Hamsters vs. Hippos
Designed by James Freeman, James Staley & Adam Staley
Published by Tin Robot Games
1-6 Players | 15-30 Minutes
After weeks of scheming and careful timing, the zoo’s hamsters have executed a flawless escape. As they make their way through the zoo grounds, freedom is in sight… but wonderful distractions have always been the Achilles heel of any hamster: The hippo pond filled with lily pads adorned with beautiful lotus flowers. The allure is too much for these adventurous hamsters!
In Hamsters vs. Hippos, you take on the role of a hamster looking to secure the most lotus flowers. You’ll dance your way across uncharted tiles where anything could lie underneath – including the hungry hippo craving a tasty hamster for a treat.
HOW IT PLAYED
Setup for the game is quick and simple. You begin by placing a grid of lili pad tiles based on the number of players in the center of the table. A lotus flower token is then placed on the center 9 tiles and play begins. The game takes place over 4 rounds and during a round players will be moving across the grid, flipping tiles and resolving their effect. Tiles might reveal additional lotus flowers, special actions, special movements or the notorious hippo, himself.
Players revealing a hippo tile are eaten and lose all their lotus flowers they earned that round. If a second hippo tile is revealed all remaining hamsters on the board are eaten. With each subsequent round, additional hippos are potentially added to the mix.
Hippos vs. Hamsters is a light, push-your-luck style game where each player will have to choose when to pursue more flowers or take what you’ve earned and jump ship. Players will also be jockeying for real estate in the pond since revealed tiles are no longer available movement spaces.
While a player gets up to 2 movement actions per turn, if a player ever gets trapped in the pond with a valid tile to move to, they are considered hippo food.
DIFFERENT PLAYER COUNTS
Hamsters vs. Hippos is for 1-6 players, but the fun factor ramps up at 4 and above. With more players on the board, there is more competition for tiles and flowers. With at least 4 hamsters, you not only have a greater risk of revealing a hippo, but also trapping an opponent or limiting their bounty are more realistic strategies.
There is a fairly limited number of components in the box, but the lili pad tiles are plenty thick and kids are going to enjoy the screen-printed, wooden hamster characters. The lotus flower tokens could have been a little more interesting – potentially adding a good amount of theme and value to the game. The game comes with a bowl to hold the tokens and square pieces of paper with each player’s hamsters printed on it.
The rulebook isn’t overly beautiful, but it does a fine job communicating the rules and also provides a nice glossary for the different types of tiles.
There isn’t a ton of unique artwork in the game, but the hamsters give off a Disney vibe that will appeal to a lot of kids. The hippo is a little menacing, but that makes turning one over that much more fun. Everything else in the game is decent and gets the job done.
The sweet spot for Hamsters vs. Hippos is in the 4-9 age range. While the push-your-luck gameplay didn’t truly engage me, my 7-year-old daughter couldn’t wait to play another game of Hamsters vs. Hippos. She loved the fun illustrations and danger associated with turning “just one more” tile over. The flower tokens were a hit with her as she loved using them to dress up her personal hamster storage board (a small piece of paper with your hamster and their color on it).
It was a little disheartening to my daughters when they unfortunately turned a hippo tile over, but the ever decreasing pool of tiles butting heads with the potential for great lotus fame forced them to weigh their options carefully.
This isn’t necessarily a game for the whole family to enjoy, but my daughters really enjoyed it, and for me, that’s enough to keep me coming back sparingly.
I would much rather my kids play an indie game like this that introduces some fresh decisions and unique game paths than any of the typical, big box store, mass-produced games. While it might not be as polished of a production, it has its own creative voice.
This is a game that can be setup and taught in a couple of minutes. The game’s 4 rounds breeze by making it difficult to lose a youngster’s attention. There are 11 different tile types in the game, but they’re pretty intuitive and the rulebook’s glossary does a great job explaining each one.
Ultimately the push-your-luck mechanic is just that, blindly reaching for a tile without the faintest idea of what lies underneath. A poor choice can end your round while a lucky turn keeps you going. There is a small amount of strategy when it comes to determining where to play next or how to engage some of the title actions, but this is a game for kids that kids can enjoy teaching and playing with their friends and siblings. It didn’t do a whole lot for me, but my 7-year-old keeps asking to play Hamsters vs. Hippos every time we sit down at the game table. She approves and that makes me happy.