Havok & Hijinks Game Review

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The Basics:

  • For ages 10 and up (publisher suggests 13+)
  • For 2 to 4 players
  • Approximately 15 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Reading
  • Pattern/Color Matching
  • Hand/Resource Management

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Help your little dragon collect a treasure hoard worthy of Smaug

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek rejected!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

Fact: Young dragons know everything. As a young dragon, you know that all dragons (regardless of age) need a treasure hoard and treasure can be found by burning villages, looting adventurers, and stealing from other dragons. So, that’s what you plan to do this afternoon instead of playing Knights & Maidens. It upsets you that the older dragons just roll their eyes when you tell them your plan, but you don’t worry about it too much. There’s treasure to be won and ancient dragons are soooo boring.

Havok & Hijinks, designed by Adam Ferrel Trzonkowski and published by Epic Slant Press, is comprised of 40 Hijinks cards, 40 Havok cards, and 4 Dragon cards. The cards are made of solid card stock, glossy, and are of excellent quality. The illustrations by Andy CarolanAmanda Holydust Martin, and Dan Stewart are light hearted, colorful, and cute without causing you to go into diabetic shock. A most pleasing game to look at and to hold.

The Little Dragons

Each player will receive 1 Dragon card during game set up. This card represents the little dragon the player will be helping. Each Dragon card is unique and has its own personality. In game terms, this is reflected by the Dragon card “Play” and “Crash” actions. These actions are played at the same time as the Hijinks cards, but are specific to the little dragon.

Unfortunately, all that playing and crashing will wear down a little dragon. When a player uses their Dragon card’s “Play” or “Crash” ability, they must flip their Dragon card over to show it has become tired. To switch the Dragon back to the ready position, the player must meet certain criteria, as defined on their Dragon card.

havokhijinks_dragon

Additionally, each Dragon card is attuned to certain natural aspects of the world they live in. Within the game, this is referred to as “affinity” and it grants the player benefits if the Havok or Hijinks cards share the same affinity as the dragon. Sometimes the affinity result could award the player with more treasure and sometimes it could give the player an additional action.

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Draconian Havok

The Havok cards thematically represent the trouble the little dragons are causing when looking for treasure. These are referred to as “Event” Havok cards. Events can be beneficial, detrimental, or somewhere in between. They can also be avoided…sometimes.

havokhijinks_havok.

Included in the Havok deck are “Treasure” Havok cards, which is what the little dragons are looking for and the reason why they are causing so much trouble to begin with. Not only will dragons collect treasure, but people of importance, as well. For example, a couple of princesses. It’s important to note that not all treasure has value, treasure can be stolen, and treasure can be broken. Princesses are fragile, after all.

havokhijinks_treasure

Immature Hijinks

When not looting and burning things down in search for treasure to add to their hoard, the little dragons like to play games and tricks on each other. Shenanigans, really. The “Play” Hijinks cards allow the little dragon to steal, trade, and even break treasure. Hijinks can be avoided, however, and even stopped dead in its tracks by using a “Crash” Hijinks card or dragon ability.

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Game Set Up

To set up the game, first find and either randomly deal or allow players to select 1 Dragon card each. The player’s Dragon card is placed in front and to their right with the “ready” side facing up. Place any Dragon cards not used back in the game box.

Second, separate the remaining cards into their two decks: Havok and Hijinks.

Third, find the “Bronze Talon” Treasure cards in the Havok deck and give 1 to each player. These are placed next to the player’s Dragon card, face-up. This represents the player’s initial treasure hoard. Any remaining “Bronze Talon” Treasure cards are returned to the Havok deck.

Fourth, shuffle the Havok deck and place it, face-down, in the middle of the playing area.

Fifth, shuffle the Hijinks deck and deal 3 cards to each player, face-down. This is the player’s starting hand. All cards in the player’s hand should remain hidden from their opponents until they are played. Place the Hijinks deck, face-down, next to the Havok deck.

