We’re back with more Oink Games! I’m always excited to talk more about stuff from Oink; they’re one of my favorite publishers. Small box games, bright colors, unique themes and diverse gameplay. It’s wild stuff. I’m always excited to see what they’ve got, but since I missed Gen Con this year, it’s been tough to get some of the newer releases. That said, I picked up Hey Yo a little while ago from their Kickstarter, so let’s check it out!
In Hey Yo, you and your crew are trying to come up with the perfect tune, and you need to play to the beat! You’ve got some great flow, yes, but you’re working collaboratively to make an incredible song! Stay in rhythm, stay on tune, and keep the beat going if you want to win! Will you be able to drop the perfect track? Or will it end up dropping you?
A few things to do here. Choose a set of tokens and cards, either yellow or orange. If you’re playing the team game, use both of everything, but treat your two teams as completely distinct groups of players.
For your group, give one player a Leader Marker and set the Start Marker (the arrow) out pointing forward:
Shuffle the cards:
Starting with the Leader, deal out all the cards to form personal decks for all players. Players should draw four cards from their personal deck and leave the rest face-down. Don’t look at your hand, yet. Then, shuffle the bonus chips:
Reveal two and set the other two out of play. You can set aside the score sheet, for now, but place the DJ such that it’s close to all players:
When you’re ready, push it to start!
In Hey Yo, players try to keep to the beat and keep their rhythm unbroken as they play through challenging, real-time music challenges. Basically, a round starts as soon as a player says “Come on, DJ!” and pushes the button on the speaker. All players can immediately look at their cards.
In Hey Yo, you play cards on the beat. The first time, you have until the second beep to play a card (play it on the second beep) face-up next to either the start line or next to another card in play, but after that players must play a card on the beep. If they can’t, they take a penalty by flipping the earliest face-up card in play.
Every time you play a card, you should draw a card from your personal deck to replace it. If you can’t because there aren’t any cards left, well, don’t. You will just have fewer cards in hand until the round ends.
You can discuss your cards and strategies with other players, but do not show your cards to them. Hands are kept private.
After everyone has played all of their cards, the round ends. Stop the speaker by pressing the button again, and place the two bonus chips next to the two lines on the cards. You can discuss, collectively, which chip goes at the end of which line, but the Leader makes the final call.
Now for scoring! Each of the punchlines (a symbol with a yellow burst around it) scores moving backwards along the line it’s on until it hits either another punchline or a different symbol than the one on it. The punchline scores one point for each symbol it encounters that matches its symbol (including itself).
After scoring all the punchlines, if you scored 50+ points, you cleared the level! If you want to keep going, remove all of the cards for your current level (remove all the Level 1 Cards, if you’re about to start Level 2), and then try again!
Player Count Differences
The major difference at various player counts is that at 5+ players, you need to switch to a Team Battle variant that uses both decks at the same time. For that, players play on opposite sides of the table in teams of up to five, essentially playing normally along the same tempo and comparing their scores at the end of the round. I’m not as keen on that, since you’re playing different games and that introduces a lot of random elements that are hard to account for (for instance, both teams use different bonus chips). That said, I’m also not expecting to play any games with 10 people anytime soon, so, probably a moot point. At up to five players, there’s a bit of variance in how you play. It’s easier to account for strategy with fewer players, but you also have less visibility. More players means more cards out of the deck are in hand, so you can plan a bit better (provided everyone is listening). I wouldn’t say I’ve found a particular player count that most appeals to me, there; I think they’re all fun in different ways. As a result, while I’m not much for the team mode, I’d happily play this at 2 – 5 players.
- Consider your bonus chips. You can either burn cards with those symbols now or you can save a bunch of them up to make for an incredible finish with the bonus chip punchlines. I try to alternate a bit between the two. You don’t want your entire hand to be junked up with one color (unless you know where the punchline for that color is), so having a little flexibility can go a long way.
- Communicate! You can’t show what’s in your hand, but talk and plan. I usually just say what I can play next and see if that’s helpful. Try to communicate if you can continue both lines or just one line so that players know if they should punchline the other line out before it’s too late and that line becomes worthless.
- Let other players know when you have punchlines in hand. This is critical, because you need those to score points. Telling them what you have will allow players to start building out the groupings that you need to score big points on certain colors.
- It’s better to score fewer points than you wanted for a particular run than it is to score 0 because you blocked it. If you’re not sure, play the punchline early to lock in those points. You never know if the next player was accidentally going to have to kill that scoring run, so if you haven’t heard anyone tell you not to, you should just drop the punchline if you’re already looking at upwards of 6 or 8 points, I think.
- Be prepared to play something. If nothing else, you really don’t want to take the penalty for forgetting to play, so have a Best Case Option for the next card you want to play unless someone else tells you to do something different. If you don’t hear anything, just drop that card. And you might not have a strong opinion! Sometimes you have cards that work perfectly with what’s in play, so you can just drop one and move on. It’s nice when that happens, but you need to keep an eye on your hand and the state of the cards to make sure that you’re not going to mess something up by playing impulsively.
