If you’re not first, you are last, right? Well if you are mouse trying to steal some cheese from traps laid around the house, maybe being just a little more deliberate is exactly what you need. Today we are looking at Head of Mousehold where players will try to race—but not too quickly—to collect cheese.
Head of Mousehold is a deduction game for 2-5 players. It plays in about 30 minutes.
In Head of Mousehold, players will play cards to the mouse traps laid out in the center of the table. Each trap has one or more cheese tokens worth anywhere from 2-4 points.
At the beginning of each round, the relative speed of each mouse is determined randomly. A column will be created next to the traps showing how the various colored mice stack up speed-wise. Each player receives a deck of cards depicting 5 different colored mice and selects three cards to play each round.
After cards are selected, players will put mouse meeples which match the color of the cards they selected in front of them. This will give all players some information, but as cards as played to the traps, they alternate between being face down and face up. You will rarely have perfect information but can often reduce at least the possibilities that exist.
Once all players have played their cards the face down mice are revealed. Mice are then ordered from fastest to slowest. The fasted mouse gets caught in the trap and is removed from the game. The second fastest mouse will take the cheese tokens from the trap. However, some mice have a “squeaker” ability, and if a squeaker is caught in a trap, the next fastest mouse is also caught by the house cat, leaving the cheese for the third fastest mouse.
There is an optional event deck that can be used. This adds a boatload of random events after players choose, but before they play, their mice cards. They can change the speed of the mice or how the traps operate. Each has a substantial effect on how the card play works.
After five rounds the game ends and the player whose mice have collected the most cheese is the winner.
While Head of Mousehold is a deduction game, it isn’t really a social deduction game. Sure, you have a small amount of play trying to out think your opponents and where you anticipate they are going to play their mice. But it is largely more of a logic puzzle as you try to figure out where you can be the second fastest. If multiple mice of the same color go for the same trap, whoever plays their mouse there first is fastest. So you will open try to wait out players if they are playing the same colored mice as you have chosen.
The biggest downfall of Head of Mousehold is the phase of the game when you choose which cards from your hand to play. You know nothing other than the relative speed of the mice. So it mostly feels like a random decision where you choose whichever mice are still alive that are somewhere near the middle of the pack speed wise.
The event deck is quite the mixed bag. I’ve played some with it and some without it and I mostly prefer including it. It adds a lot of randomness to a game that already suffers a bit in that respect. But it adds a fun moment each round where everyone scurries around trying to adjust to the updated rules for that round. It helps keep the game fresh through multiple plays.
I should mention the quality of the production here as each player’s deck has unique art for the 5 different colored mice. There is a theme for each player as well, the yellow deck’s mice are all eating or cooking food. It’s a nice touch where we have previously seen cases where artwork just gets reused on every card in the deck.
Head of Mousehold is a surprisingly analytical exercise. You are welcome to kind of play by feel and just guess where you mice can go, but you won’t be very successful. There is a ton of open information—the color mice chosen by each player and half of the cards are played face up. It is possible to work out mid-way through the round some of the outcomes or how to force certain outcomes.
At the end of the day, Head of Mousehold is a pretty looking logic puzzle. For all the cute artwork and mice shaped meeples, it really makes you think through a lot of possible outcomes to play optimally.
Head of Mousehold suffers a bit for lack of fun to be had really. It is cute and it’s interesting. But I never really had a lot of fun moments playing it. The event deck added a bit of excitement, but only in small amounts. It isn’t difficult enough to be a brain burning game, but isn’t light enough to just shut your brain off and play by instinct either.
Final Score: 2.5 Stars – Cute game that deduction fans should check out. All others may look for something that is just a bit more exciting.
• Fun moments are short lived and rare.
• A lot of information to process can slow down what should be a very light game.