On to day 2 of my Holiday Game Recommendations, and we’re sticking with small box card games with simple rules but deeper strategy. Today’s recommendation is Honshu, by Renegade Game Studios. And hey, nothing to disclose about this one so let’s get right into it!Honshu is a card-drafting, map-building for 2-5 people. Players start with a random starting province; one resource cube related to that province; a hand of six cards; and a randomly-determined turn order. (You will not be going around the table in this game!) Nearly everything in the game is done with the 60 card map deck. Starting with the first player, everyone plays one map card face-up into the central play area. Each map card has a value on it from 1-60. Once all the cards are placed turn order is reassigned, with the player of the highest-value card going first, the second-highest going second, etc.

Once turn order is reassigned, players will get a chance to pick any one of the face-up map cards to add to their province following the new order. (So yes, the last player gets stuck with the last card.) Map cards have six spaces with a mix of six different features: Forests, towns, production squares (in one of four colors), factories (in one of the same four colors), lakes, and deserts. To add a card to a province the player must either cover up at least one feature with the new card, or cover at least one feature on the new card with a previously played card. Placement is important, because lakes and towns need to be connected to score big at the end of the game, and resources don’t score if they don’t have a matching factory to be delivered to.

Once everyone has added their new card to their province, they pass their cards to the player on their left. Map cards are once again added to the central player area, turn order is reassigned, and provinces are expanded. After the sixth turn, players are dealt a new hand one six cards, and cards are passed to the right for the second half of the game. After the 12th turn, players add up their points to determine the winner.

Honshu feels somewhat derivative of Between to Cities in its map building, and 7 Wonders in its drafting and scoring mechanics. This is in no way a bad thing because both of those games are fantastic! However, both of those games really work best with a larger number of players, and for various reasons take longer to play. Honshu—as mentioned above—only plays up to five, and its leaner rules mean the game is faster to teach and play. It’s a great way to test to waters for Between to Cities, or 7 Wonders, or a game to play with a group who likes those games but is short on time. It’s family friendly, it’s easy to set up and tear down, and fits into a small box. It’s a perfect game for the holidays.

About the Author

James Nettum started playing RPG’s while in fourth grade, sneaking in sessions of AD&D on the playground of his Catholic school. He went pro at the age of 25 when he took a position at Pegasus Games in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been there 10 years and plays every sort of game, except collectibles.

James started posting a 12 Days of Holiday Gaming via Facebook on Black Friday in 2016. I enjoyed the recommendations and wanted to share them. With his permission, I’m reblogging the series here at Chicago Geek Guy.