Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game Review

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Horizon Zero Dawn The Board Game Review Contents Steamforged Games Pic

Step into a futuristic Stone Age dystopia with our Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game review. Become a Hunter and chase down the mechanical creatures of the perhaps not-so-distant future as you make your bid for survival in a savage and dangerous world.

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Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game – Summary

Whilst it may have one or two flaws, Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game is an excellent foray into the dystopian post-apocalyptic world of the iconic video game. A must-have for die-hard fans of the series, as well as collectors of board games, Aloy’s universe comes to life on the tabletop with this fast-paced, semi-competitive miniatures rumble.

Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game – Introduction

You’ve heard of Horizon Zero Dawn, yeah?

One of the big-name, triple-A releases from 2017, Horizon Zero Dawn was originally released as a PS4 exclusive before sneaking onto other platforms a few years later. It has since received a sequel, Horizon Forbidden West, which sees the titular red-haired heroine, Aloy, back in the spotlight.

Whilst it’s been around for a couple of years, Steamforged Games very kindly offered to send us a copy of Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game. They’re a top bunch, and Ross (FauxHammer himself) had the pleasure of meeting a few of them at the UK Games Expo a few weeks back.

Horizon Zero Dawn’s spin on its dystopian future setting is somewhat unique. We’ve seen the wretched and burned-out wastelands of Fallout, Metro, The Last Of Us, and so on. The world as we know it is gone, but nature has reclaimed the spaces left empty by man. Lush plants and vibrant vegetation has taken over, turning the landscapes of Horizon Zero Dawn into a cascade of colour.

Civilisation as we may have known it has collapsed, and a primitive society of disparate and scattered humans has emerged from the rubble of the world that was. Just like in the video game, in Hoorizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game, you are equipped with the remnants of whatever advanced technology the previous society left behind, and your mission is simple: survive.

Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game – Unboxing

Without further ado, let’s break into this box and see what we’ve got inside. If the weight is anything to do by, it’s set to be overflowing with goodies!

The artwork is stunning, and the large white box is certainly eye-catching. If you’ve got a board game shelf, this’d look spectacular on it (personally, I just have a board game pile, but this is still; a stand-out amidst the heap).

Horizon Zero Dawn The Board Game Review Unboxing 1

Opening up the box, we have the first layer of stuff: the rule book and a glimpse of the token boads that come with this game.

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We get a proper look at the token boards beneath – and there are quite a few of these things.

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We’ll have a proper look at all the boards and tokens in a little while, so let’s get them out of the way and have a look at the cards and the cold, hard plastic in this box.

Thats a lot of cards…

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There are some more figures hiding underneath as well. Part of the tray lifts out to reveal more models.

If you’re a regular FauxHammer.com reader, you’ll know that we reviewed a couple of Steamforged Games’ Epic Encounters sets a little while back. During the course of those reviews, we said how impressed we were with Steamforged Games’ packaging of the miniatures in the two boxes. Well, the same is true again.

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Steamforged Games get it. Their boxes are designed to be re-used again and again and again. The exquisite packaging will keep your miniatures safe and secure, no matter how far you travel for your next game.

Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game – Contents

Here’s everything you get in the Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game box.

Horizon Zero Dawn The Board Game Review Contents Steamforged Games Pic
Source: Steamforged Games

In total, that is…

  • 24 x miniatures, which are:
    • 4x Hunters (Nora Marksman, Carja Warrior, Banuk Survivor, Oseram Forgesmith)
    • 4x Watchers
    • 4x Striders
    • 4x Grazers
    • 4x Scrappers
    • 2x Shell-Walkers
    • 2x Sawtooths
  • An insane amount of cards
  • Tokens
  • Dice
  • Board tiles

There’s a good amount in this box, so let’s take a closer look at everything there is.

The Rulebook

Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game is a relatively complicated affair. Lukcily, for you, dear reader, it comes with a good rulebooks.

Horizon Zero Dawn The Board Game Review Rulebook 1

Clocking in at 52 pages, the Horizon Zero Dawn board game rulebook is an good example of how you should write a rulebook.

The books starts with a spoiler-free introduction to the world of Horizon Zero Dawn before walking the reader thorough what everything in the box is. There’s quite a lot of stuff needed to play a game of Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game, so that everything is very clearly labelled and accompanied with lots of clear pictures is very useful.

