Idle Remorse

Review: Chicken Out

Review: Chicken Out
Publisher: Parker Brothers
Year: 1988
Tagline: “Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?” Game

This shows a frantic chicken running across a road with a truck coming

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.

8 pawns, 2 in each color
Each player gets 2 chicken pawns: one that appears in a hurry and one that is more moseying

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.

The long board
The board is long, so here is a terrible attempt at photographing it. It’s like a normal size vintage board you would unfold but it unfolds long instead of wide

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:
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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!
    5. 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.

Example cards including Safe, Goose, 4, and Chicken in yellow
A closer look at some of the cards you will encounter. In case you were wondering, movement cards all use the same art whether 1 or 4 or in between

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.

You essentially move where the chicken footprints are, at times jumping over a car or short distance, unless you move to a safe spot. Then you are on the grass

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.

Chickens on FINISH space
Here we are lined up at the end! I guess I played red 🙂

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.

Review: Personal Preference

Review: Personal Preference
Publisher: Broderbund Games
Year: 1987
Tagline: You’re in the spotlight…

The cover is blocky like the board with four colors in each corner

how we met

I played Personal Preference years ago but hadn’t seen it for quite a long time. Then I met the Thrifting Minions in the Milwaukee area! Courtney is a very keen fan of Personal Preference. She found a fabulous copy at thrift one day, and I was the only person that didn’t have one yet! So it was quite a treat!

I have never seen it at thrift myself, but if I had I would have bought it. You know I love a vintage party game with lots of pictures!

how it plays

Personal Preference is a party game where players take turns randomly drawing four items, secretly ranking them in order of their personal preference, and letting the other players guess what their ranking will be.

Players each get chips indicating the ranking 1, 2, 3 or 4. The active player is called IT, and when you are IT you draw four items in the category of the space your pawn is on. For start and other corners, choose any category you want. Place these cards in the four quadrants of the board. Then secretly rank them using the envelope provided and cards for this purpose.

The colorful pawns and ranking chips
The team pawns and ranking chips

Then players (including anyone on your own team) use their ranking chips to guess what your rankings are. This is more difficult than it sounds because if you are playing with standard rules then you are on a team and you have to agree on the ranking together. How well do you know the active IT player? Do you know them better than your teammate does?

Placing a ranking chip within the hard-to-see center circle means you are very certain and wish to “DOUBLE” the outcome of that chip.

An overview of the board, the circle is a very lighter color in center
This shot of our play shows both the hard to see circle and an example turn where our IT player needed to rank Neon, Corn on the Cob, Walter Cronkite and Picketing for a just cause

When all players or teams have ranked their guesses at the active IT player’s preferences, the IT player reveals their ranking. Teams move their pawn forward one space for each correct guess and are not penalized for incorrect guesses. If the team chose to double on any guesses, right guesses get 2 spaces forward and incorrect guesses get 1 space backward! Don’t gamble, kids.

Four cards showing color and pattern of each quadrant for secret ranking
These four cards and this envelope are used for the IT player to secretly rank items

The first team to hit or pass the FINISH square wins! If more than one team passes FINISH in a single round then the one ahead wins, or play continues until one is ahead. That team wins!

how it went

I have played Personal Preference several times, and it’s always good fun. I have played both as part of a team and where I acted independently. Each has pros and cons.

Our play

On one hand, playing in a team results in compromise and imperfection which are both things we could learn to tolerate a lot more these days. You have to either fight for your rankings or concede. Discussions happen. Debates happen. Deals sometimes happen. And it ensures the IT player has no benefit in bluffing since their own team is guessing too. A certain Personal Preference purist I know would not have gameplay any other way than teams.

On the other hand, the first game I played where I acted independently I quickly went into the lead and never lost it. I listen and observe things, and sometimes I can make a pretty solid guess at rankings of even random things. I didn’t experience any false confidence in someone else’s rankings. But this type of play is a variation meant for fewer players, and that’s where it belongs.

