“Oh my God! Penguins!”, was the cry from my players. “I loooooove penguins!”.
For some inexplicable reason, penguins turn my players into five year old little girls, merely thrilled to be playing with little plastic penguin tokens. They coveted the little plastic penguins, and were a bit blood thirsty to get more of the cute little guys.
“A Fistful of Penguins” is a dice game where you attempt to make the most money, although the basic mechanics remind me of Farkle (also known as 10,000). Each turn you roll a given number of dice. The dice have animals on them which pair up in unique ways to score you points. This is the most complicated part of the game, but once my players got the hang of it, they did fine. To help them along, the game comes with cheat sheets for the players (pictured below).
On your turn you roll the dice and take a look at what you have. Squirrels are really neat because they steal money from the other players. Kangaroos have exponential growth when you score them because you square the total number of kangaroos. So if you have two kangaroos, you get $4 (2×2). If you have three kangaroos, you get $9 (3×3). Lions are awesome, but rather pesky. They are worth $7 each, however you may not score any other animal with them. I presume because they are all scared of getting mauled. Camels are each worth $5, but only as long as there are not any lions around. And lastly, there is the moose. Moose are worthless without a squirrel. (Go on, say it. I know you are all hearing Boris and Natasha in your head saying “Moose and squirrel” in the classic Russian accent.)
…. And then there are penguins.
Penguins are incredibly important in this game because they give you something that you typically expect from a dice game: a chance to reroll. Every time you want to reroll you must turn in one of your penguin chips. Or, you can stack the deck more greatly in your favor by buying another die from the pile at a cost of one penguin.
The game is played over three rounds, and the person with the most money at the end of those three rounds is the winner. Done. Simple as pie…
… but wait, there are advance rules!
In the advance rules, each of your opponents roll a die on your turn and places it up for sale for a given price. A price that they set after seeing your roll. That price can include both money, and penguin tokens. While the advance rules slow down the game, it also keeps everyone involved in the game the entire time. We played the game both ways, but ultimately found the advance rules to be a lot more fun.
I do, however, have a couple small component complaints. Firstly, the game uses chips as money, which is great. Chips are so much nicer to handle than paper money. However, these colored chips do not have the denominations listed on them. Nor is that information listed on the reference card. For this reason, my players were constantly needing to confirm with me what the different denominations are. I could also see these unmarked chips being a real problem for someone who is color blind. And Secondly, there are only three player reference cards. This seems like a pretty cheap component, but one that makes a big difference. It really seemed like each player should have their own.
Overall though, we had fun with it. The theme is cute, my players really loved the little penguin tokens, and the game play is solid. For a small dice game, this designer did well, giving their players lots of different options and a lot of player interaction. Well done!
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