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Subject: Perpetual Geek Machine Review: Leaping Lemmings rss

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Jim Squires
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[reprinted here from my review on www.PerpetualGeekMachine.net]
It’s a story as old as time: lemmings are born, raised, and – at some point in their life cycle – decide to jump off a cliff along with their buddies in a spectacle of mass suicide that would put Jonestown to shame. But here’s the thing – it’s just not true. Knowing this, the fine folks at a research lab in Montana have spent millions to breed and race a suicidal strain of lemming, so that they can be raced to their death to settle a $20 bet. We like to call this “science.”

Leaping Lemmings is a game that tasks players with guiding a group of lemmings from safety to suicide, maneuvering them past hungry eagles and through helpful food pellets along the way, all in an effort to be the team leader to run as many of his lemmings as he can off a cliff in the most spectacular way possible.

The gameplay itself is incredibly straightforward. There are two eagles on the board – a red eagle named Ruby, and a blue eagle named Stephen Jr (see what they did there?). Players will take turns rolling the dice to move the eagles from hunting area to hunting area, in search of tasty lemmings to snack on.

Once the eagles have been played, a movement card is flipped over with a number on it. Players can each choose a single lemming from their team to move up to that number of hexes. This is where the game gets strategic – do you move your lemming to a bush to hide from the eagle? Do you move him on top of an opponent to keep them restrained, but open yourself up to potentially be lunch? Or do you risk safety to try and earn a food pellet that could turn into victory points, or better yet, a favor that could let you bend the rules to your benefit?

The game is delightfully simple… until it’s not.

You see, the problem with Leaping Lemmings isn’t that it’s too simple, but that for a simple game it’s asking you to keep track of too much. You can’t pass through tiles that are current hunting grounds, but those tiles are going to change every turn. You can stack X number of lemmings on a regular tile, but Y number of lemmings on bush tile. Pellets can be collected and spent, but only when you move off their tile – not on. You score bonus points for remaining moves when a lemming dives off a cliff, but since you don’t count your jump as a move, it’s all too easy to miscalculate by a point here and there in the midst of gameplay. When an eagle eats, you need to flip the tile over, and then flip it back by spending a movement point on his next turn. The list of fiddly little rules goes on and on.

The base mechanic here is solid and plenty of fun, but they extra rules they’ve layered on top of it seem to complicate things needlessly. If you were to strip these elements away, Leaping Lemmings would be a perfect game for younger kids. The theme is cute, the art is adorable, and the core concept is simple enough that anyone could grasp it. But once you go beyond simply moving the eagles and playing movement cards, Leaping Lemmings manages to move a lot closer to the publisher’s recommendation of 13+. There’s simply too much here for kids to keep track of. Heck – for the light gameplay at its core, there was too much here for us grown-ups to keep track of too.

While the game is designed for 2-6 players, this is definitely a case of “the more, the merrier.” Since every player you add brings an additional 10 lemmings into the game, the experience can get hectic pretty quickly – especially when you max out at the full 6. When played with only two, the “take that!” gameplay elements, like stacking and feasting, didn’t happen nearly as often simply because there weren’t enough lemmings on the board at any one time.

And while the game doesn’t advertise itself as solo (in fact the company has a “solitaire suitability” rating on the box, and gives this game a lowly 2/9), I found that playing the game alone with a few rule twists managed to be just as much fun as group play. For those interested, I simply put all of the Lemmings in play, moved one of each team per round, played the eagles as adversarially as possible, and tried to beat my own best score. You could also set a point value to reach and use that for a victory condition instead, though with so many Lemmings in play, you’ll probably want to set that pretty high.

With fiercely competitive gameplay once you get a good number of players are involved, Leaping Lemmings would be an easy recommendation to make for those looking for a good casual group experience around the tabletop. But with so many little nitpicky rules to remember, you’re either going to need a rules Nazi in the group to keep them enforced or a kind heart that’s quick to forgive every time a player enters a bush without spending an extra movement point, or miscalculates the scoring when diving off the side of a cliff.
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I give this review a 2/9. Here's why:
jimmycanuck wrote:
The game is delightfully simple… until it’s not.

