is a light game of rodent racing by Michael Rieneck, published by Mayfair Games.
Playing Time: 20 minutes
Summary of Components
Lemming Mafia comes in a medium-sized square box that contains a board, a number of different half-sized cards, 6 plastic lemmings, some wooden dice and some plastic cement pegs.
Quality: The components are generally of good to great quality. That centers on the plastic lemmings, which are huge and well made. The cards are half-sized and glossy, where it would have been nicer to have full-sized and linen-textured cards, but they're still nice. Even with the small cards, I've let the game eke in a top score. 5 out of 5.
Beauty: Again, it's the plastic figures which make the game. They look very nice and really stand out. The cards all feature fun artwork by Joscha Sauer which is great to look at. The board is done by him too, though it ends up a bit busy. 5 out of 5.
Usability: The game does have some usability problems, though nothing critical. The one notable issue that we ran into during the game had to do with colors of lemmings. Purple and gray were too close together. So were red and pink and so were blue and green. We could always figure them out, but this was still an occasional nuisance. I was also disappointed by the lack of good icons. Instead you had to figure out what the spaces on the board did through pictures. As I said, though, none of this was actually critical. 3 out of 5.
Theme: On the face of it, the theme of gangster lemmings running a race is a bit nonsensical. Given that, it's carried off well with its cement overshoes, its lemmingfather missions, and all the rest. 4 out of 5.
Overall: Lemming Mafia is a well-produced game that generally feels fun. I've let it eke in a "5" out of "5" for Style though it did have a few deficiencies.
Summary of Play
In Lemming Mafia you race lemmings while trying to both complete missions for the mafia boss and predict the winner.
Moving Lemmings: The main gameplay is really simple: you roll a pair of dice, which show lemming colors, then you move a lemming in one of the colors you rolled. You move that lemming ahead to the next section of the race course with an empty space.
Each section has three spaces within it, and those spaces have special powers. This is where you get to really influence the course of the game, because you can place the lemming in any of those open spaces, some of which are good, some of which are bad.
The Standard Powers: Three of the powers are pretty simple. There's one that adds a concrete boot to the lemming: three of those and he's out of the race. Another removes a concrete boot. A third power lets the lemming move ahead several more spaces for free. There also are some blank spaces with no powers.
Missions & Betting: All of the scoring happens because of the other two special spaces: the betting bookie and mission-giving mafia boss.
Each player gets missions at the start of the game. They're things like "Concrete out pink or gray" and "blue finishes first, second, or third". They're worth positive points if you succeed and negative points if you fail. When you land on a mission space, each player can toss out a mission if they want, which lets you cull ones that you don't think will happen.
The betting spaces let you bet on which lemmings will lose, more or less. Each time that someone lands on a betting space, everyone secretly places a card in his betting pile, representing a lemming. You want to put the winning lemming into your pile really late after lots of losers, because you get more points the more lemmings you place before the winner.
Ending the Game: The game ends when the first lemming dives off the pier at the end of the race. All surviving lemmings are then placed based on their final positions. (Concreted-out lemmings have already been placed in the worst places, starting with 6th.) Players then score points based on their betting and their missions, with the player with the most points winning.
Relationships to Other Games
Lemming Mafia reminds me the most of hidden victory games like Clans, where you're given a secret goal that you then try to accomplish without revealing too much to the other players. I generally find it a rich sort of game design, and Lemming Mafia exploits it well, in combination with its fairly simple tactical play.
The Game Design
Overall, Lemming Mafia is a very light game, but an enjoyable one.
The actual "racing" has a large random factor in it, and that'd limit its successful if all you were trying to do was make sure that a certain lemming won. Fortunately, the game offers a lot more depth than that, and instead you're trying to ensure a bunch of different tactical results simultaneously.
This is thanks to the mission cards and the betting. Because of the betting you're constantly assessing whether lemmings might be all or most of the way out of the game. Simultaneously you're trying to measure if the game might end quickly, because if so, you need to get the winner down as a bet. The missions improve upon this, because the individual goals of each player not only keep things tactically interesting--as you usually have a good move of some sort each turn--but they also ensure that different players will have different reasons to keep different lemmings alive.
(Be warned, the distribution of the missions can still add a lot of randomness to the game, as some are worth a lot more points than others.)
My own qualm with the game is that the endgame can stall out a little bit. That's because you can still roll colors of lemmings who have already been concreted out, in which case you just move the last-place lemming. If enough lemmings are out of the game (which seems likely) this can make the final rounds a little anticlimatic.
Nonetheless, Lemming Mafia is an enjoyable filler game that you should be able to play in 30 minutes or less. I've given it a "4" out of "5" for Substance.
Lemming Mafia is an enjoyable game that you'll enjoy as a filler or as a family game. It's got bluffing focused on a fun little tactical race that everyone will probably enjoy.