Some of the first games that most children are taught are Crazy 8’s, Old Maid, Go Fish, and War. These card games are taught to most children as they are quite simple to play as they only have a couple simple mechanics. There is also the fact that they are all public domain games so you can either use a standard deck of cards or find a really cheap version of the games. While these games are good for younger children they lose their appeal pretty quickly as they are just too basic to hold anyone’s interest outside of young children. Therefore most people just forget about the games until they have children/grandchildren/great grandchildren/etc. In 2008 Parker Brothers tried to revitalize these franchises by creating the mashup of classic children’s card games that few people were asking for by combining all four games together. Borrowing mechanics from all four games Crazy Old Fish War was created. Crazy Old Fish War is an interesting combination of classic children’s card games that improves upon the original games but still fails at being anything more than a pretty basic children’s card game.
How to Play Crazy Old Fish War
- Shuffle the cards.
- Deal seven cards to each player. The rest of the cards are placed face down on the table to form the draw pile.
- Take the top card from the draw pile and turn it over. This forms the play pile. If the card that is turned over is a Crazy 8 or an Old Mermaid card, flip over another card until a normal card is on top of the play pile.
- The player to the left of the dealer will start the game. Play will continue clockwise.
On a player’s turn they will have the opportunity to play a card from their hand. A player can play a card that either matches the number or color of the top card on the play pile. If a player has a matching card they must play it.
There are also two unique cards in the game which provide special abilities when played.
A Crazy 8 card can be played at any time as it matches any color in the game. After playing the card the player who played it will choose the color that the next player will have to play.
An Old Mermaid card can also be played at any time as it matches any color. The player who plays the card will choose the current color. When you play an Old Mermaid in this way though you will have to draw five cards from the draw pile.
After a player plays a card their turn will end and play will pass to the next player.
If a player is unable to play a card they will either have to Go Fish or declare War.
When a player chooses to Go Fish they will choose one of the other players. They will ask the chosen player if they have a card that matches the current card on the play pile. If the player has a matching card (including Crazy 8 and Old Mermaid cards) they must give it to the current player. If the player has two or more matching cards they can choose which of the matching cards to give the other player. When the player receives the card they will play it immediately. If the card was a Crazy 8 or an Old Mermaid the player will get to choose the current color. If it is an Old Mermaid the player will also have to draw five cards from the draw pile.
If the chosen player doesn’t have a matching card, the current player will draw a card from the draw pile. This player’s turn will then end as the player cannot play the card that they just drew.
The war option is technically an advanced rule that you can choose not to use in the game.
When a player declares war they will choose one of the other players. The current player and the chosen player will both choose a card from their hand and place it face down on the table. Both players will then reveal their cards at the same time. The player who plays the card with the highest number will get to add their card to the play pile. The other player will put the card they played back into their hand.
If both players play a card with the same number the players will keep playing cards until someone plays a higher card. If the players run out of cards they will draw cards from the draw pile and play those to break the tie. The player who eventually plays the higher card will get to put their winning card into the play pile. (The official rules don’t state this but as the rules only say you get to play the winning card, I am assuming the rest of the cards played during the tie are returned to the winner’s hand.) The loser of the War will return all of the cards they played to their hand.
The two special cards also have special abilities in a war.
Old Mermaids: The player who starts the war can’t play Old Mermaid cards. When an Old Mermaid is played in a war the player who plays it automatically wins the war. The loser of the war will have to draw a card from the draw pile. If both players play an Old Mermaid at the same time they will cancel out one another and both cards will be added to the play pile. Due to the rule that Old Mermaid cards can’t be played by the player that starts the war this feels a little contradictory. I am guessing this means that either the player that starts the war can play an Old Mermaid after they tie on the first card played or it applies in a situation where players are forced to draw a pile cards from the draw pile. As this isn’t specified in the rules you can choose how it is handled.
Crazy 8: When a Crazy 8 card is played in a war it counts as an eight and has no other special abilities.
End of Round
When a player only has one card left in their hand they must shout out the name of a fish that hasn’t already been mentioned.
The first player to get rid of all of the cards from their hand wins the round. If none of the players have won enough rounds, another round is played.
Winning the Game
The first player to win three rounds wins the game.
My Thoughts on Crazy Old Fish War
While I hadn’t played Crazy 8’s, Old Maid, Go Fish, or War since I was a young child, when I first saw Crazy Old Fish War I was intrigued. All four games on their own are pretty basic and mostly for young children, but I was curious how the four games would work together. Outside of all of the games being pretty basic children’s card games they actually play quite differently. I was wondering how the designers could combine all of the games together without it devolving into a complete mess.
By far the biggest influence on Crazy Old Fish War is Crazy 8’s. The whole game is built around the framework that you are trying to get rid of all of the cards from your hand. This is done by matching the color or number of the previously played card. When you think about it, it makes since that Crazy 8’s forms the foundation of the game. Crazy 8’s probably has the largest foundation in place which provides the opportunity to add mechanics to it. It also doesn’t hurt that it is the game that has shown the most potential of expanding on the basics with games like UNO successfully expanding on the basic premise of Crazy 8’s.
The rest of the games basically amount to mechanics that are added onto Crazy 8’s framework. Go Fish and War come into play when you can’t play a card. Instead of just drawing a card you have the opportunity to try and play a card in another way. Your first option is to basically play Go Fish and ask one of the other players for a card that you can play. If they have an appropriate card you play it for your turn. If they don’t you draw a card from the draw pile. Otherwise you can declare war on one of the other players. Each player plays their highest valued card. Whoever plays the higher card gets to discard it while the other player has to add the card back into their hand.
