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Fish Off!

Designed by Elliot Courtney, with art by Adam Nichols, Fish Off! is a competitive set-collection game for 2-4 players from Loaded Dice Games.

Tiles are laid out face down in a grid (5 x 5 for three or four players; 3 x 5 for two players). Each turn you choose the grid column/row that you will be casting your hook into. The distance cast is determined by rolling a conventional six-sided die (rolling a 6 gives you free choice). Players all start off with two seagull tokens and they can use these to try to steal a catch from another player by placing it on their hook. If there is just a single hook on a tile, you reel it in. If there is more than one hook on a tile or if a seagull is trying to steal the catch, you enter a 'tug of war': a succession of dice roll-offs where the highest roll pulls the catch one square towards them. If at any point two players roll the same number, they both drop the catch, which can mean that the tile ends up on the same square as another tile. Where this happens, that square is likely to be an especially tempting target in subsequent rounds...

The tug of war roll-offs are initially rather fun, especially for kids, but they work best where the contesting players are sitting opposite each other (always the case in a two-player game but not necessarily so with three or four-players). The fun also wears off after the first few back and forth roll-offs. In our plays at Board's Eye View, some players complained that they could be over long.

There's the option to play on a static 'Calm Waters' grid or a 'Strong Currents' grid where hooks that land in an empty spot are moved according to the arrows shown on the board. This may look initially more complicated but we found it sped up the game because you were much less likely to be reeling in an empty hook. You can also play with poker-style set collection bonuses. The tiles you reel in have various values, and some tiles aren't fish at all but other objects; some of which score but all of which modify your play.

A 'match' ends when each player has collected five fish. It's likely that some players will reach five fish ahead of others. When that happens, a player has the option of sitting out the rest of the match or discarding a fish and carrying on. You'll want to do that to try to get a better fish than one of those you've previously hooked or to try to complete one of the poker-hand set collection bonuses. The end of a match tho' isn't the end of the game: you record your scores, discard all the tiles, re-set the board and play again; and with a small seagull concession by way of catch-up mechanic for the player in last place. Games comprise three 'matches'. As an alternative you can play in 'frenzy' mode where the board is refilled from a stack of unused tiles at the end of each round and you just play until the stack has been depleted and the board emptied. We didn't find this mode especially 'frenzied' but it proved to be our favourite way of playing, tho' in this mode we had to abandon the poker-hand bonus scoring because that's inherently designed for a five-fish catch.

Whichever mode you adopt, we especially liked the element whereby some tiles have a 'dark water' pattern on their reverse. This signifies that the tile is more likely to be a higher value fish but it might also be one of the 'special tiles' that could turn out to be a liability. This of course adds a 'push-your-luck' challenge to players' choices...

Shown here on Board's Eye View is a preview prototype of Fish Off! ahead of its launch on Kickstarter later this year. We'll endeavour to post a link to the Kickstarter when you're able to net yourself a copy.

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