Review: TAPPLE Publisher: USAopoly Year: 2013 Tagline: NAME IT. TAP IT. PASS IT.
how we met
TAPPLE was almost free, and the gameplay looked quick and fun. I was happy to pay 50 cents to give it a go. I’m pretty sure I even had to run out to the car to grab quarters. Worth it!
how it plays
FUN FACT: TAPPLE stands for Touch Activated Press & Play Letter Eliminator
TAPPLE can be played by anywhere from 2-8 players. The player with the middle initial closest to ‘A’ goes first. That player draws a category card and chooses a category for play. Then they announce the category for all players and press the large red timer button in the middle of the TAPPLE wheel.
The player then has 10 seconds to name something related to the category, press the letter that their answer begins with, then press the red timer button to reset the timer for the next player. That player can name any answer that begins with the remaining letters. After each successful answer the timer is reset by that player.
For example, a category might be Pizza Toppings: – Player 1 says Pepperoni and presses P and then the red button – Player 2 says Mushrooms and presses M and then the red button – Player 3 says Anchovies and presses A and then the red button – Player 4 says Sausage and presses S and then the red button – Player 1 says Cheese and presses C and then the red button – And you get the idea..
If players are unable to think of an answer beginning with one of the remaining letters within 10 seconds then the timer will buzz and that player is eliminated. Continue play with remaining players until only one player remains. That player gets to keep the category card (in the above case Pizza Toppings).
Then simply push any of the yellow buttons clockwise to reset the letters. The player to the left of the first player then chooses a category, sets the timer and begins a new round.
The first player to collect three category cards wins TAPPLE!
If by some miracle there is more than one player left after all letters are taken in a round, reset the letters and continue play with a new category except each player must give two answers using two different letters. The last player standing in this scenario gets both the original and the second category card.
how it went
TAPPLE is a super fun filler party game. Yours truly was not particularly good at it, but it was still fun to play. And player elimination is, fairly, a pet peeve for many people. But with TAPPLE play goes so quickly that watching remaining players is exciting. Even allowing for some players to run out of time, a full round would likely take less than 3.5 minutes.
I am not a fan of the TAPPLE box. It uses a tuck box, and my game storage is not loving enough to protect this style of box (nor was the thrift cycle). So it’s a bit crushed. But here’s one of the beautiful things about TAPPLE: the category cards fit into the bottom of the TAPPLE wheel itself! So while my box falls open all willy nilly, the cards are safe.
We played through a couple of times in our group of four. It was fun. Bill ultimately won, and according to my sticky note Bill and John cheated. How awful. We played long enough ago that I don’t remember the details. I’m not sure how you would cheat at TAPPLE except to insist on words matching categories that maybe don’t. The rules address this with a simple “majority rules” in the event of conflict.
It may be worth discussing some ground rules before play. As an example, say the category is Pizza Toppings and someone said Pepperoni so the letter P is taken. Can I say Chunks of Pineapple and take the C? The game encourages creativity, but only your group will know how your majority will settle.
A quick glance through the BGG ratings show that most people appreciate the light, fun play of TAPPLE. Many people suggest using cards from other games with it, which is an interesting idea that I will have to try soon.
play or pass
TAPPLE gets a play from me. It is perfect for a gaming household that sometimes wants to play a light game or enjoys hosting mixed groups. I only saw it the one time at thrift, but judging by BGG comments many have found it at thrift. What is that saying about good things coming when you wait?
Review: Which Witch? Publisher: Milton Bradley Year: 1970 Tagline: OBJECT: BE THE FIRST TO GET THROUGH THE WITCHES’ HOUSE AND BREAK THE EVIL SPELL.
how we met
This is a story you have heard before, but I always enjoy revisiting it because it was such a fun day. I found Which Witch? in relatively decent shape in the basement of a junk shop. Someday I will perhaps have reviewed every game I purchased that day, and with each one you can glimpse further into the craziness of finding all of those rare, sought-after (at least by me) games in a single location for so cheap.
Anyway Which Witch? is a spooky, oft-desired game that is really lovely to look at. I have never seen it at thrift, but I did see a very nice copy at a flea market once for $25. So I felt very lucky to have found it at this junk shop in a thrift price range, albeit a little worse for wear. And missing the marble, which is not easily replaced but it’s not so hard.
how it plays
Which Witch? is a roll and move game where the object is to be the first child to reach the Charmed Circle at the top of the stairs.