Some individuals on BGG that have played Personal Preference a lot get to the point of lamenting the dated cards. As you likely know, I love dated cards. And while I have played multiple times, I have not worn my copy thin yet. So I am not one of these people.

People cards including Marilyn Monroe, Sting, JFK, Paul Harvey, Tony Randall and Franklin D. Roosevelt
The people cards get the most complaints in being dated. Here is a random example of me pulling out six cards. I don’t know who Paul Harvey is, but most people do.
Cards include strawberry daiquiri, stir fried vegetables, baked beans, cotton candy, cookies and brie
Tough one! No it’s not. Brie rules.
Activities include having a birthday, overhearing others talking about you, going to a nudist camp, going on a cruise and going to a casino
This is definitely a fun deck. You know what else is fun? Going to the casino.
Example cards here are computers, communism, labor unions, junk mail, Japanese cars
Another really fun deck because Potpourri = random. The one I accidentally cut off in this photo was “Incompetence” which is definitely timeless. Note: all cards are double-sided so there are quite a few cards in Personal Preference.

However if you are interested in trying the game with updated cards, Thrifting Minion Melissa made some and posted the files to BGG back in 2014. She did a really great job too. The cards strike that chord of being general knowledge, but also specific and well-known.

During our initial play after getting this copy, I was teamed up with Bill. At one point I complained over deciding a ranking, “This is hard.” To which Bill replied, “Is it? Are any of them?” I assume he meant the great games that I constantly buy, review and keep or donate. I am very lucky to have a game group that is willing to play random vintage board games and enjoy them!

An example of the People cards: we had to rank Angela Lansbury, Babe Ruth, Barbara Walters and Hulk Hogan

And we did enjoy Personal Preference. Sure it’s dated, but there is a timeless, inherent absurdity to comparing completely random things, like Nuclear Power Plants, David Letterman, chocolate chip cookies and cleaning house. It’s very fun to listen to the other teams discuss their rankings when you are the IT player. And you might even learn something about your friends! Important things like how they feel about unlisted phone numbers and acid rain.

I won our first game acting independently with four players. Bill and I won our first team game using the standard rules. Do I know my friends or what?!

play or pass

Definite play. Personal Preference captures the magic of a simple, fun party game with immense replayability. While the complaints of it being dated are valid, that can also add to the delight in ranking, particularly if you are around my age. And if not, updated cards are just a print and play away.

Review: Shark Tank: The Game

Review: Shark Tank: The Game
Publisher: Cardinal
Year: 2016
Tagline: Only the strong will survive.

The cover shows the main sharks posed and looking toward camera

how we met

Shark Tank: The Game is not some super find. My local farm store carries it on the shelves brand new. I have seen it at thrift numerous times. But the thing is, I really like the TV show Shark Tank. And eventually Bill started watching too when I had it on. Now when we eat dinner we sometimes throw on an episode. So with a couple of us prepared to compare the game to the television show, how could I say no?

how it plays

The goal of Shark Tank: The Game is very similar to the goal of Shark Tank: walk away with the most money.

Each player gets a SHARK coaster and corresponding chips. They also get an I’M OUT card and one million dollars in specific denominations. The SHARK coaster will explain your shark identity and, similar to another reality show board game Storage Wars, each SHARK has their own specialty to represent their expertise. You get bonuses if you win the honor of backing an idea in that area.

The sharks on coasters
They are a bit less intimidating as coasters. Note their specialties on the bottom of their coasters

To set up for play, place 6 COMPANY CARDS face down in the middle of the table. The game will end when each of these COMPANY CARDS has been pitched. One player acts as the READER (this role will pass to the next player for each pitch). The READER will choose one of the face down COMPANY CARDS and read the title and description only. The company type and worth info must remain secret until after bidding ends, which takes place over two rounds:

  • Round 1: Wagers are made in order, clockwise from the reader. Players bid openly using their money cards face up.
  • Round 2: This round is secret, and players bid with their money cards face down.