Horizon Zero Dawn The Board Game Review Rulebook 2

With any game of similar size that requires this many resources to play, there’s always a risk that the rulebook may become a bit overwhelming. Luckily, the Horizon Zero Dawn board game navigates this with lots of good diagrams and short, clear sentences. Pictures are large, which makes them easy to spot when rifling through the pages looking for something mid-game. There is, of course, a very clear contents page too.

Horizon Zero Dawn The Board Game Review Rulebook 4

How to set up the game begins 20 pages into the book. Because there’s a lot of stuff to have out of the table at any one time, the rulebook walks you through what should be placed where in clear steps. After that, it’s all about how to play the game.

Horizon Zero Dawn The Board Game Review Rulebook 3

The book walks you through the five encounters and three phases that go into a game of Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game. We’ll go into this in more

I am a classic overthinker. I tend to go into rulebooks expecting things to be far more complicated than they actually are. I’ll spend ages reading and re-reading single sentences because one word-choice has thrown me, and in my spiralling mind I become convinced that this fundamentally alters the fabric of the game.

I realised as I was going through the Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game rulebook that I wasn’t doing this. Sure, there are a lot of rules and a huge number of concepts for you to wrap your head around, but everything is clear and well-written.

This is an excellent example of how to write rules for games.

Tokens

No board game is complete without a scattering of little card shapes with things printed on them.

Board game loves will be pleased to know that there are plenty of tokens to be used through the Horizon Zero Dawn board game.

Horizon Zero Dawn The Board Game Review Tokens 1

In terms of what they all are, we have (going from left to right):

  • 14 x Full Sun/Half-Sun Tokens
  • 4 x Machine Corpse Tokens
  • 1 x Leader Token and 1 x Fledgling Token
  • 5 x Rocky Outcrops/Ruins Markers
  • 4 x Skill Tree Tokens
  • 4 x Pairs of Matching Trap Tokens
  • 6 x Blazing Sun Tokens
  • 21 x Glory Tokens
  • 12 x Condition Tokens
  • 21 x Wound Tokens
  • 8 x Alert Tokens
  • 24 x Damaged/Destroyed Component Tokens

There are also 6 Encounter Tiles, pictured below.

Horizon Zero Dawn The Board Game Review Tokens 2

The Encounter Tiles make up the map that your hunters will hunt their enemies upon. These are placed in various shapes adjacent to each other, the purple line running across them guiding the route of whatever creature players are hunting.

The tokens pop out of their sheets with no issues at all. I had no snags or tears. In fact, the Encounter Tiles were so eager to be free from their frames, that most of them were already loose when I unboxed the game.

The tokens speak volumes about the artistic homage that the Horizon Zero Dawn board game is paying. This is intended to be as familiar to the game as possible. The whole look and feel of them evokes memories of the Horizon Zero Dawn HUD and menus. The Encounter Tiles feel like the wateland Aloy explores during the game.

An extremely promising start.

Dice

Themed dice are always a nice addition to any boxed game or other set. Clicky-clacky white dice with black dots are available anywhere. It’s always nice to get dice that feel in some way tied in with the game – even if they are relatively cheaply made.

Horizon Zero Dawn The Board Game Review Dice 1

Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game’s dice are just that: modestly made, but well-done. The black, blue and orange tie into the overall artistic colour palette, which shows that the creators care about making their game one who, cohesive experience.

Cards

If you thought there were a lot of tokens in the Horizon Zero Dawn board game, wait until you see how many cards there are!

There are a vast amount of cards in the Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game box. And they are gorgeous.

Horizon Zero Dawn The Board Game Review Cards (E) 1

Similar to the video game, Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game is based around hunting the robotic monsters that inhabit the world and using their parts to improve your character. As such, there are cards for this – which you can see above.

But there’s more. Oh boy, there are loads more.

Every character has a deck of cards – profiles, talent trees, gear and upgrades, abilities, the list goes on. Again, the artistic direction is on-point, and the cards themselves are absolutely gorgeous to look at.

Horizon Zero Dawn The Board Game Review Cards (E) 4

There are also three merchant decks. These decks are designed to allow players to obtain powerful loot in exchange for items as they continue through their adventure.

Horizon Zero Dawn The Board Game Review Cards (E) 3

Then there are more. There are stat cards for the creatures you’ll hunt, behaviour cards for enemies (more on those in a moment). There are Stamina cards, Lucky Break cards, the list goes on.

