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Subject: Hey! This Is A Favorite! rss

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Jay Little
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Overview: This review is based on the Mayfair/Phalanx edition of Hey! That's My Fish!. I first played Hey! That's My Fish! at Geekway to the West 2006, then started playing it on BSW regularly. I finally ordered the real version, and am so glad I did. With attractive components and simple rules, Hey! That's My Fish! packs a lot of charm, but with enough tension, decision making and strategy to reward a wide range of players.

Hey! That's My Fish! is one of the few games in my collection not ending in "-ahtzee" my wife will play. And the game has also been surprisingly accessible for a wide range of people I game with -- including my inlaws, and my three-and-a-half year old son. As such, Hey! That's My Fish! will always be a popular game with me.

Components: The Phalanx version has surprisingly sturdy, attractive components. The slim box is well designed and the cartoony art on the box, rules and components works well with the theme. All the components fit easily back inside the box.

The cardboard tiles forming the iceberg/gameboard are thick and sturdy, and hold up well to repeated playings. They popped out effortlessly from their cardboard sprues, with no noticeable burrs, splitting or tabs on the individual pieces.

The penguins are my only minor quibble. They are painted wooden penguin tokens, and while they are bright and easy enough to see and identify, they look a bit like what Salvidor Dali would have conjectured a penguin to look like. Serviceable, but not super. 3D plastic toy penguins would have been nice, like the hedgehogs in Gulo Gulo. Ah well... A very minor quibble.

Gameplay: Hey! That's My Fish! has a very simple goal and a very simple ruleset. The goal is for your penguins to catch the most fish - at the end of the game, the player with the most fish wins. This is done by capturing tiles. Each of the hexoganal tiles features 1, 2 or 3 fish. At the beginning of the game, the tiles are shuffled together and an iceberg is formed with the faceup tiles (so each game features a new board).

Players take turns placing their penguins on the board, one at a time. In a 2 player game, each player will be using 4 penguins. In a 3 player game, each player gets 3 penguins, and in a 4 player game, each player gets only 2 penguins. Once all the penguins have been placed on the iceberg, the game begins.

On his turn, a player moves one of his penguins in a straight line, as far as he wants, until that penguin reaches another penguin, the edge of the iceberg, or a gap within the iceberg. After moving a penguin, the player claims the tile the penguin just left (not the one he's jumping to).

The board starts to quickly shrink as penguins hop around, removing tiles from the playing surface. It often won't take long for the iceberg to split into several smaller patches, with isolated penguins.

The game ends when there are no more legal moves for players to make. When this occurs, each player also claims the tiles on which his penguins are standing at the end of the game. Then each player tallies all the fish on his captured tiles - the player with the most fish wins.

The Gameplay Experience: Despite the simple rules, I find Hey! That's My Fish! very engaging. Several times during the game, you'll be faced with some tough choices. For instance, you may have the opportunity to move a penguin in such a way as to cut yourself off from the others and secure a small patch of ice to yourself, but risk having a penguin elsewhere severed from the iceberg completely if you ignore him one more round.

Timing and positioning is everything. There's an interesting rhythm to the game as you juggle offensive moves (grabbing high fish tiles) and defensive moves (moving penguins into more teneble positions, or cutting off opponents' penguins). The game plays very quickly, and even moves along at a good clip with players generally prone to Analysis Paralysis in other games - the board shrinks quickly and options diminish rapidly, helping curtail some of those tendencies.

Hey! That's My Fish! can be pretty cutthroat, and you may find aggressive gameplay dominates early games as folks still get comfortable with visualizing and planning what they want to accomplish. Aggressive players can easily force confrontation and cut off other player's options - so recognizing this and turning the tables on such play can be a rewarding "turning point" as you gain experience with the game.

Kid Compatability: Nowadays, whenever buying or playing a game, I think about whether or not I can introduce it to my son, Benjamin. Ben's three and a half right now, and loves playing a variety of games, like Gulo Gulo, Papa Bear and Sherlock. Despite the simple rules, I was reluctant to introduce Hey! That's My Fish! to my son, thinking it may be a bit overwhelming.

Well, I wasn't giving Benjamin enough credit. Benjamin loves the art, the tiles and the goofy looking penguins. The goal is easily understood (get the most fish!). He can help set up the board by shuffling all the tiles and lining them up to form the initial iceberg. When placing penguins, I've told him to place them on tiles with 3 fish to start, which he can easily do.

It took a few turns and a few examples for him to internalize the movement rules -- at first he wanted to jump over the other penguins, or jump across rows. But after a few examples and some questions, he was able to get it. By halfway through the first game, he was able to mechanically play the game, if not grasp the strategy.

