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Return of the Headless Horseman

Help Ichabod flee the Headless Horseman who is hot on his trail! Choose your cards wisely because great minds must think alike or all will be lost.

Published by Funko Games and designed by Prospero Hall, Return of the Headless Horseman is a cooperative game for 2-4 players and is played in 15 minutes.

Gameplay

The game board is set in the middle of the table. It shows a path leading to the bridge at the end. The Ichabod figure is placed at his start location, while the Headless Horseman figure is placed several spaces behind him. The spinning tree spinner is placed at its location on the board. The deck of cards is shuffled and each player draws four cards. You are not allowed to discuss your cards with other players.

Players are working together to try to get Ichabod to the bridge at the end of the path. At the start of each round, all players simultaneously choose one card from their hands to play. They may not discuss.  All played cards are revealed at the same time.

Each card will have a number value of 1-6. When all cards are revealed, you check if any two cards have the same value. If not, all players must again simultaneously choose a card and reveal cards. You then check all cards played that round. You keep doing this until at least two cards have been played with the same value. If there are multiple matching cards, you go with the lower value number. You then move Ichabod forward that many spaces.

Next, you check the bottom of every card that was played that round. Some will have a number of spaces for the Headless Horseman to be moved. You add up the Headless Horseman movement points from all the cards played that round and move him forward that many spaces.

When moving Ichabod, there are special spaces that activate if he ends his movement on them. Secret path spaces allow him to cut ahead on the path, tree spaces allow you to spin the tree spinner and move Ichabod forward that many spaces, and a scare space forces you to flip over one of the eight scare tiles. Four scare tiles show an owl and have no effect, the other four show a jack-o-lantern. If all four jack-o-lantern tiles are ever revealed, players lose the game. If the headless horseman ever catches up to Ichabod on the path, you also flip over a scare tile. If you have not lost the game, the Headless Horseman is moved back to the space directly behind Ichabod, before you move Ichabod forward to the next non-special space on the board.

When a player has only one card left, he spins the tree spinner to see how many cards he draws, between one and four. The path also loops around the spinning tree. When Ichabod reaches that point in the path, you place him on the tree and spin him to see which path around the tree he continues on. The headless horseman always goes all the way around the tree.

All cards played that round are discarded after resolving all movement and you begin a new round. If Ichabod reaches the covered bridge and the round ends without all four jack-o-lantern tiles being revealed, the players win the game.

Return of the Headless Horseman

Return of the Headless Horseman components (photo provided by the publisher)

Review

Return of the Headless Horseman is a light, family-friendly cooperative game. It’s got enough strategy in the card playing mechanism to keep things interesting, without having a lot of rules. The engagement lies in trying to guess what other players will put down while taking into account the special spaces Ichabod can land on, and how much a card will also move the horseman. Sometimes it comes down to deciding which card will hurt your team the least.

The game plays in a tight fifteen minutes, which is excellent. It’s short, sweet, and speedy. Everyone is involved every turn, everyone has a choice to make every turn, and the nature of the gameplay ensures that no one can take over and try to dictate decisions to others. It’s also fast enough, with minimal setup, that if you lose it is very easy to try again right away.

While the game is based on the Disney movie The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, the story has been told several times from the original short story, to the 1999 movie, to the TV show, which does give the theme a slightly wider audience than just fans of the short film. The component quality is also quite nice, and this really does seem like a fun Halloween or fall game.

There are some elements of luck involved to keep things unpredictable, and there’s an option to increase the difficulty by having the horseman move more spaces on his turn. Still, it’s probably not a game that will have a lot of staying power for adult game groups, but for families, this seems like a great fit.

Pros: Great length, component quality, no downtime for players, great for families

Cons: Not a lot of staying power for adult game groups

Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.