That’s it for game set up. Time to get some treasure!

Quick Word About Your Playing Space

While your available playing space might vary, you will always need to set up the Havok and Hijinks cards in such a way as to allow for 3 different discard piles. Additionally, each player will need to have enough room in front of them to display their “Treasure” Havok cards in a row or multiple rows next to their Dragon card. The following image, which was taken from the game’s rule book, shows the proper game layout after game set up.

havokhijinks_layout

Dragon Play

Havok & Hijinks is played in turns with no set number of turns per game. On a player’s turn, they will complete a sequential number of steps.

Note: At anytime a player has less than 3 Hijinks cards in their hand, they should draw new Hijinks cards until they have 3 cards in total. Players do not draw new cards until their Hijinks cards are resolved and discarded.

Step 1: Havok

The first thing a player will do on their turn is draw the top-most card from the Havok deck. Depending on the card drawn, the player will take the following actions.

  • Treasure Card: If a Treasure card is drawn, it’s placed next to the player’s other “Treasure” Havok cards. “Treasure” Havok cards always remain face-up and visible to all the players in the game.
  • Event Card: If an “Event” Havok card is drawn, it’s immediately resolved. Events are not always bad, but they are not always good, either. Events can be avoided by using a “Crash” Hijinks card or a dragon’s Crash ability. If the player has a “Crash” Hijinks card in their hand, they can play it when they draw the Event. Regardless if the Event is resolved or avoided, it’s placed face-up next to the Havok deck in the Past Event discard pile. If a “Crash” Hijinks card was played, it’s placed in the Hijinks discard pile.

Note: If a player has a “Crash” Hijinks card that can block negative effects from Havok and Hijinks cards, they can play them out of turn and when applicable to the situation.

Step 2: Hijinks

The second thing a player will do on their turn is engage in some hijinks. For the most part, the player is restricted to playing only 1 Hijinks card from their hand per turn, but there are a few exception to that rules. For example, a dragon’s abilities can be used without being impacted by the 1 Hijinks card limit, but a dragon’s abilities can only be used once per turn, as well.

To engage in some Hijinks, the player simply selects a Hijinks card and plays it in front of them. Hijinks include stealing “Treasure” Havok cards from opponents, breaking “Treasure” Havok cards (which are then placed in the Trash Heap discard pile), trading treasures, and even going through the Havok deck looking for more trouble.

Note: If a player has a “Crash” Hijinks card that can block negative effects from Havok and Hijinks cards, they can play them out of turn and when applicable to the situation. Hijinks cards that are canceled are not discarded. They will remain visible until the player’s turn is over.

A player can also elect to discard 1 Hijinks card instead of playing a Hijinks card. The Hijinks card is discarded in the Hijink discard pile and a new Hijinks card is added. However, a player can only draw a new Hijinks card if their total hand size is 3 or fewer cards.

Step 3: Pass

The player’s turn is now over. Any Hijinks cards that were canceled are now returned to the player’s hand. The next player in turn order sequence now goes.

Top Dragon

The endgame is triggered when a player collects “Treasure” Havok cards with a total value of 15 or more. All the other players have this one opportunity to attempt to crash (block) the last action that allowed the player to collect enough treasure to win. If no one can, the player wins!

In the rare event that all the Havok cards have been drawn, the game ends and the player with the most treasure wins the game.

To learn more about Havok & Hijinks, visits the game’s official website.

Prediction

Games like Havok & Hijinks always do well with the Child Geek and the Parent Geek groups. Gamer elitists might smile at the quirky artwork and theme, but won’t find a game that keeps them hooked or challenged. Havok & Hijinks simply doesn’t have enough depth. Any and all card plays, decisions, strategy, and tactics are defined and confined by the cards in the player’s hand. This keeps the game light, on track, and quick, but at the cost of allowing the players to attempt different strategies and tactics.

