After a quick hike just outside your town, you stumble across a giant barn nestled in the middle of a secluded wooded glen. You’ve heard whispers about this barn’s existence since you were little, but those stories couldn’t be true, could they? As you walk up to the front doors, your heart starts racing as you hear the faint whinnies of unseen horses. You find the doors unlocked, so you swing them open wide. You’re hit with the same stench that Hercules fought through during his Fifth Labor, but you couldn’t be happier. You found the magical barn of legend, and these animals are yours to care for and love forever.
Yeah, that’s kinda like what playing Hundreds of Horses is like, give or take a few details.
First off, this game comes with 200 different photos of horses, so it literally meets the requirement posed by its name. Yes, it’s the bare minimum, but these horses are captured in so many different environments, outfits, hairstyles, and activities that you’ll quickly lose count of how many you would trade your real life friends for.
Gameplay is super simple, so don’t let the number of horses intimidate you. Roll a die, take that action. Most of the time you’re reading a prompt off a card, whether it’s a descriptive word, awarded achievement, or even a little vignette from a horse’s life. Players must then secretly decide which of the four horses displayed in the stable truly fits the essence of the prompt. Which horse is the most patriotic? Which horse won “Fastest Swimmer”? A horse named Peanut likes apples? How delightful!
Once everyone has made their choice, the tokens are flipped over for all to see. If you match with any other player, you and those players are rewarded with a bucket that contains 1-3 delicious apples, which are obviously victory points. Nothing better than a crisp, juicy, apple after a long day’s run. Wait, are the players horses in this game? Don’t think about it too hard!
Reading a horse’s soul ain’t easy, so a goofy discussion usually breaks out after every reveal for players to justify their choices. “That horse? Come on! It’s just majestically running through snow, whereas this horse is wearing a HAT. They’re definitely Penelope.”
Hundreds of Horses feels like a handful of party games that have come before it. However, in games like Dixit or Say Anything, you have to choose or create something yourself and find a clue given to you by another player, whether it’s a specific card or favorite phrase. In Hundreds of Horses, you are peering into the eyes of stallions, ponies, mares, and mustangs, looking for answers. Are you lazy, Horse #4? Would “stubborn” be an apt description, Horse #3? You don’t seed them into the decision pool yourself, they just appear, which helps take the pressure off of players from having to make two big decisions per turn like the other games. The burden of ownership is relieved, because in the end, can you ever REALLY own a horse?
Turns out the answer is yes, because if you roll a heart on your turn, one of these creatures is coming home with you! It’s up to the other players to guess which one. It’s a tiny twist from the majority of the game that it gives the game a little more texture, like changing CDs in the middle of a road trip; same artist, different album. The playing time also keeps things fresh, since games wrap up in under 15 minutes.
I’m not saying that Hundreds of Horses is the perfect game. Scoring is heavily luck-based, and the player count leaves something to be desired. This is, after all, a game about hundreds of horses; surely more than 3-4 people at a time could find a furry friend? It’s a game that is clearly intended for children, but it has a 100% success rate with everyone I’ve played it with, young and old. You all feel like kids again, even if you’re a kid already. You get to argue about horses, for goodness sake. The outstanding photography, charming stories, and ease of play all add up to one thing: unbridled joy.