When my wife said she had borrowed the card game Happy Salmon off a friend, I would normally have been outrageously grumpy about trying it. Looking at the neoprene-like fish-shaped packaging, with the stupidly smug fish on it, I would forgive you for walking past this one. I certainly would’ve, had I not seen a video on Instagram, posted by the fabulous @kayplaysgames. In this clip, Kay and her friends were having a frantic five minutes of fun around a pub table. I must confess it got me intrigued as I had this game down as a cheap kid’s novelty that I was unlikely to ever try.
Was I wrong? Let’s find out…
The game comes with a suite of cards and each player gets an identical deck to shuffle and start with, the only difference being that they have different coloured backs.
Gameplay is incredible simple to pick up. Your card will have one of four actions on it and all you have to do is find another player at the table with a matching action and perform it with them.
The actions are: High Five (fairly obvious), Pound It (a fist bump), Switcheroo (swap places) and Happy Salmon (a ridiculous flappy arm movement).
Once you play an action you discard that card. The winner is the player who manages to get rid of all their cards first.
What is the difference between Happy Salmon Green and Blue?
Happy Salmon comes in two colours, green and blue. I can understand why you might be wondering what the difference is between the two. The simple answer is, not much! The colour of the case is noticeably different, but inside that you have six sets of the same cards, with the same actions on. However, they do have different coloured backs, so you can take the craziness of Happy Salmon from six to twelve players. I don’t have that many friends, but if I did, I would have both!
What it’s like
A game of Happy Salmon sees a group of people standing around a table shouting the same word over and over again, until they move onto the next action when that word will be repeated on a loop instead. “Happy salmon, happy salmon, Happy Salmon, HAPPY SALMON” will be called while wiggling your arm in an unnatural way across the table. It can be a bit loud and noisy, but so can a lot of things that are less fun than this!
Onlookers will be bemused, but you will be having fun and you just won’t care! It is so simple that my wife, who is notoriously terrible at reading rules fathomed it out. What’s more, my kids can all play as well as any adult without any handicap. Being small and portable adds to the amount of times you will play Happy Salmon!
The cards have cheerful depictions of fish indicating what you have to do on each card, but I reckon most people would understand without them! They are a good enough stock that they won’t get creased in the frenzy. The rules are clear, but it isn’t that taxing so I would expect as much! The fish case keeps them safe. I’m not a big fan of novelty packaging as it looks weird on my shelf. I realise that makes me sound like a grumpy old man with OCD. Sometimes you just can’t hide your true self!
What the kids thought
Harrison (13): it’s an alright game but not really my thing.
George (10): it’s a great game as its very lively!
Max (6): I can beat my dad as I am very good at it, that’s why I like it.
Final thoughts on Happy Salmon
Well I have taken the bait and I think it is fair to say that my family are hooked. Even the grumpy teenager, who when giving me a quote thinks he is too cool for this sort of shenanigans, but always seems to thoroughly enjoy it when he plays. This game is surprisingly good. Needless to say having borrowed a copy, my kids all dug deep in their pocket money to buy me a copy for Father’s Day. Off the record, I think my wife wanted this one and it was payback for me buying her Viticulture for Mother’s Day. Just like her on that occasion though I am not complaining because this is a really fun game and one that I look forward to playing with my boys and friends again and again.
As a side note my wife took this on spa day recently with her friends. It was a massive hit and almost all of them have gone on to buy a copy, not just for themselves but additional copies to distribute among their friends and family as presents.
To think I was reluctant to even try Happy Salmon! This was pure board game snobbery and I was wrong. There is nothing fishy going on here, for a quick, silly and light game that children and adults can play competitively together, this is one of the best options around. Its portability and quick play, makes it a must have in the game arsenal of any parent!
Number of players: 3 to 6 (12 combining green and blue)
Board Game Review Recommended Age: 6+
Publisher’s Recommended Age: 6+
Playing Time: 15 minutes
Setting Up and Take Down Time: 1 minute
Designers: Ken Gruhl and Quentin Weir
Publisher: North Star Games
Happy Salmon is fast, frantic, silly and ultimately really good fun. To entertain kids and adult alike, Happy Salmon should be carried in your bag for almost all occasions.
Artwork and Components
Value for Money
- Easy to learn and quick to play
- Silly fun
- Transportable and good to throw in a bag
- Kids can be competitive
- Smug little fish bag
- It’s a bit loud and noisy
- As silly and quick as it looks
Need more games?
If you already own Happy Salmon and enjoy it, or are looking for other inspiration, you might also like these similar games:
- Cobra Paw
- 20 Second Showdown
Buy Happy Salmon
If you want to buy Happy Salmon after reading our review click on one of our affiliate links below (note there has been no affiliate links until this point)
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