Posted by: gschloesser | August 11, 2011

Somethin’ Fishy

Design by:  Oliver Igelhaut
Published by:  Simply Fun
3 – 6 Players, 20 minutes
Review by:  Greg J. Schloesser  

I don’t have small children, nor am I usually in their company.  As a result, I rarely have the opportunity – or obligation – to play games targeted for younger folk.  As a result, a few children’s games from Simply Fun have been resting on my shelf for quite some time.  One of these games is Somethin’ Fishy by designer Oliver Igelhaut.  I finally had the opportunity to play the game recently when we watched our neighbor’s two young children. 

Somethin’ Fishy is, quite simply, a push-your-luck affair.  One hundred forty fish cards are thoroughly mixed face-down on the table.  Each card depicts a colorful fish, which come in four varieties in two sizes – large and small.  In addition, there are seven “hungry” fish of each type, which basically follow the Darwinian law of survival of the fittest, gobbling as many fish as they can.  Mixed into the assortment are three sharks, which, like “Mikey” from the old Life cereal commercial, will eat anything. 

On a player’s turn, he turns over a card from the “pool”.  If this is the player’s first fish, he places it in front of himself in a “string”.  The player may continue revealing fish, and they are placed in his string IF the fish is either the same size or species as the last fish in the line.  If a fish does not meet these requirements, it is passed to the player’s left.  The fish continues to be passed until a player can legally place it in their string.  If no player can place it, the card is discarded.  

How many fish are revealed is up to the active player.  He may continue revealing and placing or passing fish as long as he desires … but there is a risk:  if a hungry fish or shark is revealed, the player may lose some or all of the fish in his string, and his turn immediately ends.  A hungry fish will begin eating fish from the rear of a player’s string until it encounters a fish of the same species, while a shark will devour ALL fish in a player’s string.  All fish devoured by a hungry fish are placed in a stack with the hungry fish on top.  There may only be one stack with each type of hungry fish atop.  If an identical hungry fish appears and devours fish, it replaces the previous stack that has a matching hungry fish on top.  

At any time during game play, if a player gathers three fish of the same species in his string, he may claim the matching stack of devoured fish from the table.  For example, if a player gathers three “trigger” fish in his string, he can claim the stack of previously devoured fish that has a hungry trigger fish resting on top.  These cards will be counted as victory points at game’s end.  

On his turn, a player may opt to score the fish in his string.  He removes all fish from his string and sets them aside in a scoring stack.  This not only saves the fish from the threat of hungry fish, but they will also earn points at the end of the game.  The decision here is whether to keep adding fish to a string, hoping to accumulate the right top of fish in order to claim one of the hungry fish stacks, or to remove the fish from potential danger.  Alternatively, a player may opt to stop taking fish from the pool at any time, but leave them in place on the table.  Play then passes to his left.  

Play continues in this fashion until all fish in the pool are revealed.  At this point, play continues with cards being taken from a separate stack of twenty cards.  This stack contains mostly fish, but there are also four nets also in the deck.  When the first net is revealed, the game ends immediately.   Fish still in the players’ strings are discarded, and everyone tallies the number of fish they have set aside in their scoring pile.  The player with the greatest total is the master fisherman, and is victorious. 

Folks looking for strategy or informed decisions in their games should probably look elsewhere.  There is nothing more here than deciding how far to push your luck.  Astute players can try to track the number and type of hungry fish and sharks revealed, but truth-be-told, that is simply too much trouble for a game that is supposed to be light, family fun.  The intent here is to reveal fish, be happy when you can add them to your line, and groan when attacked by a hungry fish.  The game is meant to be light, family fare, and played in that vein, it achieves its objective.  It won’t be a game you reach for with your gaming group or a gathering of adult friends, but when you have to entertain younger children and don’t want to choose a game that will leave you holding your nose, Somethin’ Fishy is a wise catch.

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