Happy Salmon: The Fun and Fast-paced Party Game

Video happy salmon rules

When you first come across Happy Salmon, the standout feature is undoubtedly its whimsical packaging. With its fish-shaped box, it’s hard to miss. Games with quirky packaging often fall short, but Happy Salmon intrigued me. After all, it has received positive reviews online. As someone who enjoys lighthearted party games, I was eager to give Happy Salmon a try. While it may appeal to some, it didn’t quite hit the mark for me.

How to Play Happy Salmon


  • Each player selects a color and takes twelve cards of that color.
  • Players shuffle their own deck and place it face down in front of them.

Playing the Game

At the count of three, every player flips their deck of cards simultaneously, exposing the cards.

Players then take turns loudly announcing the action depicted on their top card.

When two players call out the same action, they both perform the corresponding action, as listed below. After completing the action, both players discard their cards into the center of the table. They then reveal their next card, and the cycle continues.

If three or more players match actions simultaneously, only the first two players to match and complete the action can discard their cards. The remaining player(s) must wait for another match to occur.

At any point, if a player cannot find a match, they can take their top card and place it at the bottom of their deck, replacing it with a new card in the hope of finding a match.


During the game, players will perform the following actions:

High 5 Card in Happy Salmon

  • High 5: Matching players perform a “high five” by slapping their hands together.

Pound It Card Happy Salmon

  • Pound It: Matching players fist bump by touching their fists together.

Switcheroo Card from Happy Salmon

  • Switcheroo: Matching players switch positions, taking their own cards with them. If physical mobility is limited, the players swap cards instead.

Happy Salmon Card Happy Salmon

  • Happy Salmon: Matching players gently slap each other’s forearms three or more times.
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Winning the Game

The first player to discard all of their cards becomes the winner of the game.


Silent Play

In this variant, players communicate their current card without speaking. Instead, they use hand gestures to indicate the action:

  • High Five: Raise your hand into the air.
  • Pound It: Raise your fist into the air.
  • Happy Salmon: Flap your hand in the air like a fin.
  • Switcheroo: Twirl your finger in the air.

Cooperative Play

In this variant, all players work together to eliminate their cards as quickly as possible. The goal is to time how long it takes the first player to discard all of their cards.

My Thoughts on Happy Salmon

Considering my affinity for party games and the generally positive online reviews, I had high expectations for Happy Salmon. Unfortunately, it didn’t capture my interest.

The concept behind Happy Salmon is simple: the goal is to eliminate all of the cards from your deck before the other players. To achieve this, you must match actions with other players and perform corresponding actions. The game blends elements of speed and party games, demanding quick reflexes to find matches and shed cards rapidly. While I typically enjoy both genres, Happy Salmon failed to resonate with me.

There are a couple of reasons why the game didn’t quite click:

When it comes to silly games, there’s a fine line between enjoyable silliness and meaninglessness. I prefer silliness that enhances gameplay, rather than being silly just for the sake of it. Unfortunately, Happy Salmon leans more towards the latter, where the emphasis is on being silly rather than delivering solid gameplay. While many people enjoy this type of game, it simply wasn’t my cup of tea. In my opinion, Happy Salmon lacks substance.

Moreover, the game’s premise isn’t particularly original, considering the wide variety of board games I’ve played. Although I can’t recall specific titles right now, I’ve certainly encountered games similar to Happy Salmon. This doesn’t necessarily render the game bad, but Happy Salmon fails to stand out from its competitors. The limited repertoire of actions further exacerbates the problem, leading to repetitive gameplay. While adding more actions would make it harder to find matches, the current selection of only four actions becomes monotonous rather quickly.

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Furthermore, the endgame can be easily compromised if players become overly competitive. If all players are aware that one player is down to their last card, they might agree not to match that player, allowing themselves a chance to catch up. If the player about to reveal a matching card is in the lead, they could put it at the bottom of their deck before the other player can match it. This strategy completely undermines the game’s integrity, and I strongly advise against it. However, in groups with highly competitive players, I can envision this tactic being employed.

Luck also plays a significant role in Happy Salmon. While you can influence your fortune to some extent by quickly recognizing matches or swapping cards when there isn’t a match, luck remains a dominant factor. The order in which your cards are shuffled in comparison to other players can greatly impact your performance. Swapping cards every time you lack a match would waste time, and players with more matches due to the card order will hold a distinct advantage.

To truly enjoy Happy Salmon, it’s crucial to play with the right group. The game may work well for some groups while falling flat with others. Embracing the silliness and not worrying about appearances is essential. Serious groups will likely not appreciate the game’s lightheartedness. Although my group isn’t particularly serious, Happy Salmon didn’t quite hit the mark for us. It’s worth noting that we played with only four players, and Happy Salmon may fare better with more participants, as there will be more opportunities for matches. Ultimately, the game is best suited for two scenarios: family play with younger children, thanks to its simplicity and child-friendly silliness, and adult party settings where players are willing to embrace the game’s silliness. If your group generally enjoys these types of games, Happy Salmon could be a hit.

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The game’s design clearly targets these two groups. Happy Salmon unapologetically embraces its silliness and simplicity. It can be explained in a minute or two, and except for remembering the actions, most players will quickly grasp the game. This makes it perfect for jumping right into gameplay. Happy Salmon is also incredibly fast-paced, with each round lasting mere minutes. As such, it works well as a filler game, or you can play multiple rounds in succession, crowning the player with the most wins as the ultimate champion.

As for the components, Happy Salmon delivers what you’d expect. The game consists of enough cards for six players, featuring solid artwork that allows for easy identification of each action. The cards are thick and durable, ensuring longevity. However, due to the nature of the game, they will likely develop creases over time. The packaging deserves applause for its creative fish shape, which not only looks appealing but also avoids unnecessary wasted space.

Should You Buy Happy Salmon?

Ultimately, Happy Salmon didn’t strike a chord with me. Although I generally enjoy silly party games, it felt excessively silly without much substance. Once you look beyond the silliness, you’re left with a rather generic party game where matching actions and performing corresponding actions is the crux of the gameplay. This simplicity grew monotonous for my group. However, I understand that some people genuinely enjoy Happy Salmon. It’s quick, easy to understand, and can be ideal for larger family gatherings or parties where players seek a lively and silly experience.

Therefore, whether you should buy Happy Salmon largely depends on your stance on its premise. If the concept doesn’t pique your interest, the game may not be suitable for you. However, if you have the right group and Happy Salmon aligns with your usual game preferences, it’s worth considering adding it to your collection.

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