If you’ve ever thought it would be cool to be a Navy SEAL – a member of an elite and highly trained force designed for specialized and dangerous missions – then Hooyah! might be a game for you. In fact, the idea of a cooperative game based on the Navy SEALS seems so obvious it’s a wonder it hasn’t been done before.
Well, it’s here now from US Game Systems, Inc. But will this game answer the roll call, or does it fail to complete the mission?
How It Works
Hooyah, as I mentioned above, is a cooperative game in which players take on the roles of Navy SEALS. Each game represents a single dangerous mission, and players will spend the game collecting equipment and training in order to complete a series of operations (“ops”) and handle unexpected events that lead up to the mission, ultimately taking on the mission itself.
Despite the theme, though, this is a rather abstract game.
The game is set up by dealing out 10 Ops/Events cards in pairs of 2, representing the 5 operations leading up to the mission. Then 5 cards are dealt face-up from the Skills/Equipment deck.
Then, the first 2 cards from the Ops area are turned face up. These cards indicate the number and color of skills needed to pass the op, as well as the time allotted for preparation.
Players then take turns drawing 2 cards during the “preparation phase,” and then playing any equipment cards they wish. When play passes to the next player, the mission timer decreases by 1. One player will always be the Lt. Cmdr, and that player is responsible for calling “Hooyah!” to end the preparation phase and go on to the Ops phase. The preparation phase can actually last as long as the Lt. Cmdr. wishes, however once the mission timer reaches 0, players will start losing health.
When the Lt. Cmdr. calls “Hooyah!” the Ops phase begins. First, each player must face a number of Events, dealt from the Ops/Events deck. These events may require discarding a certain color or type of card, losing health, or discarding a large quantity of health or cards. If the events are failed, health is lost.
Finally, players must face the Op. To complete the Op, they must, as a team, discard a number of cards in the colors matching those on the Ops cards. For example, if the Ops cards say 3 Red, 5 Blue, players must ante up 3 red cards and 5 blue cards between them. However, certain equipment cards allow 3-for-1 or 2-for-1 trades, and players can always trade 4-for-1, in order to satisfy the Op requirements.
If the players fail to complete the op, they all lose health and must discard their entire hands, and re-start the op at the preparation phase. If they complete the Op, however, they remove those Op cards, reveal the next 2, remove 1 card from the face-up Skills & equipment area, and start a new Preparation phase. In addition, if they managed to complete the Op with time left on the mission timer, the team gains a few health tokens back to distribute as the Lt. Cmdr. chooses.
However, when players reach the last op, they must complete the op, face additional events, and then complete the mission (which works exactly like each op, except generally more difficult) without another preparation phase. If players are able to survive all the events, ops, and complete the final mission, they win! However, if any single player loses all their health, everyone loses.
On a final note, each player gets to play a role with a special ability, such as auto-success on certain types of Events, and there are 5 missions to choose from each time you play.
Ready for Duty, or Dishonorable Discharge?
Hooyah! is an enjoyable game for sure. Despite its rather abstract nature, like most cooperative games it provides a satisfying sense of teamwork and camaraderie, while providing a small bit of tension in regards to taking on the challenges of the game. It’s enjoyable to play, trying to remember what cards everyone has collected and if you’ll have enough, as a team, to take on all the events AND the next Op – all while keeping in mind the cards needed to complete the final mission.
Unfortunately, the game is a bit dysfunctional.
The problem here is that the game is too easy. Far too easy, unless you encounter any of the “GOTCHA!” events near the end of the game that essentially kill someone instantly, and there’s really nothing you could have done about it.
The game does a lot right: the double use of the Ops and Event cards to reduce components needed; the excellent and consistent graphic design; the dichotomy of skill/equipment cards, forcing you to give up what might be a valuable skill to gain a useful equipment bonus; the dwindling pool of face-up cards to choose from as the mission goes on. I like the tension of the mission timer that allows you to push as long as you want to, but rewards you for jumping into the next op as quick as you can. I like the mixture of known information (the face-up Ops cards) mixed with the unexpected (the Events dealt out before each mission), and the escalation of Events as the game goes on. I like the limited-information of what each player holds in their hand – no one can say ANYTHING about their hand, until the Lt. Cmdr. calls a ROLL CALL. Which can only be done at the end of his/her turn, and only allows each player to say how much of a single color they can produce.
