Honga: Are you worthy to lead the tribe?

Honga in play
Honga in play

Do you have what it takes to become the new leader of the saber-toothed tiger clan? Prove your worth by tackling myriad tasks like gathering food, bartering, attracting mammoths, combing the dark forest, and paying homage to the nature gods. Do all these while ensuring the friendly neighborhood saber-toothed tiger, Honga, is shown some love.

Honga is designed by Günter Burkhardt with art by Stephanie Böhm and published by HABA. It plays three to five players, ages eight and up.

setup
Honga setup

Setup

Place the game board and depot with the mammoths in the center of the table. Each player takes a player tray and four food markers. Each marker starts in the “one” slot while the water drop begins at zero. Shuffle all cards and action disks and place them in their respective locations. Place Honga on his cave and the mammoth tooth in the fields. The player with the shaggiest hair goes first. They receive the fire marker and keep it throughout the game.

Gameplay 

Placing a circle to gather berries
Action disk placed to gather 3 berries & pet Honga.

The heart of Honga’s gameplay is action selection and resource gathering.

A player’s turn consists of four steps. Start by placing an action disk on the board in one of the four designated spaces. Action disks are divided up into four quadrants, each having anywhere from zero to five hands. Hands indicate many times an action can be executed at the space they are pointing to (including more than one space at a time). Next, pay attention to the loveable Honga.

Don’t Forget Honga!

If the action disk has at least one hand facing Honga, he’s happy. But if you neglect him, Honga jumps to your player board and eats one of your resources! If he’s still there on your next turn, he’ll chomp another and work his way down your player tray. The only way to shake him is to play the appropriate bonus card or if someone else fails to pay attention to him.

Honga cat next to player board
You didn’t pet Honga – now he’s eating your fish!
Honga game: Sacred steps
Racing up the sacred mountain

Actions

With Honga squared away it’s now time to carry out actions. Half the action locations are for food gathering; berries, fish, water, and mushrooms. Combing the forest gains players bonus cards that may give resources, points or extra actions. Bartering with villages is where you’ll cash in food for victory points. When paying homage to the old nature gods, move your matching color cave dweller meeple up the sacred mountain as part of a meeple race to the summit. The winner receives 5 points and other players score based on where on the mountain they are. All cave dwellers return to the starting space to race again.

Mammoth fields in Honga
Mammoth field

The last action is to attract mammoths to the field to obtain the mammoth tooth. Spend a fish, berry and mushroom to move your mammoth from the depot to first spot in the field. As players place new mammoths they push others one space counter-clockwise. Once one is bumped from the last space, it goes to the player with the matching color. Should a player’s color have the majority in the fields, they take possession of the mammoth tooth. The tooth grants the power to grab red action disks instead of gray. Generally, red disks provide more action options. 

At any time during the action phase the active player can use up to two bonus cards to help achieve goals or send that pesky (but loveable) Honga packing.  

A player’s turn ends with drawing a card. 

Winning the Game

Play continues until a player reaches or surpasses a designated score (40, 35 or 30) depending on the number of players. The new Chief of the Saber-toothed Tiger clan is the one with the highest score.

Bonus cards
Bonus cards

Impressions 

Honga is a hit!. First, it’s easy to teach and basically explains itself; collect raw materials and exchange them for points. Simple in theory, but not always easy to execute. Opening rounds usually kick off with resource gathering as players work toward bartering goals.

Mammoth field with 3 blue mammoths and 1 green.
Blue player takes the mammoth tooth

Often, going for the mammoth tooth early pays off big as red disks typically garner more actions. Increased actions per turn leads to gathering more resources and perhaps even pulling off a triple barter that can rake in big points. When actions don’t line up or you’re not willing to ignore Honga, pay homage and climb. Five points is five points after all. 

“My First” Action Selection

Honga is a marvelous way to introduce kids to action selection and resource management game play. It challenges them to use strategic/analytical thinking as they plan ahead and optimize the actions working toward their goals. In essence, Honga is a sandbox-like game where kids are free to explore different strategies to obtain points. As a parent, it’s fun to watch them process how to work with what they have. Due to the random draw of action disks, replayability is extremely high and no game will ever play the same. 

What makes this family friendly is that no one feels the sting of a blocked action. Unlike most worker placement games, Honga allows consecutive action selection and actions don’t become blocked off by other players. There’s no take-that, conflict, or player elimination either. Players can’t steal resources or force Honga to someone else’s board. There is a little competition when it comes to quickly gathering food for barter, obtaining the mammoth tooth, and paying homage. Food supplies and cards are unlimited. We rarely ran into players vying for the same barter cards. Flipping the next barter card might set up up a player’s next turn.

Use a bonus card to send Honga away
Go back home, Honga!

“It has tension when you don’t pay attention to Honga and he eats your food. You’ll worry about him until he leaves your board…Leaves you less resources to barter with.”

Izzy

Honga has a bright future in our family game library. Young players will learn new mechanics and challenge their critical thinking, while older siblings will experiment with its sandbox-like nature. Test your leadership skills in the Stone Age by picking up Honga today

Honga game

Highlights 

  • Perfect entry into the action selection mechanic.
  • Actions can’t be blocked by other players. 
  • No take-that, conflict free. 
  • Feels like a sandbox with many paths to victory.
  • Colorful artwork with great components, including dual layered player trays.

The Family Gamers received a complimentary copy of Honga from HABA for this review. 

Honga
  • 10/10
    Art - 10/10
  • 9/10
    Mechanics - 9/10
  • 10/10
    Family Fun - 10/10
9.5/10

Summary

Number of Players: 3-5

Playtime: 30-45 minutes

Age Range: 8+

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