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Subject: Of Mice and, uhm, Hippos? rss

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Diane Close
United States
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A review of components and gameplay between the two versions.

Maus nach Haus (Mouse in the House), by Haba, is a great dexterity game for both kids and adults, in either of its printings. The American printing, known as Hula Hippos, by Gamewright, changed the mice to hippos and the house to a hula hoop, but the game plays exactly the same.

A wooden ring about five inches in diameter is spun in the middle of the table, and players attempt to flick each and every one of their six wooden disks so that they land underneath the ring when it finally stops spinning. Only those who land within or partially underneath the ring get to score points. The first person who reaches four points, which is a total of four disks trapped over time, wins.



Image courtesy of Rick Redfern

Both games come in a box, but the Hula Hippos version is a tall, rectangular, extremely tight fitting affair that almost requires a crowbar to open. It’s a really tight fit! Once open, the box is nicely roomy and the insert holds everything well.



The Maus nach Haus box is the typical short, square Haba box, similar to those found in the Kosmos 2-player game line. While shallower, its insert also holds the components nicely too.



Image courtesy of SwedeLad

In fact, if you happen to own both games, as I do, there’s room in either box to store the complete contents of both games!

The rules for both games are well laid out and illustrated. Haba provides rules in several languages in the same rulebook, while Gamewright provides a fold-out sheet with English on one side and Spanish on the other.

The rings for both games are identical. I’m very happy to report that there was no loss of quality in what is perhaps the game’s most important component! My Haba ring is slightly darker, but the Gamewright ring appears to be made of the same material, and is the same shape and weight as well.



The most interesting change to the game’s components is the change from mice to hippos. Both the shape and the finish changed, and it’s interesting to consider whether this affects game play or not.

Hippos are stamped in black ink, with an image on both sides, and finished with a light laquer. The shape of the hippos is much closer to the round flicking disks of Crokinole, than the bow shape of the original version’s mice.



The mice, in contrast, are bow shaped and are lightly carved as well as finished in contrasting colors, giving them depth to their design that the hippos don’t possess. But they are finished on only one side. The other side is blank. Mice, however, are more heavily laquered than the hippo pieces.



So how does this change of shape and finish affect game play? Well surprisingly, it doesn’t affect it as much as you might think it would! The hippos seem slightly more consistent than the mice, but I don’t think there’s enough of a difference to make one version more desirable over the other.

So hippos appear to flick more true, as you’d expect from something that’s closer to disk shaped, but the bow shape of the mice causes them to spin while traveling, mimicking that same disk shape almost perfectly. As well, both games' flicking pieces weigh exactly the same, which removes another potential area for flicking differences between the games. The vast majority of the time, mice and hippos both travel the same paths and the same distances.



Haba components image, right, courtesy of toulouse.

The only caveats I have are these: the mice, with their ears and triangular bodies, can do some strange things if flicked from the wrong spot on their body. As well, you need to make sure your mice are right-side up when you flick them, otherwise there will be a significant drag from the carved indentations on their fronts. There are no such limitations with the stamped hippos.



Haba box cover image, right, courtesy of toulouse.

I also asked some experienced players, who had also played both versions, for their opinions, hippos or mice: all responded that it ultimately makes no difference and that both games are way more fun than they deserve to be for such simple components. Both versions are highly recommended, for all ages!

Images are created by me, pdclose, unless otherwise noted above.
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Homo Ludens
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St. Albert
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Excellent comparative review - very useful, and definitely a game that I aim to look into. I know that this is primarily a review of the components, but could you expand on how you would rate this, either for kids or adults?
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Diane Close
United States
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cvandyk wrote:
... but could you expand on how you would rate this, either for kids or adults?


Sure, I’ll give my 2 worth.

I was very skeptical of this game when it first came out. It came to my attention because a whole pile of my game group attended BGG Con and tried the Haba version there and loved it. They started looking for copies as soon as they got back, but it proved very difficult to track down. Then Gamewright announced the retheming, and everyone cheered and waited patiently for it to arrive.