Unfortunately, there is just something missing. I said there is tension; there is. But notice I said “small bit.” It’s really just not difficult to finish the preparation phase early and succeed easily on the Ops, especially the earlier ones. And the risk is pretty low; in the first three missions, it really wouldn’t be a big deal to lose your whole hand, but that’s almost never going to happen. It would suck to lose the 5th Op, but at that point you’ve probably scored a bunch of extra health and can afford to push the preparation phase for a long time to get what you need; especially since ending early won’t get you anything in that round. Sure, you have to do a boatload of events, followed by the op, followed by more events, followed by the Mission, but it’s very very doable. If you haven’t screwed up too many of the previous ops, you will have an abundance of cards.
I mentioned the “gotcha” thing. See, for the most part the events you’ll face require you to either discard a single card or lose 1 health. But there are 2 types of events that are murderous, oh so murderous, in the last round of play. These cards are “lose 1 health per completed op” and “discard 1 card per completed op.” First three rounds? No big deal. 4th round? Doable if not rather destructive.
But if you draw those events before and/or after the 5th Op, you will die. Lose 5 health? Imagine playing Pandemic and drawing a card that forced you to add 20 cubes of a disease to the board. Okay, good job, you’ve created danger. You’ve also destroyed any sense of tension, because there’s absolutely nothing you can do to prevent or prepare for such a thing. And even if you have more than 20 cubes left of a disease (or more than 5 health) you’re still just getting hit too hard it will require pure and miraculous luck to win the game.
So the pacing is broken; instead of an increasingly tense game that gradually removes your health tokens and forces you to make sacrifices and risks to succeed, putting you in the last mission with 1-2 health tokens each, just barely enough cards to do everything (an not certain you have enough at all), the game hands you an abundance all the way through, and then flips a coin to see whether or not you win or lose. You can’t even prepare for it knowing the card is coming, because if you make sure you have a safe level of health for everyone you wont have enough cards to stand the 1-card-per-op event, and if you have a safe level of cards you won’t have enough health for the 1-health-per-op event, so it becomes entirely a matter of “will I draw those events or not?” Incidentally, there are rules for solo play, but that is the easiest of all. At that point it becomes so easy that not even the “gotcha” cards will stop you from winning. But at least you can use it to make sure you learn the game before teaching it to your group.
It’s really too bad; like I said, Hooyah! is a rather enjoyable game to play – it’s just missing the right pacing to create a tense and satisfiable experience. If you win it will feel like there was little challenge; if you lose, it will feel like your obstacles were not reasonably possible to overcome.
What would fix it? I’m sure this problem is fixable. Maybe if these 1-health-per-Op cards could be distributed through the whole team. Then they would drive the team resources down precariously, without outright killing one player instantaneously. Maybe they should just not be in there, and the time to prepare for missions should be decreased. I”m not really sure of the answer, but I do believe one could be found.
There’s so much to like in this game. The components and graphic design is excellent. The quality of cards and tokens is good. It’s easy to teach. The player abilities are fun to use. There is a good game in there somewhere; it just needs something more. I recommend trying out house-rules, such as the “spreading the damage over your whole team” rule.
I will give it this – it could be a great game to play with kids. I didn’t have access to any to try, but the simple rules, visual focus, and teamwork aspect could make an enjoyable experience with a group of younglings, and the communication aspect could challenge them in a way that doesn’t happen for adult players.
Maybe they can fix it in an expansion; or a second edition of the game. I sure hope so. Because if it was finished, it would certainly be a great game with an excellent theme. But right now, it’s just not. It’s a promising game with potential, but it falls short.
iSlaytheDragon would like to thank U.S. Games Systems, Inc., for providing us with a review copy of this game.