HOP! — I didn’t see this one coming

Monday is here and thus a good time to reminisce about games that got to the table over the weekend.

From Friday evening through Sunday, I managed to get six games played — the listing: Welcome to DinoWorld, Aquarius, Robot Turtles, HOP!, Evolution (with Climate expansion), and Noxford.

My favorite play of the week: Evolution — this was my first time to play this game — played at my brother and sister-in-law’s house. I had stayed away from this game based on the assumption of a Darwinism theme (but really it’s just about animal traits). I enjoyed the gameplay and can’t help but appreciate that my pack-hunting carnivore helped propel me to a sizable victory.

Closest game of the week: Welcome to DinoWorld — I introduced this roll-and-write to my wife this weekend (I only have the PnP version) and we both managed to complete our parks without any breakouts. While her Stegosaurus-focused park scored 35 points, my slightly more balanced park edged her out with 36 total points. That one extra point earned me a slight helping of pride and a semi-aggressive glare from my beloved 🙂

Review Game: The game I want to review this week, though, is HOP!

The stats: Published in 2016 by Funforge; a 3-6 player game estimated at 30 minutes to play (BGG lists as best at 4-5); for ages 6+; Designers are Marie Cardouat and Ludovic Maublanc; Artist is Marie Cardouat

The background: I acquired HOP! this past November when my local BoardGameCafe had a Black Friday sale to get rid of a few of their lesser-enjoyed library items. The art looked pretty, the age range seemed very inclusive for my family, and the back-of-the-box gameplay (while vague) sounded intriguing. Thus — worth a gamble of a few dollars. So, on Saturday night, I asked my 14-year old son if he wanted to pick a game we haven’t played yet. He pointed out HOP!, so out it came. I looked at the age range and decided to ask my 7-year old son if he wanted to pause his LEGO-building to join us. He acquiesced.

The setup and components: I am very pleased with the components in this game. There are six characters available to play with and each one comes with a nice (and cute) miniature — fully painted. The characters include three boys and three girls. Since there were three guys playing, we snapped up the three boy characters. Charlie for myself, Eliott for my older son, and Tom for the younger.

The game comes with tarot-sized cards (beautiful artwork) and a couple of rainbows (what in the world were these for!?) Under the top insert, the larger pieces and punchout boards were nicely stored –which can easily be packed up after each game. Setting up the game requires taking 8 “cloud” pieces and inserting them together to form a cloud island, if you will, which becomes your “board.” After punching out the bird, cloud, and balloon pieces, you give each player his character board, character figure, his five balloons, and a betting cloud token — the birds and clouds then get spread around the play area.

The gameplay: Very simple! On each turn, pick a player to become the Skewerer — yes, that’s the correct word and spelling, have fun saying that one throughout the game — the Skewerer puts their elbow on the table and sticks their index finger out into the air. The goal is for the player to toss the rainbow onto the Skewerer’s finger. (Ah…that’s what the rainbow is for!) That simple? Mostly, yes. The problem: while the hole size on the rainbow is sufficient, it is still small enough to make this a difficult request. The Skewerer can move their hand once the rainbow is in the air to help try and catch the ‘bow. If the toss is successful, the player moves up the cloud board one level (make it to level 7 and the game ends). What about your helpful Skewerer? He/she will get a cloud token (with a mystery point amount underneath). In some cases, the cloud token could be more valuable than the level progression, but it could also be worth 0 points (sorry 14-year old!) But that’s not all!! Each turn, a card is drawn. Thematically, the card tells you about some person/creature that you run across during your journey through the clouds. Mechanically, it provides a special instruction related to your toss. It could ask you to do something silly while tossing the rainbow (like hopping up and down); it could instruct the Skewerer to perform a silly act (like stand behind another player with only their finger showing — this was the moment my wife walked in and wondered what crazy game we were playing now); it could tell you to choose an Assister who is supposed to help in some way; or it could tell you to choose a Turbulator who will have an action they can perform that will make the toss more difficult (like making funny faces at you while you prepare to toss). The Assisters and Turbulators can also receive rewards if their role is successful in helping/hurting the toss. Lastly! any player who is not involved in that turn gets to take their personal cloud betting token and choose whether they believe the toss will be successful or a failure. Correct betting can help earn doves (three doves equals reward!). Poor betting gets you a crow. Boo!

As the game progresses players will either be moving up cloud levels (with successful tosses) or seeing their balloons pop when they miss the Skewerer’s outstretched fingerpole. The game ends when one player either reaches the top level (7) or one player sees all five of their balloons popped.

Winner? Add up the level your character finished at (which is a 0 if you lost all your balloons) plus the points for any cloud tokens you gathered during the game. In our game, we all saw our balloons popped, so my 7-year old won with a whopping 3 points (compared to my eldest’s 2 points and my measly solo score).

Review Thoughts: I went into this game expecting a little more “gameplay” instead of one basic action that everyone would do every turn. That said, the simplicity of the game makes it very easy for young ages to jump right in and start having fun. There is reading required on the cards, but an adult or older kid can easily help read since the information is not secret.

I would also chime in that this game is a little on the “hard” side. Is that because me and my progeny are not rainbow-tossing coordinated? Yes, that could be part of it. But my guess is anyone playing this game will need to get through a few plays to start figuring out how to be successful more often than not.

With all that said, is the game fun? And here, I would say Yes!! First off, there was a lot of laughter and smiling in this game. Generally speaking, any game that can say that is a win at some level. The teamwork element of the game (Skewerer and Assister) also help keep younger kids from feeling like they are out-skilled. I also like the betting mechanism — a) it ensures that on every turn, every player is involved in some way and could potentially earn a reward…b) those rewards mean that even for someone who is coordination-deficient, the chance to score points and win is still present.

I see this as a stay in our library for awhile and is a game I will quickly suggest anytime we are either looking for some silly fun or have some young friends visiting.

Other thoughts: In regards to the “game stats” — 30 minutes appears to be a reasonable game time expectation. At a full 6-player count, though, plan on closer to 45, I would think. I also agree that this is 6+ friendly. I would even guess that your 5 or 4 year-old could play this game…the main thing to consider is your child’s coordination and ability to understand how to participate in the rules that come up on each card. We played with only 3, which works, but I could tell that 5 or 6 would probably be the sweet spot.

I also have a couple “house rules” that I would suggest. 1) This is a game where it can become easy to have one or two players who always get picked as the Skewerer — so I plan on enacting a rule stating that each player cannot pick the same Skewerer each round. 2) The game rules state that once a player reaches level 7 or loses their 5th balloon, the game ends. In our game, I found that this could be a distinct disadvantage for the starting player, so we adopted the common game rule of completing the round once the end-game moment had been triggered. This just felt more fair.

Have you played HOP! If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts — especially if you have any tips on how I can become a better Skewerer. Eek! (I could have sworn I was good at catching things)

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