At this point there is one game left, Old Maid. This is the game that feels like basically an afterthought in the game. You could make an argument that it isn’t really in the game at all. Basically Old Maid comes into play through the Old Mermaid cards. Like in Old Maid you don’t want to get stuck with the Old Mermaid cards as they are the worst cards in the game. While not as bad as being stuck with the card that you yourself can’t get rid of, the Old Mermaid cards can really hurt you if you have to play them. While they are wilds and can always be played, they will usually force you to draw five cards. Having to draw five cards is a pretty big punishment so you want to avoid playing them for yourself if possible. You want to either give them to another player when they go fishing or use them to win a war.
Overall I give the designers some credit for finding a pretty good way of combining the four classic children’s card games. What could have been a chaotic mess is actually pretty straightforward. While Go Fish, War and Old Maid could have been used more, they add some interesting mechanics to Crazy 8’s. Ultimately I think Crazy Old Fish War is actually better than all of the original games.
In a lot of ways Crazy Old Fish War shares a lot in common with the four games that it is based off of. Crazy Old Fish War is a little more complicated than the original games but it is still a really simple and straightforward game. The game has quite a few more mechanics than the original games but they are all quite simple. Thus you can teach the game to new players within a couple minutes. The game has a recommended age of 7+, but I would say that seems a little high. The game is not much more difficult than any of the original games. Due to Crazy Old Fish War’s simplicity it also plays pretty quickly. Hands take just a couple minutes unless players have a hard time getting rid of their last card. I would guess that most games would finish in about 15-20 minutes.
Due to the simplicity and the length I think Crazy Old Fish War should work quite well with younger families. Between the colorful cards and the simple gameplay I can see younger children really liking the game. Instead of wasting time with the original games it is better to just move right onto Crazy Old Fish War because it offers more interesting gameplay while also maintaining the simplicity of the original games. The main reason why I would recommend Crazy Old Fish War over the original games is that it is just more enjoyable for adults. This mostly comes from the fact that there is more to do in the game. The game is still quite simplistic but due to there being more mechanics it doesn’t feel quite so repetitive.
As there are more mechanics in the game, Crazy Old Fish War adds some strategy to the original games. The game is still far from strategic which is not surprising as the original games basically have no strategy. Probably the biggest problems with the original games are that you don’t really make any meaningful decisions in the games. When you do make decisions they are blatantly obvious. The decisions in Crazy Old Fish War are also quite obvious but it feels like you have a little more control over your fate in the game. While you have to play a card if you have a card that you can play, if you don’t have one you can choose whether you want to ask another player for help or declare war against another player. If you have a high numbered card you are best off declaring war. If you have low cards though you may want to ask for help. In addition to this decision you have to decide who you are going to ask for help or who you are going to challenge. Making the right choices in the game are not going to significantly improve your odds in the game, but at least you can make decisions that will have an impact.
While it is better than the games it is based on, Crazy Old Fish War still has enough of its own problems that lead to it not being as good as you wish it would be.
The biggest problem is that Crazy Old Fish War still relies on around the same amount of luck as the original games. It is not surprising that a card game made for children relies on a lot of luck. You have to make good decisions in order to win the game. If you aren’t dealt the right cards though there is nothing that you can do to help yourself win the game. The player who has the right cards at the right times is probably going to win each round. Unless you can keep winning wars you won’t be able to win the game if you can’t play cards on your turn. Each time you have to ask for help you are either giving another player the chance to get rid of one of their cards or you will have to draw a card. I see luck being the determining factor in most games of Crazy Old Fish War.
Other than relying on luck Crazy Old Fish War doesn’t do enough to overcome the issues with the games that it is based on. While it is a more interesting game, Crazy Old Fish War becomes boring pretty quickly. The game may have more mechanics but it still gets repetitive after a while. You are basically doing the same things over and over again where it feels like the game basically plays itself. It may be better than the games that it is based on but there are better games that do basically the same things. For example I would rather play UNO than Crazy 8’s. I would also rather play many other more advanced set collecting games than Old Maid or Go Fish. While there might not be a better version of War, it is basically a game where whoever has the higher cards will win. Unless you have young children I think you are better off pursuing some of these other games that are noticeably better.
Before wrapping up I would say that the components are pretty much what you would expect out of a Parker Brothers card game. The cards are made of your typical cardstock. They will probably develop creases through play but they should hold up for a while. The card artwork is not fantastic but it serves its purpose. The cards are colorful and the artwork should appeal to younger children. The cards are also not cluttered with unnecessary information so players can focus on the most important features of each card.
Should You Buy Crazy Old Fish War?
When I first saw Crazy Old Fish War I thought it was an interesting idea. Crazy Old Fish War basically combines the classic children’s card games of Crazy 8’s, Old Maid, Go Fish, and War. For the most part the game actually does a solid job combining all of the games together. The game focuses mostly on Crazy 8 but the other games add some interesting twists to the formula. These new mechanics make Crazy Old Fish War a more interesting game than all of the games that it is based on. There isn’t a lot of strategy but you have some decisions to make in the game. The problem is that while better it doesn’t do enough to overcome the faults of the games that it is based on. It still relies on a lot of luck and the game becomes repetitive pretty quickly. For this reason there are just better games out there that do similar things. The game may still appeal to younger children but it is a pretty bland card game for adults.
If you don’t have any young children I would probably pass on Crazy Old Fish War unless you are for some reason a big fan of one of the four games that it is based on. Parents with younger children may get some enjoyment out of Crazy Old Fish War as it is simple enough that young children should have fun with it. I would only recommend picking it up though if you can get a good deal on it.