David McMillan
United States
Madison
Tennessee
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The pond is a very small place for a bullfrog with a massive ego.

Groak was a mighty, mighty bullfrog... quite possibly the mightiest... bullfrog in the pond and he was no longer satisfied with his lot in life. Other frogs were fine hanging out on the same lily pads day after day, but not Groak. Groak wanted to see the world... no. Groak wanted to RULE the world and he figured that with his strong baritone voice, his charismatic personality, and his mighty strength that he could really pull this off. So, ever confident, Groak began gathering his army for his march across the pond.

Elsewhere in the pond, though, other mighty bullfrogs had gotten the same idea. The coming conflict would be a conflict to remember. When the smoke finally cleared and the losses and gains were totaled, one thing would be certain, the names of the fallen would be remembered as heros and epic tales would be spun that would be told and retold in inns and taverns and households everywhere for ages to come. Nobody would ever forget these ferocious heros... these mighty Bullfrogs.

In the game of Bullfrogs, players will compete for domination of the lily pads in their pond. This is accomplished by a card driven worker placement and area control mechanism. As lily pads are captured, the frogs that are resting there will retreat to surrounding lily pads which can sometimes cause those lily pads to become full and get scored. Then the frogs retreat again, ad infinitum, until there are no more lily pads to score. Once every player has played all ten of their cards, the game ends and the highest scoring player is declared the victor.

Now, before I get too much further into this review, I would like to take a moment to thank the game's designer, Keith Matejka, for sending me the prototype copy of this amazing game that this review is based upon. My interaction with Keith, however, has not affected my overall opinion of this game. You can rest assured that if this game is terrible, I will tell you so. If you like what you read here, then I highly recommend that you consider becoming a backer for this game. You can check out the Kickstarter for this game here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1152516291/bullfrogs-a-...

CONTENTS

Before I begin describing the contents of the game, I would like to remind you that this review is based upon a prototype copy of the game. The pieces described herein do not reflect any stretch goals or quality upgrades that might come about as a result of the Kickstarter campaign. That being said, this is a REALLY nice prototype and, even if they didn't change a thing, as long as the final product included the pieces that I got, I'd feel like I'd gotten my money's worth.

Bullfrogs comes packaged in a sturdy, rectangular box that features the artwork from the home page of the Kickstarter page upon it. A heavily armed bullfrog wearing blue vestements stares down a similarly dressed bullfrog who is wearing red. In the background you see several other frogs of the red faction holding flags in their hands. Floating in the air just above their heads is the title of the game.

Inside of the box I found a plastic bag with a variety of wooden cubes and some wooden cylinders painted in one of four different colors (red, blue, yellow, and green). These wooden pieces represent the frogs and the bullfrogs that players will control throughout the game.

Also included in the box are 4 decks of cards and 4 player aid cards. There is one deck of cards and 1 player aid for each of the four colors. These cards are beautifully illustrated with lily pads and turtles and koi fish and dragonflies. The frog pond aesthetic bleeds out of every pore. When all 10 of a player's cards are assembled side by side, they form a complete work of art. At least one of the Kickstarter stretch goals for this campaign is to create an additional three works of art so that every player can assemble their cards into entirely different pictures. As it is right now, though, each picture is exactly the same. In addition to the decks of cards, there are also 5 starter cards... one log card and 4 cards that surround the log card.

Then there is the rulebook. The rulebook is very helpfully ilustrated and very thoughtfully laid out. All of the game mechanics are described in such a way that they are very easy to comprehend. Too often, the rule books for some of these games feel like they were last minute additions and they not only look terrible, but they are incredibly difficult to comprehend. Not so with this one. This rule book is excellent and stands as a shining example for other rule books to aspire to.

SET UP

The set up for this game couldn't be any easier. Each players chooses a color and takes into their possession the appropriately colored wooden pieces, card deck, and player aid. Then the log card is placed into the center of the table with one of the other 4 setup cards at each of its cardinal points (the number should be in the bottom right - more on this later). Each of these cards has the same value, so it does not really matter which one is where, but if you're like me, you will appreciate the artistic aesthetic of matching the illustrations on the cards so that they create the overall piece of artwork. This isn't really necessary, though, because as you will see later, the cards get shuffled around a lot as the game goes on.

