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“Theme”: 2 players are competing outlaws trying to steal more cattle than their opponent without getting caught.
Setup: Every aspect of the game’s setup is randomized, highlighting its replayability. Randomize the 9 location tiles to form a 3x3 grid; randomly place the 36 cattle meeples on each tile according to the number shown on each tile, disregarding color; randomly distribute the action tokens that go on each location tile (there are more tiles than you actually use in the game); and finally, flip the outlaw token like a coin to see who will go first.
Mechanics: Longhorn is a movement allowance game with a little set-collecting thrown in for scoring. Players take turns taking all the cows of a certain color on which their marker is placed. The number of cows stolen determines how many locations away the player marker must move, orthogonally, after which the outlaw token is flipped and the other player takes his move. The outlaw token cannot end its move on a location tile that is empty of cows. When a player takes the last color of cows, he resolves the action token on that location. Some of these benefit the active player, some hinder the opponent.
Endgame/Scoring: The game can end if, 1) the outlaw token cannot make any more legal moves, 2) one player manages to steal all 9 cows of a particular color, or 3) a player gets caught by the sheriff (only if that action token happens to be in play in any given game). The amount each color of cow is worth is equal to the total number of that color still left on all location tiles. Most money wins.
The Clever: What makes Longhorn so appealing is the fact that it is a perfect information game that can be played in 15 minutes. In other micro games, there is usually an element of chance, hidden information, bluffing, or randomization that players can’t always account for 100%. In this game, aside from the entire setup, which is randomized, every move is known, and every bit of information is calculable. It really does feel like a tense tug-of-war between 2 players. The fact that each player moves the outlaw piece before flipping it over only adds to the tension. Each player has a decent amount of control over what their opponent can (or sometimes – is forced to) do on their upcoming turn.
Recommendation: If you like zero luck, and could fill a nice niche in your 2P strategic filler category, then get this game. I think I like it more than Jaipur. But take that with a grain of salt – I graduated from UT, Austin, so I’m a little biased to begin with.
I just picked this game up this week at a game store in Boise while there on business I look forward to playing….