Igel Ärgern

Published by Doris & Frank, Germany
This review copyright 1997 by Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated August 11, 1998 (added a variant)

While the English rules translate this game as Hedgehogs in a Hurry, a more accurate translation might be Hedgehogs in a Huff. Regardless of what you call it, Igel Ärgern is a fun little game of racing hedgehogs for 2-6 players, best with 3-5 in the basic game.

Doris & Frank are a very good team - a married couple, Frank writes the rules and Doris supplies the art and graphics. I love Doris' artwork, so the board's hedgehogs are quite charming to me. I have the second edition, which includes hedgehogs drawn on the pieces, so you can distinguish them. Some of the variants supplied with the game require you to be able to distinguish hedgehogs, and this is a very nice way to do it.

The basic game is quite simple, and plays in under an hour, usually. Each player has four hedgehogs which start distributed among six lanes, in the first column of a racetrack. Some of the hedgehogs are stacked on top of others, of course, since there are only six lanes, and all have to start in the first column - six spaces.

Each player's turn is divided into three phases, one of which is optional:

  1. Roll a d6, note the number.
  2. Optionally, you may move one of your hedgehogs sideways one lane. You may not move a hedgehog that is covered by another hedgehog. You may not move an opponent's hedgehog in this phase.
  3. Move one hedgehog in the lane corresponding to the number rolled on the d6 in step one, one space. This can be any hedgehog (even an opponent's) not covered by another piece. A hedgehog must be moved forward if possible - though it's legal to move your hedgehog sideways out of a lane, emptying the lane, so there are no hedgehogs to move forward in a given turn. If there are multiple hedgehogs which can be moved, the player whose turn it is has the choice of which one moves - it does not have to be his/her own.
That's basically it: roll a die, possibly move a hedgehog one space sideways, move a hedgehog one space forwards. The first player to get three of their four hedgehogs in the final row wins the game.

There is a catch, however: each lane has one black space in it, staggered throughout the board. If a hedgehog moves into a black space, it can't move out of the black space until every hedgehog is in the same or a more advanced column! Thus if you move your hedgehog up to the space just before a black space, you'll find it in the black space if anyone else rolls that lane before your next turn. Sometimes it's worth taking the risk, however.

The game has lots of subtleties you wouldn't expect from such a simple system. For example, you might think you're clever by moving yourself forward, but if someone can jump on top of you, and then someone else on top of them, and so on, you'll find it's a long time before you can move again! These hedgehogs definitely work on the "first in, last out" principle ... or "Pig pile on yellow!" as one of my players put it ...

Sometimes it pays to move sideways, sometimes it doesn't - and sometimes you'll have to take a chance one way or the other. Learning the nuances of the sideways move is a big part of the tactics in this game.

One of the more amazing things about Igel Ärgern is the additional rulebook with 40(!) variants included. I only like just over a third of these variants, but that's still 15 different ways to play the game! Nicely done - my congratulations to Doris & Frank for including that. I love variations on games, and wish more games came with lots of variants. Some of the variants change the way the die is read, or how many dice to roll, or the use of the black spaces, or a scoring system, or ways to make the game better with fewer players or with more players, or change the movement rules slightly, etc., etc.

All in all, a fun, light game I recommend - very suitable for families as well as an all-adult group.

My own contributions to the variants:

The Mud Variant

When moving a piece onto a black space, turn it face down. (The second edition set has drawings on one side of the markers - you'd need to add something to one side of the markers in the first edition set.) When a face-down piece is chosen to "move" forward, it doesn't actually move out of the space - instead, flip it face up. (A face-down piece cannot be chosen to move sideways, and only the top-most face-down piece in a stack may be chosen for forward movement, of course.) A face-up piece on a black space can move normally - either sideways or forward. Thus the black spaces act like mud, to slow pieces down - much less fierce than the standard rules, which means mud actually makes for a lighter, quicker game.

The Slinky Variant

When moving forward, if you choose a space which has more than one hedgehog on it, you may move the top piece as normal, or you may "slinky" the whole pile. To slinky a pile, take the top hedgehog in a pile and move it one space forward, then the second hedgehog in the same pile and move it on top of the one which just moved, and the third to the top of the pile just formed, and so on, until the whole pile has moved one space forward, but is now in reverse order! Once you start to slinky a pile, you have to go all the way to the bottom - it's either only the top hedgehog moves as normal, or the whole pile moves forward, reversing order ...

Of course, if you move a pile onto another pile, that bigger pile can be slinkied forward the next time the column moves.

The 270-degree Variant on the Slinky Variant

You can slinky a pile when moving sideways or forward in this variant. As above, you can choose to slinky a pile or simply move the top piece when moving sideways, and if you decide to slinky, you must slinky the entire pile.

The Grimpen Mire Variant

"... like that great Grimpen Mire, with little green patches everywhere into which one may sink and with no guide to point the track..."
- Dr. John Watson, in The Hound of the Baskervilles
If, at the beginning of your turn, all of your hedgehogs are covered by other players' hedgehogs (hey, it's happened to me!), you may change one black space after moving a hedgehog forward. Take a movable yellow-space piece (supplied in the second edition) and cover up one black space. Then take a movable black-space piece and place it on any yellow space. Exception: you may not change any space which has one or more hedgehogs on it.

The Quicksand variant of the Grimpen Mire variant:

You can place the yellow and black spaces on spaces containing hedgehogs, but: both spaces have to have at least one hedgehog of the same color. That is, if you convert a black space with a blue hedgehog on it to a yellow space, then you must also convert a yellow space with a blue hedgehog on it to a black space.

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