Full disclosure: A review copy of Hii Fuu!! was provided by Big Cat Games.
Here’s something I haven’t done in a hot minute! Reviewing some doujin games from Big Cat Games. I’m over the moon that I’ve had the opportunity to check out so many, and I’m glad to be getting back into the swing of things with these. The challenge with reviewing these is twofold: generally speaking, I tend to play these with my more-experienced gaming crew so that I can make sure I’m getting the rules and the gameplay right, and, in the case of this and a couple others, I really needed four players to play this. Suffice it to say, as of writing, that’s happened exactly one time in the last nearly two years, which is, you know, nightmarish. But enough on that. Let’s see what’s going on with Hii Fuu!
Hii Fuu! It’s a simple concept. One, then two. That’s all there is to it! Taking the first trick is easy. Taking the second trick? No problem. It’s that temptation to go beyond that will sink you. Hii Fuu is all about the power of two. Two tricks, no problems. For such a simple concept, things get dicey very quickly. Will you be able to keep up (or stay out?)? Or will this game knock you out with a one-two punch?
There’s a bit to this one. First, choose which round tracker you want to use:
If it’s your first game, start with yellow; purple is more complicated. It’s got a bit of a Coloretto vibe to it, which I like. Place the star on the 1R spot, as well. Set out the scoreboard; each player should set a pair of meeples in their color of choice by each board.
Then, prepare the cards:
- 4 players: Use 1 – 13 of each suit.
- 5 players: Use 1 – 15 of each suit.
Shuffle the cards and deal them out evenly. At four, this means every player gets thirteen cards. At five, every player get twelve. Math!
Now for the tough part. Choose four cards in your hand and discard them face-down. All players do this at the same time. Then you’re ready to start a round!
So, Hii Fuu!! means “One, two” in old Japanese. You’ll be saying that a lot. Mii means three, but you’ll hopefully say that less. The rulebook notes that they’re pronounced similarly to “he”, “foo”, and “me”, respectively. Get into it!
The game itself is simple in concept. It’s a trick-taking game. To start a round, the start player plays any card from their hand. The suit of the card chosen is the “led” suit. All players must play a card of the same suit as the led suit, if they can. If they cannot, they can play whatever card they want.
Once every player has played a card, that concludes a trick. The player who played the highest card of the led suit wins the trick and takes it. Trick, taking. You get it. The cards are kept face-down and cannot be looked at. Strategy reasons. If it’s your first trick, say “Hii!”. Second trick? “Fuu!!” Third trick? “Mii!!!”. The player who wins the trick usually starts the next trick.
If you’ve just won your second trick, stand your meeple up on the round board in the topmost available spot. That’s your potential score for this round! However, if you take a third trick, you bust! Lay your meeple down and place your hand face-down. You’re out of the round, and the player to your left leads the next trick.
Play until all cards have been played, and that’s the end of the round! Players with meeples that are still standing score points equal to the value of the spot they’re on. Advance the star one space to the right and reshuffle all the cards, redealing them out. Again, discard four, and the player who won the last trick of the previous round leads the first trick of the next round.
As soon as a round ends and a player has over 10 points, the game ends, and the player with the highest score wins! If five rounds have been played, the player with the highest score wins as well. In the event of a tie, break ties by the player who won exactly two tricks in the last round the latest. If nobody won two tricks, well, then they all win.
Player Count Differences
The big thing is that five players changes up some of the two-trick dynamics of the game. At five, you can very easily have a situation in which four players get two tricks and nobody has to bust (since the fifth player can take one trick and end the round). This means that now, where players would potentially let you take tricks without much contention, you now run the risk of a player trying to snipe a trick from you so that they can get their two and leave you high and dry. I found that in the four-player game, this happened less frequently because players really just had specific tricks that they were planning to win (with the understanding that the differential scoring for when you take your second trick played some part as well). I like the tension of Hii Fuu!! at four, but I wouldn’t have a problem playing with five, either. I think Hii Fuu!! does a smart job of targeting its ideal player count and just letting the game speak for itself. No additional variants or tacked-on solo mode. It made it hard to play when I couldn’t get enough people together, but I really enjoyed when I could.