Once all of this has been done, a starting player is chosen and you're ready to go!

THE LILY PAD CARDS

As I mentioned earlier, every player will begin with an identical deck of ten lily pad cards. Each lily pad card has a certain victory point value (shown in the lower right hand corner of the card) as well as a certain action value (shown by a lily pad in the upper left hand corner). The action value determines how many actions you will have available to you this turn if you choose to play this card. For instance, a card with a victory point value of 5 only has two lily pads shown on it which would limit you to a total of 2 actions on the turn that you play the 5 point card.

The only other thing that is worth mentioning here is that the graphics on each card are the same colors as the colors that the players have chosen. This is important in the scoring phase because you earn bonus points if you manage to capture a card of your own color.

ACTION - PLACING a FROG OR BULLFROG

When you put a card into play, you may take as many actions as the card dictates. One of those possible actions is placing frogs or bullfrogs. A frog or a bullfrog may not be placed onto the card that was just played and may only be placed onto cards in the same column or row as the card that was just placed as long as those cards have empty spots on them. At no point may you ever place more than 2 frogs on any lily pad during any turn.

For instance, let's pretend that you just placed a 4 lily pad card. You place the card at the intersection of a column and a row. One of the cards in the row has a total of 4 empty spaces. One of the cards in the column has an empty 2 spaces. While it might be tempting to drop all four frogs onto the lily pad that has 4 empty spots, you cannot. At the most, you can only place 2. So, if you chose to use all 4 of your actions placing frogs, you'd place 2 frogs in the column and 2 frogs in the row.

ACTION - SABOTAGE

You may move one of your opponents' frogs from the same row or column in which you placed your card for the turn (you will always begin your turn by placing a card from your hand) from the lily pad that they are on to another legal lily pad (i.e. - a lily pad that has an empty spot) or the log. This can be useful in a nuber of ways. For instance, you might choose to move an opponent's frog in order to set up a lily pad so that your frogs will have the majority so that you will win the battle for the lily pad (we will talk about battles next) or you might be trying to simply prevent one of your opponent's carefully laid plans from coming to fruition.

An important thing to note here is that you may never sabotage another play's bullfrogs. Bullfrogs are way too smart for that. This doesn't mean that bullfrogs are immovable, though. Bullfrogs may be moved as the result of a battle.

BATTLING FOR LILY PAD CONTROL

Whenever all of the spots on a lily pad get filled up, a battle will ensue. To determine the victor, each player will count up their total number of frogs and bullfrogs and add up their total point values. Frogs have a point value of 1 each and bullfrogs have a point value of 2 each. Whoever has the highest point value will win that lily pad. However, if there is a tie, nobody wins and the lily pad is simply removed from the game after the next step is completed.

After the winner of the lily pad battle has been determined, the winner will begin jumping off their opponent's frogs one at a time to adjacent lily pad. A player may never move more than a single frog to an adjacent lily pad as a result of winning a battle and, since there can only be four adjacent lily pads at any given time, no more than 4 frogs will ever be jumped off in this manner and no two of them will ever be jumped off onto the same lily pad. This frog jumping happens with the following precedence:

- Jump off the loser's frogs first
- Jump off the loser's bullfrogs
- Jump off the winner's frogs
- Jump off the winner's bullfrogs

Once the winning player has jumped off all of the frogs and bullfrogs that are allowed, the lily pad sinks and all of the frogs left on it are returned to their owners' supplies with the exception of the bullfrogs. Any bullfrogs who were not jumped off are removed from the game.

