). Each event type that the horse specialises in is linked to one of the four colours and that colour is used as the border to make it obvious.

There are a total of 32 Horse Cards, which allows for 8 in each of the four colours and values for each discipline range from 1 to 6.

The artwork supports the theme well showing horses and riders in a range of situations.


Image Courtesy of Colls


d10-2 Assist Cards – In all there are 12 Assist Cards, which allows for two +1 cards and a single +2 card in each of the four colours/events. Each card features an important piece of equipment and each item also makes logical sense, matching the type of event that they would help with.


Image Courtesy of Colls


d10-3 Blue Ribbon Event Cards – These are the prizes that the players are looking to win. There are 15 in all with 3 in blue and green, 4 in red and purple and 1 special gold (Dealer's Choice) event.

The event for each ribbon is made clear by its colour and name. Each card also features a series of bonus and negative points that can be earned by particular horses to outline their prowess at that event.


Image Courtesy of Colls


d10-4 Rules - The rules are the standard small booklet format used by Gamewright and do the job with a minimum of fuss. They also offer a second game in the form of a matching/memory game. Rather than the standard format of memory, here the players need to find two cards that match an event, with the players being dealt a number of event cards at the start of the game.

Sure its only a variant of memory but some families will get added value from this inclusion.


Image Courtesy of Colls


Gamewright have a set format for their card games so if you have another in the series, then you will know exactly what to expect. I would love these games to make use of a matte/linen finish as kids tend to play on dirty surfaces...but that aside it is fine.


Image Courtesy of AnnC


Set-up

Image Courtesy of fehrmeister

The entire deck of horse cards must be shuffled and dealt out to all players until there are none left. If any cards are left over due to a certain player count, those cards are placed back in the box.

Then the set of 15 Event Cards are shuffled and 3 are drawn and placed face down ready for the game to begin.

The Play

Horse Show allows its players to compete in a series of horse shows. In all the competitors will take part in 4 shows, with 3 events taking place at each show.

One player takes the starting role and is referred to as the Home Club.

The play for a show looks a little like the following -

d10-1 Select Cards – Each player must look through all their cards (called the Stable) and select 5 that they will take to the current show. At least 3 Horse Cards must be selected as a player must use one horse in each event. The remaining 2 cards can be both Assist Cards, both Horse Cards or one of each.

These 5 cards will be the only cards that can be used at the current show. You will note that the players have no idea what events they will be facing at the show until after the selection of their 5 cards from their Stable, so having a variety of horses that specialise in different events is wise.

The various events are called; Hunter, Jumping, Dressage and Equitation. I had never heard of this last term, assuming it was meant to be Equestrian but it appears that I am wrong.

d10-2 Reveal Event and Play Cards – The Home Club player then reveals the first Event Card and announces what type of event it is and which horses (if any) receive a bonus or penalty to compete in that event.

Each player then has to select 1 horse from their hand of 5 cards to take to that event and 1 Assist Card if they wish. Assist Cards can only be played though if they match the the type of event that is currently being held.

Once all players are ready, the players take their card(s) from their hand and reveal them to everyone simultaneously. This can also be done in the same fashion as 7 Wonders (face down on table before revealing) if players prefer.

d10-3 Scoring – The players then add up their scores for the event. This is done by adding the horse value + any bonus points for an Assist Card + any bonuses or negatives listed on the Blue Ribbon Event Card.

The highest total wins the Blue Ribbon. The player takes the Event Card and places it in front of them and places the winning card(s) used under the Event Card, thus they cannot be used again in the game.

All players that did not win are allowed to take their losing cards and place them back into their Stable of cards, not in their hand. Thus the game requires some careful consideration of when and what cards to play when competing for each event at a show.

It should be noted that Horse Cards will have a higher value for the event that they are skilled at. They will have lesser values for other events and if a horse is played to an event that isn't their specialty, they can still be played but they only get the value listed for the event in question.

In the case of a tie in value, each card lists a TB score, which stands for Tie Breaker. These values must be compared in the case of a tie, with the highest value winning the event.

d10-4 Completing a Show - The above procedure is then replicated for the remaining two events of the show. Of course any previous winners in the current show will have less cards to choose from and this serves as a catch-up and balancing mechanism of sorts.

Once all 3 events have been run and won the current show is over.

d10-5 New Shows - The next player in clockwise order then becomes the new Home Club player. They place a new set of 3 Events face down and the players return all cards from their previous hand to their Stable of cards before choosing a new set of 5 cards. Any cards can be chosen including any that were selected for the last show, there are no restrictions on this.

This and all future shows are conducted in the same way until all 4 shows have taken place.

In 3-player games, each player gets to be the Home Club for one entire show and the final show allows each player to take Home Club responsibilities for 1 of the 3 events in that show.

d10-6 End of Game Scoring - The winner of Horse Show is the player that won the most Blue Ribbon Event Cards over the course of the game.

If there is a tie, then all tied players will compete at one final show. This is why their are 15 Event Cards instead of the required 12. It allows for a bit of variety with each play and 3 will remain for the tie-break if needed.

All Horse Cards are reshuffled and then dealt to the tied-players. The player holding the most Blue Ribbons at the end of this show take the final bow.

The Final Word

Gamewright games always try to incorporate engaging themes. Beyond that their games tend to fall into those that are more math skill and strategy based and those where luck plays a greater role.

Horse Show falls closer to the luck side of the equation but there is certainly some limited strategy to adopt. The luck element is present in two ways. First, how the cards are dealt out (who gets what) and second in the blind 5 card selection that players must make from their Stable for each show. Without knowing what events will feature, all the players can really do is try to take a good spread of cards across the events.

The limited strategy is present in the playing of cards to an event once they are known and perhaps knowing when to add an Assist Card and when to hold it back. Does a player go hard early with their best cards at the expense of having a limited Stable to choose from late in the game. Or do they prefer to strategically lose an Event or two early on?

These are some of the questions posed by the game but I still think the game is a good 70-80% luck.

Now luck in a game is not a bad thing at all and in fact it can be a great thing for some kids as it helps to level the playing field. This is particularly important when kids play with adults or older kids look to play with younger friends or siblings.

My point here though is that if you are looking to select a Gamewright game for your family, know what you are looking for. For some Horse Show will be a winner for the theme alone as that will be appealing. For others it will be the luck factor that makes the game fun because mum and dad are not always certain to win. But if you are looking for a game that helps develop maths skills or has a bit more strategy I would look to titles like Sleeping Queens or Zeus on the Loose.

For the record I quite like Horse Show. I think giving the horses names really helps to evoke the theme as players can get behind their favourite horses and the simultaneous reveal is always fun for kids as they ride that 'what did everyone do' moment.

Till next we meet may small faces smile as they ride Muffin Top to glory...

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