Teaching Havok & Hijinks is surprisingly difficult for the uninitiated. There are 80 different cards that for the most part all do something slightly different. I suggest you go over the basic actions of each step rather than going into great detail about the cards. The game isn’t difficult to pick up, but attempting to explain all that could happen is a fool’s errand. Cards are always random and you never know what you get to work with until you draw your card. Note that players must be able to read in order to play this game. Younger Child Geeks who cannot yet read will need to team up with an older player.

And so, after teaching Havok & Hijinks to my oldest little geek, I asked him his thoughts on the game so far.

“Hmm. Silly.” ~ Liam (age 10)

Yes, it is. But it also looks like fun. Let’s see if this little dragon game of hoarding treasure is a good time or it should be slayed by my +2 Sword of Boredom.

Final Word

As expected, the Child Geeks enjoyed the game and thought it was fun to play as a little dragon. There were a number of “awww, how cute!” and other various comments when the little dragons were flipped over to sleep. All the Child Geeks enjoyed the artwork, too, and most of the Child Geeks got the little jokes sprinkled throughout the game. According to one Child Geek, “I like this game. It’s fast and easy to play once you know how, but you can’t easily win, either.” Another Child Geek said, “I wish my dragon could get bigger and bigger!” One aspect of the game that all the observers and players enjoyed was that no one player ever seemed to runaway with the game. In other words, players didn’t outdistance each other which made the game feel like a close race. Close and frustrating. Since treasure is found or stolen, there were times when higher level treasure was passed around more times than a hot potoatoe. When the games were over and the dragons were sent to their room for being naughty, all the Child Geeks voted to approve Havok & Hijinks.

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So then I said, “Show me your Poker face, guys.” This is what I got…

The Parent Geeks and the non-gamers also enjoyed Havok & Hijinks, finding it to be a light and casual game. They were disappointed that a maximum of 4 players was all that the game allowed. According to one Parent Geek, “I don’t see why this game couldn’t play with more players. It’s fun with 4, but I bet it would be even more fun with 6. More treasure to steal!” Another Parent Geek said, “This is a game I could play pretty much with anyone, even if they have never played games before.” All the Parent Geeks voted to approved Havok & Hijinks.

The Gamer Geeks appreciated the humor, the game’s intent, and the illustrations, but that’s about it. According to one Gamer Geek, “Very little to think about other than do I stop this card or not. Not much a game as far as I”m concerned.” Another Gamer Geek said, “Players do have to think through their moves, but each decision is basically nothing more than deciding if a card should activate or not. I like the game’s theme, though.” In the end, the Gamer Geeks voted to reject Havok & Hijinks, finding the game to be too light for them. However, they all agreed the game would be a good one for non-gamers and families.

This is a family game, which is to say, it’s designed to be played by mixed age groups who have mixed interests and mixed skill sets. Which Havok & Hijinks is perfectly suited for. In fact, I think its one of those games you bring out to play with the family on rainy days, offer to adult friends when it’s just two couples playing, or at family gatherings where kids and adults will be hanging out together. The only time and place where the game is not well suited is at the gamer elitist’s table.

Two aspects of the game that I very much enjoyed was the ability to flip your own Dragon card over and the affinity. Flipping your dragon over to use the ability is surprisingly easy, but resetting the little dragon isn’t. This creates an interesting problem. If you use the dragon ability you lose it, but not forever. You can get it back, but not easily. A player must then weigh the pros and cons of using the dragon ability. Should you use it now or wait? For non-gamers and younger players, this can be a tough decision to make. Which then brings us to the affinity dragons have with cards. If a card has an affinity with your dragon, it becomes all that more important and powerful. Everyone wants that card, however. It just so happens that you might want it a bit more. This created some very interesting struggles for cards that everyone thought was pretty funny.

Havok & Hijinks is a good game for the family and most certainly for casual gamers. All our Child Geeks enjoyed it and all our Parent Geeks enjoyed playing it with their family and friends. Do sit down and play a game or two with these adorable and troublesome little dragons.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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