No thanks needed. I'm just your everyday galactic hero.
Preamble: I bought Fish while I was at the mall the other day on a whim. I was sort of looking for a game that I could play with my kids - even though I wasn't really even looking for a game, per se. Since the wasn't terribly expensive, I felt like it wouldn't be too much of a gamble for the price I paid.
As a filler game, it would be only fair to review it for what it is. It isn't nearly as epic-ally awesome as, well, almost any other game in my collection. But then again, it isn't suppose to be.
I spent $12 for the game. Prices on Amazon were actually MORE expensive than the store, so yeah, I guess I got a good deal. It looks like I got a miniaturized version of the game. If anything I think I like the smaller version better than pictures I see of the bigger version.
Time frame: A game of HTMF should never really last much more than 10 minutes at most. This is great for when you are playing with people such as my wife who doesn't go for board games, but nonetheless is willing to jump in as an excuse to hang out with the rest of the family.
As published by Fantasy Flights, it isn't much of a surprise that the game looks nice. The plastic miniature penguins look great, each piece adding a nice little bit of personality to the game.
The game is suitable for 2-4 players, though it plays quite a bit different from a two player game versus more than two players. It certainly works for more than two players except that it loses its strategic value when you have to wait for multiple people to move between your own moves. On a two player game, I noticed that my ability to strategically process the situation really opens up, even if the thinking behind the game isn't much more advanced than checkers. (Note that it is MORE advanced than checkers.)
With that in mind, my seven year old son had absolutely no problems understanding how to play the game right off the bat. He has since requested to play it every single day since I got it.
The game could very likely come with abstract components, but instead the designer was very clever to work in a theme involving penguins on a fracturing island of ice. It certainly isn't as engrossing as many games that I have in my collection, but like I said previously: it isn't suppose to be. With this in mind, the theme still manages to be better than many other much more expensive and elaborate games I can think of.
First, my kids really enjoy this game. Second, I actually enjoy it as well. Third, it was cheap. Fourth, the components made it all a great value. Even though HTMF will never really do for my gaming group, this game comes as highly recommended.
A decent review. I'm going to have to take exception with several of your conclusions though, and offer a counter point.
It's sounds as if you have considered this mostly a kid's game or non-gamer's game from a couple of your comments. Have you ever tried the game with more serious gamers? I think you may find that there is a lot more in HTMF than meets the eye. At any rate, I think folks may get the impression that this is mostly a game to play with kids, which is a bit of a short sell for this game. However I agree that is is a great game to play with kids and non-gamers alike.
Part of the appeal (and evidenced by its popularity) of this game is that, while it is a indeed a filler, it is a surprisingly meaty filler that rewards clever play. It is definitely a very light game, but has a surprising amount of depth which belies its simplicity.
Also, I would highly disagree that the game loses strategic qualities at higher player numbers. Indeed, as you have fewer pieces at higher player numbers, the reliance on careful strategy increases. In a 2P game, one can often simply "discard" pieces (penguins), leaving them in a dead-end state with the sole purpose of destroying your opponent's plans. This is recipe for disaster in the 4P game. One must block your opponents AND gather fish simultaneously, which is much more difficult to do.
My only quibble would be replayability. After many, many games, it sort of loses some appeal. But that is after an awful lot of games.