Monday, September 24, 2012

Autumn Games - Heave Ho!

Heave Ho! by Richard Borg is a card game themed on a Scottish tug-of-war.  It automatically gets a good grade from me as it has one of my favorite game bits, the wooden barrel, which is used to measure the location of the center of the rope and serves as a score token.

The goal of the game is to have a higher strength on your side of the rope so that the whiskey barrel is pulled all the way to you.  Win three out of five barrels and you've won the game.

The deck is composed of number cards valued 0-6 with humorous images of Scots matching the strength of the card (the value six card is Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster) and action cards which have special, game-changing effects.  At the start of the game, both players are dealt 20 cards face down.  Simultaneously, as quickly as possible, you draw two cards, look at them and put each in a different pile, one for you and one for your opponent.  The first player finished gets a small advantage in where the barrel is placed at the start of the round.  Once the cards are sorted, you give your opponent the pile you chose for them and take yours from them to add to your existing pile.  Shuffle and draw six cards as your hand and you're ready.

On your turn, you play a "Tugger" card to either side of the board or play an action card.  You want to place the low value Tuggers on your opponent's side and add stronger Tuggers to your side.  Some cards have the words "Heave Ho!" on them.  When one of these is played, you check the total strength on each side and move the barrel the difference in the direction of that side.  For example, if my side has seven points and the other side has four points, the barrel would move three spaces towards my side.

The action cards let you do things like take a card from your opponent's hand and play it, draw more cards into your hand, or even let the weaker side win.  Playing these at the right time is critical.  Heave Ho! is a light, fun, well-themed game with some challenging decision-making.  Deciding when to play the few action cards in your hand as well as when to cause a scoring, rather than waiting for an even more advantageous moment that may never come, raises the tension and enjoyment of this quick game.

I won the first round fairly quickly as we refamiliarized ourselves with a game we hadn't played in a long time.  Carol learned quickly and won the next three rounds in a row.  The last round she won on the very last card played.

Carol wins Heave Ho!

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