On their turn a player rolls the die and moves that number of spaces. Players can’t share spaces so if you would land on another pawn’s space just go to the next space instead.
After movement the player draws a card and does what it says. There are three types of cards:
Wanda the Wicked will turn you into a mouse. Replace your pawn with the mouse of the same color. And guess what, you can’t move as a mouse. On future turns you can’t roll and move as long as you are a mouse. You just draw a card.
Glenda the Good will set you right and break the spell if you are a mouse. This means you get to move again in future turns!
Ghoulish Gerty causes you to drop the marble into the chimney and see what may come of it.
When Ghoulish Gerty causes you to unleash the marble, a trap will go off in the part of the house where the marble comes out. This may shock you, but the traps don’t really work. So any pawn on a space marked “Danger” is in the Danger zone and any player on a different space is not, regardless of whether the marble is able to actually set off the trap.
I got a request for more info on the traps so I pulled out my copy and took some quick photos of all traps except the stairs, which only have a marble roll down them.
If you are on a Danger space and your trap goes off (ie if the marble emerges through the appropriate hole) then you have to go back to the closest past space marked X.
The staircase is special in two ways:
Each space is a Danger space, so run like the wind
You are safe from Wanda the Wicked and can’t become a mouse on the stairs
The first one to the top of the stairs wins Which Witch?!
how it went
I had wanted Which Witch? for a long time before I found it. There is a simplicity to its imagery that is special and haunting. The little pawns evoke an innocence that increases the creep factor of the game. I very much enjoy the design of the game board and different rooms. I was excited to set up the board.
I suspect that Which Witch? setup has always been a challenge. Fast forward 50 years and taking into account I bought this out of a damp basement, setup is even more challenging, like having puzzle pieces made of damp sponge. The soft cardboard definitely lends to the traps not working well and is not unique to my copy. But I never really mind setup (hello, Gloomhaven fan here). So that didn’t bother me.
If you are missing a marble, like I was, make sure you use a nice heavy replacement. That is key to getting the traps to work as much as possible. They still won’t work all the time because the cardboard is heavy.
Once the game is set up, it begs to be photographed. Innocent children pawns marching toward uncertain doom. Marbles causing traps to go off. A haunted mansion. And you have time to photograph it, too. You will not rush through that mansion, and if you are anything like Bill you will spend the majority of your time as a mouse. I think he just got to the second room when the rest of us were in the final room and the game ended. He really doesn’t like this game. But Keri might, because she won our play of Which Witch?!
Now I can appreciate that this is a game for children, but most children I know would probably cry if they had to play it – and not because it is scary. There’s just not much going on. You move. You turn into a mouse. You are a mouse. You are a mouse. You are un-moused! You move. You drop a marble. You move. You get set back. You turn into a mouse. Shit.
I have no idea if my copy is 100% complete but it contains the following: 8 Glenda the Goods, 18 Ghoulish Gertys and 5 Wanda the Wickeds. You might think there are not too many Wanda the Wickeds, but imagine getting turned into a mouse and waiting for a Glenda the Good in that mess. It amounts to player elimination for whole periods during the game.
If you played as a child, enjoy those memories and by all means relive them with Which Witch? But if you have just heard of it and are not sure what to expect, don’t pay more than a few bucks for this. And if you do hunt it down, it’s full of plastic bits that hold the traps together so a complete copy is best. But the traps don’t really work so honestly, it doesn’t matter that much.
play or pass
Pass this one by. Which Witch? has novelty and is pretty, but the gameplay is a chore. And when the answer to the question Which Witch? is Wanda the Wicked then gameplay is downright terrible.
(Regardless of my review, if you see this game at thrift buy it for resale. You can resell it like it’s made of gold.)
Review: Maniac Publisher: Ideal Year: 1979 Tagline: The Fiendishly Clever Paranoid Electronic Game THAT TESTS YOUR SENSES IN FOUR DIFFERENT WAYS!
how we met
I met Maniac at the Kane County Toy Show last fall. I was intrigued by the cover when I first saw it, but I decided to wait until the end of the day before deciding whether to pick it up. It was like $8 or $10 – that’s a lot for an unknown electronic vintage game that can’t be tested!
My thanks to a BGG user who left a rating many years ago describing Maniac as “Ralph Baer’s simulation of a mentally ill parakeet.” I think that comment is what really put me over the edge into “buy.”
