Crocodile Pool Party
English language edition of Kosmos' Rette Sich Wer Kann!
List Price: $24.95
Your Price: $19.95
(Worth 1,995 Funagain Points!)
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The crocodiles are loose in the luxurious hotel swimming pool! Just seconds ago, the vacationers were enjoying the cool water of the pool, but what is that? A crocodile has just entered the pool -- and now there is one less swimmer! Wow! Theres another croc -- and another -- and another. As the number of crocs in the water increases, the number of swimmers drops! But, the crocs hunt not only the hapless swimmers, but also other crocodiles. Thus, all in the pool strive to save themselves! The player who brings the most swimmers and crocs to the safety of the end of the pool, will win the game!
With a wacky theme about crocodiles lurking and swimmers flailing about in the pool, youd expect a silly game form this latest Kosmos 2-player offering. Thats a good expectation to have!
Each player has a team of swimmers that start at opposite ends of the pool, and is trying to get to the other end of the pool to go sit down at the stools. Naturally, since players are going opposite directions, they tend to meet in the middle and make a very crowded area mid-board. On a players turn they move any one of their 6 tiles. The tiles start off as swimmers and may move 1 or 2 spaces orthogonally. A boring game if left at that. But on a players turn he may, instead of moving a swimmer, flip a swimmer over to become a crocodile and move the crocodile instead. Why would he want to do that? Well, each swimmer is a crocodile on the other side, each numbered from 1 to 6, and crocodiles can devour swimmers and other crocodiles if they end their movement on an opponents tile by putting their croc on top on the victim tile. Since players get 1 point for every tile they can get to their stools on the other side, a large pile of tiles that gets sat down adds a lot of points!
The game would still be pretty boring except for movement restrictions. Tiles may only pass thru empty squares; crocs 2-5 may only change directions one time (so either traveling in a straight line, or an L shape); croc 6 may change directions once, and croc 1 can move diagonally. The directional limits make moves a little trickier and lead to some clever blocking moves and captures.
But the overriding factor in this game is luck. Since a player doesnt know which croc will be revealed when they flip the tile, a couple of fortuitous flips can pretty much hand the game to one player. This is quite reminiscent of Tally Ho! a fun game, but one with the same sort of frustration factor, where the wrong tile flips can kill you, and lucky ones can win the game. After I played CPP a few times I realized it was by the same designer, which helps explain the same feel to it. The downside to this game is that it is even simpler than Tally Ho!, and cant seem to make up its mind whether it wants to be a fun family game, or a tactical game. After all, players could start the game by flipping over their tiles one by one so they know exactly where all their crocs are but this turns the game into one with far too much analysis and deadlocking. But if you try and play in the spirit of the game, you often suffer from horrible luck. Tally Ho! was frustrating too, but somehow redeemed itself with a neat theme, asymmetrical tactics, and unique ideas. Crocodile Pool Party, for all its beautiful graphics, feels like a dumbed-down, multiple-personality version of Tally Ho! Not bad, but not great either.
One thing has always remained consistent for me about the Kosmos two-player line I have enjoyed playing all of them. Some of them, like Lost Cities and Odins Ravens, have become extreme favorites of mine. Others, such as Tally Ho and Lord of the Rings: the Search, I find less pleasure in, but still find them fun on occasion. Sadly, however, a new category of Kosmos games has now entered my vocabulary those I dont like. Such is the case of Crocodile Pool Party (Kosmos and Rio Grande, 2003 Rudi Hoffman). Not only do I dislike it, I hate it and never plan to play the game again. The game had negative Fun Factor, and I felt weeks of my life drained while playing it. The only good thing I found about the game was that it was short.
A long, thin board is placed between two players, representing a swimming pool. A grid of spaces is on the board (14 by 6), and each player receives six two-sided tiles to place on their half. Each tile shows a swimmer on one side, and a crocodile on the other. Each crocodile has a number from 1 to 6, and all of them are randomly mixed and placed face down, swimmer side up, on the table. Player then either uses a setup shown in the rules, or take turns placing a swimmer on the board. When placing swimmers, each player can only place them in four rows on their side of the board in any column. One crocodile must go in each of these designated rows, while two of them (marked) contain two crocodiles. Once the board is setup, game play is ready to begin.
