Hooyah Review

Hooyah cooperative board game in play

Since I'm a big fan of co-operative games, I was intrigued by the chance to play Hooyah.

In Hooyah, the players represent a team of Navy Seals that are attempting to complete a Mission.  In order to complete this Mission, they must successfully execute several Operations, during which Events can occur that might impede their progress.  The game is broken up into a series of "Preparation" and "Ops" phases.  In the Preparation phase, players are able to draw two cards - either from a face up group, or from the deck.  They may also play Preparation Equipment cards.  When deciding on cards, they are generally looking for colors that match the current "Ops" cards.  Once the Lt. Commander (one of the roles), feels that the team is prepared for the Op, then they call "Hooyah" and the Op begins.  At this point, a number of Events are handed out to the players.  The Events can be skill checks that you can pass by discarding a matching card, they can force you to lose Health or cards based on a condition, and they can do a few other things.  Once all of the Events are completed, the team goes around playing cards until they play enough cards to pass the Op (for example, they might need 5 purple and 3 orange cards).  If they pass the Op, then they might gain extra Health, depending on how long was spent in Preparation.  If they fail the Op, they lose Health and start over on the Op, after discarding their hands.  After five Ops, they must immediately (no Preparation phase) each face one more Event, and then attempt their Mission (which works just like an Op).  If they succeed on the Mission, then they have won the game!

completing and op in Hooyah the Navy Seals card game
Completing an Op - Colors matter more than theme
The first thing to discuss about Hooyah before even getting into pros and cons for the game is the theme.  The theme is definitely American oriented, and more specifically, patriotic American oriented.  In fact, each of the missions is based off of a real life Navy Seal mission.  That part I think is pretty interesting (you could even call it a "pro").  One of the specific missions that people will probably easily recognize is "Mission: Compound Raid.  Objective: To capture or kill Osama bin Laden."  So, I think that some people will really enjoy the theme quite a bit.  However, I can see a lot of other people actually being turned off by it.  Yet, with all of that, I felt like the theme was a bit shallow when it came to actually playing the game.  Essentially you are worrying about matching colors much more than you are worried about why you are attempting to complete a Mission.  So, the Compound Raid is a "2 Yellow, 3 Red, 2 Blue," and this means much more to you during the game than anything else.

Now off to the pros and cons for the game.  The first pro that I have for Hooyah is that I felt like it had an interesting communication element.  Specifically, players were not allowed to discuss what they had in their hand.  Yet, if they drew their cards from the face up selection, then the other players would at least have some indication of how much they could help.  Yet, the face up selection often will provide irrelevant cards (though they might be helpful on later Ops or for skill checks), so you must decide between letting other players know what you have, and hoping to draw something useful.  And, after each completed Op, the Lt. Commander (LTC) has to remove one of the face up cards, so the public knowledge grows more scarce as the game progresses.  To mitigate some of this lack of communication, the LTC can perform a "Roll Call" at the end of his turn.  When doing this, each player goes around and says the number of cards that he would be able to play towards a single color (without stating which color it is).  This helps the LTC have a better indication of if the team is ready to begin the Op.  (As far as I'm aware, you are allowed to tell the LTC things like, "hey, lets go on the Op already!"  However, just how much you want to communicate like this should probably be discussed before starting the game, since much of the challenge is in guessing what people have.)

Now that I've gotten all of the pros out of the way for Hooyah, there were several things that I considered cons for the game.  First, is that there is an Event that states "Lose 1 Health for each completed Op."  Each player starts with 5 Health.  Various things throughout the game can gain you or cost you some of this Health.  However, for the most part, at least some players will have 5 Health or less.  There are 5 Ops in the game.  So, if you draw one of these Events after completing the 5th Op (when about to attempt the Mission), then you die.  Instantly.  With nothing you can do about it.  There are 2 Equipment cards in the deck that allow you to discard an Event card and draw another one.  One of the roles (Interrogator) allows you to do the same thing (once per game).  So, you can deflect a maximum of 3 of these nasty Events.  There are 6 in the deck.  And, most likely, you will not be prepared to deflect more than one of them.  So, at the end of the game, you are basically just hoping that you don't instantly die.  (I'm not really sure what this Event represents - all I can think is that it is your character stepping on a landmine!)

different Seal roles in Hooyah the board game
The Interrogator saves you.  Once.
This leads to the next con for Hooyah - the tension in the game doesn't seem balanced correctly.  In most co-operative games (Pandemic comes to mind) bad things are happening.  You try to keep them in check.  Slowly, you feel more and more like your hair is on fire, as there is nothing that you can do to stop the onrushing doom that is coming!  Your only hope is to reach the game end condition just seconds before you all die.  That's really one of the fun things about co-operative games - feeling like you're about to lose at any given moment, yet having the ability to reach out and steal a victory.  Hooyah is basically the exact opposite.  You very rarely actually feel like you're doing poorly.  In all of the games that I've played, we've been easily slaughtering the game.  And then, at the end, we hope that we don't draw an instant death card.  Because if we do, then we had a loss handed to us in the midst of our victory.

The last con that I had for Hooyah was that I felt like there weren't very many meaningful choices.  Basically, it was "hey, that card is the right color - I should draw it."  There are a few choices for the LTC to make - specifically, when should the team attempt the Op, but most everything else is a bit trivial.  Part of this, I believe, is that the Equipment cards don't serve much of a role.  I believe that one of the choices that you are intended to make is "should I use this Equipment card."  (Equipment cards can do things like letting you discard two other cards to make a card of the needed color.)  However, since the game is generally easy enough that you don't need to utilize the Equipment, you get back to just drawing the matching color and hoping to not draw the death Event.

Overall, I give Hooyah a 6.5/10.  The game functions, but without much of the excitement that I've found in most other co-operative games.  Plus, doing very well throughout the game and then suddenly losing because of a single Event card can definitely leave a sour taste in the mouth of new players.

If you like co-operative games, you might also check out Yggdrasil, Defenders of the Realm, and Space Alert.

I would like to thank U.S. Games Systems for providing me with a review copy of Hooyah.

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