My thanks to Bill too. I swear he can fix almost anything old and electronic.
how it plays
Maniac is an electronic game. The game piece has four paddles and plays up to four players. If you want to play, simply settle yourself near one of the paddles.
When you turn Maniac on it will flash “88” a few times and then beep at you. This means battery levels check out and play begins soon. Maniac will cycle through four different types of challenges three times in a row each, which are considered rounds, so 12 rounds total before it starts again.
After each single round Maniac will point at each player in turn and give their cumulative score at that point. The first player to score 25 points wins!
A couple of notes on points:
A player can only earn a maximum of 2 points in a single round, and there are only 12 total rounds to make it through each challenge (4 challenges at 3x each), so play will always circle back to the first challenge again to find the 25 point winner.
Players score points independently. It’s not like the first person to be right gets the highest score. So ignore those jerks you are rubbing elbows with and just concentrate.
Now, let’s take a closer look at the four different challenges:
CHALLENGE #1: MUSICAL MANIAC In this challenge Maniac plays a series of tones and flashes a “HH” pattern. Then it goes silent at a random time. Your job is to hit your paddle as soon as you hear the silence. If you are within a quarter second, you get 2 points; half a second is 1 point (remember each challenge repeats 3 times in a row)
CHALLENGE #2: SOUNDS ABOUND In this challenge Maniac is going to offer you a series of random notes that you must count. When it’s done, it will start a slow, even beep. Your job is to hit your paddle when the number of beeps is equal to the number of notes. A correct guess is 2 points; one count off is 1 point
CHALLENGE #3: LOOK TWICE In this challenge Maniac shows you a pattern and then shows three additional patterns. If one of the three matches the first, hit your paddle! If none do, hit your paddle after the third pattern is gone to say, “None of these were right.” Scoring on this challenge goes by quarter second reaction for 2 points and half second for 1 point
CHALLENGE #4: YOUR TIME’S UP In this challenge Maniac plays a tone and your job is to count in your head how long the tone lasts. Then Maniac will beep and be silent. Your job is to hit your paddle when the silence has lasted the same amount of time as the initial tone. This one also scores based on being within a quarter second or half second
Then Maniac starts over! Challenges continue in rounds until one player gets 25 points. That player is the winner of Maniac!
how it went
I can’t wait to try Maniac with four players! But alas, it is not a great game for social distancing. Bill and I played last weekend when our internet went down and interrupted the movie we were watching.
Play is a little confusing at first because you have to remember how each challenge works as you go. But once you get the hang of it, it’s fun and easy! Bill realized at some point that he could try and fake me out and make me extra nervous so I’d hit the paddle prematurely. But that worked once, maybe twice. I blocked him out eventually.
My favorite of the challenges was the fourth one, where you lock in the time you think a tone lasted. It reminds me of one of my favorite reality TV shows, Solitary. If you are not familiar, this is a show where contestants are locked in pods and have no idea if it’s day or night. They have to withstand challenges where they tap out, but they are not told when others tap out. So they are playing against themselves. There is one episode where contestants are asked to tap their button when they think three hours have passed. Some tap out after an hour, some after five hours. It’s great.
Maniac was designed by Ralph Baer who is best known in tabletop gaming for creating Simon. The similarities are there, and I can honestly see why someone might prefer one over the other. But for me, I’d take Maniac over Simon any old day of the week. Maniac is fun and varied. Simon is how I spend a quarter to try to win a free personal pan pizza at Little Caesar’s when I’m a kiddo.
I did pretty well at Maniac. The fourth challenge was my best, but I wasn’t terrible at any of them. Bill had 21 points when I hit 25 and won! And Maniac celebrated my win with all of its innate charm (it pointed at me and beeped several times)!
play or pass
Play! Maniac is everything I look for in a vintage game. It’s easy to explain, it works very well, gameplay is varied, and I can see it appealing to a lot of different types of players. And it rings in my ears for around half an hour after play. Perfection.
I’m still quarantining, and I have this whole Saturday yawning before me. This post probably won’t interest many people, but I’m going to write about my Magic: the Gathering decks!
I used to play Magic: the Gathering with a lovely group of people in Minneapolis on a regular basis. About weekly, sometimes more, sometimes less. I played all the way up until I moved away. I miss them, and I miss playing the game.
