Hey, That’s My Fish!

Designer: Alvydas Jakeliunas, Gunter Cornett

Artist: François Bruel, Sylvain Decaux and Bernd Natke

Publisher: Phalanx Games

These penguins seem a little devious. But I think the theme is very appropriate (Photo credits: Neven Rihtar@BGG)

Hey, That’s My Fish a popular game that has been reprinted in many languages by many publishers. The game has simple rules: essentially moving penguins around in a modular board to pick up tiles that score points. For a simple premise, the game does require some thought on positioning of pieces to do well. The ease at which the game is played allows kids of all ages to participate with parents, but I think parents will still on average have a leg up on younger kids. This indicates at least that the game is not entirely based on luck and random movement. Some basic skills are required to move the penguins around to maximize collecting tiles and blocking opponents.

The rules for Hey, That’s my Fish! is beyond simple. Ice floes represented as hexagonal tiles with 1-3 fish printed on each tile are randomly assembled to form a shared board. The tiles can be assembled into any desired shape but the rule book suggests arranging the tiles in a 8×8 array. I’d imagine the game would be more challenging if the shape of the board is any different from the recommended array. In any case, once the board is assembled, players get to place penguins by turn order on tiles with only 1 fish. With 2 players, up to 4 penguins are placed on the board while fewer penguins are used for more players.

Once the penguins are placed, the game starts. Players take turns moving one penguin from tile to tile in a straight line, as far as they want, stopping only when they reach the edge of the board, bump into another penguin or there is a gap in the array. Once the movement is done, players will pick up the tile where they started their movement from. The fish on the tile they picked up will count for points, with each fish scoring one point. Obviously, the 3 fish tiles are the most lucrative and highly contested by all players, but the game is more about angling your penguins for maximum harvest while denying your opponent by positioning your penguin in the right spot.

Now, since the goal is to harvest more tiles with fish, it is advantageous in some instances to carve out an area on the board where only your penguin is left behind to slowly harvest all the tiles. This happens when enough tiles have been claimed on the board, causing a fissure that separates the main board into two regions. Of course, the size of the region can vary. You want your penguin to be isolated in a nice juicy region with lots of tiles and fish so that you can take your time to harvest the tiles. On the flip side, you can also “trap” your opponents penguins in an area with a handful of low value tiles. However, since each player has a number of penguins in play, it’s unlikely all the penguins can be trapped in such a way that the player is taken out of the game. Sometimes, penguins are cut off accidentally by virtue of moving them around to claim tiles. If that happens, you just choose a different penguin to work with. In general, positioning the penguin is an important part of the game, and it does take some thought. You can’t always predict your opponent’s move, but you can try maximize your movement to harvest the most fish in the fewest possible moves.

In truth, the game can become pretty mechanical after a while, but it does play very short and hits a sweet spot in terms of length. One quibble we have with the game is that setting up the tiles in the array sometimes take longer than the game play itself. For me, this game is certainly more suited as a family game, playing with kids. I don’t think I would necessarily pull this out with my adult gaming group even though it is possible. I like it, my kid likes it, so it stays in my collection for now.

Final impression: Average (as a filler and family game)

Kids Corner

6 years 5 months. There is no problem for my kid to grasp the rules. It is way simple. To play well though, requires a few more rounds of practice. Right this moment, the kiddo can easily identify the high value tiles and go straight for the jugular. Now, sometimes, that really is enough for you to win. Just aim to collect as many 2-3 fish tiles without thinking about positioning. She has come close to winning, but never won just yet. With more players, I think this might be a sound strategy. Go for the points and ignore the noise. With 2 players, maneuvering your penguins to form islands where you can pick off the tiles can end up being more rewarding. So, I think this game is way better with 2 players. There is just more room to out think your opponent. With too many players, things get snapped up quickly and there really is not much strategy. If you don’t pick up that yummy tile this round, it may not be around when it comes back to your turn. So, my kid is still learning that part. I have shown her how it is advantageous to be isolated on your own island filled with fish and how to prevent that from happening. So, hopefully, this can facilitate her thinking. Regardless, she is having fun moving the penguins around catching fish, so there is no reason for her to stop playing. Her skills can only improve from here on out.

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