Cattle Thief Showdown: A Review of Longhorn

Longhorn

Longhorn is a western-themed strategy game that is as smart as it is fun. Two players are pitted against one another as rival cattle thieves. Players move for their opponent, so the amount of player interaction is intense. Each decision is potentially monumental — one slip up and your cattle can be scattered, or you could be arrested by the sheriff.

This game, albeit simple to learn, can be deeply strategic and part of its replay value comes from needing to play it several times to really develop winning strategies.

Game Play

Winning can be accomplished in three ways: having the most money at the end of the game, collecting all nine cattle of the same color, or by getting your opponent arrested.

The game is played with 9 location tiles in a 3 by 3 square that have a variety of different colored cattle. Each turn, the outlaw collects all the cattle of one color from the location on which the Outlaw token resides and then they move spaces equal to the number of cattle collected. For example, if Eagle Perkins (one of the outlaws) started at Solomon’s Tree with 2 black cows and 1 white cow, the player could take the 2 black cows and move 2 spaces or take the 1 white cow and move 1 space.

At the end of the turn, the Outlaw token is flipped and the opposing player (Jessie Artist Byrd) takes a turn. If a player takes the last cow on a tile, they get the token associated with that location, for better or worse — some tokens give you extra cash while others give you a penalty (such as losing the game if you get the sheriff).

The game ends when there are no legal moves left or when a player is captured by the sheriff.

Longhorn Components

Review

This game is a brain buster — the variety of winning tactics creates many different paths to victory. It is very simple on the surface, but guaranteeing a win through strategy can be quite challenging. During game play, it can be hard to gauge where you stand at times because the cattle values are constantly fluctuating.

Longhorn features great artwork and the wooden cow meeples are endearing — a typical high-quality game from Blue Orange games. The western cattle thieves theme works well with the mechanics of the game and helps to ground an otherwise abstract game. Because the locations and associated tokens are randomized in the game, it helps increase the replay value because each game will be a little bit different.

This game is a stimulating challenge, with very little left to chance. The players must rely on their wits while avoiding being outfoxed by their opponent. The challenge aspect of this game makes is better suited for experienced gamers, as the obscurity of a clear path to victory might be a bit intimidating to brand new players. Most Blue Orange games are simple to learn and play, yet this game has more depth and strategy than most other games from this publisher. It is remarkable how much is packed into its small box, considering that there are only two decisions to make each turn (what color of cattle to pick and where to move your opponent).

Pros: Fun theme, great artwork, multiple paths to victory, quick play time, meaningful decisions

Cons: May intimidate inexperienced gamers, some tokens are perhaps too powerful