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Happy Families Exploring Ireland Card Game Review

WBG Score: 7

Player Count: 2-5

You’ll like this if you like: Go Fish, Happy Families.

Published by: Happy Clan

Designed by: Moya Sands

This is a free review copy. See our review policy here.

Happy Families Exploring Ireland Card Game Review

Happy Families, or Go Fish, has been around for over 100 years. I have many fond memories of playing with my family as a child. Trying to complete the various sets of what was then, a very English version. With families of Bakers, Butchers, and other high street shop workers to collect. But I strangely don't have a copy now, and when I had the chance to play and review this version from Happy Clan, I jumped at the chance. So, let's get it to the table and see how it plays.

Happy Families Exploring Ireland Card Game Review

How To Set Up Happy Families Exploring Ireland

Shuffle the deck and deal six cards to each player. Leave the rest of the deck as a face down draw pile in the centre of the table. Choose a first player and you are now ready to play!

Happy Families Exploring Ireland Card Game Review

How To Play Happy Families Exploring Ireland

The cards are all made up of a number of different sets in groups of six cards. Each card shows what other cards match its set on the card itself as seen below.

The first player will ask any other player if they have any card from any set that they currently own as least one from. You cannot ask about a card if you don't already own at least one card from that set. But if you do, ask away. If the person you ask has that card they must then give it to you. The asking player will then have another turn. Again, asking any other player about any other card. If you ask for a card that a person does not have, they will say "Dig" and you must now draw the top card from the deck, whilst it lasts. If you ever draw a card from the Dig pile that was the exact card you just asked for you must show it but can then take another turn.

If a player ever completes a set of all six cards from any one group, you must then declare that and place them face up on the table for all to see. This will now count as one point at the end of the game. Once all sets have been completed this way the game ends, and the person who collected the most complete sets is declared the winner.

Happy Families Exploring Ireland Card Game Review

Is It Fun? Happy Families Exploring Ireland Card Game Review.

The joy in this game comes from one very simple mechanic. Memory. Picture this.

Player one, lets call them Mya, asks player two, lets call them Jacob, for Limerick. Jacob does not have Limerick but that question alone tells them, and all other players around the table that Mya has at least one City card. On later turns, anyone else with one City card can now try and target Mya by asking her for City cards, trying to guess which one she may have.

Let's say on a later turn player three, Fran, asks Mya for Cork and gets it. She then asks for Dublin and also gets that. Finally, she pushes her luck one more time and asks Mya for Derry but Mya does not have it. Everyone else now knows that Fran has Cork, Dublin and one other card in the City group. The one she started with. The game moves back to Jacob who holds Derry and Galway, and knows where at least three other cards are and can easily get two of them, Cork and Dublin by simply asking Fran for them. But can he guess where the last one is? Does he have it himself? Or does perhaps Mya hold it? Or is it still in the Dig pile?

Let's say it is in the Dig pile, so a complete set cannot be collected. But on a few turns later Mya picks up the final City card. Can she now all this time later remember who had what from the previous exchanges and claim them all back to complete the set she started all those turns ago?

Happy Families Exploring Ireland Card Game Review

If this all sounds like fun to you, then this game could well be a hit for you. However, there is of course an element of take-that here. Players can take advantage of other players misfortune and take cards from them that they only just collected. Claiming cards from others is all well and good, but each time you do it, you give vital information to other players about your own hand. Asking for cards becomes a much more interesting choice after a few games when you realise you may only want to ask for cards you can complete the sets for, and when you are certain you know where they are. Otherwise you are just giving vital information away to the other players. So in the lead up to being ready to ask for specific cards you need, perhaps you create some misdirection and ask for cards you don't need, or maybe even have already.

This may be taking what is essentially a very light family game a little too far, and even pushing the rules a little. But it does mean the game has a little more to it that you first think. And perhaps now, as an adult, can be played in ways you never considered as a child.

Happy Families Exploring Ireland Card Game Review

I would recommend this game to any group who plays with their family. My children (ten and eight) have adored this. It has caused a few grumpy faces when cards have been taken away from them, but that has been far outweighed by the laughter and cheers when certain much sought after sets are completed, and specific hard to find cards are eventually found.

Happy Families/Go Fish is a classic and perhaps the sort of simple card game you could argue everyone should own. The only question is which version do you get. I am very happy with this one for my collection.

The art is stunning and evokes a mystery, simply beauty, and accurate representation all at the same time. The theming is delightful and has been genuinely educational for my family and I. The rule book includes the back story for each card, and it has been fun to learn more about Ireland. A country I have only visited on two occasions.

This version was created by Moya Sands. As a mother of two small kids, Moya wanted to combine her cultural and educational background with a yearning to teach her family about Ireland in an amusing and entertaining way. I would certainly say this has been successfully achieved, and the personal nostalgia for her Irish roots can be felt with every card in this beautiful set.

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