Designed by: Alvydas Jakeliunas and Gunter Cornett
Penguins are naturally funny little chaps, the source of endless amusement for kids and adults alike as they waddle around the ice in their little tuxedos. So what happens when you take those cute little blighters and whack them into a simple kids boardgame?
The idea is straightforward enough; you take control of a small crack team of penguins and must race to acquire as many fish as possible while the glacier collapses around you and the other players try to do the same. It’s a fight for dominance as the playing area shrinks with every move made.
Each turn you select one penguin from your crack team of tuxedo-wearing professionals and can move him/her as far as you want in a straight line across the board, which is made up of 50 hexagons. Once you’ve moved you snatch up the tile you were initially standing on, nabbing yourself however many fish were pictured on it in the process. There’s only two other rules that you need to be aware; penguins can’t move past another penguin that’s blocking their path, and they can’t move across open water, either, which is to say an empty space on the board.
It’s a simple ruleset that can be explained to adults and children alike in mere minutes, and yet there’s surprising depth hidden within them. Kids can just jump their penguins back and forth across the glacier, grabbing fish where they can without ever considering what they’re really ding. Meanwhile adults can stop and ponder how the ever-shrinking board provides plenty of tactical choices for blocking opponents. Any penguin that gets stuck and can’t move because they’ve found themselves floating on a small piece of ice is removed from the game, taking the tile they’re standing on with them. With these basic rules in play you can block opponents, hem them in and cut off their access to the glacier. It makes the race to grab those precious three fish tiles more interesting, especially in the late stages of the game where a lot of the glacier has been removed, leaving everybody to seriously contemplate every move they make because it not only affects the opponent but affects them too. Don’t be surprised to find people focusing too much on one or two of their penguins and accidentally cutting one of their own team off in an embarrassing display of poor spatial awareness.
Kids, meanwhile, as said can enjoy just darting around, plus they’ll invariably end up trapping people purely by luck, giving them a fun moment as the adult they are playing against groan in frustration. Everybody wins, then.
Arguably that’s what’s most impressive about the game, though, the fact that it can appeal to both adults and children alike. To my surprise quite a few of my friends were happy to use Hey, That’s my Fish as a warmup before engaging in bigger games. We busted it out in a pub at one point, merrily doing battle with our tiny squads of penguins as bemused patrons watched on, presumably wondering what the hell we were drinking.
Like Dobble I enlisted the aid of my little niece and her grandma to play the game. Not that surprisingly Hey, That’s my Fish was not appreciated by the child as much as Dobble, the much more exciting and intense game which was constantly requested. However, it will serve as a great gateway game as time goes on, the easy to understand rules letting her get a grip on how she can muck up an opponent’s plans by moving around. As an avid lover of board games I’m hoping Hey, That’s my Fish will serve as an excellent way to eventually move her into even more awesome games. In that capacity I think that this truly is a superb little game, balancing out accessibility with tactical thinking.
The setup is a bit of a pain in the backside, though because the “board” is made up of tiles that you shuffle together and then place side by side, alternating between rows of eight and rows of seven. Now if you have a few adults together who can pitch in and help then great, but with a kid or two it can become a bit of a drag because they’ll inevitably either mess it all up or demand you do it instead. Either way, by time the board is laid out the kids may potentially already have lost interest already. I’ve played plenty of games here setup time is far longer, but when it comes to something this small and aimed at a younger audience it’s a little different.
The other problem with the tile system is that kids tend to get it pretty messed up when trying to pick them up. If you lay the tiles side-by-side there’s not much space for anyone who doesn’t have tiny fingers to grab a tile, and so even adults will struggle to keep the board together. The solution is to provide some space between tiles, but then kids will still end up pushing them around and producing huge gaps, making it tricky to see where you can and cannot go. Constant readjustment was needed to keep everything roughly in place while we were playing.
However, on the other hand the design of the board does mean that after a few games you can shift the shape of the playing field to help keep things fun and interesting. I’m looking forward to coming up with a few different layouts for the future to see how it will affect the gameplay.
Component quality is quite reasonable given the very low price point. The tiles themselves are made of solid cardboard, and while they don’t look visually all that interesting they are clear and easy to read, which is what you want for kids. There’s a few different poses for the plastic penguins, with the firm favorite being one who is clearly screaming at the sky, having just ha a fish stolen. They don’t have heaps of detail or anything like that, but that’s to be expected. As for the rules it’s one sheet with rules on both sides that are very clearly laid out so that there’s absolutely no confusion in regards to how to play. I’ve also got to give kudos for the box art which looks great – that penguin in the background looks seriously angry.
Really there’s little more to say about the game. Like Dobble it’s easy to learn, small to put away in the cupboard, fun to play and inexpensive. It’s also a perfect little game for anyone looking to ease their kids into the world of boardgames or just for some light entertainment, and thus it’s an easy all-out recommendation from me.