Theme and What is it?
The Horizons base game brings 5 space-faring civilizations into a distant galaxy where they compete for dominance of the local star systems. To be successful, each civilization needs to befriend some of the local aliens and carefully utilize their powers. Horizons: Extermination brings 2 more sets of aliens. A highly beneficial set of aliens offer their unique services to only one civilization at the start of the game. Another set of highly aggressive aliens, the Viliox, sneak their way into the normal alien decks and bring a huge twist to the game.
The base game has players taking 2 actions on a turn as they attempt to explore the galaxy. They will expand their influence by placing buildings on the newly explored worlds. To continue the 4X gaming theme, players then exploit their buildings to gain resources and continue their expansion. The only thing that was missing from the normal 4X gaming model was extermination. With Horizons: Extermination… I bet you can guess what is added to the game. EXTERMINATION! The Viliox aliens allow players to replace other players buildings, destroy their buildings, or even sacrifice their own building to destroy all buildings on a world while terraforming it into another type.
This expansion pack is very small. 6 star tiles and 10 cards. Very small. I was afraid this would offer very little change to the game. I was wrong. Extermination offers players the optional setup step of putting highly aggressive aliens into the game. This notably allows players to gang up on a leader to keep games tighter in the end. It also offers even more variable starting conditions than just the unique player power boards with starter cards that have totally different powers. The star tiles will give players a reason to fight even harder for control of certain systems rather than peacefully spreading out away from each other.
Game Build Quality
I had nothing but good things to say about the components in the base game. The wooden player pieces, cloth bag, and solid construction of the tiles and cards are great. The expansion matches exactly so that cards mix in easily and the tiles are indistinguishable from the originals when shuffling them with the original stars during game setup.
The Viliox bring another new race of aliens to the game. They look like giant squid people. They remind me of an Illithid/Mindflayer from other fantasy gaming. The art for these aggressive cards focus on fire, sharp weapons and armor, and generally look like they are ready to exterminate some foes.
For me, the absolute best part of this expansion is the unique star tiles. They give players restrictions or benefits for fighting for a specific system. This changes the dynamic of where players choose to place their buildings and how willing they are to fight extensively for control in a single system. Most of my play group doesn’t care for direct attacks and most loved that Horizons was only a direct competition for resources and locations. These “Carebear” players didn’t like the Viliox, which is fine!
Age Range & Weight
I cannot figure out why Extermination has its age range listed as 8+. The base game was 14+ and is required to use the expansion. The game never needed a rating anywhere near that high. 8 is probably too far the other direction though. 10 to 12 seems fair. Extermination can add a level of direct attack that can make younger players easily upset. But there is no reason for those younger players to use that part of the expansion unless they thrive on that. The other 2 parts would work perfectly fine!
As the new additions are entirely modular, each group can choose to include or leave them out in each individual play. I can see a lot of groups continuing to leave out the Extermination part of Extermination. And I can see a lot of other groups thriving on the huge swings that come utilizing those powers to edge out the biggest competitor for huge resource generation or control of a system.
The new starting alien card powers and the bonus powers for the new star systems add a level of play that I intend to leave in for all future plays. Even when teaching it to a table of all new players, I will include both of these modules every time. They are that worthwhile to the decision making and making players seem a little different from the start. Using the unique player board sides might be too much for a players very first game, but using the unique starting aliens is not nearly as drastic a change.