I recently received another few games from Nestorgames, and being almost always in the mood to try out new 2-player abstracts, I thought I'd break out the cutely name Hippos and Crocodiles. In this game, players try to place their Hippo and Crocodile pieces onto a grid so that the other player will be the first unable to place a piece.
Working with n-ominos feels a little like Ubongo (but than many games recently do), but what could be more African than hippos and crocodiles.
We went through the rules quickly and then set of. C chose hippos to start. This first game was a bit of a slaughter. C was concentrating more on trying to not waste space (to place more pieces) than to consider blocking the crocodiles. This was a mistake, because an unmolested crocodile can very effectively take up space, leaving spaces only fit for more of their beady-eyed brethren.
The second game was a little more of the same. C wasn't blocking the crocs effectively and they ended up in a neatly tangled mess across the side of the board stealing space from the hippos. Here, B moved first with the crocs.
In the third game, C took crocs, leaving B as first player with the slow lumbering hippos and neatly took advantage of the superior tessellation abilities of those damn reptiles to neatly seal a victory. Crocs can fit into spaces left for hippos with far to much ease, if you asked B.
For the fourth game, (C 1st player) B started to see how the hippos could be used, to try and box off sections of the board to ensure there weren't any 6-space long sections that a croc could slip into. Despite C's aggressive collecting of the edges of the board and trying to block hippo-controlled regions, B managed to win on a tightly packed board when C couldn't place the final croc.
Fifth game, moving first with the hippos almost seemed like it was harder. The crocs would dash in and try to spoil and blocked space. In the end, a few spaces around the corners and middle that were just too small for a croc left C facing an ignomious defeat with only 5 crocs placed on the board, but room for all the remaining hippos.
All in all, the five games probably took about 20 minutes, and we would have happily played a few more if we hadn't run out of time.
This is a super fast playing simple game, so it would probably be great for playing with relatively young children who want an interesting game without heaps of rules or taking too long. It's also terrific for adults at the end of an evening when concentration isn't at its peak, too.
It's not clear that there's a first player advantage. While you can get a piece down into a great location that cuts off some space for you, you're going to end up placing further pieces onto a more crowded board. My first hippo win seemed easier than the second, possibly because the first placed croc forced me to take a strategy immediately, rather than try to build it from scratch.
There are very difference strategies between the crocodile and hippo pieces. The nimble jagged crocs seem far easier to reserve space with with a few intrusions, but after a few games, it becomes clearer how the slow lumbering hippos can ensure the remaining spaces simply aren't long enough for the crocs to fit. A nice bit of tension.
I really like this game. It might be my favourite NestorGames title yet. I can't wait to get some plays in with the buffalo against hippos and crocs to see how the strategies change.
Other reviews and session reports for Nestorgames titles can be found on my my other NestorGames reviews and sessions geeklist