Monday, February 28, 2005

Review: Tally Ho!

Tally Ho! is another entry in the great line of two player games from Kosmos and Rio Grande Games. This is a deceptively simple game designed by Rudi Hoffmann.

In Tally Ho! players are let loose in a wilderness populated with trees, foxes, ducks, pheasants, bears, lumberjacks and hunters. Each one is out to either avoid or capture the others.

The playing surface is a seven by seven grid of squares that represents a forest area. At the start of the game, the board is covered with 48 face-down tiles. The center square is left empty. Players then take turns either revealing a tile or moving a tile.

Each tile depicts either a tree, an animal or a human. One player controls the blue tiles: bears and foxes, the other controls the brown tiles: hunters and lumberjacks. The trees can't be moved and the ducks and pheasants can be moved by either player. Tiles may be moved orthogonally (like a rook in chess). Most may move any number of open spaces but bears and lumberjacks may only move one space at a time.

One of the more interesting aspects of this game is that the two sides are not symmetrical. The bears capture (a nicer word than "eat" or "maul") humans. The foxes can only capture birds. The hunters can capture any of the animals provided that the prey is located in the direction in which the hunter's gun is pointing (which is determined by the placement of the tile at the start of the game and can not be changed). And lumberjacks are the only tiles that can remove the trees.

Although the sides are asymmetrical, they still feel pretty well balanced. Still, it's recommended that players play two games, once on each side, ensuring that neither player receives an undue advantage.

Points are scored by capturing tiles and different tiles have different point values. The game continues with players taking turns either moving tiles or revealing new tiles by turning them over. When all tiles are revealed, each player gets five more turns and the game ends.

This is a very simple game to learn and there is a fair amount of luck involved, particularly at the beginning of the game. If you're lucky enough to reveal a lot of your tiles and birds, you can enjoy a commanding lead. In spite of that, there's enough strategy here to ensure that a superior player is definitely more likely to carry the game. And the fact that it plays so quickly (around 15 minutes for a single game - 30 or 40 minutes if you play two to balance it out) means that if you got off to an unlucky start a rematch can be only a few minutes away.

If you're looking for a light, fast strategy game with some fun twists, great artwork and a whimsical theme, then look no further. This one's a keeper.


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