Huh?
jimmycanuck wrote:

You see, the problem with Leaping Lemmings isn’t that it’s too simple, but that for a simple game it’s asking you to keep track of too much. You can’t pass through tiles that are current hunting grounds, but those tiles are going to change every turn.

Hmmm. They are clearly delineated by borders and the presence of an Eagle...

jimmycanuck wrote:
You can stack X number of lemmings on a regular tile, but Y number of lemmings on bush tile.

X= 5 ALWAYS. Y varies depending on the number of players. Specifically, Y=Number of Players/2, rounded. 2 players = 1, 3 and 4 players = 2, 5 and 6 players = 3. Simple.
jimmycanuck wrote:

Pellets can be collected and spent, but only when you move off their tile – not on.

this is consistent with the rules and that only the first lemming in a stack can move normally off the hex. Simple.
jimmycanuck wrote:

You score bonus points for remaining moves when a lemming dives off a cliff, but since you don’t count your jump as a move, it’s all too easy to miscalculate by a point here and there in the midst of gameplay.

Ludicrous. you count the hexes you move on the board THEN continue counting onto the scoring spaces at the top right of the board until you reach the movement drawn. Simple. that is EXACTLY why they are there.
jimmycanuck wrote:
When an eagle eats, you need to flip the tile over, and then flip it back by spending a movement point on his next turn. The list of fiddly little rules goes on and on.

Not fiddly at all. Thematic. An Eagle feeding has to 'gain flight' before it can fly to hunt again, making three feeding areas away a safe haven since it would take a roll of 4 to reach that area, which is impossible. Simple.
jimmycanuck wrote:
The base mechanic here is solid and plenty of fun, but they extra rules they’ve layered on top of it seem to complicate things needlessly. If you were to strip these elements away, Leaping Lemmings would be a perfect game for younger kids. The theme is cute, the art is adorable, and the core concept is simple enough that anyone could grasp it. But once you go beyond simply moving the eagles and playing movement cards, Leaping Lemmings manages to move a lot closer to the publisher’s recommendation of 13+.

And what is wrong with that?
jimmycanuck wrote:
There’s simply too much here for kids to keep track of. Heck – for the light gameplay at its core, there was too much here for us grown-ups to keep track of too.

OMG...resist! resist...!
jimmycanuck wrote:

While the game is designed for 2-6 players, this is definitely a case of “the more, the merrier.” Since every player you add brings an additional 10 lemmings into the game, the experience can get hectic pretty quickly – especially when you max out at the full 6. When played with only two, the “take that!” gameplay elements, like stacking and feasting, didn’t happen nearly as often simply because there weren’t enough lemmings on the board at any one time.

Play multiple lemmings each player and do the Knizia min-score algorithm at the end. Simple.
jimmycanuck wrote:

And while the game doesn’t advertise itself as solo (in fact the company has a “solitaire suitability” rating on the box, and gives this game a lowly 2/9), I found that playing the game alone with a few rule twists managed to be just as much fun as group play. For those interested, I simply put all of the Lemmings in play, moved one of each team per round, played the eagles as adversarially as possible, and tried to beat my own best score. You could also set a point value to reach and use that for a victory condition instead, though with so many Lemmings in play, you’ll probably want to set that pretty high.

With fiercely competitive gameplay once you get a good number of players are involved, Leaping Lemmings would be an easy recommendation to make for those looking for a good casual group experience around the tabletop. But with so many little nitpicky rules to remember, you’re either going to need a rules Nazi in the group to keep them enforced or a kind heart that’s quick to forgive every time a player enters a bush without spending an extra movement point, or miscalculates the scoring when diving off the side of a cliff.

I played this at a meetup, popped it out of the box, set it up for 6-players and off we went. no problems. the "nitpicky" rules is likely a result of your gaming group's inability to focus attention on the game at hand instead of scarfing down cheeseburgers and beers or too much socializing when they should be actually playing. It literally takes about 1 round from each player moving to grasp the rules in action. This is why I give your review a 2/9. You make the rules out to be 'fiddly' and such when, in fact, they are perfect for the game and add *interest* and *strategy* to it at the expense of virtually no complication.

Play solo.

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Jim Squires
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oeste wrote:
Mark, trying to predict what their group atmosphere was like is not appropriate, and downright silly.


Thanks for coming to my defense!

