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Kevin Garnica
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LEAPING LEMMINGS

2-6 Players
25-90 Minutes
By Rick Young & John Poniske

Background:

My reviews will not focus on the rules of the game. There are better reviewers on that format than I could ever contribute. The purpose behind my reviews is to highlight one, and only one, overriding aspect of any game: fun. That’s it. As a big kid at heart, I play games in order to have a good time. In the end, all I really care about is if I’m going to want to play the thing again, and will anyone else. Hence, I’ve chosen five areas to highlight that are all aspects of the game’s funness. Examined from this paradigm, these are all aspects that I believe should be enjoyed during the whole experience of playing board games.

All right already, enough philosophizing, on with the review…

Introduction:

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that GMT had released a game that wasn’t a war game, per se. It was a hex n’ counter game, to be sure, but the theme was so left-field and funny that it was startling; it’s almost a ‘family’ game with undertones of a war game. Leaping Lemmings is a game in which players play as scientists who have genetically created and cloned a group of lemmings in an effort to try to make them throw themselves over the edge of a cliff, with points for style and élan. But in running across the hex-filled field, they run the risk of becoming chow to two young eagles that circle the board, constantly in search of prey.

1. Out of the Box: 5/5

The components are some of the best I’ve seen for this kind of game. Starting with the box itself, it is one of the sturdiest boxes I’ve ever handled. It’s even difficult to remove the lid, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it feels as though I am opening a fun, little treasure trove worthy of its contents. Also, the insert is decent, with plenty of space to keep all the bits. If bagged (as the game does come with plenty of baggies) pieces should never go flying around inside. The box is sturdy and holds everything in place well.

The board is magnificent. It is nicely mounted and divided up into different sections that outline where various bits are placed during the course of play. The counters are few and simple, which makes the game very accessible to people who are otherwise not familiar with this particular type of game. Each clan of lemmings has 10 lemmings (5 male, 5 female) and a clad ID point track maker. In an ingenious creative decision by the designers, each lemming is individually and personally named (Ed, Latitia, John, Laura, Cory, Diane, Kevin, Etc.) This helps create a sense of personal attachment to the lemmings in each game. And the artwork is absolutely adorable, as each clan is themed to its own quirky proclivities, such as ‘vikings,’ ‘bikers,’ ‘military,’ ‘hippies,’ and so on. And the eagle counters are well illustrated, with one side showing them in their ‘hunting’ state and the other showing their ‘feasting’ state.

The cards are of excellent quality. They are very thick and have a nice, laminated finish. They should stand up to repeated play easily. Sleeving is not even a necessity. There are 2 eagle dice (red and blue) that are specially engraved. This is always more appreciated as opposed to having the faces applied via stickers. They also have rounded edges, making them prone to rolling more easily.

Finally, the reference cards are great. They are printed on nice, thick, white cardstock paper. On one side is printed the sequence of play while the backside lists all of the Special Action cards and their effects. Many a time have I purchased a game with such similar cards or whatnot and had wished an aid to their usage was provided instead of simply being thrown in at the back of the rulebook. They’re in the back of the rulebook in this game as well, but the fact that they’re also printed on each of the six player aids is just icing on the cake. Besides the fact that I, personally, love player aid thingies, they are very well laid out. Everything included in the box is really well thought out and executed. Special recognition goes out to GMT for making all of the components of such decently high quality.

2. Rules: 4.9/5

There really isn’t much to find at fault with the 16-page rules set. They are written in quasi-“outline” format, going from a very general overview perspective to gradually more and more detail about each aspect of the game play, separately. But the rules are very clear; they seem very good about clearing up confusion and possible exceptions. It also has a separate section for slight modifications for a 2-player version. While the box lists it as being for 2-6 players, the rules claim that it is actually best with 3-6, with a supplemental ‘variant’ for 2-players.

There are also plenty of color illustrations, which help solidify comprehension. As mentioned above, the last two pages lists the Special Action cards in detail, which is a nice afterthought. Honestly, I was really pleased when learning the game because the rules were so well written. They were actually enjoyable to read. They are not over or under written, and everything says just what it needs to say. The true test for me is that when I had a question about anything, it was very intuitive locating the answer in the rulebook. Things are located where you think they should be located. This was definitely one of my better rules-learning experiences.

3. Ease of Play: 4.8/5

Well, with the help of the player aids, that already eliminates much potential confusion about the game play. Basically, the Eagle Player goes first, rolling both eagle dice and resolving each eagle’s actions. This is the Eagle Phase. First, the eagles move either clockwise or counterclockwise, then pick off the topmost lemming of any stack of lemmings of his choice. After that, the eagle scatters the remaining lemmings into various segments of the board away from where the eagle can reach them for the remainder of the current turn. Finally, the Eagle Player draws and reveals a movement card for the upcoming Lemming Phase.