The highest bid wins the company. All wagers that were placed are put at the bottom of the money deck, so those wagers are the real deal. At any point if a player does not want to bid, they simply place their I’M OUT card for the other sharks to see. They are out of bidding for that company.

I'm out and money cards
You receive your initial $1 million in specific denominations to encourage card counting

The different companies have different values. When you win a company, roll the die to determine how much the company is worth. The result is represented by placing the corresponding chip on the card. If you are lucky enough to roll BLOCK BUSTER on the die then you are awarded the highest value and you get to draw another money card from the money deck.

Poker chips with shark faces on them, and the die
So if you rolled the blue dollar sign you would place a blue chip on the card. Be warned: a few people on BGG complain about the die wrapper coming off. We did not experience that

If the company you win corresponds with one of your specialties then you get to draw a money card from the money deck!

Company cards show title, type, description and 3 possible different values
There are approximately 15 bazillion COMPANY CARDS, and their color contrast leaves something to be desired

You are allowed to swap companies with other players or even purchase them if you can strike a deal. Any time a company changes hands, the new owner must roll the die to determine the new value of the company. The original roll does not transfer.

Once all 6 company cards have been pitched and purchased, the game is over. Add up the value of all companies you have and half the value of your left over money. The player with the most value wins!

how it went

We played Shark Tank: The Game as a group of three one game night – two of us familiar with Shark Tank and one of us not.

You know I love a good theme. I love how much the game embraces the strong personalities of Shark Tank. There are frequent guest sharks on the show, but the main group has lasted a long time and has a special dynamic. Here is a little bit about my take on them based on no real research but just watching the show:

  • Robert: the man loves dogs. He loves them. He does not make a lot of offers but does a good job of keeping the action moving along by reminding the entrepreneurs what offers they have and who is out
  • Lori: she is referred to as the Queen of QVC, and I think her offers reflect that. She is looking for a gadget that looks good on TV and a lot of people will buy, but won’t necessarily make the long haul. Kind of everything wrong with the world if you think about it that way
  • Barbara: she loves making offers on food ideas and giving hugs to the ones she takes under her wing
  • Kevin: aka Mr. Wonderful. My absolute favorite. He is dry, pessimistic and sometimes predatory. The seemingly sharkiest of the sharks. At times he manipulates the whole room. He is also good at reminding entrepreneurs where they stand, but less objectively than Robert
  • Daymond: nice guy, not on as much anymore. He does not make a lot of offers, but he shows particular interest in clothing items, where he has a lot of knowledge
  • Mark: seemingly beloved by most of those who set foot in the door. He has a soft spot for humanitarian ideas and is quick to praise entrepreneurs on their hard work and clever marketing
My Daymond coaster and chips
The one terrible photo I took during our play. I chose Daymond for play!

All of the COMPANY CARDS in Shark Tank: The Game come directly from the show, or at least I recognized most of them. So that is kind of fun to reminisce. People get some wild ideas.

There are a few places where my rules leave out important details or are wrong:

  1. Placing COMPANY CARDS face down: the instructions do not specify to do this, but the whole point of the bidding is that you do not know the value of the company. It is very important that they are face down.
  2. Green is blue: My instructions repeatedly imply that green is the highest value you can roll, but it’s actually blue on every single card. Perhaps the publisher was blue/green color blind.
  3. Reader role and its advantage or disadvantage at higher player numbers: The game is supposed to support 2-6 players, but the rules clearly state that the game includes 6 company pitches. The READER role can’t bid on the card they read (I’m assuming this, it’s not in the rules) because they have the secret info. So how do you balance 6 pitches between 4 or 5 players? Will the game balance if you add more pitches, or will everyone run out of money and hate it even more? If you allow the READER to bid, you still get more advantages to some players and not all.

