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The fish-gorging fiesta.
Posted on 4/15/2017 by Tim Rice
Before I start this review, I have to take a moment to admire how perfect this box cover is. The excessive smugness of the left penguin is perfect, and the expression of utter agony on the right one is priceless. It fits the unusual title of the game flawlessly, and I can’t help but smile every time I see it.
Anyway, Hey, That’s My Fish! is an abstract family game where players control greedy penguins that are in a race to collect the most fish. You wouldn’t expect penguins to be mean and vicious, but these ones certainly are. They won’t hesitate to swoop in to your territory, steal your fish, and leave you stranded alone on an icy island if they have the chance…
Even though the game is a bit cutthroat, it’s also quick, simple, and even cute. But is it fun? Let’s take a closer look at this fearsome fish frenzy and find out.
The game comes with 60 hexagonal fish tiles (30 that show one fish, 20 that show two fish, and 10 that show three fish) as well as 16 penguin figures (4 of each color).
To set up, the tiles are shuffled and arranged into a grid of eight rows to form the game board. Players will then take turns placing their penguins onto any one-fish tile on the board until every player has placed all of their fish. For a two-player game, each player gets 4 penguins; for a three-player game, each player gets 3 penguins; and for a four player game, each player gets two penguins.
Players will then take turns moving their penguins and collecting fish. On their turn, a player can move any of his/her penguins any number of spaces in a straight line (in any of the six possible directions), as long as the movement doesn’t cross another penguin or an empty space. Once a player moves a penguin, they take the tile that the penguin was previously standing on.
This continues until every player can no longer move any of their penguins. At that point, whoever has collected the most fish wins.
Hey, That’s My Fish! fits the unique description of a casual abstract game. It’s in the same genre as strategic behemoths such as Chess and Go, but the idea of playing this game as a serious competition seems a bit ridiculous… It’s meant to be played as a light filler.
That being said, there’s no reason not to delve into the intricacies of the game and pursue mastery (which is a big reason people enjoy abstract games), because there’s certainly not a lack of depth here. The variable setup ensures that every game is a distinct experience, yet each game is still completely deterministic.
Perhaps it’s biggest draw is that it’s one of the quickest and most accessible abstract games on the market. The simple rules ensure that any player can enjoy it, yet there is enough captivating strategy to keep veterans interested as well. It’s an interesting spatial puzzle; it’s all about cutting off chunks of fish tiles, and making sure your chunks are bigger than everyone else’s chunks.
Another aspect that makes this game stand out is that it isn’t limited to two players like a lot of abstracts are. It works well at two, three, and four players. With more than two, understanding which player is ahead and manipulating opponents’ options is a huge part of the game, so that’s where the player interaction comes in.
This design proves that, sometimes, less is more. It manages to keep my interest more than most other games in my collection despite its simplicity, which is impressive.
I already mentioned how much I love the box art, and the rest of the game matches its goofy tone. The tiles are sturdy and attractive (although bigger ones would be nice), and the penguin miniatures are cool. If I had one complaint, it would be that it’s easy for the tiles to get shifted around each time a tile is picked up, so the tiles constantly need to be fixed to make them straight again, and that can get annoying after a while.
It’s interesting that they used cute penguins as the theme instead of giving it a more “classic abstract” feel. I’m glad they didn’t, because the ridiculous concept is what drew me to the game in the first place, and it fits the game well, but I wonder if the theme held it back at all. I suspect that if the penguins and fish were taken out and replaced with generic tokens, more gamers would take it seriously as a strategy game, which is a little sad.
Hey, That’s My Fish! is a superb example of elegant design. With only a few simple rules and limited components, the game fosters an engaging experience every time I play it. It’s one of those games where I’m happy to play it at any time, with anyone, and it works in almost any situation. I highly recommend it, especially at the low price point.
Thanks for reading!