- This is something I see players forget a lot, but remember to draw a card after playing one. You already have fairly limited options for what to play and when; ideally, you want to have as many options as possible since you’re going to need to think on your feet. Therefore, as soon as you play a card, draw a new one. Otherwise, you’re going to have to move quickly with fewer cards, which is not ideal.
- As you progress through the game, you’ll need to play tighter; a lot of the “Level X” cards have two symbols of the same type on them (and nothing else). The “Level X” cards are meant to be helpful, so naturally as you increase the difficulty, they’re the first things to go. Since you know that’s coming, be prepared to try to play better as you move up the ranks. Or don’t move up the ranks at all! It’s your game; have fun with it.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I mean, the musical element is pretty cool. It’s a bit silly in that it has a sound quality reminiscent of “Bop It!”, but, you know, it’s fun.
- It even includes a tiny pen! I just like small gameplay components like that. Is the pen practical? Absolutely not. Did it make me laugh? Of course. It’s like the dinky little bell in Durian. Completely unnecessary, but it improves the game with its presence.
- I appreciate that the core beat is slow enough that you can discuss some quick strategies between player turns. You can even use your own songs if you have ones with a similar BPM. Here’s a good list; someone should make a Spotify playlist and see where that gets us.
- There aren’t a ton of cooperative Oink titles, so I’m glad to see a new one. I say that and Moon Adventure dropped pretty quickly after the fact, so, now there are a few cooperative titles. Still not that many! I appreciate that they’re expanding their reach.
- I like the color scheme for this game, as well. The kind-of mint green they used for the box is interesting, especially since it doesn’t match any of the colors of the other symbols. While black cards are routinely not my favorite, they at least have a bit of street art energy to them, so the game consistently looks good on the table.
- And, like all Oinks, it’s very portable. I kind of need to revamp my Oink Games shelf, at this point, since it’s now too small to accommodate the titles, but my entire suite of Oink Games products could still comfortably fit in one canvas bag, so, that’s twenty-something games in a space that would normally accommodate four. I love their commitment to small-box games, and that constraint seems to continue to breed creativity.
- Without variants, being forced to break a particularly long streak can be frustrating. It’s just a bummer for everyone, and there’s not always a way to avoid it! You might just get a particularly bad run of cards, and that can be unfortunate.
- The scoring can be tricky for some players, so take some time to explain it with some examples. I think players can be thrown off by the fact that other symbols terminate runs (and don’t score them), punchlines count backwards and include themselves, and how the bonus chips work relative to everything else. Just pop out some sample cards and walk people through it; that usually helps.
- It can be difficult to decide when to split to the next line, which is a fun challenge for a real-time game. The game has a similar problem to TomaTomato, but the line is much longer than that game’s line (and never gets smaller), so you often need to break to two or three lines for a useful play space. Having to make that decision also wastes time when you’re on the clock, which can be stressful for players.
- I’m definitely going to be irritated when that little speaker battery dies. I have no batteries like that and I always have to go out and buy more when the various tiny remotes and such I have around the house kick it. My luggage scale battery died because I didn’t use it for two years, for instance. That was a fun thing to discover the night before I flew out.
- Naturally, if you can’t hear the beat, this game is going to be unplayable for you. I feel like you could wire up a light to this that plays with the sound, but that’s a much more expensive solution for the game. It would be nice as an alternative for players with hearing disabilities, though.
- It’s probably a good idea to have a few practice rounds, as players are going to struggle with turn order their first time. This is not a game that I would call immensely intuitive to new players. Between the real-time elements, the scoring, and the play, you’re going to see some serious confusion. Take the time to let players practice for a bit before starting the Actual Round; they’ll appreciate it.
Overall: 7.5 / 10
Overall, I think Hey Yo is a great (and silly) quick little game. I love Oink Games, generally speaking, and I’m glad that this is another title that I’m excited about and excited to show to my friends. While it’s not actually a game about players rapping, that’s probably .. for the best, anyways. TomaTomato still exists when I want to inflict verbal trauma on my friends, but Hey Yo is a gamier version of that, I’d say. Instead of tongue twisters, you’re relying on well-timed card plays to keep the beat going (and sticking to the beat that you’ve been given). I think that’s pretty cool, and I love that the game comes with an actual speaker to play a quick bit of music as you play. Is it extremely practical? Not really; there’s no volume control or battery indicator. Does that matter, a ton? I doubt that the Oink Games fan will care too much. For folks that aren’t as embedded with this specific publisher, I wonder if Hey Yo will confuse or delight them, but it’s definitely a game I plan on showing to my friends as we start having board game nights again. I enjoy the quick play and the communication limits that are time-based more than rules-imposed, and I think that makes for a fun experience overall. If you’re looking for a quick-and-interesting cooperative game or you’re just an Oink Games diehard like me, I imagine you’ll enjoy Hey Yo! I’m looking forward to playing it again.
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