I thought I was pretty good at hula-hooping. As a kid I would loop that hoop for hours around my hips, wrists, ankles, and even my neck. But I am meeting my match in HULA HOO! by Iello and Coiledspringgames
A light card game for 2-6 players (age 8 plus), HULA HOO! is a fast playing filler where we are racing to be first to either lose our cards or eliminate all the other players! And I need to let you into a secret; the most talented octopodes definitely have the upper tentacle when it comes to keeping these hula-hoops in the air!
The rules of HULA HOO! are easy; each player has a hand of 10 cards; 5 face up and 5 face down. Each turn, you play a card from either your face up cards or one from your hand, and then say whether the next player has to lay a card higher or lower. The next player either complies or plays a joker (7) which is of course that sneaky cheeky octopus!) or they double-down by laying the same numbered card. Beware though as doubling means you have to pick up an additional card from the deck!). If they can’t do any of those things, they have hoop-dropped and they are out of the round!
Play continues for those still in the game. The next player then has to follow any double with another double or break the double by laying a card exactly one value higher/lower, or by playing a joker. If the player can't do any of those actions, then boom – they’ve hoop-dropped too! Whoever is the first person to lose all cards/be last remaining player in the round wins that round and gets a point for each card in the discard pile. The game rounds continue until a player gets 77+ points.
HULA HOO! is an interesting mix of hidden and open information and you think it is going to last a while but then boom, someone has past lucky number seventy seven! Getting opponents to lay cards from their hand so that they only have what's left in front of them (and which you can then see and plan against) is a tactic to fast-tracking that player’s elimination, but then the discard pile isn’t going to be point heavy if you knock everyone else out too soon. Laying doubles is also a double-edged sword. You might make it harder for the next player to lay a card, but you also have to pick up another card! I think jokers are definitely the most valuable card in the deck as that octopus can be any value or even break that double!
Elimination can be quick in this game – even the first turn can be the end for someone if they’re super unlucky, but it only lasts a round, and so the mean-streak doesn’t sting for long. There’s not much you can do about the cards you are given, but if you can think tactically, you might be able to get your opponents to drop their hoops before you stumble over yours (but not before padding out the discard pile of course!).
In all of our games so far, I have been eliminated, and fairly swiftly at that. Even my 8-year-old son is better at deducing what I have in my hand than I am working out what he could be holding. But the fun artwork on the cards keeps me occupied when I’m hopeless and hoopless haha. I’m not sure why the Octopus is number 7….perhaps it’s because they have one tentacle left over to point to the loser after spinning 7 hula-hoops haha. I’d like to improve my skills to the point where I can try the included advanced chaotic variant (where players pick who has to lay a card next), but I am some way off that yet. I know there's a winning strategy in my HULA HOO! hand somewhere; I've just got to find it before I hoop drop!