I have played a few times since moving to Wisconsin. I tried Friday night magic in Lake Geneva. I played with some friends. I even made my game group play once. But I have not found the same appeal that we had with the old group. We played very casually. We didn’t always buy the new cards. We didn’t play by tournament rules or anything. We had ways to accommodate 6 players, 8 players. We would get through several games in a single night. It was magical. I miss them all.
If you are not familiar with MtG, it has five color types:
Red – a lot of direct damage, very fire-centric, can be very fast
Blue – very meddlesome, manipulates things on the board, steals
Green – creature-heavy, can create a lot of mana, provides a decent balance of offense and defense (if I had to take one color to an island I would probably choose green)
Black – dark creatures, destructive, can cause direct kills to other creatures
White – life-giving, defensive, not super powerful on offense but can be with a lot of creatures together
Colorless or artifact – I consider this a 6th group that has established itself as an option in addition to the above colors
Now onto a closer look at my decks*!! *in no particular order, just literally the order they are in my box
Deck 1 Black and Green Deck
This deck uses the destructive powers of black with the heavy creatures of green and the ability to trample in order to try and overwhelm the enemy quickly. This deck relies on large green creatures that let me deal damage or protect my creatures in an emergency, cards that let me search for the creatures I need, and cards that let me afford creatures quickly.
Deck 2 Red Deck
I don’t love a plain red deck, and it will be clear as we proceed. I didn’t play this one much. But variety is the spice of life. This deck has all the cheap direct damage that is at red’s disposal, some creature cards, and a couple of more rare cards that can give me an additional attack phase and a creature that does severe damage once it is leveled up.
Deck 3 The Gambling Deck (will require a coin on hand to flip, almost constantly)
Oh, not a favorite amongst the group. This deck is red and blue with a number of artifacts to boot. Now you might think I could call this a coin-flipping deck rather than gambling, but there are plenty of cards that just kind of say, let’s level the playing field and see what happens. Very fun. Does not last long because everyone attacks me as soon as they see the coin.
Deck 4 The Soldier Deck
This is a pretty straight-forward soldier deck. It consists of cards that allow me to play soldier tokens, creatures that buff other soldiers, enchantments that improve creatures. It can take awhile to get going, but then it gets fairly tough. The problem is when your group recognizes your deck and knows they have a limited amount of time to keep you in check.
Deck 5 The Decking Deck
If a player is unable to draw as many cards as needed at the beginning of their turn, they lose the game. One way to attack a player is to attack their deck directly by moving cards from their deck to their graveyard. This is called decking. If you think The Gambling Deck is annoying, decking decks are super annoying. This is not a particularly tough one, but it works. I just made it out of cards I had.
Decking decks almost always need team play to pull off a win. They often leave the player completely open to attack and draw a lot of attention.
Be careful about decking vs a black deck. They like having large graveyards.
Deck 6 The Five Color Deck (big creature version)
Five color decks are obviously challenging, plus there are so many different directions to go with one. So go big or go home, I say. This deck has the obvious things that allow me to create different colors of mana, and the rest is huge nasty creatures that I just hope to get on the field.
Deck 7 The Leviathan Deck
This is just a blue deck full of large, blue sea creatures. It has a card in it called Quest for Ula’s Temple that gets counters and then lets me put a Kraken, Leviathan, Octopus or Serpent creature into play. I don’t think I built the deck around this card, but I probably chose the creatures based on it since they are all in there. The goal is get big creatures and turn enemy lands into islands so I can islandwalk them into oblivion.
Deck 8 The Five Color Deck (classic version)
Your first draw is so critical in a Five Color Deck. This deck is very diverse and I really enjoy playing it. It does not have a big mechanism that it needs to work. It just has a variety of small, medium, and large cards that play with different colors of mana. It is simple.
Deck 9 The Cascade Deck
Cascade is an ability that lets you play a card and then draw cards until you get a nonland card that was cheaper than the card you played. You play that card for free and put the rest of the cards you drew on the bottom of your library.
This deck is five colors but relies most on red, green, and white. It has cards to increase mana early in the game, and then consists of fairly expensive cards that include Cascade along with creature cards that have haste. It’s a tough deck to get going, but when it works, it works.
Deck 10 The Polymorph Deck
I love to give my Polymorph Deck a whirl. It consists of just five things: land, cards that increase mana production like Fertile Ground, sorcery and instant cards that generate token creatures, huge expensive creatures that I do not intend to get the mana to play, and polymorph cards.
