Quick game review: Happy Salmon

Last week, we lost power. The last time we lost power, it didn’t come back on for three days, so I ran out for sandwich supplies, jugs of water, and a game. Knowing nothing about it besides what it said on the box, I grabbed Happy Salmon, which is made by the same people who made Exploding Kittens. 

Great pick. It cost about $12 and it’s just a deck of cards. You can play with as few as three people, but it’s more fun with more (as many as eight); and you can play with people who are as young as six or even younger, and they don’t have to be literate. 

The deck gets divided up so everyone has a small stack of cards. The object of the game is to be the first one to get rid of your cards. You do this by flipping over one, announcing what’s on it, finding someone else who has the same card, and both doing the action that’s on the card. Then you can both discard your cards.

Everyone is flipping cards and announcing their cards loudly and simultaneously, so it’s silly and chaotic, like a fun version of the trading floor on the New York Stock Exchange.

The actions are “high five” (self-explanatory), “fish bump” (do a fist bump), “happy salmon” (smack together your forearms twice), and “switch it up (which you signal by swirling your finger high in the air, and act out by switching places).

So yes, you do have to get up to play this game. I was a little sad to learn this, hoping I could sit on my bum while I played; but the other thing about this game is that a round takes about two minutes or less to play. So you can go back to sitting down pretty soon. 

There is the tiniest bit of potential strategy, in that, if you don’t find a match right away, you can either hang on to your card and keep trying, or discard it for a new one, which means you may miss your chance to match with someone else. But it’s super fast-paced, so if you chose wrong, you quickly get swept past your mistake.

The whole thing is very jolly and ridiculous, and it’s also very easy for adults to even things up by making sure they don’t keep matching with the same kid. I’m not saying it’s impossible for a kid to lose badly and get their feelings hurt, but if that does happen, you can just play another quick round, and someone else will probably win. Damien and I played it with the little girls and genuinely had fun doing it. 

It is more fun with more than three people, but you can adapt it so it makes sense for three people to play; and you can also play a silent version, which we haven’t tried yet, but which sounds entertaining. 

Enthusiastically endorsed. A truly family-friendly game designed to be played by people of all ages and/or a people of assorted ages, that just about anyone can learn instantly, and that doesn’t have a lot of pieces to lose. It would make a great cheerer-upper if people are gloomy, or an ice breaker at a party of shy folks. The actions are silly but not humiliating. It really strikes the perfect balance of simplicity and entertainment value. 

The cards come in a box the size of a small, thick book. The cards are smaller than standard playing cards and are laminated and seem reasonably durable. 

Other game reviews:
Forbidden Island
Ransom Notes
The Catholic Card Game (NFP Expansion pack)
Snake Oil 

and an evergreen post: 10 Ridiculous Family Games That Need No Equipment

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