Our play went pretty quickly, with just minor “Wait, what?” issues as we went through the rules. It’s easy to smooth those issues over if you game a lot, but it doesn’t mean they should be there. Bill won Shark Tank: The Game! Keri came in second, and I was a distant third. I probably bid way too much.

play or pass

Pass. I don’t think Shark Tank: The Game captures the spirit of the show, nor does it hold up as a very competent game. I appreciated the blind bidding round since it speeds up bidding, but it feels like a departure from theme. The rules are very poorly done. The game does not seem to have been blind play tested. It’s not painful to play, it’s just kind of nothing. For all of these reasons, I’m out.

Review: Shark Attack!

Review: Shark Attack!
Publisher: Milton Bradley
Year: 1988

A cartoon shark is menacingly swimming toward fish

how we met

Shark Attack! is a pretty desirable game, so finding the vintage version at thrift is fairly uncommon. We have found a few over the years, so sitting down to play was a must. I wanted to know: what is all the fuss about?

how it plays

Shark Attack! is a children’s game, so gameplay is pretty simple. Each player gets a certain colored fish pawn which they place on the game board at the correct starting space. The shark starts in its correct starting space, a ways back from the pawns.

Fish pawns yellow, red, green and a missing spot for white
Looks like I was missing the white fish pawn

When play starts, turn on the electronic shark and it will slowly eat its way around the board. Your goal is to try and be the last fish standing.

One player is declared the Roller. Their job is to roll the dice and then call out the colors. If your color is called, you get to move your pawn to the next space on the board, further away from the imminent danger. If the same color comes up on both dice, that player gets to move their pawn two spaces!

The dice with colored circles on each face
My copy of the rules did not address this (that I know of) but I assume one die has a dot in the middle and the other does not so the person calling colors does not accidentally call the same die twice. Kind of clever!

Once all the fish are moved the Roller rolls the dice again. Rinse and repeat. The shark will continue to grow closer. If it covers an entire fish in its mouth, that fish is considered eaten and is out of the game. Continue play until only one fish remains. That player wins Shark Attack!

The shark closing its mouth on the red fish pawn
Red is about one second from being fully eaten

NOTE: the game suggests that Shark Attack! veterans play an alternative version where the shark begins a bit further along and the Roller role passes from player to player.

how it went

I can see why little kiddos might really enjoy Shark Attack! I myself enjoy a constant tension in gameplay. But guys, this game is not good.

I think you could argue (if you are the argumentative type) that a lot of games are driven by luck, and perhaps you could just roll a die to determine the winner instead of playing the game. This argument is often astonishingly dismissive of certain elements of gameplay and enjoyment and social interaction. But it’s kind of how I feel about Shark Attack!

True, there is no strategy. True, this is entirely luck driven because if your color comes up more often then you are safer than the other terrible fish. True, assigning the job of rolling the die to a single person means that this could be played alone, and you could just bet on specific fish. But is that fun? Is the constant, droning threat of the shark enough to make this fun? Maybe for some people. I wasn’t into it.

I thought of several possible alternative forms of gameplay for your consideration:

  1. Introduce a story element to gameplay. Require each player to assign their fish a back story before play begins. This would at least make you give a tinker’s cuss about the little thing, and then you might actually care whether your fish gets eaten by the shark or not.
  2. Everyone picks a charity when they pick their fish pawn. Every 15 or 30 seconds players are required to throw a bet down on one of the fish pawns – could be dimes, quarters, dollars, whatever. The winning fish pawn’s charity gets that donation.
  3. Place magnets in your fish pawn and use fishing poles from Gone Fishin’ to move your pawn forward when your color is called. I picture this as short but ridiculous. And crazy fun.
  4. Require each player to share a little known fact about themselves before rolling the dice. This could be particularly painful in groups that include strangers.
  5. Require each player to ante something precious to them that is tied to their fish pawn. The winner of the game then owns each of the items that were offered up in the ante. This may sound familiar to Magic the Gathering players, though I never played that way myself. You’d have to be nuts.

These alternative gameplay suggestions are not tried and true. The game sold before we could really test these suggestions. But I feel pretty good about them.

Keri won our gameplay. She’s so lucky!