Next, starting with the same Eagle Player, players move to the Lemmings Phase. Each player can exchange food pellets for favors, and then play one Special Actions Card. Both of these actions are optional. Next, the player moves one lemming on top of any stack (or not) the number of movement points just flipped during the Eagle Phase. Everybody follows suit in the Lemming Phase.

After the Lemming Phase is completed, the eagle dice are passed to the next player and the whole sequence starts over.

There are a couple of added subtleties, such as ‘terrain effects’ and how they affect movement. Also, the Special Action cards allow rules to be broken in small, yet effective ways. As lemmings dive over the cliff, any remaining movement points left over equals the amount of victory points scored.

Overall, the actual game play is fairly easy. Heck, even GMT ranks their own game at a 2 on a 10 scale. That’s not to say it’s an easy game, just easy to play.

4. Weight/Length Ratio: 4.7/5

The game takes anywhere from 10-15 minutes per player, making the game a fairly quick play. Turns go by fast, so there isn’t much wait time between turns. Analysis paralysis is not a problem either.

Where the game shines is in the tactical play. Do you work on one or maybe two lemmings scurrying across the board, or do you flood the board with all your lemmings? There are advantages and disadvantages to both, really. If you flood the board with lemmings, sure you have options, but you will also have the most lemmings eaten because you will most likely be the one on top of the various stacks. On the other hand, if you have only a couple of lemmings out, it will take longer to jump off the cliff, but you might be safer because you could be covered, but yet rendered immobile. Do you make a mad dash for the edge of the cliff, or do you play it safe and hide in brush hexes along the way? Well, that depends on how the eagles have been behaving. You want to set yourself up for an advantage if you are the next player to control the eagle dice, since you control where the eagles will move.

There is the option to get pellets of food for extra VP or favors to do other cool stuff. Then there’s the scary option of getting to the edge of the cliff and waiting for the next movement card, hoping for major pointage, while praying you’re not the one picked off if you don’t have the eagle dice next turn. Do you play a special action card, which has the power to screw others and/or help yourself out, or do you try to hold on to them because they count as VP at the end of the game if unused? In general, the game has a perfect amount of options and possibility for the amount of time invested. It’s a very satisfying game, ‘strategically’ speaking. Leaping Lemmings has a good weight to play to theme ratio.

5. The “F” Factor: 5/5

The theme of this game is so original, so unique, that I nearly bought it upon sight based on creativity and cleverness. The artwork is so utterly cute that I chuckled out loud while reading the blurb on the back of the box the first time. In terms of mechanics, the eagles behave the way I’d imagine they would, circling and hunting before feasting, then scarring off the rest of the lemmings. And the lemmings’ scampering about as a result seems highly thematic. The way lemmings acquire pellets also makes sense, in that they must stay on the hex with the pellet so as to ‘eat’ them and then move away naturally, without threat.

As I mentioned in my opening, this game seems so far-fetched that it almost begs you to investigate further, only to pull you in and win your heart over in what turns out to be quite the fun, little game. It’s half-racing game, half -light, tactical war-ish game. Instead of a misstep, GMT has sidestepped all expectations and created a winner.

Highly recommended.

Overall: 5/5
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John Poniske
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Thank's Kevin. I give it a similar rating for similar reasons but then ... I'm a wee bit biased.
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Adam Parker
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Great game design makes the complex simple, replayability maximum, and abstraction credible.
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pacman88k wrote:


3. Ease of Play: 4.8/5

First, the eagles move either clockwise or counterclockwise, then pick off the topmost lemming of any stack of lemmings of his choice.


Thanks for the review. 2 questions:

1. An eagle can pick off a lone Lemming too right?

2. Also have you played this game with 2 players? I was a bit peturbed that some special adjustments to the rules needed to made to make the game playable this way. My wife and I are still to give this game a go but is it enjoyable with both players being an Eagle each turn? Is this necessary? Just seems messy.
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Kevin Garnica
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Yes, an eagle can pick off a lone lemming, I was just stating the "stacks" because that's part of the strategy: covering people so they can't be moved, yet you are in danger of being eaten if you're the one on top of the stack.

I have not played it with 2 players yet, so I really can't testify on the game's effectiveness in that regard. Maybe the designers could speak to that end.
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Kevin Garnica
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Naturally you'd be biased. Good to know great minds think alike.
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Rick Young
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Whoever moved the blue eagle is always the first player in the 2-player variant.

It doesn't swap every turn as in the multiplayer version, otherwise both players would always get a double-move (whover moved last in the prior turn would move first this turn).

Now the double move only happens when the hover gets rolled.
 
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