The Polymorph card allows me to destroy one single creature and reveal cards from my library until I reveal a creature card. That creature goes into play. Mass Polymorph allows me to exile all my creatures (hopefully a ton of tokens) and replace them with creatures from my deck at no cost. There’s no feeling quite like pulling off a devastating Mass Polymorph. You are practically unstoppable then. This is a fun deck.
Deck 11 The Tim Deck
The Prodigal Sorcerer card was nicknamed Tim based on the Tim the Enchanter character in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It includes the ability to tap to deal 1 damage to target creature or player. So our group called that ability Timming. This was my Tim deck. It was feared and revered all over our dining room tables from South Minneapolis to Maplewood.
The deck is red and blue and consists almost entirely of Tim creatures as well as enchantments that let any creature Tim a creature.
Deck 12 The Artifact Deck
This is a pretty standard Artifact deck that contains several cards with Affinity for Artifact, meaning you pay one less mana for each Artifact you have in play. So it has Artifact Lands, Artifact Creatures, plain old Artifacts. It’s fun, but it’s not my favorite Artifact Deck. I haven’t pulled that one out of the box yet.
Deck 13 The Legendary Creature Deck
As implied by the name, this is a red and green deck that focuses on Legendary Creatures. I’m not sure why. Why not?
To make this deck work, I need lots of cards and lots of mana. So it has Howling Mines to draw extra cards, cards like Wild Growth and Lush Growth to increase mana production, and then a bunch of Legendary Creatures and their supporting cards. It’s similar to a lot of my decks where things have to really come together, but then I get big creatures. There is no shortcut in this, though. I have to pay full price for these Legendary Creatures.
I also only have one of each creature in the deck since playing a second of the same card would destroy the Legendary Creature. I can’t afford to risk having my hand polluted with duplicates.
Deck 14 The White Deck
There is nothing really special about this deck. No particular mechanism. It has cards that protect creatures, cards that grant life, cheap creature cards, and cards that improve those creature cards. This is a deck for a long game. It allows you to be defensive and protect allies, and eventually to make some large attacks and lead your opponents to wonder how they can get past your front lines to get at all the health you stored up.
I like playing white fine, but it’s not my favorite. When I would play the Age of Empires computer game, I would spend what felt like generations of my people in order to set up the best defenses possible before drawing in my enemy. But in MtG I get impatient and want to attack. So this is not a go-to deck for me. It does well in team play though.
Deck 15 The Proliferate Deck
This is another mostly-Artifact deck that is full of cards that add counters (whether they are +1 / +1 or -1 / -1) to creatures and artifacts. Then there are cards that allow me to Proliferate, meaning I can choose where to add counters to improve creatures for myself and my allies or increasingly damage enemy creatures.
This deck contains a lot of cards to increase drawing and mana production.
Deck 16 The Ally Deck
Lots of people have Ally decks because the Ally cards lend themselves to working together beautifully. Mine is five colored. Anyone who plays against an Ally deck knows that it has to be handled, and quickly. Many a time have I sat back and listened while my enemies decide how to triage the damage I am doing to them. The cards are cheap, so unless my mana shuts down with unlucky draws it’s a solid deck. My one kindness with it is to have the deck in card sleeves so the keen observer knows what deck I am playing immediately.
Deck 17 The Spirit and Arcane Deck
I threw this together when we ended up with a bunch of cards that are Spirit and Arcane. This deck is green and white. It is filled with Spirit creatures and Arcane spells, along with cards that make these spells cheaper. It’s okay. I kind of think of it as a poorer version of an Ally deck.
Deck 18 The Blue and White Mess with Everyone Deck
This is a fun deck to play and looking through it really made me want to play again. This deck is full of classic white life-giving and damage-negating cards, along with blue cards that manipulate what is in play. One of the beautiful cards in it, too, is Leyline of Anticipation which you can play instantly if it is in your opening hand, and it allows you to play nonland cards as though they are instants. That allows me to keep my mana handy to play interruption cards or, if nothing comes up, to play a creature card at end of turn of the player before me.
This is particularly a great deck for team play because I am unsummoning, countering, gathering life, preventing damage, causing opponents to pay more for their spells, all kinds of mean things.