I don't mind if someone disagrees with my opinion -- after all, sharing you own thoughts and experiences are what sites like this are about -- but being downright nasty is just plain rude, and not at all what I've come to expect from the polite and friendly forumites here on BGG.
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I have introduced this game to a number of different 'non gamer' groups of people and have never had anyone have a problem with the rules. We are generally off and playing very quickly. I find it to be a great 'gateway game'. It's fine for a mixed bag of gamers/non-gamers as well.

I also play it with my 5 year old, but I remove the pellets and special card. We keep all of the eagle rules though. In fact, after reading this review, I may just go set it up for us right now
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oeste wrote:
I'm kinda split between the two of you. Before I get into it though, Mark, trying to predict what their group atmosphere was like is not appropriate, and downright silly.

I inferred it based on the confusion he indicated in his original post/review as a general observation of distracting game conditions.
oeste wrote:
Even if they were actually downing cheeseburgers and beers and talking too much, why is that an issue?

It becomes an issue when you make the ruleset a focus of confusion in a simple game as the review, that's why. Seriously, do YOU think the ruleset is 'fiddly'? And, if I meant it to be personal, I might have said something like "Watching Hockey and Drinking LaBatt's..." or something along those lines.whistle
oeste wrote:
Its how they play, and if they aren't in your group, why worry about it?

I'm not worried about it specifically, just pointing out that this mode of criticism of the game is largely unfounded. Paruse the reviewer's games collection and you will find many, many games he has highly rated with more 'fiddly' rules that Leaping Lemmings, for sure. My guess is he failed to mention he played it only once or twice, if you'd like me to pile on.
oeste wrote:
I did play this game with seasoned gamers, and they did experience some challenges grasping those rules as well when there were no distractors present. Ironically, the most challenging for them to get was the rule about only being able to move sideways once each turn, and the review here didn't mention that at all.

He inferred such. Maybe they actually got that one right?
oeste wrote:
However, by the end of the game, they understood the mechanics and strategic options very well, just like every other game they play. The eagle movement reminds me of a game I played in middle school with my best friend, so I am sure that younger audiences can grasp this game. With that said, I did get this game right before Survive: Escape from Atlantis! was re-released. I do kinda wish I had chosen that as my game where players are moving individual pieces across a hex-based board toward a goal line while opponents use creatures to eat them.



 
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I have to ask why the OP simply quoted one maybe slightly "nasty" cheeseburger reference in his glowing retort and simply ignored the aforementioned, pointed comments:

1) The thematic reasoning behind the Eagle and Hunting Grounds
2) The utter simplicity of stacking on open hexes and bush hexes
3) The consistent thematic mechanism of gathering pellets as "first off" a hex gets the pellet.
4) The (apparent) misunderstanding/confusion of why the scoring areas are big open regions marked 1-5 to assist with correctly scoring the leaping lemmings to their deaths so one does not lose count. Math is hard.
5) The (again) thematic movement for the Eagle after feeding, costing it one movement point to "launch into flight" before it can move out of the region it occupies to continue hunting.
6) The utter nonsense of the complaint of both the "fiddliness" of the rules and the opposing publishers recommendation of 13+ years. You cannot have both.

No, you missed the mark. Had I not been so knuckleheaded as to make the cheeseburger comment, you'd have nothing else to say.

Of course, my opinion only, and don't take it personally.



 
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Jim Squires
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markgravitygood wrote:
I have to ask why the OP simply quoted one maybe slightly "nasty" cheeseburger reference in his glowing retort and simply ignored the aforementioned, pointed comments:


Because we simply have a difference of opinion. I've already had my say on the game -- that's why I wrote the review. I'm not looking to defend my point or get into a debate about it. If you disagree with me, that's fine. I don't see any reason to address it.

My issue with the game was that it didn't know who it wanted its audience to be. The core of the game was easy enough for simple family fun, but there were too many -- I'll say it again -- "fiddly little rules" that kept it from being as casual-friendly as it wanted to be. You disagree with this. That's fine. We're not necessarily going to make the same decision in the Pepsi Challenge either.
 
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Lewis Goldberg
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Not to make this too personal (and here I go anyway) but it sounds like someone wrote a review of a game that they didn't quite know how to play. I think maybe a few Q&A's should have preceded its writing.

