Writing a book about great women throughout time would be a monumental task. HerStory reminds players of the research that would go into writing such a book. Over the course of the game, each player will attempt to write 8 chapters, each about an influential woman. Each of these women will either provide greater points or abilities which will further your individual gameplay. There are over 120 women shown on the Chapter cards in the game.
On that note, gameplay is very simple and you can get playing right out of the box with little preparation. Each player selects a color and gets a matching push pin scoring token and board. You also get a Library card and Player Aid. The central board is actually a neoprene mat, that works well. My only complaint with that is 50 points isn't enough. I would have liked to have some kind of reminder when you pass fifty, although it's fairly easy to remember.
The board will be populated with 6 Research Tokens and 5 Chapter Cards. On your turn, you can take one of three actions: 1 Research, 2 Draft a Chapter, and 3 Completing a Chapter. Initially, I was almost disappointed to see how simple the gameplay presented itself. The emergent game was quite nice though, as the simplicity of the rules left room for players to make timing decisions related to their set collection.
The Library Card players received at the beginning allows them to refresh the Research Tokens twice in the game. The timing of this can be game winning as there are clearly better tokens, especially when are trying to finish a Chapter. In addition to receiving points on the Chapter, players can gain 3 bonus points for using exactly the right Research tokens to complete a chapter- i.e. you are rewarded for efficiency and patience in what is essentially a race to the finish set collection game. The game ends when any one player has finished their 8th Chapter; each player will get the same number of turns as the game will end after the round in which they completed that 8th Chapter.
This is especially true when you combine the text of completed Chapter's which may provide bonuses like giving extra points if you are currently in last place. Drafting Chapters is reserving the card so other players don't have access to it, and you could just use the action to get two points near the end of the game and deny another access to a card they might need. This type of gameplay wasn't immediately obvious, but it becomes clear after a couple plays that nuance like this will reward repeat plays without punishing newer players.
The amount and variety of Chapter cards balances out the emergent gameplay in a very nice way. The game never feels like a high stakes competition, but the competitive element enjoyably produces results on repeat plays. Additionally, with a player count of 2-5, everything scales very well without any problems.
I normally don't write about components, but I was immediately hit with the "Wow!" factor on the component quality. The Research Tokens are quite thick and come pre-punched. For a piece that will be handled a lot and put in and out of the draw bag it was a wise choice by the publisher. The rulebook and cards each of a higher quality which also made me more amiable to the game.
What about the subject though? Is this just a blatant cash grab? I don't think so. The amount of cards in the game seem to include both popular women from history as well as lesser known women. There is a wide swath of the timeline represented across a number of cultures.
Each Chapter card has additional information about the women shown which piqued my interest and encouraged me to read about a few like Buffalo Calf Road Woman and Josefa Llanes Escoda. I will readily admit that figures from history is not my specialty, so I do not know who may have been left out of the game who should have been more readily included. The game does list a number of Educator Advisors at the back, all women in teaching. There were also a number of younger students who were involved in the research for the game.
I would recommend this game for families or those looking for a light game night. I see this game being used in school or home curriculum and easily integrated into a unit about some of the specific figures used in the game. This game won't be for those seeking a deep strategy abstract or mid or heavy Euro. If you know what to expect coming in to this game, I think you could be pleasantly surprised by both the niceties of gameplay and the overall experience. The art blends pleasant portraits with an approachable feel.
My review copy of the game was provided by Underdog Games- thanks to the publisher! There was no additional compensation and my thoughts are my own.
Let me know what you think of this game!
HerStory by Nick Bentley, Danielle Reynolds, and Emerson Matsuuchi; published by UnderDog Games
Artwork by Eunice Adeyi, Cristina Arctor
Time 45 Minutes