There are, of course, plenty of war games out there. Whether you’re pushing blocks around an abstract looking map or commanding vast armies of painted miniatures on a three-dimensional landscape, your choices are vast and often – for noobs like me anyway – somewhat daunting. Maybe I’d be better off with a card game? Something like… I dunno… Hooyah: Navy Seals Card Game perhaps?
Designed by industry veteran Mike Fitzgerald (the same one of Mystery Rummy fame), Hooyah puts you and your fellow players in the roles of Navy SEALS tasked with covert missions that need to be completed quickly and quietly in order to keep the free world ticking over nicely. Considering that this essentially boils down to a rather simple set collecting game with a few pretty interesting twists in the rules, that’s quite a bold claim to make… so how does it work?
As it’s a co-op, you can play as part of a team of up to four. A mission is chosen for your elite squad to tackle and characters, each of whom have special abilities and bonuses fostered by years of training, are doled out along with the requisite amount of health tokens. One player is required to take the Lt. Commander role, essentially acting as the team’s leader which I found to be an interesting design decision. A games group can suffer from the issue of having an Alpha player, someone who tries to push others into doing what they think is best, but in Hooyah it’s positively encouraged. Yes, you need to work together, but having someone leading from the front is vital in this game where speed is of the essence.
Missions are made up of ongoing stages, referred to in game as Operations. Cards are flipped from the mission stacks that show what you will need to play collectively in order to pass the Op; for instance, if you’ve got a Blue 3 and a Yellow 2, you and your fellow SEALS must get that amount of cards on the table to progress. While that may sound easy, you must also consider the fact that you are limited by a pretty cool mechanism that I originally thought wouldn’t work at all. The game, you see, is timed – but not in any conventional way.
When the cards for the Op are revealed, you total the numbers and turn the included timer dial round to that number – when a new player gets to take their turn, the counter is clicked down one space. On hitting zero, the game isn’t done; you’ll just end up losing an awful lot of health and should one of your squad have none left… well, that’s when you lose. It’s a lot trickier than you first think, but you do at least have some advantages in the face of such a challenge. The strongest is the ability to Roll Call – only the Lt. Commander can do this, but it’s the only way you can share information in Hooyah. Each player gets to say how many of a certain colour they can contribute to the current Op, and if the bossman thinks the team have enough to go through it successfully, you can do so.
However, to inject some uncertainty into the proceedings, Events will pop up and hamper your progress, so even if you your elite team have the necessary requirements you DEFINITELY will not get through your encounters unscathed. The further into the mission you get, the less time you’ll have to play with and the more likely you’ll be unable to complete the final section. To make it even harder, the last Op of the mission takes place immediately after the fifth one with no time to regroup or draw cards – it’s a lovely way to balance the game out but ensure that you’re constantly going to be challenged.
The whole thing is produced to a high degree and is well worth handing over your money if you’re after a slightly different co-op experience. While I’m not one to go in for the bombast you’d normally associate with the Navy SEALS and combat in general, I still found the game an enjoyable diversion that – thanks to being pretty straighforward to understand and playable in under an hour – never stays around too long. With plenty of options to tinker with the game and increase or decrease the difficulty as well as the inclusion of solo rules, there’s a surprising amount of value in this package. I’d put it in that “end of the night game” category, a perfect way to wind down after an evening of more competitive endeavours.
Hooyah: Navy Seals Card Game was designed by Mike Fitzgerald and was released in 2012 by US Game Systems. Between one and four players can get involved and games will generally take you around an hour.