You know things are good when a games distributor walks up to you at PAX and says, “Evil Genius Mum, I have the perfect game for your family to review!” It has cute little figurines, fun challenges, simple point-scoring system, and the opportunity for my kids to outsmart me. Again! It’s the brand new game for 2016: HOP!
In case you haven’t noticed, I love family friendly games. Any game that allows me to play with the spawnlings, while teaching them all the skills they need to kick my butt… Well, that’s always a winner in our home. Sometimes it’s all about the race to the winner’s podium. Sometimes we need a more co-operative game to counter some sibling (or parent) rivalry.
This game was always booked out in the PAX Tabletop Library last weekend, it was that popular. Luckily, I scored a review copy and it was agonizing to wait a whole week to open the box, let alone play it with the family. My only solace was in knowing it was killing them too.
Aim of the Game
Playing as one of the six cutesy characters, your goal is to be the first person to hop through the clouds up to level seven, thus finishing the game. However, that doesn’t necessarily make you the winner. Along your travels, you need to complete tricky tasks to gain points, including helping your friends to hop along with you. There’s a strategy to this, to help your friends but not too much. You don’t want them rising ahead of you.
Box and Contents
Okay, let’s take a minute to truly appreciate some forethought in the packaging of this game. The play-figurines are the most notable feature: They are high-quality, solid figurines standing about 5cm high. Three boys and three girls, they each have certain characteristics that any child (or parent) will connect to. There are a few stereotypes in there, but generally speaking there is something in each character for anyone. Zaltu (3yo) stole Emma (the guitarist) before I had a chance. Sinister and Nefarious took Eliot and Tom, respectively. EG Dad suited Charlie and his little camera, which left my accident-prone self with Zoey. Personally, if not Emma I would have preferred Tom, but Nefarious was faster.
The box itself is designed with all the inserts for properly storing the game after play, which is a huge bonus point from me. In addition, the punch-out tokens punched out very easily—surprising, since the cardboard is high-quality thickness. Constructing the ‘play area’ was fairly simple, as seen by the spawnlings here. My only suggestion to players would be to choose a much bigger play area than we initially did. It really requires a dining table or something similar. And space to move around. You’ll get what I mean in a minute.
Mechanics of the Game
It’s a throwing game!! My kids loved this part!
Everybody starts on Level One and youngest goes first. On your turn you become The Hurler. That’s because you are going to hurl the rainbow at The Skewer, a player you choose to catch the rainbow. If The Hurler can successfully hurl the circular rainbow to land on The Skewer’s pointed finger, then The Hurler can progress one level, and The Skewer can collect a cloud (giving them points). Miss that pointed finger, and you lose a balloon. Lose all five balloons and the game ends.
HOWEVER (and this is the fun part)! The Hurler must also pick-up a Dare Card, containing an additional challenge for The Hurl. This may involve an Assistor, who will assist making a successful hurl… OR you could end up with a Turbulator, with the task of interfering with your hurl.
Off to the side, any player not involved in this turn is allowed to gamble on whether the turn is successful or a failure. If you can predict the outcome of the Hurl, you pick up a dove token to help you on your way. If not, well it’s crows for the loser and subsequent loss of balloons.
The game itself is aimed at 3-6 players, from 6 years old and up. Zaltu (3yo) gave it a try but clearly does not have the dexterity for it just yet. A bit of practice and I think she can handle it. With an estimated 30 minutes of gameplay, I would say any 4yo with a bit of game experience would enjoy this with the family.
Nefarious is 7 years old and will also need a little practice with the throwing. However, the thing I really liked about this game is how it includes many different roles for everyone to play. Even though Nefarious couldn’t hurl a perfect rainbow, he scored plenty of points as The Skewer and with his judgement on other throws.
Even though I was first to hop to the top, 10yo Sinister won the game with the most points. The sneaky spawnling had been so gracious in offering to help others as their Skewer, I didn’t even realize how far ahead he was. Each time Sinister successful catches a hurl on his finger, he collects a ‘cloud’ card with a point. All of these points are added to whichever level you are on at the end of the game. Even though I hit Level Seven first, I had only collected four cloud points. Sinister was on Level Five and had 10 cloud points scored up. He picked up the strategy element really fast; I’m so proud.
EG Dad and I both had fun playing this game, and we are really looking forward to trying it out with a couple more adults. Some of the Dare Cards are just evil. And I love it. EG Dad even managed to incorporate Stranger Things’ Flower Face and scared the bejeebus out of me, causing me to lose a Skewer. There is a lot of potential for revenge here.
HOP! is yet to be released outside of Europe, but go and have a chat to your local game shop for pre-order. If you can’t wait, you can order online through Funforge (at the time of publishing this article, they were still indicating pre-order status). In Australia, I was handed this copy from games distributor Let’s Play Games; keep an eye on their website for updates.
It is definitely worth making the space in your tabletop cupboard for this one. It has all the elements for a fun family game-night, with the quality to become a nostalgic favorite in years to come.
Score: 4 out 5 Floating Minions