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Reviews - Snipe Hunt
by Merwin

Snipe Hunt cover Snipe Hunt
Published by Pegamoose Games
Designed by Doug Schwartz
2 sets of cards and rules, 2 dice, 7 pawns

For those of you not in the know, a snipe is a real bird. This game is a fun little Cheapass-style publication where up to four players take on the roles of rangers traipsing through the forest in search of this elusive avian. For your $10, you get 36 Forest/map cards, a bunch of Snipe Hunt cards describing various in-game effects, six player pawns, one snipe pawn, and a six-sided die. I suspect they might have been able to sell the game for half the price without the tokens and die, but this way, it's complete.

Wing and a Prayer
The objective of the game is to capture (cross paths with) the fickle yet cooperative snipe and bring it back to the Ranger Station.

The forest you wander through is comprised of 36 square cards with illustrations of various pathways blocked by greenery. It ends up looking a lot like a green-and-white maze. Summarizing the game simply, players roll a six-sided die and move their pawns through the forest towards the snipe, which also gets to move before each player. When a player crosses paths with the snipe, they pick it up. Then it's the long trek back to the Ranger Station, while avoiding the Dark Woods and the Spooky Woods, as well as interference from other players and the convolutions of the forest.

Some of the forest cards have snipe feathers imprinted along their paths. Landing on one of these requires you to draw from the Snipe Hunt deck, inflicting some dubious benefit or penalty upon you or an opponent. Other forest cards are imprinted with icons requiring the player to rotate any forest card 90 or 180 degrees.

Back to the Nest
While the game does accommodate the seasoned gamer, there are two reasons it's more suited for the younger crowd. First, it's extraordinarily simple. Rules are clearly laid out, and while the sequence of rules explanations may be questionable, it's easy enough to find what you're looking for since the rules are only the front and back of a single 8.5" x 11" sheet of paper. All encounters must be taken, reducing or eliminating the need for complex decision making.

Second, it's largely nonviolent. You're not looking to kill the snipe, or to hurt other hunters (although people can get caught in bear traps). Special spaces don't kill you - you get lost and lose a turn, or the snipe gets scared and runs off back to its nest. In fact, you don't really capture the snipe. It kinda likes you, so it just ends up sitting on your head if you're the one who finds it. The snipe is undeniably fickle - it likes everyone. If you cross paths with someone who has the snipe, it leaves them and moves to you.

Things don't get much more kid-friendly than that.

Forest for the Trees
The tiles for the gameboard do have a couple of issues. While the board layout shown in the rulebook is only a suggested layout, it may very well be the only reasonable layout. Putting the special Forest spaces too far apart may result in a game that overplays its welcome, and putting them too close together ends the game at the drop of a hat (or a snipe, as it were).

Snipe Hunt game in play Also, as with many games of its ilk, the cards are a little difficult to reposition without disrupting the rest of the board. When a significant portion of the game relies on rotating and relocating cards, this becomes a major annoyance, especially when dealing with players with poor spatial visualization skills.

These issues, while notable, are not game breakers.

One of my major complaints about Snipe Hunt is the seemingly complete lack of tactical or strategic elements. In the games I played, there were very few options for movement if your goal was the Snipe. You always wanted to move directly towards it, or in such a way as to reduce the number of possible steps it would take to reach it on subsequent turns. Very often, there was only a single sensible movement option each turn. This essentially eliminates any need for significant strategic considerations.

Significant tactical considerations are eliminated in the basic rules because the players are at the mercy of the the Snipe Hunt cards once those are drawn. The only real tactical considerations are whether to land on a space-rotator or card-drawing space -- and this is outweighed by the need to always get closer to the snipe.

However, because the game is so simple, it lends itself easily to variants. Pegamoose's website outlines a few of these variants, including one for solo play.

In fact, I came up with a simple variant that dramatically increases the tactical component of the game: At the beginning of the game, everyone draws two Snipe Hunt cards and places one face down in front of them, and the other face up. Whenever the current player lands on a Snipe Hunt space, the player who just controlled the Snipe chooses whether the current player plays their face up card or the face down card. The current player then replaces the used card from the Snipe Hunt deck, in the same orientation (face up or face down). A player may always look at their own face down card. While this variant may slow or entirely prevent certain cards from coming into play, it certainly manifests a significant tactical consideration.

As published, this game is great for kids -- even kids as young as four years old -- as long someone capable of reading and conveying information on the cards is supervising or playing the game. It's barely more complicated than Candyland and relies heavily on luck. Even as a beer-and-pretzels game, the potential of the basic game is somewhat stunted for both average and experienced gamers. Fortunately, it's simplicity means that it can be easily fortified with houserules/variant rules, providing a surprising number of diverse challenges.


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