I should mention that our game group loves Crokinole, and one member owns a gorgeous Hilinski brothers board. Unfortunately that board doesn’t make it out to game night often enough. The member lives a distance away and doesn’t want the board sitting in his car all day, experiencing temperature extremes or risk getting stolen, so if he doesn’t make it home before coming out to play the board doesn’t make an appearance. We completely agree with that decision, as well as realizing that those boards are huge and a pain to haul around from place to place. So, it would be really nice to find the fun of Crokinole in a smaller, portable package...

Jonathan Burd, one of our group members who is a huge dexterity game fan and an early booster of this game, managed to get an early copy of Hula Hippos and brought it to game night. (An aside: if you are a dexterity game fan then I highly recommend geekbuddying Jonathan!)

I sat down to play figuring this was going to be very limited fun, if at all. I based my skepticism on previously owning Elk Fest, a game I found to have very limited appeal and far too simple for skilled Crokinole players. The only time we had fun with this was when we purposefully sunk each others' moose, but then the game goes on forever.

Hula Hippos, however, has proved to be exactly what we were seeking: Crokinole for poor people! It is that much fun, and can require that much skill! There are obvious differences between Crokinole and Hula Hippos, of course, but their similarities strike the right notes. With Hula Hippos you are trying your best to both guess where and how a ring will land, as well as position your mice to be underneath. That usually means targeting opponent mice for removal from the area, just like robbing an opponent of that 15 score shot in Crokinole. The fact that the hippos are shaped closely to disks is gravy and another point in this game’s favor.

Hula Hippos is obviously more chaotic, but for a game night starter, while waiting for everyone to arrive, or a game night closer, it’s a definite hit! For that, plus it’s ability to scratch the Crokinole itch, I’d give it an 8 or a 9 for adults. Games are fast and they don't overstay their welcome.

If you’re expecting a game of strategy that you’ll play all night long, then you’re going to be disappointed. But as a lightly strategic dexterity opener, it’s definitely worth the money. I got my copy for under $10 at my local ToysRUs.

For the college-age drinking crowd, that likes to play "caps", I’d rate this a 10. Oh yeah, for the 20-something dexterity game fans, this is a must-own!

For the younger set, this game is fun. As long as your kids know not to put the pieces in their mouths, they can play this. Changing the shape to the roundish hippos has made this more accessible to younger children, imho. While an adult might still have to set the ring spinning (one move that does require some actual dexterity), flicking hippos can be done by anyone. There is no more reminding youngsters to line up the mice right side up and flick the body not the ears for proper travel. Hippos evens the playing field amongst the ages.

For the youngest set, I’d rate this a 6.5 only because working the ring can be a little too difficult for smallest children. Otherwise, for children old enough to work the components on their own, this is up there with Animal Upon Animal for just plain fun combined with a bit of skill, and for them I’d rate it an 8 or a 9.

Some folks may get frustrated with flicking hippos off the table, and sending them flying into the room, but that’s the skill part of this game: learning not to flick too hard or too soft, just like in Crokinole. If you can’t stand this frustration, or just aren’t a fan of dexterity games, then this isn't the game for you. If you like dexterity games and want something that mimics the fun of Crokinole in a simple, cheap package, then this is perfect!

Wow, this turned out to be a lot more writing than I expected! What a blab I am when I get going... Can I get another 3 for this mini-review?
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John Squires
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Hi Diane! I love the side-by-side comparisons. I know a lot of people love the Haba version when it first came out. I have the Playwright version and have been playing it with my son. Our problem is that it's very hard to score. Rather than 10 minutes it's taking 40-60 and my fingers are getting tired.

The ring seems to push away all the Hippos nearly every time. It's a monster! You mentioned the slight differences in flicking between the mice and hippos but how about their ability to stand up against THE RING?
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