I particularly enjoy the passive defense in this deck. I’m wide open, and you can attack me. But it’s probably going to hurt you more than it hurts me.
Deck 19 The Best Artifact Deck Ever
I love this deck. I don’t always play it because the play can take a long time. It involves tons of adjusting and playing and pulling back and reshuffling. Some turns I draw like 15 cards. It can get old for my fellow players, and I appreciate that.
This is a Blue Artifact deck. The goal is to get tons of mana and endless artifacts in play. Artifacts can give me no max hand size, cause opponents to lose life when they play creatures, give their creatures negative counters, etc.
One key component of this deck is the card Elixir of Immortality. True to its name, this card not only gives me life but allows me to shuffle my graveyard into my library. I can play this deck almost eternally. It’s tough to beat but the offense isn’t great, so I have to really focus on doing what I can to destroy my enemies. Otherwise this deck just wears them down, which isn’t fun.
Deck 20 The Direct Damage Deck
This deck is the only one in this list that I did not make. It belonged to my good friend Peter, and I admired it and feared it for a long time. He gave it to me one game night, probably for my birthday or some such occasion.
This is a green and red deck, and it’s a thing of beauty. Its focus is in creating incredible mana output. All of the land is Forest, and so there are Wild Growths and Fertile Grounds. Then there is a key card: Utopia Sprawl. When that comes into play you choose red since this is the only way to get red mana in the deck.
The rest of the deck is Creatures like Overgrown Battlement that give you a little defense, but also can be tapped to add more mana to your pool. The rest of the creatures simply allow you to untap a land. The idea is simple: get a few Forests out there that are stacked with extra mana cards that you can untap to create a huge amount of mana in your pool. Then play a comet storm and rain fire on your terrible friends. Comet storms allow you to switch targets and you can choose between creatures and players. This can be incredibly destructive.
Deck 21 The Elf Deck
I couldn’t find the exact rule, but I’m pretty sure there’s a rule that everyone must have an Elf Deck. Mine is my very first deck. I probably don’t need to explain an Elf Deck to you… it is full of elves.
This is a tough deck. Elf Decks start deceptively small, but they can get tough very quickly. My deck relies a lot on Blanchwood Armor to do really heavy damage. Ideally I can enchant a Silhana Ledgewalker so my enemies can’t really do anything about it. It’s my oldest deck, but I still enjoy it.
Deck 22 The Equipment Deck
I made an Equipment Deck. It’s not my favorite; equipment in general is not something I have patience for. The deck is okay.
This deck includes white creatures, a few that have particular powers related to equipment. Then there is just equipment galore! When you pack enough equipment onto a single creature it can get really tough, providing both offense and defense. It just takes awhile to get there.
Deck 23 The Bird Deck
Last but certainly not least is my black and white bird deck. I did make this deck around a single card: Soulcatchers’ Aerie. This card allows me to put a +1 / +1 counter on it whenever a bird goes to my graveyard from play, and all my birds get that counter. So I can have up to four Soulcatchers’ Aerie cards played if I am lucky enough to draw them all. So I am not opposed to my own birds dying. I got more where they came from.
This becomes annoying for my fellow players. Sometimes they are not obliging enough to kill my birds for me and I have to do it myself. That’s where black comes in. I have four Carrion Feeder creatures that allow me to sacrifice a creature to put a +1 / +1 counter on the Carrion Feeder. But that sacrificed creature will be a bird so I get the counter on the Aeries too.
This deck can be pretty tough. The beauty of it is that birds are cheap, and even if my mechanism does not come together or gets handled, an army of flying birds is not the worst thing.
That’s all my decks. The casualness of our play comes out in these descriptions. Creating MtG decks is game design with pre-defined options. While it’s not my style, I know and admire people that do MtG deck design with the strictest disciplines that MtG communities offer.
No matter where you fall on that spectrum of seriousness, if you played much at all you likely have some favorite decks and fond memories. I’d love to hear them. 🙂
Review: Chicken Out Publisher: Parker Brothers Year: 1988 Tagline: “Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?” Game
how we met
I found Chicken Out for the first time for $5 at a flea market, but the seller would not let me open it and did not know if it was complete. I also didn’t totally want to carry it for the remaining miles that I would be wandering around. So that was a pass for me. The next time I found Chicken Out was for $2 at the local thrift shop. That’s more my speed, and I was happy to give it a whirl.
how it plays
Your goal in Chicken Out is to be the first player to get both of your chicken pawns safely to the FINISH space at the end of the road. You do this by lacing in and out of traffic using cards to move.