Most of the time he went for tiles nearby with the most fish, regardless of where that positioned his penguins. He showed good sportsmanship when the penguins were isolated and weren't available to move again. At the end of the game, he was able to quickly tally his score. Scores typically range from 15-40 depending on the number of players (more players mean lower scores), so some younger kids may need help counting (or at least keeping track of their progress) with higher scores.

The main thing a young child will likely need help with is removing the tiles they claim. The tiles are nice and sturdy, but Ben lacks the fine motor skill to pick up tiles near the center of the board (especially those where there wasn't already a gap to provide greater tactile control) without disturbing the tiles around it. This is frustrating for him, but despite that, he still really enjoys playing the game.

While it may take patience and time to understand the strategy, I'd still encourage players to introduce kids as young as 3 or 4 to this game and see what they think. Watching a child's eyes light up as they "get it" and start grasping some of the rules or mechanics is a thing of beauty.

The Bottom Line: 8.5/10 Great, clever little game... I've enjoyed this immensely both online and face-to-face, with 2, 3 and 4 players. Scales very well, plays quickly, and deceptively nasty gameplay. The rules are very easy to teach, and it often takes only one play to see how everything works together. Plus, it's got penguins! Benefits greatly from a tight online interface at BSW. It's one of the better 15-20 minute strategy games out there, and a hit with a wide range of players I game with.
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Jim Cote
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ynnen wrote:
Hey! That's My Fish! is one of the few games in my collection not ending in "-ahtzee" my wife will play.


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Anna Yalci
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I LOVE the wooden penguins. This is a good game to play with my 2 daughters, and in a more cut-throat way with my husband.
 
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Ryan Olson
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Yep, I also love it. Last night was the first time my 8 yr old son beat my 4 yr old daughter in a game . Although Dad still remains undefeated (not that I am playing cuthroat or anything, our games have all been very close, but for some reason I keep ending up on top).
 
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Andy K.
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ynnen wrote:
The penguins are my only minor quibble. They are painted wooden penguin tokens, and while they are bright and easy enough to see and identify, they look a bit like what Salvidor Dali would have conjectured a penguin to look like. Serviceable, but not super. 3D plastic toy penguins would have been nice, like the hedgehogs in Gulo Gulo. Ah well... A very minor quibble.


I had a different reaction. I was so pleased the pieces were painted with penguin outlines rather than solid color like so many wooden pieces.

I also think the shape, although not terribly penguin-like, works well enough. You see, the penguins are famished, hungry, starving and that's why they're so thin.
 
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mads l. brynnum
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Great review - and a great game. However, you write that: "When placing penguins, I've told him to place them on tiles with 3 fish to start, which he can easily do."

But according to the rules, when you place your pinguins on the board you may only place them on tiles with one fish.

mads
 
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Jay Little
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Good catch about starting penguins. We let Benjamin start out on the 3 fish tiles for two reasons. First, there are fewer of them, so it limits the choices a bit and makes it easier to do. Second, it's a subtle balancing mechanism that let's him start out with slightly more fish, so he ends up playing a bit more competitively against the adults.
 
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Tom Fisher
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I like this game because it feels like Domaine for kids. Territory management is good for the cognative thinking.
 
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mads l. brynnum
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Good idea, Jason. I played a couple of games with my nephews this weekend (age 11) and though they were quick to grasp the rules, I think some of the strategy might take a while. And allowing less experienced (child) players to begin on any tile might be a good idea.

 
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Tony Chen
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ynnen wrote:
Good catch about starting penguins. We let Benjamin start out on the 3 fish tiles for two reasons. First, there are fewer of them, so it limits the choices a bit and makes it easier to do. Second, it's a subtle balancing mechanism that let's him start out with slightly more fish, so he ends up playing a bit more competitively against the adults.


When I play, I completely ignore how many fishes are on each tile: it's all about area enclosure. So limiting his placements to only certain tiles (those with 3 fishes) is actually a disadvantage, because a strong move takes into consideration only the position of the tile, and zero consideration on the fish count, except for late game mopping up.

So if you want to give your son an advantage, I recommend making all tiles available to him on initial placement.

Something interesting I've noticed is that my fish to tile ratio is consistently lower than my opponents' in the six games I've played so far. This suggests that they were going after the high count tiles (if they took zero consideration into fish counts like I did, their ratio should average out to be the same as mine). But my tile counts more than made up for it in the end.

This goes for two and three player games. Four player game might be different.
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