Sometimes, this jumping action might cause one or more lily pads to become detached from the main group of lily pads surrounding the log. When this happens, and only after all lily pads have been scored, the active player may slide these lily pad cards into any position on the board of their choosing so long as they connect the detached lily pads to the main group. At no time may all of the lily pads be in a straight line voluntarily. It is technically possible that a scoring cascade could cause the remaining lily pads to be arranged in a straight line. If this were to happen, the next player would have to place their lily pad in such a way that it does not add to the straight line.

END GAME and SCORING

The game comes to an end once the last person has placed their last card onto the game board and has completed their turn. Once this has happened, scoring happens in the following fashion:

1. Players add up the point values of the lily pad cards thta they have collected (one bonus point per card of their own color)
2. Players receive one point per frog on the log card and two points per bullfrog on the log card
3. The player with the most presence on the log card receives an additional three bonus points

The player who has the highest total wins. If there is a tie, the tie is determined by who has the most frogs remaining on the board. And that's it. That's how you play Bullfrogs.

THOUGHTS

Bullfrogs is an amazing game. For something so small and so simple, there's a lot of strategy packed into it. This is probably due to how flawlessy all of the various disparate game mechanics come together. Placing new cards into the playing area ensures that the game always stays fresh and that no two games are alike. The trick is in figuring out where to place them to best take advantage of however many actions they provide you for that turn. Triggering a three or four lily pad battle cascade feels amazing when you are able to pull it off and it feels even more amazing when you manage to win all four of the lily pads in question and getting your bullfrog onto the log in the same play just takes that feeling and really amplifies it. This game is never short on these kinds of interesting plays and I really enjoy the excitement this builds around the table.

There is one small, niggling thing that bothers me about this game, though. That thing is the theme. While the idea of frogs and bullfrogs duking it out over control of the lily pads in the pond works very well with most of the mechanics, the theme does sort of fail the game at times. For instance, if the players are fighting for dominance of the lily pads, why do the lily pads sink? Why do they move around? I mean, I understand the reasoning behind the lily pad sliding mechanic, but thematically, it doesn't make much sense. Another thing that really bugs me is losing your bullfrogs to sinking lily pads. My friend sarcastically explained it away with the following statement: "Everyone knows that bullfrogs don't know how to swim." I mean, if anyone should survive being sunk into a pond, you'd think a creature whose natural habitat was the water would be the one.

I understand, though, that the mechanics for the game were devised before the theme was set into place. I can appreciate the hard work that went into the game and I can appreciate how incredibly fun the game is to play, so I suppose I can overlook a couple of unimportant logical errors. That doesn't mean they don't still bother me, though.

Putting all of that aside, let me say this: I love Bullfrogs. This is a really amazing game. In fact, I demoed this at my gaming group last Wednesday and two out of the four people that played it went and backed it the very next day. There was even a random guy that happened to wander through the room where the game was going on that was inspired to back the game based purely upon what he saw! That's amazing! Bullfrogs has a special kind of magic that is typically reserved for big box games like Agricola or Terra Mystica for a fraction of the price. If you've never backed a Kickstarter game before or you have friends that are reticent about joining your in your hobby and are looking for a really light game that's easy to learn and easy to play and doesn't take up hours of your time but contains elements of all of the things that you love about high level boardgaming, then Bullfrogs is your game. Seriously, folks, go back this one if you haven't already. You won't regret your decision.
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Harry Hammermueller
United States
Cedar Grove
North Carolina
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Re: theme - how about using the analogy of boats? If enough fighting happens on a boat or intentional sabotage (so nobody gets it) it could end up sinking (through all the damage it sustains).

Bullfrogs could be like knights of old. Knights fought on ships and could swim if it wasn't for all that armor weighing them down. But they kept using the armor because it made such a difference in a fight, just don't fall in the water!

As for the Lilly pads moving about, they are so light in the real world and their anchoring system flexible enough that moving around just seems like it would occur at the slightest change in weight distribution, activity or wind.

Disclaimer: I haven't played the game yet, but I've watched it played and am looking forward to my first play.
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Keith Matejka
United States
Middleton
Wisconsin
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Wow. Thanks for the kind words, David. I'm glad you liked it!
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