In any case, I'd really hate to see someone base their purchase decision on this review. As an essay on "first impressions", it's fine, but someone undertaking an actual review should have a fairly good grasp of the game on which they are commenting.
 
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Clearly, Pepsi. Coke is for pussies.surprise
 
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There must have been a moment at the beginning, where we could have said no. Somehow we missed it. Well, we'll know better next time.
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I agree the rules did feel a little "fiddly," I would argue as a result of its wargame heritage. (Maybe to a wargamer they feel as natural as breathing, rather than fiddly)...

But, fiddly games do not necessarily mean bad games; I enjoyed this game very much and I rank fiddly FFG games like Arkham Horror among my all-time faves...
 
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Jonathan Kinney
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I don't have a problem if people enjoy simpler games, the key for me is that they actually explain the rules properly. And, for the most part the OP did.

On principle, I do agree with Mark (although he could have been slightly more tactful...and he's a Bruins fan - so two strikes whistle) there are elements that most be remembered, but type them out and print on a recipe card - it's no worse than the "things to remember" in Power Grid or Puerto Rico or Small World.

I don't find this a particularly difficult game - but it is a true hybrid game in my mind. It's a med-low complexity Euro that acts as a gateway wargame. Imagine a slightly different theme - instead of lemmings and eagles - imagine POWs and lighted guard towers. There's hex movement, cover modifiers, stacking limits, and movement points. What more do you need for an intro wargame?
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lgoldberg wrote:
Not to make this too personal (and here I go anyway) but it sounds like someone wrote a review of a game that they didn't quite know how to play. I think maybe a few Q&A's should have preceded its writing.

In any case, I'd really hate to see someone base their purchase decision on this review. As an essay on "first impressions", it's fine, but someone undertaking an actual review should have a fairly good grasp of the game on which they are commenting.


I completely agree. I think people need to be very carefully with post what they consider to be "reviews" without complete knowledge.

Reviews are not just people's thoughts...there is a responsibility attached to them. It doesn't matter whether you're Scott Nicholson, Tom Vasel or Joe Schmoe, people come here, read reviews and make decisions on what games to buy based on those reviews. Please keep this in mind.

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jonocop wrote:
I don't have a problem if people enjoy simpler games, the key for me is that they actually explain the rules properly. And, for the most part the OP did.

On principle, I do agree with Mark (although he could have been slightly more tactful...and he's a Bruins fan - so two strikes whistle) there are elements that most be remembered, but type them out and print on a recipe card - it's no worse than the "things to remember" in Power Grid or Puerto Rico or Small World.

I don't find this a particularly difficult game - but it is a true hybrid game in my mind. It's a med-low complexity Euro that acts as a gateway wargame. Imagine a slightly different theme - instead of lemmings and eagles - imagine POWs and lighted guard towers. There's hex movement, cover modifiers, stacking limits, and movement points. What more do you need for an intro wargame?


There are two things I can't tolerate:

People who are overly tactful, and Canadians.

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John Poniske
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Right on Johnathan. You're reading my mail. I was not offended at all by the reviewer's comments and in fact I gave him a thumb's up for a pretty good, quick and dirty review that offers relatively positive first impressions, (despite the "fiddly" comments). Your point regarding LL's close relationship to wargames is dead on. To us wargamers, fiddliness is part of the feast. It's luck without strategy that we consider famine, When outsiders examine our tools of the trade, I often see eyes glaze over. If we can garner any interest at all from outside the confines of our grognarddom, we need to acknowledge it.

Well, I'm not Canadian but I guess I'm on the hit list for the other thing.
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jonocop wrote:
Reviews are not just people's thoughts...there is a responsibility attached to them. It doesn't matter whether you're Scott Nicholson, Tom Vasel or Joe Schmoe, people come here, read reviews and make decisions on what games to buy based on those reviews. Please keep this in mind.



I'm not sure why Jim, or anyone, needs to keep anything other than their own opinions in mind when writing a review. It's Jim's prerogative to write a review as he sees fit, especially when he's making reasoned statements based on his own experiences and opinions. Jim is not being malicious in his assessment of the game. Indeed, there was another poster who mentioned that some seasoned gamers had trouble coming to terms with the rules of the game.
As much as any BGG user can speak their mind (with respect to the Community Rules) regarding a review, so should Jim or any reviewer be allowed to provide their honest assessment of a game.

