Balloon Hop is a rather basic game, in that it’s only for two players and easy to transport. The pieces include balloon cards which you play, peak and valley cards which form the structure of the “playing field”, trophy cards which you need to claim to win the game, and finally cubes which are used to claim the trophy cards. The rule book is four pages, and probably only that long because of the examples they provide in the rules. The examples are very good and help you understand the rules quickly.
To start the game you play the four hop cards on the playing area in a column between the two players. Two of the hop cards are peaks and two are valleys. For each hop card you then choose the number of cubes that are on the card, but you can not have more than two cubes of the same color on any hop card (if you draw a third you put it back and draw a new color). The object of the game is to claim enough cubes to win the trophy card of that color. Each trophy card tells you how many cubes of that color you need to claim that color trophy card. So, how do you win the cubes to win the trophy cards?
To win the cubes it depends on the hop card and the number of cubes on it. If it is a peak card the player with the highest total on their side of the playing area wins the cubes on the peak hop card, if it is valley hop card then the person with the lowest total on the playing area wins the cubes on the valley hop card. The cubes also dictate what cards you can play. For a winner of the cubes for any hop card, there has to be the a card of each color of the cubes on each player’s side on the playing area. Let’s say a peak card has two blue and one red cube as an example. This means on each player’s side there must be two blue card and one red before a winner is decided, you can not play any cards that do not match the color requirement. So, how do you get your cards to play?
Before the game starts each player gets 8 cards. On their turn they play one card on EITHER their side or their opponents side of the playing area (this is where some of the strategy comes in). Obviously you might want to play low cards on your opponents peak rows and high on their valley rows. Of course your plays are somewhat dictated on what cards are in your hand. After your turn you draw a new card. If you can not play on your turn you must show all your cards to your opponent to prove that, even if the play is to your opponent’s advantage you must make a play. If your opponent agrees you can’t play you can trade in four cards and draw four new ones and then continue your turn. If you still can’t play, again you must show your opponent but then your turn ends.
If on any player’s turn the requirements to score a hop card is met, the winner is determined and they get their cubes. At that point the winner of the cubes can claim any trophy cards they have enough cubes for. You can even use three cubes of a color trophy that has already been claimed to count as one cube of a color you still need! The game continues in this manner until someone wins three trophy cards and wins the game.
At first glance the explanation of the game might look complex, but after reading the rules and playing a game or two you will find this is actually a very simple, and addictive game to play.