Fish Eat Fish
List Price: $25.00
Your Price: $20.95
(Worth 2,095 Funagain Points!)
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In a wave of challenges and bluffs, players compete for control of the sea. Play your cards right, and watch your stack of fish grow. But just when you think you're the big fish... a bigger fish comes along. Gobble up the most fish and you win!
Quick and entertaining, Fish Eat Fish will have you hooked!
Our gaming group loves this game because of the colorful board and pieces. The little fish that are included are great and really add a lot of fun to the game. The whole theme is carried out brilliantly, and all the components are very cute.
But when you get right down to it, this is a mental war. Don't get me wrong, the rules are so simple that young kids and adults alike can comprehend very easily. The trick is predicting what your opponents will do. Some of it is memory, simply knowing which cards your opponent has played. But prior to that it is very tricky predicting how strongly people will fight to eat your fish.
Great concepts for short, interesting family games seem to be rare. There are a few good ones out there, but all too often a family game is so lucky as to make decisions virtually meaningless, or so skillful that the parents win most of the time to the frustration of their children. Here, Reiner Knizia has created a very tense age-spanning game that should have the whole family excited to play.
The board is very plain and simply displays an 'aquatic' grid with highlighted intersections which players will play their fish pieces on. The fish pieces are cute plastic pirhana type things that stack nicely -- a feature inegtral to gameplay. Since the title of the game is Fish Eat Fish, you won't be surprised to learn that this game is an out and out marine massacre as players move their fish to neighbouring intersections trying to eat as many fish as they can.
What makes the game click is the 'battles'. When a player wants to eat an opponent's fish, he sets the starfish marker between the two pieces (or stacks) and the players then compare 'strengths'. At the beginning of the game, all fish are singles, so the starting numbers would be 1 to 1. Then they secretly select a card from their hand to add to their number to resolve the battle.
Now, most of the cards are numbers that get added to the strength of the fish stacks. But there are 3 other cards: 1 Shark card that beats any fish number card played, and 2 Octopi cards that 'smother' your opponent and cancel the battle -- even the effect of the Shark! Players reveal cards simulataneously and add the effect of the card into the battle. The winner gets to hop on top of the losing fish, thus devouring it and becoming more powerful (strength 2, in this case). So the more times you win, the more powerful you stack gets, and the easier it is to win battles.
On top of that, each card may only be used one time, so selecting which card to use is vital, because if you burn through all your high cards early, you won't be able to keep your stacks alive later, and the end of the game is when it is important to be able to stay alive.
This game mixes strategy with a blind-bidding system that relies on intuition and reading your opponent. It bears a striking resemblance to one of the designer's previous titles, Lord of The Rings Confrontation. But that is an excellent comparison to an excellent game, and Fish Eat Fish plays 2-5 players, which is a huge boost to my enjoyment of it. There is only one downside to the entire game that I can see and that is the visuals. There seems to be 3 types of graphics: the board and cards, the pieces, the starfish piece. They all look like they came from different games, and the board and cards are particularly ugly in my opinion. That does detract from gameplay a bit, but it is a very good game from a smaller publisher, so you'll just have to look past that, because I don't think families will want to miss out on this one.
Comics, drawings, cartoons, movies all have themes of a big fish eating a smaller fish, only in turn to be eaten by yet another fish. I suppose it was only a matter of time before the theme was then applied to a game, and therefore wasnt too surprised when seeing the game Fish Eat Fish (Out of the Box Publishing, 2003 Reiner Knizia).
Recently I was reading a discussion on the internet as to whether the publisher and/or designer makes a difference when playing a game. I have to say that with me, it has a large impact on my view of the game before playing. So with this game, I assumed that the theme was tacked on, yet the mechanics were excellent (common with Knizias works), and that the game would be extremely easy to teach and learn (common with OOTB (Out of the Box Publishing) games. Now, we all know that assumptions are certainly proved wrong in many cases, but with this game, I was proven right! Fish Eat Fish is a quick, simple game, yet full of fun and strategy that I think it would work well as a quick filler, one that can be played with both children and adults.
The game takes place on a colorful game board, decorated with fish, sharks, and other deep sea cartoonish graphics. Each player (from two to five) takes a set of five plastic fish of one color, and a matching set of cards. If less than five players are playing, then the purple fish are used as a neutral color, and five of them for each player less than five are taken out of the box. The board is made up of a grid of twenty-five circles, connected by black lines. Starting with one player, and then going around the table, each player places one fish on any of these circles, until all the fish are placed on the board. If less than five players are playing, the purple fish are then placed on the remaining empty circles. One player then starts the game (taking a small starfish token), and makes the first move. This move must consist of attacking another fish (either adjacent or the fish may be moved into one free adjacent space to then attack another fish). If a player cannot attack with any of their fish, then they must move one of their fish to a spot where it can be attacked by another fish. When fish are fighting, the starfish token is placed between the two fighting fish to show this, and each player involved plays a card of their choice from their hands simultaneously. Of course, if a player attacks a neutral fish, or a fish of their own color, no cards are played, and the attacker wins automatically.
Each player has an initial hand of eleven cards. One card is the shark card, two cards are octopus cards, and the remainder are fish cards each with different values (0,1,2,2,3,3,4,5). The cards that are played by the two players involved in an attack are compared. If both players play fish cards, the number on the fish card is added to the number of fish in that players stack, and the two totals are compared, causing the player with the higher total to win. The player playing a shark automatically wins, unless the other player also plays a shark, resulting in a tie. If either player plays an octopus card, the battle is canceled, and nothing occurs. No matter what the result, however, both players must discard the card played permanently, making card selection extremely important. If a player runs out of cards, they must remove all their fish from the board, and place them in front of them.
