Forget the butterfly stroke, we've got hippos
Oink games proved some time ago that games in small boxes can still pack deep and exciting gameplay. This Japanese board game company has grown to become such a staple that seeing a game in a box of a similar size immediately evokes an association with it. These games have raised the bar of expectations for small boxed games quite high and, unfortunately, Hippo was not able to exceed them.
Hippo comes in a small box in HELVETIQ’s range of pocket games. It packs simple, fairly minimalistic components while aiming for gameplay that mixes luck with strategy. Players are trying to get rid of their pool hoops by rolling three dice and assigning them to the swimming lanes corresponding to roll results. The numbers can be added together if a player wishes, but if the numbers are added together, less hoops can be discarded that turn. Players can also bump each other’s hoops off lanes, returning them back to their owner’s supply. These are the main crooks of the game: strategically combine numbers to push off opponents’ pieces returning them so you can be hoop-free first.
Luck dominates the gameplay throwing those strategic aspirations out of the water. Lane seven offers a particular advantage as pieces can’t be bumped off it and players get an extra turn after placing there. A couple of seven rolls and that lucky player is nearly guaranteed to be the winner. The randomness also affects the levels of player interactivity. Even with the ability to combine numbers, it doesn’t give players that much control over their turns. A two-player game, for example, hardly sees any player interaction because it is actually quite hard to get enough pieces in the same lane to bump off the opponent’s hoops.
Hippo has some interesting ideas that with a few luck-restricting rules could just work. Unfortunately, right now it is a game of luck and simple addition that doesn’t quite add up.
Designer: Martin Nedergaard Andersen
Time: 15-20 minutes
This review originally appeared in Issue 43 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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