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[Review] Twisted Fish

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Joined: 03/23/2011

"Go Fish!" - the words linger in gaming lore; and most of us know how to play that atrocious game, having been subjected to it at some point in our childhood. Even now, the lingo pops up in other games, as I tell someone to "Go Fish" when they ask for a trade in Settlers of Catan, for example. Yet I don't plan to ever play Go Fish again. So you'll have to forgive me when I heard of Twisted Fish (McNeill Designs, 2006 - Jody Fedele and Martin Uniacke), a new and "twisted" version of Go Fish; I simply didn't have high aspirations for the game.

After playing Twisted Fish, however, I've come around on the game quite a bit. It's extremely different than your basic Go Fish game, with cards in sets of five, rather than pairs. Memory plays a higher element in the game, and a few special cards add a small bit of chaos to the game. With small amount of deduction, Twisted Fish is a light game that I rather enjoyed. It won't be winning many awards for its deep, meaningful game play; but it's light years ahead of its outdated predecessor.

A deck of seventy-five cards is used in the game, consisting of two Jokers, 8 special cards ("Zingers"), and thirteen different types of fish cards (Flying Fish, Card Shark, Jellyfish, Eel, etc.) in five colors each (Purple, Blue, Red, Green, and Yellow). The deck is shuffled and eight cards are dealt to each player, with the remainder forming a draw pile, the "Fish Pond". One player goes first, and then play goes clockwise.

On a player's turn, they must ask another player for a specific card (color and type - i.e. A Red Blowfish?). However, to ask for a card, a player MUST have at least one card of that type in their hand. The player who is asked must answer truthfully whether they have the card or not - if they do, they must give it to the asking player; if not, they happily state "Go Fish." This requires the asking person to draw a card from the pile and their turn then ends. UNLESS, however, the person just happens to draw the exact card they need (I've seen this happen twice!). If so, that person shows the card and takes another turn. The asker gets another turn also if a person has the card that they were looking for.

If a player gets five cards of the same type, they have a "Full Basket" and lay the cards in front of them, earning the points on the cards (5, 10 or 15). Players can also play the "Zinger" cards when appropriate, which can allow players to ask for cards out of turn, pull a random card from an opponent, etc. The game continues until one player has played all the cards from their hand, and the last card they played caused them to lay down a Full Basket. At that point, all players add up the points for their sets, with any unplayed Zingers in their hands losing them twenty-five points. The player with the most points is the winner!

Some comments on the game…

1.) Components: The game is basically a pile of cards, which is held by some foam pieces inside a box which could hold two of the game. The box and cards are bright and colorful, with funny, if somewhat substandard artwork on them. The pictures of the fish are caricatures which I found rather humorous, and they're rather easy to distinguish from each other. The theme itself is simply pasted on, although some of the Zingers add slightly to it.

2.) Rules: The rules are printed on three pages and are very easy to learn. Some people, who are accustomed to the rules of normal Go Fish, might forget themselves and use the normal rules or find the chaos of the Zinger cards a bit confusing. But most people easily pick up the rules, and the game works well with youth.

3.) Age: Twisted Fish is at its best with children and teenagers; but I've played it with a group of adults, and it goes well in that group also. However, the odd theme and the simple, silly gameplay will not appeal to more "serious" gamers, but don't let the silly theme or the parenthood of the game (Go Fish) scare you away if you're in the mood for something light.

4.) Memory and Deduction. If Bob asks Sam for the Blue Blowfish, and if I have the Red and Yellow Blowfish in my hand, I can deduce that Bob has either the Green or Purple Blowfish. Of course, if Bob takes the Blue Blowfish from Sam, I can probably take it from Bob on the next turn. Asking questions really can reveal what a player has in their hand, so one must be careful not to take too many cards too quickly. What good does getting four cards from a set do, just to have someone take them away on their turn? Keeping track of who took what cards from whom is important, and thus memory has a rather important role. Many times the game is decided by the person with the best memory; so if you're not a fan of memory games, this is probably one to skip.

5.) Fun Factor: The funny pictures on the cards and the humorous zinger cards will probably bring a smile to most folks face. But what I find to be the most fun is stripping someone of the four cards they have of a set, just as they think they are going to place down a complete set. Using a minor amount of deduction and carefully watching who is taking cards can help a player to do well, and it certainly gives one a rewarding feeling.

6.) Zingers: I'm not sure that I like the Zingers too much and will gladly play a game without them in the deck. Some of them are okay, and the Dead Scuba Diver (which completes a set - but for no points) is really interesting; but they add a bit more chaos than I would like. At the same time, I realize that this is a light game overall, so what's a bit of special effects?

I like Twisted Fish; it's the best version of Go Fish I've played. That's not exactly a ringing endorsement, however, so let me state that Twisted Fish is a fun filler that relies on a good memory, some logic, and luck. That combination will please a lot of people - especially teenagers, and those are the folks that I would recommend the game for. Twisted Fish isn't a game I'd play more than a couple of times in a year; but when my daughter wants to play Go Fish, I have a substitute that I can actually enjoy.

Tom Vasel
"Real men play board games"

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