Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Happy Salmon fits into a few peculiar niches. It's a game that little kids can play (the designers say ages "6+"), but that adults can still have fun with. It's the ultimate in fast filler -- it takes only a few seconds to explain, and can be played in about two minutes.
Each player is given a small deck of cards showing four different actions: High 5, Pound It, Switcheroo, and Happy Salmon. You flip over cards one at a time, calling out the action you've revealed and trying to find another player with the same action. If you find a match, you "celebrate" with them by doing the action: giving a high five, pounding fists, switching places around the game table, or giving a floppy wrist-touching "hand shake" known as Happy Salmon. You can then discard your card and draw a new one. The first player to discard all their cards wins.
The game purports to take from 3 to 6 players, but I really couldn't imagine playing it with less than 6. The fun is the chaos, the frantic shouting at other players in search of your action (or, in the suggested silent alternative, frantic gesturing). There really wouldn't be much point to it without enough chaos (or alcohol, or children in the mix, or whatever it takes for you to relax and just go with it).
Many people reading this review wouldn't think of this as much of a game, and I understand if this isn't your bag. (By the way, I should have mentioned -- this game comes in a bag. A bag shaped like a fish, of course.) But within a certain category, Happy Salmon definitely has a home. It's more crazy and silly than, say, Spoons (and the cards are more durable than a standard 52-card deck). It's not long and drawn out like other kid-friendly games that are far less fun, like Candy Land or Uno. It's easy to explain at a big, loud party and can take players coming and going. (I would bet that someone, somewhere has probably played Strip Happy Salmon.)
This isn't exactly a masterpiece. (Then again, compared to other two minute games, maybe it is.) But it seemed more fun to me than you'd probably expect. Is there even a way for me to put a grade on it? B? Let's say: absolutely worth picking up if your game nights are really more like party nights.