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FROGRIDERS

Reviewed by Greg J. Schloesser

FROGRIDERS (eggertspiele/Pegasus Spiele/Stronghold Games, 2 to 4 players, ages 8 and up, 30 minutes; $49.99)

 

Themes can be a tricky thing.  I am sure designers and publishers often struggle over a theme for a game.  Do you go with a tried-and-true theme such as railroads, dragons or city building, or venture away from this comfort zone into something more unusual or unique?  Undoubtedly many gamers would welcome fresh themes, while others will balk at a theme that may seem too childlike or silly. 

I am fairly certain what the latter group will think of the theme of Frogriders, the creation of Asger Harding Granerud and Daniel Skjold Petersen.  The name unabashedly indicates the theme—small creatures riding frogs—which is sure to cause screams of protest and perhaps even disgust from hardcore gamers.  As the old cliché goes, however, looks can be deceiving.

Frogriders is a tactical game of leap-frog, with players moving their frogriders in a Checkers-like fashion so they can leap neutral frogs and either save them for points or use them to obtain special benefits.  Not only are there constant decisions to be made regarding the movement and jumping, but the choice to keep or trade-in captured frogs can be challenging.

The large board graphically depicts the home of the frogriders:  a pond covered with lily pads (but of course!).  The pieces—which are miniatures depicting gnome-like creatures riding frogs—are placed on all of the lily pads.  There are four different colors of frogs—brown, blue, red and yellow—with the latter three having special abilities if captured and subsequently surrendered.  Two public score cards are displayed and each player receives two private ones, keeping one and discarding the other.  Four Privilege cards, which grant special powers and abilities when acquired, are displayed.  Let the leapfrogging begin!

A player’s turn is quite simple:  leap a frog, then decide whether to keep the captured frog or trade it in. 

Leaping consists of moving any one frog, leaping in a straight line over an adjacent frog and landing in the empty space directly behind (next to) the leaped frog.  Multiple frogs cannot be leaped unless the player has acquired a special privilege card that allows such a move.  The player then takes the leaped frog and either keeps it or surrenders it for its special power.

A player will usually opt to keep frogs for scoring purposes.  The public scoring cards are each different and provide incentives for collecting certain frogs in color combinations.  For example, one card awards 3 points for each set of red and yellow frogs a player collects, while another awards 5 points for every set of five frogs collected,  regardless of color.  Private cards operate similarly.  One card awards 5 points for each set of two red frogs, while another gives 4 points for each set of red, blue and yellow.  A frog can be counted for each of the scoring opportunities.

So why trade-in a frog when captured?  Ahh, because the benefits can be significant.  Surrendering a red frog and the player may make another leap, thereby collecting yet another frog.  However, the player may not then trade that frog for another special power.  Trading a yellow frog allows the player to take a previously traded frog (thereby allowing him to collect a desired color), while trading a blue frog allows the player to select one of the displayed Privilege cards. 

Privilege cards can be quite valuable as they give the player special abilities and/or victory points at game’s end.  Some cards alter the leaping ability (allowing “L” shaped jumps, allowing the player to jump over empty spaces before leaping a frog, etc.), while some grant victory points (landing on a flower, end game points for collecting cards or frogs), etc.  These cards add an interesting twist to the game and allow for different tactics, strategies and goals.

The game ends when one player cannot make a legal leap, which can happen quite suddenly.  Players tally points based on the public scoring cards, their private card, Privilege cards they acquired, plus one point for each brown frog they collected.  The winner is named the “King’s Champion” and is admired by frogriders throughout the realm.

Frogriders plays quickly, in about 30 minutes or so, and is easy to teach and learn.  The decisions aren’t terribly taxing, but can be significant.  Acquiring Privilege cards can be important, as they can allow one to break the normal leaping or collecting rules, or even provide more end game victory points.  It is difficult, if not impossible to plan long-term, particularly when playing with three or four players.  There is a bit more control with two players, but the game is primarily one of taking advantage of current situations when your turn arrives.

The game certainly is reminiscent of Checkers, but also reminds me a bit of the old Franjos game Billabong, although it does not require nearly as much thought.  Still, Frogriders is a light game that should strongly appeal to families or casual gamers.  Gamers who prefer moderate-to-heavy strategy games may still find this an amusing filler, but only if they can accept the admittedly silly theme.  My advice is to remember your childhood games of leapfrog, let go and have some fun!  Hop to it! – – – – – – – – – Greg J. Schloesser


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