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Once upon a time, in far-off China, there lived a mandarin duck. This duck was very sad because he wanted to give his sweetheart a special gift, but didn't know what would please her.
One night, when the moon was full, the frogs that shared his pond decided to help him by gathering a beautiful bouquet of water lily blossoms (the rare and beautiful lotus flowers) for him to give his beloved. The frogs divided into teams of 3, and hopped frantically from lily pad to lily pad, each team trying to gather the most beautiful lotus blossom bouquet.
Relive this loony leap-frog race and lead your team to victory by aiding your opponents' frogs -- who can't help but do the same for you. Well, let's hope so, anyway!
It is unusual for a Bruno Faidutti game to have an age rating of ``12+'', since his preference, both as a player and a designer, is for games that are short and fairly light. Even his more substantial offerings, such as Corruption and Ohne Furcht und Adel, don't stray too far into the territory that we think of as ``gamers' games''. But ``12+'' is what it says on the box of this one and the figure is justified. The game is still a short one and the story line pure Disney, but there is enough depth to the play to give you things to think about.
The story is that a group of frogs set out to collect lotus flowers in order to help a lovelorn mandarin duck gain the affections of his sweetheart, but this is just an engagingly silly cover for a welcome new entry into the underpopulated area of dice-free race games.
Each player has a team of three frogs which set out on a path round the lily pond picking up flower tokens as they go. On your turn you move three different frogs and at least one of these must belong to another player, a rule that can be used sometimes to aid your own progress and sometimes to put a rival where he doesn't want to be. Turns where you find yourself only able to do the former can come as a bit of a disappointment. Each frog moves two spaces, but when you are counting you don't count occupied spaces, so frogs that find themselves in a crowded section can make quite rapid progress.
The track leads from the bank to a central island along a path of lily pads that allows for several detours. Some of the pads contain the lotus tokens that the frogs are tring to collect and the creature gains the flower if it ends its movement on one of these. There are also special spaces in the form of butterflies, springs and ``silly frogs''. A frog that lands on the same space as a butterfly becomes distracted and drops one of the flowers it has been carrying. This is a blow since you aren't allowed to go back for things.
The springs see you behaving rather like Zebedee in The Magic Roundabout. Instead of ending your move on such a space, you gain a bonus forward bounce. Ending on a ``silly frog'' space obliges you to exchange one of your flowers for a different coloured one belonging to another player. Since the scoring system rewards sets of the same colour, this can be either good news or bad.
The game ends when the fourth frog reaches the central island and picks up the fabled and high scoring blue lotus. You then add up the values of the flowers you have collected and highest score wins.
This is a clever and entertaining game, and the theme, daft as it sounds, plays its part in making it entertaining. The scoring system is a bit ``lumpy'', which I don't normally like. It was this sort of feature that led to me giving the thumbs down to the Michael Schacht games Don and Mogul. However, here I can live with it because it is needed to add the necessary tactical interest that goes with the ``silly frog'' spaces. Another point that needs to be made concerns how much control you have over your own destiny. Because you are moving other players' pieces as well as your own, bad things are going to be done to you - sometimes incidentally as a result of another player trying to set up a good move for himself and sometimes as a result of an opposition conspiracy caused by the fact that you seem to be doing too well. The more players you have, the less control you have and the more thinly the points will be spread. Our games have been with the minimum 3 and I suspect that this might well be the best number for gamers.
You should also be aware that this is a game on which opinion is sharply divided. Alan's group hated it (see below).
One final point: I'd like to commend Eurogames for providing an excellent set of frog pieces. Instead of hard plastic they are soft rubber. Boing!