Base price: $12.
Play time: 10 – 15 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Logged plays: 4
Full disclosure: A review copy of Fishing Lessons was provided by Button Shy.
These next few weeks are kind of weirdly juxtaposed, for me. I ended up playing a bunch of solo games and a bunch of party games, and I guess that’s what we’re reviewing! So we’ve got games you play by yourself and games you play with everyone else. Naturally, there’s always the high probability that I tweak the ordering of review releases, so you might not necessarily see Solo and Party Game Week on What’s Eric Playing?, but please remember that I had to bounce back and forth between solo games and party games and that’s just a weirdly surreal writing experience. Anyways, onto the first or last or middle one! I usually try to release them in writing order, but I’m capricious by nature. This week, it’s Fishing Lessons, from Button Shy!
In Fishing Lessons, you’re spending a day on the lake thinking about the late patriarch of your family. Before he passed, he always loved to take you fishing, and now you’ll have to remember what he taught you and string it together to catch the right fish for a successful fishing trip. That said, you never quite know what you’re going to find in the water, and you need to decide how much of a challenge you’re looking for, but you’ve got a lot of lessons to choose from. Will you make the big catches you want?
Start by shuffling the Lake cards, placing them face-down in a row.
Next, pick a Family Card; this will be your person for the game. Place it either side up above the center of the lake cards.
Shuffle the Lesson cards, drawing three to form your starting hand. Keep the others in a deck below the lake.
You should be ready to start!
Over the course of a game of Fishing Lessons, you’ll choose various Lesson Cards to uncover the fish in the lake and try to catch them!
Each turn, you start by choosing a Lesson Card and playing it. When you play a Lesson Card, you may insert it between any two Lesson Cards (or at the front or back of the row), or you may replace an existing Lesson Card with a new one. You cannot reorganize Lesson Cards once played, though.
Once you’ve played a card, you must activate the entire Lesson Row from left to right, resolving the various card effects. If you can’t do something, ignore it that effect. You should always end up directly above a Lake Card.
Then, draw a new card, and continue the game.
One thing to note is that the game ends differently, depending on your chosen difficulty level:
- Easy: Check to see if you’ve won (fulfilled your Family Card’s condition) after resolving each Lesson Card. This means you’ll check to see if you’ve won multiple times in a turn.
- Medium: Check to see if you’ve won after your turn ends (after you’ve resolved all of the Lesson Cards).
- Hard: Check to see if you’ve won after the deck runs out.
No matter what, if the deck runs out and you haven’t won, you lose!
Player Count Differences
None, here! Solo game.
- There’s a certain point where, cognitively, you need to start replacing cards instead of just inserting them. If you have too many cards, it becomes extremely tricky to predict what the state of the Lake is going to be at the end of your turn. You’re best off trying to figure out what state you want, what state your current set of cards will produce, and what alterations you can make to gradually move closer to your overall desired state.
- To some level, you’re going to need to learn what and where the face-down cards are. You’re going to be flipping cards and flipping them back over, so might as well try to learn what everything is. Plus, there’s at least one card that lets you manipulate the face-down cards, so knowing what’s what will help you set yourself up better for success.
- You’re managing both which cards you’re flipping and where your next position is going to be; don’t forget about either as you move. Your flips are relative to your location, usually, so keeping in mind which cards you’re planning to flip and where you’re planning to end up can help a lot with planning.
- Try to find patterns that will let you cancel some or all of your previous moves; that will make things easier towards the completion of your challenge. You’re eventually going to get pretty close to your desired state (either because the Lake closely mirrors that state or, after a full turn action, you’ll be pretty close to that desired state). Figuring out how to make minor alterations to the Lake, even when you have a bunch of cards, is probably going to be key to completing your play and winning the game (especially at higher difficulties).
- Similarly, remember that at higher difficulties you have to execute all of your cards before you win; make sure that you’re not just using one card to get you to a good state that you’ll wreck next turn. That’s a thinking trap that’s easy to fall into as you transition from Easy to Medium / Hard; since you check for winning after each card played, you can get used to that and not be prepared to wait until the end of the turn (or the game) to check for victory. Don’t fall into the trap of short-sightedness; you need to plan and execute with a slightly broader scope in mind if you want to win the more difficult games.
- Some Lessons let you manipulate the positions of cards; you can use that to set yourself up for a move later. Lake Cards, mind you; you can’t manipulate Lesson Cards once placed (short of replacing them with a new card). Using that to throw cards to the right spot for a future flip might be key to winning, depending on your requirements.
- You can also use the edges of the Lake to bound your movement, since you can move to the edge but not past it. That can stop a move from getting out of control (or set you up to move to a more ideal position). You don’t really want to just be popping all across the lake doing whatever (unless, by planning, that’s how your cards need to be manipulated). Just remember that if you can’t perform an action on the card, you just ignore it. That said, you can choose to take an action you can’t complete (like moving right when moving right would push you over the edge of the lake); you’re not required to move left.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Very easy to set up and play. Button Shy is usually pretty good about this, but their Simply Solo line is impeccable for this. You just shuffle a few cards, lay them out, and then you’re good to go. The rules overhead isn’t too much, either, though there are a couple tricky interactions that can be a bit frustrating to remember (just because they’re the kind of thing where its legality isn’t consistent across multiple kinds of games, like “can you choose to move towards the end of the lake when you can’t complete that move?”; that sort of thing).
