#949 – Ice Hoppers

Base price: $20.
1 – 4 players.
Play time: 15 – 20 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)
Logged plays: 2

Full disclosure: A review copy of Ice Hoppers was provided by Blue Orange Games.

Finally, another penguin game. There really aren’t enough of these! I mean, I have Yura Yura Penguin, and at some point I’ll review that, because it’s delightful, but it’s just an alarmingly uncommon theme. I’m hoping my genuine advocacy will convince people that it’s viable and morally correct to make more penguin games. I just like those dumb birds. But I digress. Blue Orange Games has sent me a cooperative penguin game, and so, by my oath, I have to check it out. Let’s see what’s going on with Ice Hoppers!

In Ice Hoppers, the penguins have all wandered off! Unfortunately, the path back home isn’t that easy to traverse, as the ice is breaking up and the penguins want to stay safe as they hop around! As the ice moves through the water, each penguin will do their best to hop from spot to spot, as long as it’s safe to do so. Work together with your friends to get every penguin home safely before it gets too dark. Will you be able to help these birds get back?



This one’s pretty cute. Take nine ice floes from the bag:

Four of these should be placed on the opposite end of the Sea Board, away from the Iceberg Bridge:

The other five should be placed on the remaining spaces of the Sea Board. Finally, place the penguins on the four floes farthest from the Iceberg Bridge:

If you’re playing with the Sea Lions, you can set the Sea Lion tokens aside to use later. If you’re not playing with them, I mean, set them aside as well:

Either way, you should be good to start!


Your goal is simple; the penguins are staying out too late, and you need to get them home! Let’s talk about how.

On your turn, you have to do several actions in order. Some are mandatory, some aren’t.

Draw a Tile (Mandatory)

This part’s pretty easy; just take any ice tile from the bag. Don’t look into the bag! That’ll spoil the moment.

Slide the Tile (Mandatory)

Next, choose one of the two sides of the iceberg bridge at the front of the box and slide your tile in until it’s completely underneath of the bridge. None of the tile should be sticking out. Note that once you start sliding, you can’t change to the other side. This may cause ice chunks to fall off the box; leave them there until the end of the game. If you knock a penguin off of the box, place it on one of the tiles farthest from the iceberg bridge and immediately end your turn.

Move a Penguin (Optional)

Now, you can move a penguin from the tile it’s currently on onto any adjacent tile, provided the two tiles are touching. Also, the penguins are aggressively anti-social, so they cannot share a tile with another penguin. Only the iceberg bridge. If the penguin lands on a tile that is partially under the iceberg bridge, they can move onto the bridge! If you cannot or do not want to move a penguin, your turn ends.

Slide (Optional)

If you move a penguin onto a “frosty” (reflective ice) tile, the penguin can slide, moving to additional (adjacent and touching) frosty tiles until they land on a snowy tile. Note that, again, penguins cannot move onto tiles with other penguins. But you can use this to get the penguin onto the iceberg bridge, if the right tiles are touching!

Either way, after performing this action, your turn ends, and the next player gets to take their turn.

End of Game

The game ends as soon as all penguins are returned to the iceberg bridge or as soon as the bag is completely empty. If every penguin makes it home safely, you win! If not, you lose!

Sea Lion Adventure Mode

To make the game more challenging, add the Sea Lion tokens! Whenever a penguin would move onto a tile with a Sea Lion on it, add a Sea Lion Token to the sea by pushing it through the iceberg bridge like a normal tile. Penguins cannot move onto Sea Lion Tokens, and they can force other tiles apart! What will you do?

Player Count Differences

Pretty much none, here. This is one of those types of games that are effectively played by committee, where each player has no unique properties or attributes. This means that playing with one, two, eight, or a hundred players is effectively the same (though, with a hundred, not everyone will get even one turn, but you see my point). Each player, on their turn, adds a tile, pushes it in, and then optionally moves / slides a penguin. There aren’t special abilities or penguin-player combinations to complicate things, which makes them a bit easier. That said, individual player dexterity and tile placement may affect your individual games. I personally tend to be a bit bigger of a fan of games where I can be a bit more active, so, functionally, I do like Ice Hoppers at two more than at four, just because I get to take more turns. That said, I’ve also enjoyed the game solo, so, it’s really more what you feel like playing with your group. I imagine watching four kids play this would be hilarious, though.


  • It’s not always wise to just focus on one penguin at a time. While it’s all well and good to get each penguin to the iceberg bridge, focusing on the same penguin every turn means that the others will gradually get pushed farther and farther back. If any of them fall, you lose your movement action! Not ideal. So, it’s best to try and make sure they’re all moving periodically, but keep in mind that they block other penguins from moving onto the tile they’re on.
  • Making an icy path can be a good way to get a few penguins moving quickly. If you get a number of frozen tiles in a row, a penguin can slide across all of them in one turn. Even better if they’re touching the iceberg bridge or other tiles, so that penguins can use that lane as a conduit to slide across the board. Think about how you’re building your paths to try and optimize for a lot of movement in one turn.
  • Clearing one half of the board can be useful, since then you can just advance ice tiles on that side and hopefully not knock penguins off. Essentially, you can use the other half of the board as a dumping ground for tiles you don’t like. If you push them in correctly, you shouldn’t run the risk of forcing your penguins backwards and you have a better shot of getting the tiles organized the way that you want.
  • Keep an eye on where you place your penguins! You want to ensure maximum stability. Don’t place penguins near the edges of tiles, even between turns. You can only move them while taking a Move action, and you don’t want to set up your fellow players to accidentally knock one of your penguins off of the board (forcing them to move all the way backwards). It’s not ideal.
  • You also want to make sure you end up with a useful path forward! Make sure those floes are touching each other. The worst thing you can do is push a tile in and break up the path you were planning to use! I’ve had to pass a turn because of that once or twice, and it’s embarrassing. Make sure that you’re creating a pathway that you can actually use when you push tiles in.
  • Try to push slowly! Pushing tiles in too quickly will just end up with penguins knocked off the board entirely. There’s a delicate nature to the tiles. They’re kind of slick, and the penguins aren’t exactly the heaviest, so just slamming the tiles in will only lead to down-the-road tragedy. Try not to do that! It’s a bit silly. So just work the tiles in gradually and set yourself up for longer-term successes.
  • There’s something to be said for going after smaller pieces or larger pieces in the bag, depending on what you need. You’re not allowed to look into the bag, but, I mean, the tiles are all different sizes; you can, ostensibly, feel out which piece you need and make that work for you. Live your best life.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons


  • I’m a sucker for a penguin game. There aren’t nearly enough, in my opinion. I love almost all of them. Know any penguin games that I’ve missed? Leave a comment or something; I’d love to play more of them.
  • The art style is very pleasant and fun, as well. I particularly like the effects on the tiles, but the entire game does a good job with color, making it seem playful and inviting. I suppose you kind of need to prioritize that sort of thing if you’re setting your age range to 6+, but I think the artist did a great job, here.
  • I like the way the board slots into the box to close (and how the box is a major component when playing). It’s a cool effect, and it has the extra benefit of making sure the rulebook is kept flat during storage. To play, just flip the board over. The insert could use some work (though everything fits fine), but I like how the box is a major part of play.
  • This reminds me a bit of Kabuto Sumo, in that it feels reminiscent of those coin-pusher arcade machines, though I definitely prefer the cooperative aspect. The coin-pushers are one of my favorite arcade machines. If you haven’t played, you drop a coin in, and the machine pushes other coins to make way for it. If you manage to knock a bunch of coins off by doing so, you get a bunch of tickets. It’s particular and it definitely defies gravity, but it’s so fun! Wikipedia explains it better than I probably can. Here, the “coins” being pushed are ice tiles, which does a nice job of recreating the mechanic that I like and also achieving consistency with the theme and the game’s narrative. You need to prioritize getting the penguins home, but the ice floes are constantly shifting and working against you. It’s very interesting!
  • This is not a particularly easy game, depending on when you get certain components. I appreciate a challenging game, especially one targeted to younger players. If you get the wrong tiles at the wrong time (or you set up with not-great tiles), you might be pretty swamped for a while. It’s a good challenge! Even harder with the Sea Lion Adventure Module.
  • I also appreciate the extra difficulty expansion! I like using the Sea Lion Tokens to make things even more challenging. I appreciate when cooperative games give you, the player, the opportunity to make things harder (especially games like this, where it likely helps the players to scale up difficulty as they get good at the game). I will say that the extra module makes the game pretty challenging. Since you’re sliding in circular tokens, they have a nasty knack for breaking up paths that you were planning to use, rendering them useless. I’ve lost a turn or two to them. It’s fun, though!


  • It feels like the game would be a bit more robust if the components weren’t all cardboard. I get that we’re kind of trying to move away from plastic (and I respect that), but something denser for the tiles would definitely make the game feel a bit nicer, to some degree? The penguins are a pleasant, not-terribly-dense-for-probably-partially-gameplay-reasons wood, and I like that. I just kind of wish the tiles were a bit heavier; I have a lot of issues with them trying to slide on top of each other when they’re being pushed.
  • It’s also weird that none of the penguins have names or personalities. World-build a little, y’all. I just want to know what to call the penguins beyond describing them as “Scarf” or “Glasses” when I’m playing. Maybe I’ll just give the penguins in my game names. Haven’t decided yet.


  • Ice Hoppers is a fine name, but I definitely preferred Pengo Jump. Ice Hoppers is fine, but Pengo Jump just rolls off the tongue in the best way. It’s fun to say. I love it. It also has more penguin in the name, which feels like it appeals to me more? It’s hard to see myself being as immediately drawn to “Ice Hoppers”. Game’s still fun, though.

Overall: 7.75 / 10

Overall, I think Ice Hoppers is a definitely silly game, but I like it! I think that, yes, it’s almost certainly getting a bump from it being a penguin game, but honestly, it’s a pretty ingenious construction. I really like how it uses the coin-pusher arcade machine-esque mechanic to represent the perilous ice floes moving through the water, and I think that that presents a very nice scrolling effect for gameplay. It makes the gameplay tactile, not just strategic, and I like that. I think younger players will appreciate it too, since there’s some planning and communication involved (and, frankly, pushing the tiles in is quite fun). For the more experienced players, the Sea Lion Adventure module makes the game pretty hard; I won both times I played, but, I’ll be honest, it was pretty close. That’s about my ideal difficulty for a game, so, checks that box off, too. Add in a cute art style and a clever storage mechanic and you’ve got a pretty solid game. I definitely would have preferred if they had kept the name Pengo Jump (it’s just more fun to say), granted, but I don’t think that really negatively impacts the game, at all. There’s a nice dexterity component to this that doesn’t really require players to be particularly dexterous, and I think that’ll appeal to a lot of players who don’t feel as up to stacking or real-time play. Plus, making it cooperative is a smart move. There’s a lot to like in Ice Hoppers, and if you’re looking for a cooperative game for the whole family, you’re a fan of penguins, or you just enjoy clever and innovative tile mechanics, you might enjoy Ice Hoppers as well! I’d recommend it.

If you enjoyed this review and would like to support What’s Eric Playing? in the future, please check out my Patreon. Thanks for reading!

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