The Penguin Ultimatum Review
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Players: 2-4 (Ages 10+)
Playing Time: 60 minutes

I gotta tell you right off the bat…Eight Foot Llama makes the most unique games I’ve ever played. They have the best sense of humor and the most original game play mechanics that I’ve seen from any game company in a long, long time. They managed to put all this zany fun and originality in their game, The Penguin Ultimatum.

In The Penguin Ultimatum, players are court jesters who invite penguins to a party thrown by their boss, the Emperor. The goal is to score points based on how many penguins are enjoying the entertainment you put together. Points are scored when a penguin from a certain family (Green, Brown, Red, Blue) is placed by an entertainment they enjoy (juggling, acrobatics, dancing, or music) or by an animal they favor (sheep, kangaroos, polar bears, or seals). Each penguin has the same color as an animal they favor and the logo of the entertainment they like on the card.

The game starts with a few entertainers face-up in the middle of the table, like the game Concentration, and each player is dealt four penguins each. The table itself represents the playing field and is called the Iceberg. No penguin or entertainer can be placed so they’re hanging over the Iceberg. This gives the players a limited board, and as penguins and entertainers are placed beside each other, this creates a totally original game each time. Each player is also given a card for the entertainment they favor, which will come into play for the bonus points at the end of the game.

Players take turns placing penguins on the Iceberg and then choosing which penguins they will designate as the ones they invited. They can only invite three penguins at the same time, and more and more penguins are added to the party each turn. An entertainer is triggered when all of the related spaces next to him are filled with penguins and the player who invited the penguins that are standing next to that entertainer scores points.

As entertainers are triggered and points are scored, a curtain is exchanged for the entertainer, and the entertainer is given to the player who scored the lowest amount of points from that entertainer. Another entertainer is then placed on the board.

The game ends when there are no more entertainers to draw from. At the end, bonus points are given to the players with the most of each kind of animal, based on which entertainment they favor. Add up all the points, and the one with the most wins.

The whole theme of the game being based on a penguin party is pretty funny. My wife laughed a few times at several aspects of the game, like the table being an iceberg. It was a nice touch—and Eight Foot Llama seemed to really enjoy creating the game. What I liked the most was the fact that they put all this humor and creativeness into the game, while keeping the game mechanics incredibly intricate and detailed. Usually, if a game is high in humor or theme, you end up with poor playability, as the game is not thought out enough, but The Penguin Ultimatum is high in both visual design and game design. I have to add that the quality of the packaging, cards, and pieces is extremely high, and that adds to the fun of an already outstanding game. I recommend this game to everyone.

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