As for the main issue in this thread, maybe the differences in opinion stem from a perceived disconnect between the theme and the mechanics of the game. The cartoonish drawings and silly theme hint at a simpler, casual game, without the fiddly rules that some have experienced. Gamers who are used to focusing on the mechanics of game will probably be able to enjoy the motions of Leaping Lemmings, while those who were initially taken by the casual-friendly art and theme might be taken aback.

For example, Ticket to Ride is a relatively casual, family-friendly gateway game. Appropriately, it uses bright, primary colours and idealised turn of the century imagery. There'd be a huge disconnect if TTR, with its current imagery, had more complex rules regarding placement of trains, etc.

So I while can understand how some people enjoy LL's mechanics, I think the allusions to military re-themes are very telling. LL's theme might be a little too cute for its mechanics.

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Jonathan Kinney
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aylien wrote:
jonocop wrote:
Reviews are not just people's thoughts...there is a responsibility attached to them. It doesn't matter whether you're Scott Nicholson, Tom Vasel or Joe Schmoe, people come here, read reviews and make decisions on what games to buy based on those reviews. Please keep this in mind.



I'm not sure why Jim, or anyone, needs to keep anything other than their own opinions in mind when writing a review. It's Jim's prerogative to write a review as he sees fit, especially when he's making reasoned statements based on his own experiences and opinions. Jim is not being malicious in his assessment of the game. Indeed, there was another poster who mentioned that some seasoned gamers had trouble coming to terms with the rules of the game.
As much as any BGG user can speak their mind (with respect to the Community Rules) regarding a review, so should Jim or any reviewer be allowed to provide their honest assessment of a game.





The bolded part is the key. I don't have any problem with an honest assessment and I didn't at all criticize Jim's assessment as such. But I think that it's important that before people throw up a review (again not necessarily directed at Jim) they need to make sure they've worked through all the logistics of the game. As someone mentioned a "first impressions" or something of the sort is one thing, but a review implies a level of research and dedication to producing a solid work. How can someone produce an honest assessment if they don't really know or understand the game?
 
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@ Jonathan - I'm not sure I understand what you mean, are you implying that Jim did not "work through all the logistics of the game"?
From my understanding, his initial review did not have any errors regarding his interpretation of the rules. He just stated that he found them overly fiddly.
 
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Jonathan Kinney
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aylien wrote:
@ Jonathan - I'm not sure I understand what you mean, are you implying that Jim did not "work through all the logistics of the game"?
From my understanding, his initial review did not have any errors regarding his interpretation of the rules. He just stated that he found them overly fiddly.


As I said, it was not necessarily related to Jim. This is a comment about all people who post reviews and the responsibility they have.
 
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@ Jonathan - Ah sorry, I misunderstood your post. While I still think anyone can write whatever they want in a review (and then others can comment on it in a discussion), I definitely appreciate your opinion.
 
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On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the most fiddly, I'd say this game ranked about a 2. It's really very easy to pick up, and I've found that most kids I've played with have no trouble picking up the rules. I say this as a game player who is getting older and has an increasingly low tolerance for overly complex rulesets. I find that the adjective "realistic" applied to many of these games with the 35-page rulebooks could often be replaced by another adjective — "unplayable." It would also help in some cases if the rules were written in something resembling English. Leaping Lemmings is what it is — a fun, light game that families can enjoy over snacks. By the way, it's one of three of designer John Poniske's games that will be played at the World Boardgaming Championships this year, the other two being "Hearts and Minds" and "King Phillip's War."
 
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jonocop wrote:
There's hex movement, cover modifiers, stacking limits, and movement points. What more do you need for an intro wargame?


Strategic Objectives, perhaps?

I don't get the "intro wargame" similarities with L.L. I think it plays more like a racing game than anything else. It has a finite end to it, and the goal could be to score efficiently as many Lemmings as you can.
 
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Thanks for the review. I was thinking of getting this for my 5 year old, but it seems that by the time she would fully appreciate the ruleset, we could just be playing meatier games instead.
 
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