Dale Yu: Review of Push Fish

Push Fish

  • Designer: Kim Cheolung & Kim Yeon
  • Publisher: Popcorn Games
  • Players: 2-6
  • Age: 8+
  • Time: 40 minutes
  • Played with review copy provided by publisher, 5 times so far

Says the publisher:

“Who will be the best fisher in Pupapupa Island?  In Push Fish, you will be a fisher who come to this island to find the legendary fish with your own stories. Take your fishing rod, and throw the baits (literally throw, this is a dexterity game!) to successfully put on your bait on the fish you want. Then, you should flick the token on your rod (of course, by your finger!) to decide you successfully hook up the fish! Try to catch specific fish that match your mission cards, which will bring you the victory points. 6 unique characters and various item cards bring a game fun more. When someone gathers 7 fish cards, the game enda and the player who has highest score wins. Or, when a player fish up the golden fish or Kraken wins immediately!”

In this game, each player takes on the role of a character – getting their character card with some special ability printed on it.  The Fish cards are shuffled, and a 4×5 array of cards is set out on the table.  Place the mission cards nearby as well as a display of 5 face up missions.  The starting player is decided by everyone flipping over a fish card, and the highest number revealed goes first.

On your turn, you go through all four phases, then the next player goes.  In a normal game, the game continues until one player has caught 7 fish OR someone has caught the golden fish.

1] Throw the bait – you have three bait tokens, you can throw as many as you like.  You put the bait at the end of your fishing rod, standing at least one fishing rod’s length away from the fish cards.  You then flip the rod to propel the bait at the cards.  If desired, you can use Item cards to throw additional bait tokens.  Players should remember that either before or after this phase, they can use their character’s special action

2] HIT check – see if any of your bait HITs a fish – to do this, more than half the token must be on a fish card, and there can be no other bait markers on that fish. Flip any HIT cards over (if they are still on the blue side).  If you didn’t hit anything, draw 1 item card from the deck as compensation because your turn is now over. 

3] FIsh – you now must pick a fish that you HIT to try to catch.  Depending on the side of the bait token that is facing up, choose the matching side of your fishing rod.  Place the rod on the table and put the wooden disc near the end.  Now you must flick the wooden disc so that it lands in the area that matches the catching criteria on the selected fish card.  You get 3 tries, but can use items to do it more.  As with throwing the bait, the wood disc must be more than half in the desired area.

4] Get fish card – if you successfully fish, take the card and place it near you.  If there are now three empty spaces in the fish array, deal out three new cards.  If you failed to catch the fish, take an Item card as consolation.  You can also now check to see if you have completed a mission.  If so, take it and place the fish cards which meet the criteria with that mission card. (you can only use a fish for one mission).  

The game ends when someone has collected 7 fish OR someone catches the golden fish or the kraken.  The player with the most points wins.

My thoughts on the game

OK, so the idea for this game is hilarious and wacky.  And when I first read about it, I feared that the game would be a whimsical one-trick-pony sort of thing.  I was pretty wrong about that.  It really has some good bones to it, and the game is a definite dexterity challenge that remains interesting and fun after five plays.

The rules are a bit loose – well at least the EN translation is.  We’ve had to make a few group decisions on how to interpret the rules; but for this style of game, I think any agreed-upon rule interpretation is fine.  The game is all about flipping and flicking things, and as long as everyone follows the same rules, it’ll be a blast.

There are two separate challenges dexterity wise here, and I have definitely seen some people excel at one but not the other.  The baiting part is tricky; you have to flick your wrist just right to get the cardboard chit to go to the desired location.  Bonus points if you’re able to do it without making the token flip over – so that you can get the desired side of the token visible on the target card.  The two sides of your fishing rod have slightly different distributions of area for the four levels of fish, and you would like to get the favorable side for your chosen fish.

Once you’ve hooked the fish, the next step is to flick a wooden disk (a la crokinole) down the rod into the desired area.  The cardboard rod boards are most certainly not as slick as a waxed crokinole board surface, and this introduces a delicious amount of variability in the movement of the disc.  I would like to think that I’m a pretty decent crokinole shot, but I have definitely found the flicking here extremely challenging, especially when trying to get to the SS area at the end of the rod!  At least for me, the difficulty of this aspect is good as it keeps each round of the game filled with uncertainty.

There is a fair amount of luck involved here –  but that seems thematic with the whole fishing idea.  Sometimes you catch a kraken, other times you get a shoe…   The game does a pretty good job with giving you a consolation item on the turns where you don’t even hook a fish, and the rewards on those cards seem to increase your chances of having a better future turn.  Sure, it’s not as good as catching a fish each turn, but it certainly keeps people having fun to give them the opportunity to succeed more often.

Push Fish is a dexterity game that feels different from most of the others I have, and I think this one will stay in the permanent collection.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

Dan B. (1 play): It’s a bit on the complicated side for a dexterity game (player powers plus item cards plus bonus point cards) but not enough to really overwhelm the dexterity aspect, which is the fun part. It will never be my favorite dexterity game but it’s good for an occasional play.

Jim B. (1 play): I appreciate the design of this game for punching just above where I expected its weight. There are enough wrinkles to keep the game varied and engaging while still streamlined enough that I could confidently put this in front of non-gamers. I suspect there could be matches that end up overstaying their welcome if players struggle with accuracy in the flicking portion of the game but the bonus powers and immediate game ending catches seem to account for that concern. Overall, I think this it’s a quality dex game that I would happily play at a family event. 

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!  Dale Y
  • I like it.Dan B., Jim B.
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me…

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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