- It’s pretty critical which cards you initially decide to get rid of. A friend said that this is most of the game, and I’m not inclined to disagree with them. My general strategy was to get as close to only having two colors as I possibly could. I figured even if I had a ton of high cards in those colors, I could ditch some of them on the other two color tricks and wind up with the right cards at the right time. If you can’t get down to only two colors, I’d keep the lowest values you have in your two off colors. That way, you can ditch them early if you’re forced to play them and you won’t win the trick. Just be careful! If your opponents figure out you’re hoarding certain colors, they can bait you into playing those and you might bust.
- Once you hit two tricks, you need to ditch those high cards. Try to throw high cards off in tricks that don’t match their colors, so you can play the cards while being guaranteed not to win the trick. Ideally, taking your second trick would burn your last high-value card, so you couldn’t win a third trick even if you wanted to.
- Generally, having only a few suits represented in your hand will allow you to take the tricks you want and ignore the ones you don’t. That’s trick control, in a nutshell. If you only have red cards, then you have enough that another player playing a red card means that you should be able to choose if you want to win the trick or not. It also means that you can get rid of red cards if a blue / green / gray card is played, which is critical to avoiding taking tricks you don’t want.
- Be careful, though! You still have to lead after you take two tricks. This is the danger of taking your second trick late in the round, since you have to lead the next trick. You may end up playing a suit that nobody else has, which will cause you to immediately bust. I try to take tricks early (a safer route, unless players target you) so that when I lead the trick after, I can dump a 1 or a 2 that someone else will either need to take or want to take. The problem is, in a four-player game, you can see a 2 – 2 – 2 – 3 split without causing any problems. Nobody needs you to not bust; in fact, they might want you to bust so that it improves their chances.
- If you keep an eye on other players’ cards, you might be able to trap them into winning a trick that they don’t want to win. Check out what tricks players throw off on (where they play a card that’s not of the led suit). If they don’t have any cards of a color, you can avoid playing that color and try to find out what they still have in their hand. If you coordinate a bit or you get lucky, you might be able to pressure them into winning a trick that they had been hoping to lose! Throwing off those counts is a great way to trick a player into busting.
- At four, you can always attempt to take zero tricks and force all other players to bust. It’s needlessly rude, but pretty funny. It’s a power move if you’re ahead on the scoreboard, since it basically forces all players to be aggravated by you. If you can pull it off, you pass through a round without anyone scoring, which irritates your co-players and raises the stakes a bit. It won’t make you many friends, especially if they catch wind that you’re doing it intentionally.
- There are only nine tricks in a round, so if you get started too late, you might not even get a chance to take two. In a five-player game, a 2 – 2 – 2 – 2 – 1 split is possible, so you might only win one trick if you’re not careful. You don’t want to win three, but make sure you get your two.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Having players get eliminated from the round as soon as they take their third trick is diabolical. It is a very mean thing for a trick-taking game to do, and I kind of love it! It gives the tricks a sense of impending danger. And it adds a nice push-your-luck element. Do you think you can successfully take two tricks and then lose all the rest? Or do you want to wait until the end of the round when nobody wants to win a trick anyways? Do you think you’ve got the luck to pull that off? I wouldn’t bank on it, necessarily. And that makes every round kind of thrilling.
- As with a lot of these trick-taking games, it’s fairly portable. I had it in a trick-taking Quiver that I took with me last time I went anywhere. Which, granted, was a while ago, but it is nice to ambitiously pack games to potentially go places. I still have Imperium in a Quiver, just in case.
- The game is super bright, colorful, and engaging! It really pops on the table. I like colorful and exciting card games, so this definitely caught my eye. The box itself is super bright and engaging and busy, as well. The whole thing looks good. I particularly like that the 15s are just someone holding the game box.
- I appreciate that this game is well-scoped to its player counts, and focused on making a great experience for those two player counts. I’ve been a bit irked lately by playing a lot of games (a common problem with Kickstarter previews) that seem to be stretching a bit beyond their core competencies when it comes to player count. Hii Fuu!!, while limited in its scope, is also solid at what it chooses to be solid at, and I appreciate that, honestly.
