When it comes to hippos and board games, I can’t imagine any game beating out Hungry Hungry Hippos for the most well-known of the genre. However, that didn’t dissuade publisher Helvetiq from coming out with their own Hippo themed board game appropriately titled… Hippo. Can it dethrone the long-reigning king? Let’s find out.
Hippo is a dice rolling game for 2-4 players that takes about 15 minutes to play. Hippo plays best with 4 players.
The goal in Hippo is to be the first player to get rid of all 12 of your chips. On a player’s turn, they begin by rolling the 3 dice. Each die corresponds to one lane in the swimming pool (numbered 2-12) and a player can either use each die to place a chip in matching numbered lanes or combine one or more dice for a placement (IE: two 4s to place a chip in lane 8).
Each lane has either 2 or 3 spots for chips, and new ones are always placed on the bottom most spot. If there is currently one in that place, all chips are slid up one row, potentially knocking a chip out of the top of the lane, which is returned to its owner.
The only exception is if a player rolls a 7. The lane marked 7 can not only hold an unlimited number of chips, but the player gets to take a second turn (only once though). Then the dice are passed and the next player takes their turn.
Hippo follows similarly sized titles (Kariba, Bandido) in Helvetiq’s small box line of games. The box for Hippo is about the size of a deck of playing cards so it definitely makes a good travel game. And unlike Bandido, its table space isn’t that daunting making this an easy game for a pub or coffee table somewhere.
Other than portability, the other thing that Hippo has going for it is it’s easy to learn rules. I think Hippo will make a good game for kids as the rules, once explained, are fairly easy to remember. In fact, all the kids I tested it with enjoyed playing it and some even requested a second game.
That being said, I don’t think too many adults or gamers are going to gravitate towards this one. The gameplay is very luck based with little to mitigate that. While there is some strategy in using your dice, the decisions are almost always obvious. If you roll a seven, use it. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that 7s feel fairly overpowered as not only can your chips never be bumped from that space, but you also get a second turn. One of those powers would have been enough, but with both, there is literally never a reason not to use a 7. In most of our plays, the player that rolled the most sevens easily won.
Finally, I think Hippo plays best at the highest player count. As turns are quick, downtime isn’t an issue and it has a lot more player interaction. We tried it with 2 and there just aren’t enough chips out to really worry about getting your pieces bumped, which led to a somewhat lackluster playing experience. While the higher player counts are more chaotic, they are also a lot more fun.
For a $12 game that’s very portable, Hippo isn’t a bad title to grab to occupy your kids attention. The rules are easy to learn and the 6+ age range feels pretty spot on. However, most gamers are going to want to give this one a pass as the gameplay in Hippo feels very random with the 7s borderline being broken.
Final Score: 2.5 Stars – A fine distraction for the little ones, but most gamers can move on.
• 7s feel overpowered
• Gameplay is pretty random