On a turn, a player may move one of their tokens. They may move a swimmer one or two spaces in any orthogonal direction (the swimmer can turn once). Or, they may flip a swimmer over, revealing the crocodile underneath. These crocodiles then must move the EXACT number of spaces as shown on the tile, in any orthogonal direction, making only one right turn. The only exceptions are the 1 crocodile, which can move one space in any direction, including diagonal; and the 6 crocodile, which can make two right-angle turns. Crocodiles may not move through other crocodiles but may land on top of a swimmer or another crocodile. If they do, they eat that tile, and stack on top of it. A player can also move a crocodile that they had uncovered on a previous turn.
If a player can land on the pool bar space at the other end of the board by exact count with either their crocodiles and/or swimmers, then that tile is safe. The first tile to reach the pool bar must have at least two tiles in its stack, but after that, anything can move there. When only one player has tiles left on the board, the game ends. Each player counts up the number of tiles they have in the pool bar, and whoever has the most is the winner! (Ties are broken by adding the sum of the number on safe crocodiles.) The truly masochistic can play a match of several games, keeping track of score to determine an ultimate victor!
Some comments on this dreadful game
1.) Components: The board is nicely done, and fits well on the table, because you can place it in either direction, and the game still works okay. The game board is bigger than most Kosmos games, though, and I doubt much on the road play will be seen with this version. The twelve tiles are nice, but considering that they are the ONLY components besides the board, one would think that they could have used more than 4 pictures for the artwork. Everything fits nicely into the box (as it should, because theres not much there), and if theres anything good about the game, I can say that the box is your typical high-quality Kosmos two-player box, with nice artwork that pretends a good game is inside.
2.) Rules: The rules are printed on a two-sided piece of laminated colored paper. They are very simple, and very clear. I know this because I have read them multiple, multiple times, looking for some rule that I missed that will make the game fun. Unfortunately, I still have yet to find that rule. Those I have taught the game easily picked it up, but still wondered why it was in existence.
3.) Theme: The idea of crocodiles in swimming pools sounds like a promising theme (and one that makes the basis for some good jokes). However, the game plays so much like an abstract strategy game, that the theme might as well be nonexistent. And since there is no extra benefit for getting a swimmer to the pool bar, there seems to be no reason to keep a swimmer as a crocodile. It would fit the theme well to have a swimmer avoid the crocodiles, but the theme seems more like crocodiles masquerading as humans, waiting for the right time to kill their opponents.
4.) Strategy: I dont really see much strategy in the game, because the initial setup is SO random that not much can be done to counter it. He who has the better setup will probably win! Once all the crocodiles are revealed, players can use tactics (sitting there for hours if necessary), to figure out the best conceivable move, but if you turn over a tile that doesnt help you, and is immediately killed the next turn, there isnt much you can do about it.
5.) Fun Factor: None, zilch, zero, nada, nothing, anti-fun, terrible, awful, never played worse, disappointing, brought tears to the eyes, etc.
6.) Why?: Why keep swimmers alive? I dont understand it, unless the reason is to move two spaces, and then hope the number underneath will take the crocodile to the place you need. In the games we played, I have yet to see a swimmer used effectively. Ive seen plenty eaten, however.
In short, this game is not fun. Im a math teacher, and I still did not enjoy the number crunching of this game. If you dont like abstract strategy games, stay away from this game, because thats all it is. If you DO like abstract strategy games, stay away from this one, because it stinks. The game is quick, and moves fairly quickly. However, when you are done, all you have is a bad taste in your mouth, and you think, Is that all? Some might find pleasure in the tactical maneuvering of the pieces. I found, as did my opponents, and I suspect most people, that the game is incredibly dull. This is the worst of the great Kosmos series, by far!