- Two variable scoring options for rounds is nice. I like that there’s a simple and a more complex scoring option, and that players can pick. I actually think that the purple round board is a bit simpler, since it clearly shows the risk / reward of taking the second trick at certain times. That said, newer players may have trouble turning the game’s suggestion into action, so I stick with the yellow board first.
- I like that the later rounds are worth more points; it both lets new players get acclimated to the game before it really counts and it makes sure that everyone is still in the game even in the fifth round (if you get that far). It’s a nice catch-up mechanism that doesn’t make play feel irrelevant. If you’re doing extremely well, you can win the game before the fifth round even happens. If it’s tight, then players who are able to thread the needle later in the game can take the win, and I like that. This seems like another good game for folks who are early or new to trick-taking. It teaches a bit more about the actual mechanics of managing which tricks you take and avoiding tricks, which is good.
- Relatively quick to learn and play. Game’s a pretty straightforward trick-taking game with some clever mechanics about taking a second trick. If everyone knows how to play, I bet you could get a game done in less than 20 minutes.
- The stuff on the cards is fairly random? This isn’t really a complaint or anything; I just can’t really figure out what the theme of the game is. They’re kind of all truly random stuff, and the game’s theme doesn’t feel particularly cohesive, as a result. That happens, sometimes, but as a big fan of game theme, I would have liked to have something a bit more immersive. Editor’s note: I’ve since been informed that the theme is two, like, two of things. This makes so much more sense.
- The one issue with the player elimination is that it means you can’t necessarily control the outcome of rounds, sometimes, even with very good strategy. This one can grate on me a bit as someone who tries to plan their plays pretty tightly. Basically, as the round runs, it becomes easier and easier to be in a spot where you can’t win tricks (because you have fewer cards in your hand so you can usually avoid having to follow suit). Problem is, if the player to your right gets eliminated, then suddenly you’re on the hook to lead the trick, which means that you might be in a spot where that causes you to bust, as well! Plan accordingly and all that, but it can be frustrating to have your best-laid plans go out the window like that.
- A game limited to four or five players is a tough one to get to the table right now. Just a function of the ongoing pandemic, unfortunately. I can barely get two-player games played, at times. Thankfully, I’ve got a bit of a writing backlog that I’m working through, but I can’t do much with higher player-count games. It’s unfortunate. I still have a few party games that, truly, I have no idea when I will play at all. As y’all have likely noticed, the number of party games I review has been declining since 2015 anyways, but now it’s basically firmly zero and will probably be that way for a while.
Overall: 8.25 / 10
Overall, I had a blast playing Hii Fuu!!. I find that I’ve been enjoying a lot of more complicated trick-taking games lately, but it’s nice to play one that isn’t as complicated and is kind of back to basics. The challenge here isn’t thinking about how your tricks affect other tricks or activate abilities or let you win wagers; it’s really just planning out when you want to win tricks and when you want to lose tricks. Hii Fuu!! is kind of basic in that regard, but I don’t mean that as a criticism. I’d go more with focused or refined; Hii Fuu!! understands its core mechanic and seems to have streamlined play completely around that, to its advantage. We were cheering and yelling Hii, Fuu, or the rueful Mii as we played, to great delight. I find that trick-taking games are getting increasingly complicated as the genre seems to be expanding lately (which I love; don’t get me wrong), but I like having some less complex ones to appeal to new players, as well. Personally, Hii Fuu!! is definitely going in my long-term trick-taking Quiver, and I’m excited to play it with more people. I do kind of wish that it had a wider player count, but I respect the game for focusing on making four and five play great, rather than adding extra stuff. My only complaint is really that the player elimination can wreck an otherwise-good strategy; if the player to your right gets eliminated and you get stuck leading a trick, you might end up in a spot where you will bust as well solely because they did. Not much you can do about it; that’s just bad luck, sometimes. It can be a bit frustrating if you’ve planned it out, but this is one of the few games where I enjoy the player elimination. To be fair, it’s more busting than player elimination, but they do have to sit out for the rest of the round and don’t score. Either way, if you’re looking for a bright and colorful trick-taking game, you enjoy a good doujin title, or you have four or five players, I’d recommend checking out Hii Fuu!!. I certainly have enjoyed it.
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