Happy Salmon (small group game)

I learned about Happy Salmon while at a middle school youth retreat.

Before club doors opened each night, a young staff guy would stand in the corner with a group of kids, yelling and laughing and throwing cards around with extra-high levels of middle school energy.

So, you know, really energetic.

They were playing the card game Happy Salmon. It takes 10 seconds to learn how to play and anywhere between 2 and 3 minutes to finish a game. Perfect for middle school.


Here’s how it works:

6 people stand in a circle. Each holds a set of 12 cards that have the following instructions on them: pound it (just what it sounds like); high 5 (just what it sounds like); happy salmon (a back-and-forth forearm slap); switcheroo (change place with another player).

Holding their cards in a face-up stack, players yell out whatever is on the top card. If someone else is yelling the same thing, those two players do the designated move, throw that card on the floor, and move on to the next card. If no one is yelling the same thing, you can move the top card to the bottom of the pile and start yelling something else. First person to get rid of all 12 cards wins.

I carry Happy Salmon with me to the middle school lunchroom every time I visit (I also get permission to play and give the lunchroom monitors fair warning since the game is, you know, LOUD). I bring it to leadership training events (because even adults need to blow off some steam now and then). It’s become a standard part of my WyldLife Bag of Tricks. I have multiple decks because it’s that awesome.

If you’re still not convinced, watch this video of new WyldLife staff playing the game. See the bored people sitting on the sidelines? They’re not playing Happy Salmon. Enough said.

And if the video doesn’t convince you, then consider this: each game comes in its own neoprene salmon-y zipper pouch.

Fast. Loud. High-energy. Salmon-y zipper pouch. WyldLife. The end.


You can get Happy Salmon here and here.

Posted by Crystal Kirgiss (WyldLife Leader, Raceway Regional Trainer)

One thought on “Happy Salmon (small group game)

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