If a tie occurs, both stacks of fish are removed from the game. Otherwise, the winning fish are stacked on top of the losing fish, thus eating them. A stack cannot grow over five fish high, so extra fish are placed in front of the player who ate them. The game thus continues until only one player has fish left, at which point the game ends. This player takes the starfish token, and also removes all his fish from the board, placing them in front of him. Each player then totals the amount of fish in front of them, if any, and the player with the most fish is the winner (ties are broken by whoever has the starfish token.)
Some comments on the game:
1). Components: The plastic insert in the high quality box makes this game very easy to store, and Ive already stepped on the box already (by accident) and you can barely tell good box! The cards have a very plastic feel to them, but are of great quality, and seem to be able to take a lot of play (which will occur in this game, as everybody is constantly slapping down cards). The colors on the cards match the fish well, and both fish and cards are brightly colored and easily distinguishable from one another. The fish are funny looking plastic fish, with the face pointing downwards, and they stack really well. The only problem with them is that my toddler stares at them, fascinated, thinking that they are some of her toys. The starfish token, a small plastic knick-knack, is actually really unnecessary for game play, but it adds to the flavor and the theme of the game. The board is very bright, and when combined with the rest of the components the entire game has a very childrens game look. I really dont mind this, as Im a fan of bright, cheerful looking games, but it may throw some people off who wont touch the game, thinking its too simplistic for them.
2). Rules: And I wont deny that the game is simplistic (of course its a staple of OOTB games!). But that doesnt mean that its not a good game, or doesnt have a lot of strategy. The rules for this game, printed in full color on heavy laminated stock are only four pages long, include many illustrations and examples, and are extremely well laid out. I can teach the game in less than a minute (another staple of OOTB), and people pick up on the strategies even faster. I like that about a game and it causes this game to be a high candidate when I only have twenty minutes or so to teach and play a new game.
3). Simultaneous card selection: I dont play too many games that have this game mechanism, but Im finding that I like it more and more, especially when the cards are discarded after use. Games that use this mechanism (LOTR: Confrontation, Game of Thrones, etc.) are amongst my favorite, and Fish Eat Fish, while a much lighter game, fits in this genre well. Of course, it means that much of the games strategy lies in guessing what the other player is about to play, but Ive found that most people enjoy this sort of thing, and I have to admit that its great fun for me. Of course, its extremely irritating to play your shark card and have it canceled by an octopus, or to play your 5 fish, only to have the opponent throw away a 0, not caring. But when the shoes on the other foot oh what fun!
4). Luck and Strategy: There really isnt much luck involved in the game, unless you consider simultaneous card selection luck which I dont. I think a superior player will win most of the time. You dont adjust to how the game is played, however, but rather to how your opponent plays. You have to know when to play the shark, the octopus cards, and when to use each number. And then theres always the issue over what fish to eat. Eating neutral fish is a no-brainer. But should you ever eat your own fish, just to make your fish stack taller thereby decreasing the amount of fish you have on the board? The decisions are small, and easy but a smart player, one who knows his opponents well, should win every time.
5). Children: Just a note here about my using this in my game club at school. The children really enjoyed the game, and picked up on it quickly. I think its one that will see the table often, as they werent bogged down by any text on the cards, or hard decisions. The only negative thing I saw, was that a weaker player (one who foolishly lost all their good cards early) was preyed upon by every other player. And then again, this may teach that child a valuable lesson. So they lost a twenty minute game so what? they can play it again easily, it runs so quickly.
6). Players: A quick note on players I have found that the game runs very well with any amount of players. The two-player game is a bit more strategic, but the multi-player game also runs smoothly, and both take about the same amount of time.
7). Fun Factor: The game is extremely fun. As with many Knizias games, you can easily tell that the theme was tacked on, but who cares! Many of the mechanics accurately simulate a Fish Eat Fish world, and that adds to the theme. People dont mind losing this game, as I mentioned earlier, because its so quick and easy to start up another game of it. Everyone that Ive played the game with so far has enjoyed it immensely.
OOTB continues to impress me with the games they produce, and Fish Eat Fish is no exception. Its a fast, fun, easy to play game. When a group of serious gamers get together, they may turn their noses up at this game, but I find that most casual gamers will love it. And, as Im always seeking to get new folk involved in games, I find that this is an excellent means towards that end. If you like light games at all with a good dose of bluffing/guessing others bluffs at all, then this is an excellent choice. I think this game will see a lot more play, especially in my teenager game club and I highly recommend it!
Everyone has five fish of his color on the 5x5 board. Any remaining spaces contain neutral fish. Contestants have identical hands of 11 cards: Numbers 0, 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4, 5, two Octopuses, and one Shark. Each turn, you can either eat an adjacent friendly or neutral fish by jumping on it (stacks form as play progresses) or fight adjacent enemy fish or stacks (controlled by the top fish). Rivals simultaneously discard one card each. When two numbers are played, the highest total (fish in stack plus card's value) eats its rival Ties remove both stacks from play. Sharks win against number cards, and two Sharks remove both stacks! Nobody eats when Octopuses are played.
Attempting to eat is compulsory: You may move over vacant spaces to find an adjacent meal. Remove (to safety) all your stacks when you play your last card. Play ceases when further attacks are impossible. Win with most fish in controlled stacks. There's nothing fishy about our thumbs-up for this game!