Visually, I think anybody will get a kick out of the cartoony Scots in this 2-player game. The question is, what will they think of the play of the game?
One of the 2002 releases in the Kosmos 2-player line, right away you realize that Heave Ho! has some good things going for it: Richard Borg has won many fans with Battle Cry and Hera & Zeus; the visuals (board, cards, wood barrels) are top notch; and there are some unique mechanisms too.
Players are taking opposite sides in this tug of war. The board depicts a rope going across the board with 3 different color outlines for cards on either side of the rope (so maximum 3 tuggers per clan at any one time.) Players first form teams, then play cards to the field one card at a time trying to manipulate scoring to their advantage.
Forming teams is very unique. The cards are shuffled and dealt out to each player, 20 cards each, leaving 15 cards out of this round (so players are never sure what, exactly, will be available.) Players keep their cards face down in a deck then the younger player shouts 'Heave Ho!' At that moment players are racing against each other to make teams: each player takes the top 2 cards, looks at them, and splits them into 2 piles, one pile will be for his opponent, one pile will be for himself. Players go as fast as they can ten times all the way thru their deck. If one player finishes first, that player gains two advantages: a slight head start in the tug-of-war, and the bonus of dividing the remainder of their opponent's deck, (which could help the first player to a few more good cards.)
The next part of the game is simple: players draw a hand of 6 cards, then play one card at a time onto the board. That raises the one rule problem in the game. Since so far only the German version has come out, some people have played that you can only play cards to your own side of the field, other people play that you can play cards in any of the 6 slots. I have been assured that the latter is true and that players can play their cards to any space on the board. The funny thing is that the first method actually is far more challenging (when do you place bad cards to your own side of the field?) and the second far more chaotic (you never know what you'll need a turn ahead of time.)
Either way, cards come in 4 colors -- red, blue, green, and white -- and special action cards, and must be played to their appropriate position on the board except that whites are wild and may be played anywhere, and action cards allow actions instead of placement. The men have strength ranging from 1-3 points; several cards depict women who have 4 strength points but have a weakness, and one depicts the Loch Ness Monster (worth a whopping 6 strength points) who is vulnerable to a special card, lastly there are 'zero' cards that depict...noone -- I guess one of your tuggers is off fighting the English. The special cards are one-use cards that allow for stealing a card, or looking at someones hand, and other such rule bending.
Scoring is ultra simple: when a player plays a card to the board that says 'Heave Ho!' (or How Ruck! in the German version) strength points are summed up and the winner takes the difference in points. The points are tracked at the bottom of the board where there are 12 gold cicrles. The barrel starts on one side of the middle and moves back and forth. Every point a player gains moves the barrel one circle closer to them. The end circles are larger and represent a win. Winner claims the barrel (of egg nog? =) and a new round is begun. First player to 3 barrels wins.
Either way you play the rules (play a card in your own area OR play a card in either area) you'll find out quickly that this game has MUCH luck in it. I mean tremendous amounts of luck. That does not make this game bad, but be forewarned, you do not have a heck of a lot of control. But it is somewhat fun, and the artwork and theme are pretty cute. Not the strongest in the Kosmos two-player series, but kind of fits nicely alongside Tally Ho! (the 'Ho!' games?) as a fairly light, fun diversion for two.