In total, there are:

  • 4 x Profile Cards
  • 4 x Skill Tree Cards
  • 12 x Starting Equipment Cards
  • 64 x Action Deck Cards
  • 52 x Upgrade Cards
  • 13 x Tracking Deck Cards
  • 17 x Event Deck Cards
  • 20 x Stamina Cards
  • 54 x Salvage Deck Cards
  • 108 x Merchant Cards
  • 6 x Machine Data Cards
  • 11 x Machine Behaviour Cards

From looking at the cards alone, it certainly looks like Steamforged Games have thought of everything. The depth and core detail on the cards is as rich as the artwork printed on them.

Horizon Zero Dawn The Board Game Review Cards (E) 5

We won’t go into what every card does and what they’re all for in too much detail here. We’ll explore how everything works in our Playtesting section in a minute.

Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game Review – Miniatures

There are no fewer than 24 plastic miniatures in the Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game box. Four of these figures are hunters, and the other 20 represent the creatures that players will be hunting.

Hunters

Let’s start with the good guys. Well, can anyone truly be considered a “good guy” in a semi-competitive miniatures game?

Horizon Zero Dawn The Board Game Review Hunter Miniatures (E) 3
Banuk Survivor
Horizon Zero Dawn The Board Game Review Hunter Miniatures (E) 1
Carja Warrior

At least these guys won’t try and mulch you up with spinning robot jaws. They will, however, leave miniatures aficionados nodding in approval. These are some nice little figures.

Emphasis on “little”, as these guys are truly teeny tiny. In spite of this, there’s a satisfying level of detail across all the figures – as well as a lot of character and individuality.

Fans will recognise the clans – Bank, Carja, Oseram and Aloy’s own Nora tribe – from the games. The aesthetics will also ring a lot of bells, as the sculpts of each model very much embodies the artistic direction – and, therfore, the lore and background – of each particular group.

Horizon Zero Dawn The Board Game Review Hunter Miniatures (E) 2
Oseram Forgesmith
Horizon Zero Dawn The Board Game Review Hunter Miniatures (E) 4
Nora Marksman

These figures are really nice, and once again speak volumes about the care and attention that Steamforged Games’ design team put into absolutely nailing the artistic direction of the box.

People wanting to get some paint onto these little guys might need to take a mould line remover to a few places on them just to be shot of a few little wisps of plastic. Do be careful, as they are very small and parts may break.

Watchers

Players of the Horizon Zero Dawn video game will know that, whilst they’re no necessarily the most threatening of enemies, Watchers are a real pain.

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These diminutive little creatures serve as sentries for other nearby enemies. Once they spot you with their lightbulb-like head – which is clearly rendered on this tiny miniature – everything knows where you are.

This miniature, of which there are four in the set, is a direct rendering of the creatures that feature in the game. It’s done in great detail, so there can be absolutely no doubt as to what this is.

Striders

Four equine-like Striders also transition from the animated video game realmsphere and into the tabletop medium.

Horizon Zero Dawn The Board Game Review Miniatures (E) 4

I feel the detail on the face of this miniature is a little indistinct compared to the rest of its form. This may just be the white plastic the figure is made from. Looking over the rest of the model, there’s still a lot of detail to be had here.

Grazers

Four stag-like Grazers also make their appearance in the Horizon Zero Dawn board game. This strange fusion of deer and engine is one creature I remember particularly well from the video game.

Horizon Zero Dawn The Board Game Review Miniatures (E) 3

The model looks great. All the features are there, down to the musculature-like cording visible beneath some of the metal armour panels.

Scrappers

Scrappers were one oft he first properly formidable foes that players of Horizon Zero Dawn will have squared off against. These aggressive creatures, with a buzzing saw-blade like maw and laser are capable of dealing devastating damage to Aloy.

Horizon Zero Dawn The Board Game Review Miniatures (E) 5

The menace of this canine-like monster is captured expertly in this miniature. Jaws wide, the Scrapper is ready to pounce and ruin your players’ day. Oh, and there are four of them as well, just to make things really tricky.

Shell-Walkers

Hermit crab-like creatures, the Shell-Walker acts as a transportation unit in the Horizon Zero Dawn video game. its priority – to carry resources harvested by other machines – influences its defensive stance. Utilising an energy shield as well as ranged attacks, the Shell-Walker doers whatever it can to keep the player away from its precious cargo.