Keri making a fin over her head in the background
The electronic shark is in the foreground. The adorbs shark in the background is Keri celebrating her win!

play or pass

Pass, pass, pass. I tried to figure out what all the fuss is about and instead dived deep into suggesting ways to improve gameplay, because as it stands this is barely gameplay.

Please comment with further alternative gameplay suggestions! 366 BGG users are claiming ownership of this game, and they need you.

Review: The Joke Game

Review: The Joke Game
Publisher: All Things Equal, Inc.
Year: 2008

Cover photo shows a cartoon chicken crossing a cartoon road with exaggerated cartoon people in the background

how we met

My sister told me about The Joke Game originally. She found it at a thrift shop and played it with friends for several hours. Since she wasn’t giving it up, I had to add it to my wishlist and hunt down my own copy.

My impatience got the better of me and I ultimately ordered it from a seller on Amazon for like $15. I have seen it at thrift twice since then, but whatever. I have no regrets!

how it plays

The Joke Game has very simple gameplay. On your turn, roll the die and move your chicken pawn that number of spaces.

Chicken pawns are cardboard standees of chickens in various states like eating a banana, sitting, laying down drunk, blowing a whistle?
The chicken pawns. Choose wisely

Then draw a card and read the joke aloud for the category you landed on. There are only three categories:

  1. Blue: Stereotypes & play on words
  2. Yellow: Dry, witty & dumb
  3. Red: You know you’re [blank] when…

The reader and all other players try to come up with a good punchline for the joke. Once all players have written something down, each player reads their punchline. After this is done, the reader turns the card over and reads the “correct” punchline. NOTE: the red category does not have a correct answer

If any players wrote a punchline that matches or is close to / in the spirit of the correct answer then they get to move ahead one space! Once that is done, the reader chooses their favorite punchline. That player gets to move ahead two spaces! Then the next player rolls the die and takes a turn.

The example card includes the joke Why did the taxi driver quit his job? People kept talking behind his back
The example joke card for your eyes

Play continues this way until one lucky player makes it to the WIN! space. They are the winner!

how it went

The Joke Game is glorious fun. We have played a few of the other party games by this publisher including Hollywood Shuffle, which I wrote about, and The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Game, which I regifted before taking photos. The Joke Game is my favorite by far. It is simple and the Laffy Taffy style jokes are the ideal backdrop for this type of creative party game.

NOTE: While I would describe the jokes in the game as Laffy Taffy style, not all of them are good, clean fun. A few are a little on the risqué side so best avoid if you are sensitive to that type of content.

The WIN! space is a mere 13 spaces away from the start, and you do not need to land by exact count. You always move between 1 and 3 spaces on your turn, and hopefully you are also moving on other people’s turns. This game is short!

The game board showing cartoon characters and a short path to the end
The board showing both the short path your chicken must follow as well as trying to answer the question (I think) of why the chicken crossed the road

When I first played The Joke Game with my game group, I think we played twice back-to-back after being shocked at how quickly it ended. I played recently with Bill and my sister and bro-in-law over Zoom. We played one quick game, then just had our second game go to the WIN! space and back again to make it last a tad longer. But it’s a short game.

The box full of joke cards
The pretty box full of jokes

I will be intentionally stingy in providing joke examples from the game because there’s not endless amounts of cards either. I definitely recognized some of the jokes between my first time and second time playing. The fun part of that was it recalled some of our better punchlines from last play, and that was a fun memory to revisit! But current events or whatever is happening in your life can often drive your creativity in a certain direction and help ensure you are not answering jokes using the same exact punchline six months or a year later.

So while I don’t see myself playing The Joke Game on a weekly or monthly basis, I am keeping it for sure. It’s good fun and can appeal to many different groups and types of humor.

play or pass

Play. The Joke Game is simple, silly fun. I will never tire of it until I tire of the hilarious quips of my close people. Until we stop cracking ourselves up. Until we can’t find a joke in the darkness. In other words, I will never tire of it.

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