When I first became a true “BoardGameGeek,” I began hungrily searching for the best and most well-known “modern classics,” and that search led me to the KOSMOS two-player series time and time again. The most famous game in the line is probably Lost Cities, but there are many other excellent choices, such as Kennerspiel nominee Targi or personal favorite Dragonheart. Thames and Kosmos have heard this over and over again as well – since beginning to do their own U.S. distribution, their most requested games have been from this line. And they’ve answered, with Tally Ho! and The Rose King arriving just recently on U.S. shelves. Ostensibly a game about animals and hunters, Tally Ho! is at its core a tile game of hidden, randomized setup followed by chess-like gameplay. How does the game stack up against the KOSMOS two-player legacy? Here’s a reminder of my scoring categories:
Components – Does the game look nice? Are the bits worth the money? Do they add to the game?
Accessibility – How easy is the game to teach, or to feel like you know what you are doing?
Depth – Does the gameplay allow for deeper strategies, or does the game play itself?
Theme – Does the game give a sense of immersion? Can you imagine the setting described in the game?
Fun – Is the game actually enjoyable? Do you find yourself smiling, laughing, or having some sense of satisfaction when it’s over?
Components: As I mentioned, there are very few components to this game – literally 48 tiles, the board, and the rulesheet. However, it’s about as competitively priced as it can be, with an MSRP of $19.99 (around $13 online). The artwork is good, and the tiles are thick and sturdy. Not sure what else to say. No awkward rips from the punchboard? Nothing that stood out as super impressive, but everything was very good. I like a lean, efficient package, and that’s what you get here for sure.
Accessibility: The game is actually very simple, but explaining seems to somehow take a few more sentences than it should. There’s a great rules reference on the back of the rulebook (more companies do this, please!). The only reason it’s a bit awkward to explain is that for the game to work, there are several rules that are in there simply to avoid “lock-up” scenarios (e.g. you can’t move a piece back to where it just was, you can’t move a green tile that was just flipped), and they damage the “elegance” of the game somewhat. However, it’s still a very simple game, and can be explained in under 5 minutes. And since the game only takes about 20 minutes, it’s easy to play a practice round and then go again.
Depth: There are most definitely strategic decisions that can be made in this game. That being said, the initial setup is both random and hidden, so there’s an insane amount of luck in the early game as you reveal tiles. Reveal your opponent’s bear right next to your lumberjack? Too bad. As the tiles get revealed and the board opens up, there are many more interesting decisions to make, but I felt that our five games were primarily determined by luck of the draw. For example, in one game, the human player lost both his lumberjacks early to bad luck, and several of his hunters were surrounded by trees, meaning that they could never be used. While this does make for games where anyone can win, which can be exciting, sometimes the way that lucky setups would stymie interesting play made the game much less exciting.
Theme: This is quite clearly an abstract game with a thin veneer of theme-paint. That being said, I prefer the paint to no theme at all, and the rules at least make thematic sense, regarding who can capture whom. It’s not a theme (hunting) that appeals to me much, but it’s also one that’s criminally underused in the board game world, so I applaud the choice. I really can’t complain here.
Fun: The game is quick, has some interesting gameplay, and a healthy dose of luck. Unfortunately, that luck can also be at times frustrating, and the game doesn’t seem wide enough to allow for really creative play. It’s an “inoffensive” way to pass the time, but there are many other games in the KOSMOS two-player line that I would grab first.
Tally Ho! is a carefully designed game with some interesting decisions, but the simple gameplay and extreme amount of luck keep it from being a standout member of KOSMOS’s two-player line.
2 out of 5