If Wishes Were Fishes! About the Strategical Board Game

Updated May 17, 2022
family playing board game

Do you love playing strategy-based board games? If so, If Wishes Were Fishes might be perfect for you. There is an element of luck to this game, but luck plays a very small role in winning. It's really all about strategy and logical reasoning. This game can provide a fun challenge for groups of two to five people over the age of 10. Because the game is fun for such a wide age range, it's a great choice for family game night.

Game Box Contents: If Wishes Were Fishes

If Wishes Were Fishes is no longer in production. If you don't already have the game, you may be lucky enough to find one on eBay, from an Amazon reseller, or from a secondhand store, estate sale, yard sale, or another resource for purchasing board games that are out of production. Whether the game is sitting on your shelf or in your closet or if you score a secondhand game, check to make sure all of the pieces are there so you'll know that you have everything you need to play. The box should include:

  • The gameboard
  • 30 purple rubber worms
  • Wooden fishes of different colors (yellow, orange, green, red, and blue)
  • Instructions
  • Game cards (market cards, fish cards, boat cards)
  • 5 buyers (a 3, two 2's, and two 1's - the numbers represent dollars they'll pay for fish)

Game Set Up

Once you're sure you have everything you need, you'll be ready to set up the game board for play. It's easy to get situated for If Wishes Were Fishes. Start by placing the game board on a table or other flat surface to get started, then follow the steps below.

  1. Each player should select a color and grab all the fish for that color, along with six worms and a boat card (which represents two boats).
  2. Pull the market cards out and put them in order with the lowest denomination (4) on top and the highest (7) on the bottom. Place them on the table just above the left edge of the board.
  3. Shuffle the fish cards. Take four cards out of the deck and place them face-up beside each other, starting just to the right of the market cards. These cards represent the ocean.
  4. Place the rest of the deck face down to the right of the last fish card in the ocean.
  5. Place each of the buyer pieces in one of the five markets on the board. It does not matter which buyer goes in which market.
  6. Have each player place one of their fish on the starting square on the game board.
  7. Decide who is going to go first and clarify that turns will be taken in counterclockwise order (to the left).
  8. Decide how you are going to keep score, as it will be necessary to keep up with the number of dollars players accumulate during the game.

How to Play If Wishes Were Fishes

The object of the game is simple. Each player is a person who earns a living by fishing. Players are focused on trying to catch valuable fish and get them to market at the ideal time. This sounds easy, but players have limited capacity to store fish and markets can fill up quickly. Players are on a quest to catch and release fish to sell or that can be thrown back in exchange for a wish. Players can choose one of three options on each turn.

Turn Option 1: Put a Fish in Your Boat

To put a fish in your boat, you will need to take the first fish card from the ocean (the one on the left side) and put it in one of your boats by placing it next to one side of your boat card. Each boat (players get two) can hold one or two fish cards. To empty the boat, you must either sell the fish to the market or throw it back.

  • You can use your worms to bypass fish cards--you don't want the first one in the ocean.
  • For example, to take the third card in the ocean, you will have to put a worm on the first two cards.
  • If you don't have enough worms to get to the card you want, you can't take it.
  • If a subsequent player takes a card that has a worm on it, they also get to keep the worm.

Turn Option 2: Sell a Fish From Your Boat

You can sell a fish when it is your turn rather than pulling a fish card from the ocean. To sell a fish, place it in one of the fish markets that has room for it. You'll want to opt for the market with the highest value, which is based on the dollar value of the market (printed on the board) plus the value of the buyer (printed on each marker) that's on each market. Be sure to record the dollars received for each fish sold as part of your score. The following kinds of fish can be sold to the markets:

  • Angelfish
  • Kingfish
  • Starfish
  • Monkfish
  • Catfish
  • Clownfish
  • Swordfish

Turn Option 3: Throw a Fish Back to Make a Wish

When it is your turn, you can option throw back a fish in exchange for a wish. You can throw back a fish that is already in your boat or you can pull one from the ocean and throw it back. When you throw back a fish, which simply involves placing it in the discard pile, you'll receive the wish that is pictured on the card. Wish options include:

  • Double fish: If the fish card is sold, it counts as two fish.
  • Boat wish: You get an extra boat, giving you the ability to hold a third fish card.
  • Worm bonuses: Get $1 for each worm, then give your worms away. Sure you relinquish your worms, but you get money for them to buy more worms, etc.
  • Move buyer: Because you get more money depending on the buyer, you can shift buyers around the markets so you can then sell your fish for premium amounts.
  • Spoilage: Move fish to and from the garbage pile.

Beyond Turns: Market Limit Cards

What players do during their turn is not the only factor that determines who earns the most money. As fish start to pile up in the markets, the market cards come into play.

  • The first market card has the number four on it in the left corner, so when one market has four fish, that card should be picked up and used to determine bonus dollars for the players who have the most and second most fish in that market.
  • For the market card with a market limit of four on it, the player with the most fish receives $7 added to their total amount of money and the player with the second most receives $3, as indicated by the numbers on the face of the card.
  • Once bonus dollars have been added to players' scores, place that market limit card on the market for which it was used. This indicates that the market is at capacity and can no longer accept fish.
  • Repeat with the other market limit cards as the other thresholds (5. 6, and 7) are reached in other markets.
  • If the markets get full while there are still market cards on the table, fish that would need to be sold there will go into the garbage heap on the right side of the board.

How to Win the Game

The game will end when one of the following scenarios occurs:

  • All of the "market limit" cards are on the board
  • There are 10 or more fish on the garbage pile

Whichever way the game ends, the player with the most money at the end of the game wins. Before final scores are calculated, an extra $8 is awarded to the player with the most worms at the end of the game. The player with the second most worms gets a $4 bonus. If the game ends because the garbage pile is full, players with the most and second most fish in that pile are penalized dollars in accordance with the face value of the remaining market card that's on top.

Complexity Considerations

If Wishes Were Fishes is not the easiest board game to play or master. There are quite a few things you can do on your turn, and it can get confusing, much like The Game of Life. There are a lot of scenarios that could happen, and you have to pay attention to what's going on in order to keep up with the game. It can be confusing to kids, as well as anyone who struggles with complex if/then scenarios. Of course, learning how to play this game is a great way for people to strengthen their reasoning skills and ability to navigate "what if?" scenarios. Just be patient as you and whoever you are playing with master the rules. If Wishes Were Fishes can be a lot of fun, so don't count it out just because the rules are complicated.

If Wishes Were Fishes! About the Strategical Board Game