Horizon Zero Dawn The Board Game Review Miniatures (E) 1

The two weird and wonderful Shell-Walker miniatures in the box is a near-carbon copy of the machine in the game. The details are perfect, from the texture of the container on its back down to all its limbs and appendages.

Sawtooths

The Sawtooths (Sawteeth?) are the big bad guy of the Horizon Zero Dawn board game. Unlike the other machine-monsters features in the set, which are all to an extent focused on harvesting resources, the Sawtooth is primarily programmed for violence.

Horizon Zero Dawn The Board Game Review Miniatures (E) 2

These machines are bad enough in the game. Their malice, fury, and aggression is distilled into their roaring sculpt. Head raised, limbs poised, this miniature will look impressive and deadly on the tabletop. You also get two of them, just to double the danger.

Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game – Playtesting

In order to put Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game through its paces, we assembled a crack team of playtesters. Once again, we headed to our new favourite playtesting venue, The Games Table in Norwich.

You can read a detailed breakdown of both how to play Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game as well as our thoughts on what the game is like to play in our How to Play Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game article.

How to Play Horizon Zero Dawn The Board Game Playtesting 8

We also looked at the Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game – The Thunderjaw Expansion whilst we were there. You can review our review of this product here.

If you don’t feel like reading the whole thing, ultimately Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board game is good fun. There’s a lot to learn in the first few rounds of the game, but once you get into the swing of things you’ll find yourself invested in improving your character. The final fight of the base game is a little lacklustre, but thankfully we have the expansions to turn this up to eleven. There are a handful of more confusing mechanics that will beguile inexperienced gamers, but persist – there’s a lot here to enjoy.

Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game – Price and Availability

You can buy Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game straight from Steamforged Games for £109.99GBP/$109.95USD/€109.95EUR. It’s not cheap, but there’s a great deal in the box to keep you entertained.

It’s definitely forging towards the more expensive end of the board games spectrum, but if you’re a huge Horizon Zero Dawn fan this amount of money won’t stop you.

Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game – Final Thoughts

Pros Cons
Very nice miniatures
Clever board game that pays homage to its source material very well
Artistic direction is absolutely on point – the game is gorgeous
Reasonably expensive
Only one hunt in this game – all encounters build up to the Sawtooth
Game takes a lot of set-up

In preparation for this review, I did my pre-reading. I watched a bunch of reviews, read a ton of articles, and was a little disappointed with what I found. Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game was not particularly well-received by several prominent figures within the board game and hobby community.

A lot of people had found fault with the Horizon Zero Dawn Board Game. There are a handful of cards and a few mechanics that are a bit unbalanced, and the semi-cooperative part of the game is a bit confusing at first.

But for the most part, I think these criticisms can largely be overlooked.

The game is absolutely gorgeous. The artistic team behind this game absolutely killed it. The miniatures, the cards, the boards and tokens, are all sublime. Whilst we were playtesting at The Games Table, I caught people looking up from their own games and glancing over at the Horizon Zero Dawn board game. Of everything being played in the venue on that day, Horizon Zero Dawn: The board Game won the beauty pageant by a mile.

My biggest qualm with the game is that there’s only one hunt in the box: that which leads you to the Sawtooth. Whilst the different Tracker cards that will be drawn will ensure that the encounters leading up to the final showdown, that showdown is always with the same couple of enemies. The predictability of the final fight may wear thin after a while.

But the Sawtooth Encounter is tough. There’s a good build-up to it, and they make for tough foes. It’s a good conclusion to the game – and whilst it may not make sense when compared to the Horizon Zero Dawn videogame, where Sawtooths are reasonably common enemies, it stands as a ruthless challenge for board gamers.

Sure, it isn’t perfect, but it’s a lot of fun – and just looking at it is a simple pleasure.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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Author

  • Rob has spent most of the last 15 years playing World of Warcraft and writing stories set in made-up worlds. At some point, he also managed to get a Master's degree by writing about Medieval zombies.

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Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game
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About VoltorRWH 114 Articles
Rob has spent most of the last 15 years playing World of Warcraft and writing stories set in made-up worlds. At some point, he also managed to get a Master's degree by writing about Medieval zombies.

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