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Elk Fest (1999)
Designed By: Hermann Huber
Published By: Mayfair Games, Kosmos
# of Players: 2
Playing Time: 15 Minutes
I’ve been playing a lot of heavy games lately, so when I got this game and opened it, I was happy to see that I would not have to read ten pages of rules and explain it to all my fellow gamers. This is however one of those games that draws people to the table to say “What are you playing?”
Pieces and Gameplay (skip if you want to simply read the review)
The game is pretty simple, so there are not a lot of pieces. Basically they are all wood pieces with no art/color on them (would be cool to paint the elks yourself, if only I had some talent), some rubber feet to place on the river banks to help them remain stationary and a four page instruction booklet.
The rules are simple. You set your elk on its river bank of the same color and place three tokens (grey river stones) one inch apart each next to your riverbank. Now all you need to do it flick these stones so that they help your elk cross to the opponent’s riverbank. First one to cross wins. There are very few rules. Each player flicks two stones per turn, with the exception of the very first play, in which the person flicks only one. As long as your elk can move to the next stone, while keeping his back feet on the stone where his front feet use to be, you are ok. You can move at anytime, so you can flick once, move, flick and move again. The only thing you have to be careful of is if your elk hits the water (i.e. table). If for any reason during your turn your elk touches the water, either when trying to move him or by knocking him off his stones during a flick, your turn ends. This also happens if you knock over your opponent’s elk, so you can’t attack your adversary. If this happens, not only is your turn over, but the other player gets to flick three stones. The same rules apply if you knock a stone off the table (over the waterfall). The stone is place next to your riverbank and the opponent gets three flicks.
Although a little silly, the game is pretty fun. It is very short, so there isn’t that much thought to it, but it does keep you entertained for a while. If your opponent gets too ahead, it kind of sucks, it is better when the game is close and you’re a little stressed when shooting. Also, playing on a smaller table makes it harder, since there is more chance of the stones flying off the table. You can also alter the game depending on how long you want to play for, simply have the two riverbanks start off further away from one another.
You can also try and block the other person by moving your elk in their way, but it also blocks you, so it is mainly a race. Your best bet seems to be to steal your opponent’s stones, which will make his flicks much harder since the pieces are near your elk, but obviously, they will try and do the same. Also when you move, the stone you move off of is often right behind you and it is a pain to get it around and back in front, yet the quickest path is to keep your line as straight as possible. In the end, I can’t really say it is luck, but I guess flicking skill that wins and maybe experience.
The method for playing with more then two people is not very fun. They say to simply see how many flicks it takes to get across and the person with the least flicks wins. So as stated on the box, the game is really only for two. Although if you buy more then one copy it could be really cool to play as four and be forced to move to the riverbank across from you. This would create a lot more conflict since four elks would run into each other at the halfway point. Also, the game is ultra portable. One little bag with 10 pieces in it, fits easily into your pocket.
The game is fun, but really simple. People always stop to look at what you are playing. It is good that they kept it to 15 minutes, because it does become a little repetitive, although for people who want to play longer, they can simply put more distance between the riverbanks at the start. All in all, a silly game that plays fast, is easy to explain and draws a lot of comments.