- An interesting blend of memory and action programming. I didn’t fully appreciate how the memory element plays with gameplay until my later games; at the start, I mostly just considered it action programming, but suddenly, I was like “where’s my fish?” and realized that I’m still pretty bad at memory games when I’m not paying attention.
- I like the theme a lot. It’s a little bittersweet, just thematically, but I appreciate it! It’s kind of a nice way to commemorate a loved one who really liked fishing or something, to go out on the lake for the first time without them. It’s a pleasant overall theme.
- The character art is nice, as well. I like how every member of the family has different desires and thoughts on the lake and they just seem like a nice bunch. The art is very pleasant, too.
- From a solo gaming standpoint, I really like that you can just decide if you want to “win” after completing a card, finishing a turn, or running out of cards. It’s a nice level of fine-tuned difficulty control. I understand that the rules say you need to decide the difficulty before you start, but Scott Almes isn’t going to come arrest you if you decide that you’ve won on Easy and you’re done playing the game (I assume; please feel free to let me know if Scott does arrest you, though your one phone call is best saved for counsel). I like the flexibility of it all.
- There are even more advanced difficulty options, which I appreciate, as well. In my mind, a game is always best served by letting players tailor the difficulty to the needs of their group (or themselves, in this case). I like that the Easy level is challenging but still not as complex as the most challenging levels, and for players looking to cut their teeth on something pretty difficult, there’s the even-harder challenges beyond the highest difficulty level. It’s got a good range.
- Portable and doesn’t take up a ton of space, which is doubly nice. Again, this is Button Shy’s bread and butter, but it’s still appreciated. This feels like the kind of game I can take traveling, if and when I start traveling for work again. No clear date on that, but that’s our current economic reality or whatever.
- Another game that I wish I had a playmat for or something; all the card-flipping is going to eventually wear on the cards. I just grind my teeth a bit every time I can’t quite pick the card up off the table. It’s even worse when another person is doing it and you can see their nails just kind of chipping at the corners of the card and gradually splitting apart the layers. I try not to mention it, but it bothers me. Part of it is that my table sucks; I’m aware of this and working to address the problem. But it does make me wish I had a mat or something.
- I struggle with the memory aspect, a bit; maybe I’m just getting older. “Game makes me cognizant of my mortality”, to some degree, is the message here, but I’m also just never quite paying enough attention to land all the memory games I play. It’s why I had such a rough time with Yokai; the other reason is that we tried to play Yokai asynchronously on BGA and that does not work (sorry, Joe; it was me, not you). Memory games are just a bit rough, especially when I feel like if I could just take notes I would be fine.
- There’s a few “easy to forget” rules here; having a quick reference of some kind would be helpful. Mostly just things like you being able to move more spaces than you have remaining (the edge of the Lake stops movement; it doesn’t prevent it) and cards that have nothing to do with your goal block you from winning (this one may be unintuitive or not; really just depends on what you assume); they’re things that I kind of forget every time I play and I keep going back to the rules for. Thankfully, short rulebook, so not a big deal. Just wish it made it onto a quick reference or something.
Overall: 8.25 / 10
Overall, I think Fishing Lessons is great! Thematically, it’s a bit sad, but I enjoy the kind-of hopeful bent that it takes on doing something that you used to do with a loved one after they’re gone. That said, I really like how the game goes about executing on that theme. It’s a quick and easy setup, which is always nice, but there’s an excellent bit of player choice in how the difficulty of the game is structured. In Fishing Lessons, the difficulty level determines when you check if you’ve won: after a card is completed, after all current cards are completed, or after the deck is depleted. This means that if you’re like me, you can really decide at any point if you’d like to turn down the difficulty and just take the W, which is pretty great. I love that. You can even make the game more difficult, if you’re looking for that. I’m not normally super huge on action programming or memory games, but Scott Almes also has a way with making games interesting even when they’re not my favorite, mechanically. I do wish that I had a more deluxe version of the game, though some of that is just the way that things work with Button Shy; I worry about flipping the cards and damaging them, and I’d love if I just had one more card that was more of a quick reference. But that’s not really their bag, so that makes sense. I think that the ongoing Simply Solo series has been great, though; a ton of mechanics to explore, a bunch of new and novel themes, and honestly just some solidly fun games. Fishing Lessons is definitely a deserving title from among that set. If you’re looking for a solid solo game, you’ve got a bit of enthusiastic fisher you’re looking to gift something to, or you just like Scott Almes or Button Shy, I’d definitely recommend this one! I’ve enjoyed Fishing Lessons a lot.
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