By Diana "DumeeGamer" Dumee on February 24, 2016
Last week we had a scoop in our weekly Top 3. For the first time in DumeeGamer history, it featured a brand new board game: Hong! So, having told you guys about last weekís release of this game, naturally, we needed to try Hong for ourselves.
Hong is an epic, two player tile-laying battle, with the control over an ancient Asian empire as its grand prize. For years now, the emperor ruled over these peaceful lands, but trouble is rearing its fire-breathing head. An evil Dragon Master has set his sights on the Empire and is determined to take it for his own. Now, as you might expect, taking over an empire is usually more than one man can accomplish on his own. But, he isnít called the Dragon Master for nothing; heís got an army of dragons to help him achieve his dream.
As the title indicates, the entire game revolves around Hongs, who are basically two-headed dragon/snake like creatures. Each Hong tile consists of one dragon body and two dragon heads. By connecting multiple tiles, youíre supposed to create a Hong. You can make it as long or short as you want, but they have to contain at least one body part, or else it doesnít count, which is quite logical if you think about it. It doesnít matter if a dragon has six heads or even more; without a body, itís not going to go anywhere in a hurry!
As you start the game, each player chooses a side; one player is the Dragon Master, while the other plays as the honorable emperor. The Dragon Masterís goal is to create as many Hongs as he possibly can, while the Emperorís goal is, of course, to thwart the Dragon Masterís plans by making sure he canít create too many Hongs. And thatís where the two-sided board comes in. Yes, a two sided board! One side shows a castle room, while the other shows an idyllic garden. Apart from looking different, they each abide by slightly different rules, but Iíll come back to that later. On both sides of the board there is a grid-like playing field, which spaces are just big enough to hold a Hong tile. You just put the tiles on the board and start making as many Hongs as you can. Sounds easy enough, donít you think?
But hereís the catch. As Iíve mentioned before, the other player takes the role of the Emperor, who is not too fond of Hongs. And who can blame the guy! I mean, just imagine; there you are, taking a nice relaxing stroll through your castle or your garden, when out of nowhere, a bunch of two-headed dragons appear and start cluttering up your home. Youíd be mad as hell, wouldnít you?! Well, thatís exactly how the emperor feels; he doesnít want a bunch of Hongs in his castle or in his garden. So the task of the Emperor is to prevent the Dragon Master from creating Hongs. This is also easier said than done. In the end, the trick is to realize that you canít prevent the Dragon Master from making Hongs at all; you just have to make sure he canít make enough Hongs to take over your empire. Remember when I said that both sides of the board had slightly different rules? Well, itís not like the core rules of the game change in any way; itís just the rule that determines the final outcome of the battle that changes a bit. When playing on the castle room-side of the board, the Dragon Master has to make 15 Hongs in order to win the game. When playing on the garden-side, however, he only has to make 13 of these fire-breathing giants in order to win. If he fails to reach this predetermined number of Hongs when all the squares in the grid are filled, the Emperor automatically wins.
We played our first round of Hong on the Castle room-side of the board, and I got to be the Dragon Master. At first, I thought it would be impossible to create 15 Hongs in that small space. There are only 49 spaces you can use to place your tiles, and three of them are blocked off at the start of the round. It looked like there was never going to be enough room to create the number of Hongs I needed. Especially with Ferry ĒSadhonkerĒ Adams on the opposing side, who looked quite a bit like the reincarnation of an evil Emperor. Damn, it seemed like I had my work cut out for me! Surprisingly, it went better than I expected, so I managed to create my 15 Hongs and take over the Empire. My tactic was to focus on creating little Hongs with only one body part. I figured; that way, I had the biggest chance to win the game. For the next round, we swapped roles and battlegrounds. And I have to admit, playing the part of Emperor is harder than Iíd imagined. Because of the layout of the tiles, itís a bit tricky to place your tiles in such a manner that it becomes more and more difficult for the Dragon Master to create Hongs, without actually helping him.
When youíre up for a little bit more of a challenge, you can play the game using its expansion: The Lair of the Seven Great Dragons. This expansion adds a small board (called the Lair Board) to the game with room for seven Great Dragon Tiles. Every tile depicts an action, like: rotate a Hong tile, flip a hong tile over to its stone side, or randomly placing an additional stone tile on the board. As you may have noticed, these actions arenít just for the Dragon Masterís benefit. They can also assist the Emperor in his quest for peace.
If you decide to play the expansion, you start off by placing the Great Dragon tiles on the Lair board in a random order. Above each tile, thereís a number, ranging from 1 to 7. These numbers correspond with a Hong of that size. The first time a Hong of a particular size is created, the player who creates this Hong takes the corresponding Great Dragon tile, summoning that Great Dragon and executing the corresponding action. I was so focused on summoning Great Dragons, that I lost the game eventually, because I wasnít paying attention to my crafty opponent and his evil tricks. So the addition of the Seven Great Dragons can give you an advantage, but youíll have to be careful and donít lose sight of what your opponent is doing.
Hong is an easy game to master and a most amusing game to play. By switching sides, as well as boards, youíre guaranteed to have fun for hours and hours. And the Lair of the Seven Great Dragons expansion provides you with even more of a challenge! Hong is a game thatís specifically designed to be played by two people, so itís an ideal way to fill those quiet evenings when the two of you just want to play a nice board game. So, my advice to you would be: Unleash your inner dragon and go create some Hongs!
White Goblin Games
A Game by Nestor Romeral Andres
Players: 2 players, ages 8+
Playtime: approx. 30 minutes
Released: February 2016