Discount Salmon

Designer: Cara Heacock and Marcus Ross
Publisher: Water Bear Games
Date Released: 2013

Number of Players: 2-6
Age Range: 8 and up
Setup Time: minimal
Play Time: Around 10 minutes

Game Mechanics:
Hand Management

Game flow:
Players take on the role of a fish monger. They must fish in the only water source at their disposal Lake Miasma. Unfortunately, the fish in Lake Miasma have something wrong with them. They could be dry, toxic, ugly, smell, or have any combination of ailments, but that doesn’t stop a fish monger.

DiscountSalmon01The player designated to go first flips over one of the fish cards of Lake Miasma (which are face down, scrambled in a pool). Then, all the players try to fix whatever’s wrong with the fish with the cards in their hand. If the fish is dry, rub lotion on it. If the fish stinks, spritz it with a little perfume. The first player to get the fish to a sellable fish (no ailments) keeps the fish – and all the other cards associated with the fish – in their score pile. Whoever won the last fish flips over the next fish in Lake Miasma.

DiscountSalmon04But what if you don’t have what will fix the fish in your hand? You can make the fish even more of a wreck. You may have a sun card in your hand that’ll make the fish dry. Or you can have a mustache that’ll make the fish ugly. A fish isn’t won until the fish has no more problems.

Play continues until you run out of fish in Lake Miasma. The player with the most fish wins.

Discount Salmon has a wonderful premise, more character than you can shake a dorsal fin at, easy-to-learn gameplay, and defies the classification of a trick-winning game. Clocking in at less than 10 minutes, it may be the fastest games we’ve ever reviewed, but it definitely is one of those games that one person may have the knack for it and others will bend to their will. Don’t be surprised if you get skunked.

DiscountSalmon03Reflexes play a huge role. Someone may play a card before you’ve realized that a fish has even been flipped. A common strategy is to have a negative card (with the corresponding cure) at the ready and slap the negative card on the fish no matter which fish shows. Then, after someone has fixed what was initially wrong with the fish, you fix the new problem.

DiscountSalmon02The problem with this strategy is that you’ll often play a negative card on a fish that already has the negative aspect you’re trying to play. A fish can’t be extra dry or extra toxic. Arguments will ensue, and with some gaming group, you may want to have an impartial judge.

Don’t expect your cards to make it without a few bends and tears. And don’t ever sleeve these cards. Fish will fly whenever you flip or play a card.

Despite these minor issues, Discount Salmon is a lot of fun, and it isn’t a large investment of your time. There isn’t a lot of strategy, but that makes it a great game for younger gamers.

Verdict: A fast and fun game with limited strategy that’s great for younger gamers or an amusing change-of-pace game between longer gaming engagements.

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