Tuesday, April 21, 2009

#16: Hüpf Hüpf Hurra!

Hüpf Hüpf Hurra! (Hop Hop Hooray!)
  • designer: Heinz Meister
  • publisher: Ravensburger
  • date: 2007
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 2571/6.46
  • age: 6+
  • # of players: 2-4
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $20.37 (Amazon)
Back in the day, I had the opportunity to play Tupperware's only original game, Bounce-It-In, thanks to Frank Branham. (Tuppertoys also made plastic poker chips. My father-in-law, a poker fan, owned a set & complained that they didn't "clink", which is evidently a major component of enjoying poker chips.) In the game, you bounce plastic balls into a 5x5 grid of holes. There are three sets of rules included: two which give various scoring values for the different holes & one that simply requires you to get five balls in a row (of any color). It's the "5 in a row" game that appealed to me enough (we played non-stop for 30 min. with each game taking about 5 minutes to play - it was like eating potato chips) to put it on my wishlist & eventually acquire my own copy.

Meanwhile, Haba released one of their small rectangle box games, Rein damit!, which used a cardboard frame & wooden rings to make a 4x4 grid into which you bounced small foam balls. This time, you scored by picking up a small animal token (using an included dart-like plunger device) - 3 sets of three tokens won you the game. (BTW, the English name is "Spot on!" so you don't have to worry about your kids learning to curse unless you decide to teach them yourself.)

Both of the games have some neat ideas but suffer from some problems... as written, the rules to Bounce-It-In can make the game last way past its welcome (we don't allow players back in after they've been knocked out, which cures that.) It's also tough to get a complete copy - I actually have 1 and 1/2 copies. Rein damit! is really cute (the animal art is great) but the board is prone to being bumped and the dart-plunger really requires an older sibling or parent to operate it. It also can bog down a bit as players can use empty rings to steal tokens ad infinitum.

But Heinz Meister, the designer of Rein damit!, managed to take some of the basic ideas from these two games and mold them into a game that's been a hit with kids, families, adults & gamers (yes, I made "adults" and "gamers" two separate categories - sue me) over & over again.

The theme is not welded to the mechanic but you are hopping (bouncing the balls) into the pond (the game box which doubles as the board), so I can buy the whole frog milieu. By getting three frogs (marbles) in a row, you receive a kiss from the frog princess (scoring token). If you manage to get 3 of the same color in a row, you get two kisses. Make multipile lines in one hop? You get as many kisses as you make lines. Note, however, that only sets of 3 count; it doesn't help to make a line of 4 or 5 frogs.

And that's pretty much it. Players take turns bouncing marbles into the box, scoring points, and generally have a grand old time hooting & hollering at each other. You get three tries per turn to "land" a marble... 3 strikes & it's the next players turn. When the kisses run out (there are 40 of them in the game) the player with the most kisses wins.

There are a couple of nice physical design ideas that make the game even more enjoyable. The pond grid is set into plastic insert with sloped sides... so it's possible to bounce a marble and make it roll around the sloped side into position on the other side of the board. As well, the grid that the marbles sit in does not hold the marbles "locked" in position - if hit with sufficient force, marbles already in place can move.

One of the variables that you bring to the game is where you play it. When played on a standard Costco plastic 6 ft table, you've got to give the marbles a pretty serious throw to get the right bounce. On a wooden veneer table, they're pretty "live" - we've been known to play a time or two throwing marbles from behind our chairs for long-range and/or multiple bounces. I've even played this on our entry hall floor with my boys, which is marble tile. Now that is some serious bouncing.

While you can't predict exactly where your marble is going, with practice you can definitely improve your ability to score. At the same time, luck does play a large role, which makes this very enjoyable for mixed age groups to play.

My only complaint about the game is the lily pad rings provided to corral your marbles. They aren't thick enough to hold them in place unless you are very careful. My plan is to buy some of those little non-skid feet for them, which should make them high enough AND keep them from drifting around the table.

I also think that the suggested age on this is way too high. With appropriate adult supervision (so no one is eating the marbles), my 3 year old was able to play & enjoy the game.

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