Hop in the Pool With ‘Hippo’

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Hippo game
Hippo is a tiny, pocket-sized game. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Let’s take a dip in the pool with Mr. Hippo! Hippo is another cute, pocket-sized game from Helvetiq.

What Is Hippo?

Hippo is an easy dice game for 2 to 4 players, ages 6 and up, and takes about 15 minutes to play. It retails for $12.95 and is available in stores or online from Helvetiq and Amazon, and is distributed by Toysmith in the US. It’s definitely easy enough for any kids who can roll dice and count, with a little bit of addition required.

Hippo components
Hippo components. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Hippo Components

  • 3 dice
  • 48 chips (12 each in 4 player colors)
  • 12-piece game board

The game board is made up of 12 tiles, numbered 1 through 12, making it compact enough to fit into a tiny box but still very easy to lay out. The player chips look like little inner tubes (with a spot of blue in the middle) and are a thick cardstock, not quite what I’d call cardboard. They work fine, though they’re easy to lose track of. The dice are small six-sided dice.

Everything fits into a very small box, making it a good on-the-go game.

How to Play Hippo

You can download a copy of the rulebook here.

The Goal

The goal of the game is to be first to get all of your chips into the pool.

Hippo board
Welcome to Mr. Hippo’s pool! Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Setup

Lay out the game board tiles in order from 1 to 12. Give each person a set of chips of one color. Choose a starting player and give them the dice.

Gameplay

On your turn, you roll the dice, and then place chips into the pool based on what you roll. There are a few options for how you use the dice.

Hippo game in progress
You can use each die individually. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

First, you may just use the three individual results, putting one chip into the matching lane for each die value. If you roll the same number twice, you may put two chips into that lane.

Hippo game in progress
You can also use sums. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Or you may add two or three dice together, so you’ll place fewer chips but may be able to get higher numbers (or avoid putting too many into the same lane).

Hippo game in progress
If the lane is full, you bump a chip out. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Chips start at the bottom of the lane, and bump existing chips up one space in that lane. If the lane is full, the chip at the top gets bumped out and returned to its owner.

Hippo knocking out a chip
Careful not to bump your own chips! Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Beware, though! If you bump your own chip out of a lane, you get a penalty—you must take all the chips in that lane. On future turns, you have to place the other colors first before you start using your own.

Hippo game closeup
Mr. Hippo’s lane is a “no swim zone.” Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Lane 7, with Mr. Hippo, is a “no swim zone” and can hold any number of chips, so nothing will ever get bumped out. Also, if you place a chip into Mr. Hippo’s lane, you get to take another turn.

Game End

The game ends when any player gets all of their chips into the pool, winning the game.

Why You Should Play Hippo

Hippo is another game in Helvetiq’s line of tiny games (see also: Bandido), and it’s also cute and fairly light. It reminds me a little bit of Can’t Stop just because of the dice-rolling and moving up in lanes, though in this case, you do not want to move up in lanes, but rather want to get into as many different lanes as possible. The decision-making is fairly light, but there are still enough choices to make it interesting—it’s a good one for parents because your little kids can play, but it’s not one of those terrible games where nobody is actually making any choices. I’ve actually played several times with my older kids and with adult friends, and we often play a couple games in a row because it’s short.

The decision you’ll make each turn is how you want to allocate the dice. Do you spread them out and go for the lower numbers, or add them up and go for higher numbers? The higher numbers (8 to 12) only have two spaces in the lanes, so you can get bumped out of them sooner—but adding up dice also means placing fewer chips, so not everyone will want to do that.

If you roll doubles or triples, do you risk putting multiple chips in the same lane? The more chips you have in a lane, the easier it is to bump yourself out and take the penalty.

Hippo 2-player game
A 2-player game of Hippo. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Rolling a 7 is always great because you can dump a chip into Mr. Hippo’s lane and take another turn, but there’s a downside too. If you got a 7 on two dice, then you’ll have another chip that you place with the third die—and that’s where you may end up putting your own chips in danger, if you keep rolling the same number with the extra die. Penalties don’t seem to happen that often, but I’ve noticed it’s more common with players who have been using the 7 lane because there’s no choice for the third die.

Overall, Hippo is light and fun. It’s not going to scratch your itch for a heavy strategy game, but it’s a great game to play anywhere (as long as you don’t lose any of those chips). So, dive on in—the water’s fine!


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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.

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