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Gone Fishing

I always look forward to learning Happy Baobab games, having had good experiences with their offerings in the past. And although my son is now ten, he is still young enough inside to enjoy a good kids game. Gone Fishing, by Ehail with art by Sylvain Aublin and Ian Parovel is just that: a simple dexterity game with a little market manipulation on the side and a haul lot of fun in the middle.

After assembling the nice chunky trawlers, players agree on which shape of fishing net to use for that round. A scoreboard that doubles as a distribution-randomiser shakes the five colours of fish onto the table. Over four rounds, each player takes a turn, first moving one fish wherever they like, then using the net to capture as many fish as they safely can. Should any fish be touched by the net, the player only takes one fish that turn: remember, you have just four turns in the game, so be careful!

From their catch, the player chooses one fish to add to the market, increasing that colour's value, tho' obviously accruing one less. Repeat this four times and score: each fish is worth its value as shown on the market board and, for a little extra fun, players drop all their fish to see if any 'stand up' on the table for a few bonus points. 

I'm not going to pretend there is deep strategy here, but there are decisions that swim alongside the basic dexterity element of catching as many fish as you can without touching others. Being aware of which colours opponents do or don't have is key to maximising the value of your trawler without increasing theirs. As such, we found it a slight advantage going later in turn order, because you can see what others have done and which fish are more valuable.

The four different shaped nets all present their own challenge, as does the rule of dragging the haul to your ship, which can be quite difficult to do without hitting other fish or losing some of your catch. Although dropping your fish is fun, rarely do the bonus points make a difference and - by the law of averages - would probably result in a rich-get-slightly-richer aspect anyway. Tallying up the scores is good exercise in basic multiplication and addition for small fry. 

With its colourful gem fish and sturdy components, Gone Fishing is a great game for the family and kids on their own, too - tho' you might need a grown-up on hand to referee any oiks who say 'I didn't touch that fish!' (We made a house-rule that any disputed fish were given to the next player to plaice in addition to the one they can move anyway.) The game's short playtime should keep it fresh and the toy factor of the components will be a draw for any parent angling to get their kids to the game table.

(Review by David Fox)

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