How much nonsense we could do away with if it was possible to just lay better nonsense over the top of it…

Honshu is an trick-taking card game about building… let’s call it a community. There are buildings you want to put together to form a city, but you also need to pay attention to how much forest you have popping up, the size of your lakes, and how well your factory capacity matches the resources you gather during the game. Everything counts for points at the end except the deserts, because deserts are literal wastes. They’re a tiebreaker because the more desert you manage to deal with in your community, the better you’ve apparently done.

Everyone starts with one map card. Each starting card has a different layout and is double-sided to increase the number of starting possibilities (starting map cards always have a resource space). Players are then dealt six regular map cards; these are numbered one through sixty. Players then put down a map card and may also place a resource on the card to increase its value by sixty, guaranteeing that anyone who uses a resource will wind up ahead of someone who doesn’t. After that, a new player order is determined by the bids, and in that order players choose map cards from the ones offered for that turn. Having the first choice as often as possible is best, but as with any trick-taking game, knowing when to dump your garbage cards can be just as important.

Placing map cards must be done by connecting them to at least one of the cards already in front of you. This means placing it on top of current cards so that one or more of their spaces are covered, or sliding it beneath current cards so that one or more of the new card’s spaces are covered. Players run their hands down to zero cards, then are dealt six more, with the process repeating so that the game ends after twelve rounds. (In a five player game, this means all cards will be used, and tracking what’s left becomes a valuable skill.) At the end, points are added for contiguous city spaces, contiguous lake spaces, number of forests, and number of factories which you can supply with the appropriate resource. A substantial balance point in the game is deciding when resources are more valuable as a method to jump ahead in turn order and when you need to save them for the end of the game.

Once you see the mechanics in action, Honshu is a very easy game to learn, and very replayable as long as the basic gameplay appeals to you. Every community gets built differently, and every game requires learning how what you have available can offer advantages in whatever situation you find yourself facing. It’s a clever little game about which I have very little clever to say—it’s short, coherent, and simply good.

Score: Seven. Play it and decide what the seven is out of.

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