Updated: Oct 24
Disclaimer: nominative determinism was involved in this review.
Hidden role games usually rely on a high player count to sew confusion so the prospect of a 2-4 player hidden role game is an intriguing one. Pair that with programmed movement in which you play your entire game in one go and Oh, Fox!, designed by Hurby Donkers, certainly promises a unique experience, all playable in just 20 minutes.
After setting up - a process which adds a degree of uncertainly about each player's secret critter identity - players simultaneously play one movement card at a time until eight are played from a selection of twelve. Prey critters try to eat particular food types while avoiding the predator; conversely the predator seeks out the prey to eat them... in a family-friendly, non-game ending way, of course. All this happens 'virtually', with the predator tracking where they believes the others to be but, crucially, not putting their own pawn down, although it can be worked out. To obfuscate the obviousness, each critter has a secret 'rule-breaking' movement card which adds confusion.
When all eight turns are programmed, the predator can gain points by identifying the prey. The prey pawns then return home, the predator pawn is added and now the game is played out 'for real'. Points are given to prey critters that eat their type of food and points and damage awarded for predator 'kills'. Prey earn a bonus point for ending on their home space... an enticement that might just get them munched again. When the points are tallied, a winner is found, with ties determined by whoever played their special movement latest.
The game certainly works with three or four players: there is just enough uncertainty for yomi to play its part; combine that with the mix of roles (6 prey, 4 predators) and a little human error, and the USP of a quick-playing hidden-role programmed-movement game is delivered.
There are, though, some aspects that let the game down. The graphic design is substantially wanting; not in the artwork by Michel Baudoin, but in practicality. For starters, the font in the rulebook is far too small (barely 5pt) and makes learning the game and referencing the rules a chore; it need not have been, either, because the book is substantially smaller than the box. There is a helpful scoring summary and there are cards that go into a general display to serve as a visual aid for what each prey eats and each critter's special move but it would have been helpful if this information was also shown on each player's individual critter card. You certainly don't want to have to refer to the lilliputian rulebook to try to make out the tiny icons to see what each animal eats. These things hindered play and reduced our enjoyment of the game. Oddly, although the board is two-sided, both sides show the same map! This is surely a missed opportunity for more variety.
Hidden roles and programmed movement are not usually associated with short games, so Oh, Fox! is unique enough to warrant investigation and play. But it falls into a trap of literal short-sightedness by not helping its players actually play the game. Bigger print on the rulebook please!
(Review by David Fox)