To begin play, shuffle the deck and deal four cards to each player. Players should not show their hand to any other players; bluffing is a key part of gameplay. The remainder of the deck goes face down as a draw pile.
On a player’s turn they simply play one card from their hand, do whatever is needed by the card, discard the card in a face up discard pile, and then draw to get up to four cards again.
There are four types of cards:
Number cards allow you to move one of your chickens that number of spaces (NOTE: the grassy edge of the road is not considered a space for movement, only for safety). You do not have to move your first chicken all the way to finish before starting your second chicken. Just be careful because chickens in roads are vulnerable and may need protection.
Chicken cards are played by placing the card face down in front of you and hollering, “Chicken!” There are three Chicken cards of each color in the deck, and only one Chicken card that is all four colors. When you place the card face down, you are threatening the chickens whose color you played, but other players do not know whether it is their color or not. (You can play your own color and your chickens remain safe.) Other players must decide whether to try and protect their flock or not. Not protecting a chicken whose Chicken card was played will send it all the way back to START!!!! These are the choices after another player plays a Chicken card:
Play a Safe card for one or each chicken. Making both of your chickens safe will require two Safe cards. If you only have one Safe card you must pick which chicken is protected if you have more than one on the board.
Play a Goose card and move one of your chickens to the next safe area on the board (the grassy lane). Similarly, moving ahead two chickens would require two Goose cards. These cards can only be played on an opponent’s turn.
Decide to Chicken Out and move your chickens backwards to the previous safety areas. You lose ground, but they are safe from further harm that turn. This is not a card but a decision that you can always make.
Ignore the threat and hold tight. Maybe your opponent was bluffing with their own color card, or maybe it is one of your opponents’ colors. But remember, if the Chicken card is your color then your birds are moved back to START!
NOTE: You can do any combination of the above as long as you have the right cards.
If you don’t have a movement card in hand and want to skip your turn, you can discard and draw another card to account for your turn.
The first player to get both of their Chicken pawns to the FINISH space wins Chicken Out!
how it went
Well, my copy was complete other than the insert that includes the instructions. Shout out to the A Board Game a Day blog who not only has approximately 13 bazillion reviews including some fun, vintage toys and games, but who also uploaded the instructions of Chicken Out for my desperate self to find.
That became important, too, because for some reason we did not all agree on which spaces of the game board were spaces in play. I figured if any of us were confused then others may be too. The instructions have a nice diagram showing example movement that should clear up any confusion and keep you off the grassy sides.
Apart from that rocky start gameplay was straight forward. And fairly fun too. We don’t shy away from “take that” mechanics so our chickens were flying back to start, occasionally from very late in play. At four players, we went through the deck around 1,800 times.
Playing a Chicken card face down without announcing the color means that bluffing is an undeniable part of gameplay. There is a bit of strategy with regards to how you decide to play, specifically when to protect your chickens or when to attack vs move. But a lot of your success will depend upon the cards you draw. Sometimes you have two options for what to do on your turn, but a lot of times you may only have one.
The game is not terribly exciting unless you choose not to protect your chickens. But you can always take that backward Chicken Out movement to continue inching forward. Chicken Out is just waiting to remind us of the seemingly implausible lessons from “The Tortoise and the Hare” fable.
John was doing well in our game, but I think his chicken pawns might have even left tracks on the game board for how often they traveled the last section before FINISH. He just kept getting sent back to safety.
I eventually won our play of Chicken Out. I had very lucky draws; I’m not sure any other player even touched the four color Chicken card. I also had good diversity in Number cards, Chicken cards and the protection cards. But I also did not scoff at moving back a few spaces to save my overall progress. I “Chickened Out” plenty of times. I also waited until one of my chickens was safely home before I let the other one start. Fewer targets just seemed wise. And it’s not like I was playing Dizzy Dizzy Dinosaur and could stack them three-high into one giant pawn! I definitely would have done that. At any cost.
play or pass
I think pass. Chicken Out is more middle-of-the-road for me because it’s easy to play and can be a fun press your luck game. But for all its simplicity, gameplay can take awhile. The few choices and limited card types that are constantly recycled aren’t enough to maintain amusement throughout an overly long play.