Lemming Mafia

Humans love their stories. Especially those that feature animals. As soon as someone recognizes something vaguely human in the way an animal behaves, you can bet that story will make its way into our collective unconscious in much the same way that beach sand always makes its way into our collective sandwiches.

A few animals, the ones that have a lot in common with their human cousins, get a lot of stories: monkeys, dogs, cats, wolves, pigs, crows, horses, mice. Some get only a few passing words. The lemming has one story but it is a doozy.

I won’t be the one to go all Mythbusters on the story (you can find that here). Instead, I’m going to warmly embrace the over-the-top, absurd twists supplied by Mayfair’s Lemming Mafia.

So everyone “knows” that lemmings jump off cliffs. And everyone “knows” that mafiosos love to gamble. Add some dice and you have Lemming Mafia!

The game consists of a board with a twisting linear track (start to finish), a regular die, 2 “Lemming” dice, 36 betting cards, 18 mission cards, and 6 lemming figurines. Each lemming is color coded and these colors are used on each side of the lemming dice. At its most basic, the game consists of rolling the 3 dice and moving one of the lemmings (shown on the 2 lemming dice) a number of spaces equal to the number on the regular die. As the lemmings move toward the finish line at the end of a pier, the players bet on the finish order. Points are scored after one lemming leaps off the pier. Successful bets score points. Most points win.

Of course it’s more complicated than that. Each space on the track can help or hurt the lemmings as they race toward the end of the pier. When players roll the dice they have to decide which lemmings will help the bets they have made. The betting cards are used to predict the finish order of the lemmings. The mission cards give players special conditions that must be met to win points (for example: “Green finishes before Red”). If you want Green to finish before Red, you will move Red so that it lands are spaces that hurt the lemmings—maybe give Red some concrete boots—and you will move Green to spaces that will zip it toward the finish line. Needless to say, your opponents have different ideas for the lemmings. Despite all the choices and complications that emerge from the betting process, the game is very intuitive and the rules are clearly illustrated.

Silly? Yeah. Major Fun? Are you kidding? Lemmings! In fedoras. Jumping off a pier. And there is no saving the lemmings. Only betting on their watery demise. So limber up your best wise guy voice and get yourself fitted for concrete galoshes.

For 3 – 6 players, ages 8+

Lemming Mafia game design by Michael Rienick. Art and graphics by Joscha Sauer. © 2010 by Joscha Sauer and distributed by Mayfair Games, Inc.

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