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Subject: Hey! That's a Great Game! rss

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John Farrell
Australia
Rozelle
New South Wales
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For the longest time I completely ignored "Hey! That's My Fish!". It looked just like a kid's game, and I already have quite enough of those (kids and games both). Eventually the game bubbled its way to the top of my consciousness, and I procured a copy somehow. I instantly saw what I fool I'd been, as this is a great game that everyone needs to have played. Don't you be a fool like I once was!



The "board" consists of 60 hexagonal tiles, each showing 1, 2 or 3 fish. To start the game these tiles are laid out in a grid pattern, though it's possible and effective to use other patterns. Between 2 and 4 players take some penguins (4 each for 2 players, 3 for 3 players, 2 for 4 players) and place them on the board on tiles showing one fish each. Players then take turns to move one of their penguins.

A penguin may move any number of tiles in a straight line. However he may not pass other penguins, and he may not jump over holes in the ice. When he leaves a tile, the player takes that tile (hence making the board smaller) and keeps it for points - it's worth points equal to the number of fish on it. Penguins who cannot move stay where they are until the end of the game, at which time the players reclaim their penguins and the tiles they're standing on. Players keep taking turns until nobody can move.



Yes, that's all the rules there are. It sounds like a race to claim the three fish tiles, doesn't it? Of course it's not, and that's what makes it so cool. The way the game is played is as a blocking game, where you try to carve off areas of ice which your opponents are unable to access. With any luck, when they're unable to move, you're able to wander about your island collecting fish at your leisure.



Let's think about the situation in the game pictured above. Blue has a small island which nobody else can get to, so those points belong to him. If it's blue's move, he can improve his situation by moving his bottom penguin. He could move to the right to claim the 1 penguin tile, but that would cut him off from the 5 tiles between blue and red. Blue is much better off moving 3 tiles to the left to the 2 fish tile. The tile that blue is currently on is taken by him, leaving red's rightmost penguin on a small island from which there is no escape, the other red penguin can only move into the argument between green and yellow.

What if it was red's move? He'd be best off doing the opposite of blue, and moving his leftmost penguin to the right to block blue. He'll then be able to claim 7 more points at his leisure.

Green and yellow are confronting each other on the left. Green's rear penguin has yellow's rear penguin isolated, and there are 5 tiles between the two green penguins which nobody else can possibly get to. Green's best move would be to move his nearer penguin to be adjacent to both red and yellow. Yellow is still able to cut him off, but green gets two points more than he otherwise would have.

Yellow's best move is to the same spot. Green might move to the left, threatening to come down into the bottom left corner, but yellow will move before him and block his way. Green might instead choose to take the two points at the back.



This sort of analysis is easy for an end-game position, but it's much more difficult in the middle of the game. You don't have the ability to block all of the threats, so you need to make a guess as to what the other players intend. You might bet they haven't seen the cunning move you think they could make, or you might have a threat that's too big for them to ignore. I often think "what will get me the most points?" and if I can't tell, I try to choose to give the biggest advantage to the player I think least likely to make use of it.

The thought processes that you use in this game remind me of Through the Desert and to some extent Go in that there are concepts of claiming territory, "big" moves, sente and gote. A lesser-known game in this genre is Terra Nova where the players are adding fences, and territories that are fenced off and sufficiently small are scored.

This is a genre that I enjoy, and at 20 minutes or so for a game, this is a very light fun way to get into that mindset. It is a kid's game in that the kids can play too, but there's lots in this game for adults as well.
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Bruce Baskir
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If you like blocking games, also try Conquest of the Fallen Lands - it's kind of like a cross between Magic the Gathering (without the collectible element) and Hey, That's My Fish.
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Michael Howe
United States
Cromwell
Connecticut
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An abstract with many of the same territory-claiming and blocking features is The Game of The Amazons, a more complex game than Hey That's My Fish, but which is only for two players.
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Davido
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As noted elsewhere, HTMF! is a 'perfect information' game-e.g. once the tiles are flipped and set, it's all there. That makes it a wonderful game for teaching/explaining to kids and new gamers. And the look of shock on an adult gamer's face when they realize how downright nasty this game can get is absolutely priceless
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Miguel (working on TENNISmind...)
France
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My latest game: Big*Bang, a simple abstract about the first minutes of the Universe
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My best-rated game: TETRARCHIA, about the tetrarchy that saved Rome
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John,

if you liked the game as it is, you have to try this official variant: Pushing Penguins!

After playing once with it, it has become part of the rules at home...
devil
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Homo Ludens
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St. Albert
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franchi wrote:
John,

if you liked the game as it is, you have to try this official variant: Pushing Penguins!

After playing once with it, it has become part of the rules at home...
devil


Thanks for the link! I was not aware of this before.
 
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