Chicken Caesar! A Mini-Review

chicken Caesar box- by Jeremiah A few weeks ago I wrote about my inability to get Chicken Caesar on the table. Well, we had a breakthrough a few nights ago and managed to fumble our way through a first playthrough. So my opinions aren't yet complete, nor is my full understanding of the rules. (There's a lot going on here!) I thought since it has been so long since receiving the review copy I would at least update everyone on the status, and give some initial thoughts. So, here goes...

The Setup - This is a pretty straight forward process: Select a color, and the correct number of chickens (pawns and matching cards) depending on the number of players in the game. Stack the office tokens next to the corresponding offices on the board, and set the tax rate to 3. Give everyone 1 Frumentum token which is the currency of the game. And give the first player the Suffragium token. Oh, and also grab your Latin-English dictionary--you'll need it. For instance, while frumentum is the currency of the game, it is actually Latin for grain, because you know, chickens. And Suffragium means "vote", because you know, Caesar...

photo (36)Game Play - The game begins with selecting a starting player, then players take turns placing their chickens in the 4 different political houses, which are Aedile, Praetor, Censor, and Consul--and of course the office of Caesar. The game goes through several phases, in which players (after turn 1) advance into vacated office seats, perform their office actions (changing tax rates, assigning guard chickens, choosing to exile a chicken from office, or overseeing the improvement of monuments), gain the rewards of their office (sometimes money, but always an office token to place on their chicken's corresponding card), and then resolve attacks from the foxes who will more than likely take a chicken off for dinner. And finally, Caesar usually dies, and players make suggestions to improve their dead chickens' monuments.

The main scoring engine is to either gain tokens from many different offices, which are cashed in at the end of the game, or to earn a ton of cash during the game. Frumenti is then totaled and whoever has the most wins.

The Verdict (albeit not the final one!) -

I think I like this game. It is about what I thought it would be. Obviously I've only had one go at it, and the learning curve is pretty steep, but I'll offer my comments thus far, and would love to hear your thoughts as well.

Components - The quality of the components are great, I felt from an artistic standpoint there is a touch of an identity crisis. The art design and imagery is great, and of high quality, but the only thing that makes it "Chicken" Caesar is the fact that the cards have chickens on them, and the tiny little foxes above the tax rate indicator on the board. Otherwise the board is set in ancient Rome, with pristine alcoves for monuments of the deceased, and a swank palace for Caesar. It looks great, but it doesn't look Chicken-ee enough in my opinion. It's quite the juxtaposition.

The Game Play - The crux of the game play is player interaction; if you're simply moving your pawns around the board, you're missing out. We played with four players, and we had fun with trying to barter, beg, or bribe our way into better positions, but I can see the game thrive with 5-6 players and give more chances for sub-plots to take place.

Likes and Dislikes - I like the spirit/idea of the game, I love games that are highly interactive and are driven by trying to outsmart the people at the table instead of trying to outwit the game (unless of course it's a co-op). I like the theme; it's what first attracted me to the game, to be honest. It seemed ridiculous, in a good way, but I don't know that the players experience the "barnyard" in barnyard politics. My biggest dislike is the rule book; it's dense, and the designers know it, and admit it, so this isn't news to them or anyone. But it really created a hurdle for us as we played through the game. If there was a quick question we needed clarification on, it often felt like we had to read a full-out thesis on the issue at hand before we got the answer we were looking for. For many, this would be a game killer. I'm hoping to power through this and get a better grasp of the rules so when we play a second time we can get through it more smoothly. But it can hinder a player's ability to make an informed or well-thought-out decision if they are unaware of the process that comes next.

Overall - Like I said, overall I think I like this one. It needs a few more plays for me, but there is a fun game on the other side of that rule book, one that hits a lot of sweet spots for me. Stay tuned for more thoughts and my finalized review soon!

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I Know! Let's Play...

photo (31) By Jeremiah

So as a follow-up to Scott's post yesterday, I thought I'd write a companion piece about "that game"—the one you got, but somehow STILL haven't had a chance to play yet!!

Maybe I'm alone in this, but every so often a game comes your way, you're VERY excited about the game, you've heard lots of great things about it, it's getting great ratings from reviewers, and it's right up your alley in terms of genre and mechanics. This is a game that you CAN. NOT. WAIT. TO. PLAY!

But somehow, whenever game night comes along, you fail to get it on the table. Well for me that game is...

Chicken Caesar! I just don't understand it, this game has everything that I and many of my gamer friends enjoy: intrigue, negotiation, bluffing, backstabbing, heated player interaction... At least I'm pretty sure it does. I, of course, wouldn't fully know, because it's never been on my table.

I was super excited to get this game, and Bryan Fischer (designer of the game) was kind enough to arrange for me to receive a review copy of the game to share my thoughts with him and our readers,—he's even given me his personal phone number and offered to teach the game to my group via phone to get us started! Yet somehow it still remains unplayed. I truly feel awful about this.

To some degree I do understand. I bring a LOT of new games to game night, and sometimes we just want to play an old favorite, and other times we don't have the time for a lengthy and meaty game to learn and then play. For over 6 months (actually much longer) this game has never left my game case, ever. I literally have carried it to every game night in hopes of bringing it out. But for some reason when we've got plenty of time, and are feeling adventurous the game gets overlooked. It's like there is some sort of mental block for us when it comes to learning and playing this game.

Anyway, I'm baffled as to why this has happened. Has some ill timing or cruel touch of fate fallen upon this game? I'm REALLY hoping that someday soon we will play Chicken Caesar, and experience the full glory of manipulating the barnyard political structure to rule the roost and cement my place in history! Until then, I may have to take drastic measures...


Am I alone in this? Is there a game that sits completely UN-played in your collection?

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Hail Caesar - an interview with Bryan Fischer

If you went to Gencon this year, there's a good chance you heard the buzz about Chicken Caesar. Or you may have been lucky enough to sit in on a demo of Nevermore Games big box game of Roman/poultry politics. More than a tasty salad, Chicken Caesar is hitting hobby stores this month and the buzz has gamers waiting with baited breath to see what the excitement is all about. So we had a little chat with Bryan Fischer, co-designer of Chicken Caesar, and co-founder of Nevermore Games about Chicken Caesar, Nevermore Games, and life in general. Take us through the story of how Nevermore Games got on the map?

My friend, Corey Phillips, and I started Nevermore back in 2010. He was the business guy and I was the creative guy. It wasn’t long though before I realized we really needed another creative guy, so we brought John Sizemore on board. I had been working on Chicken Caesar at the time and pitched it to John. We ran with it and started Nevermore’s mission: to facilitate friendships through strategic and innovative games.

For those of us who didn’t make it out to Gencon, can you give us a quick overview of Chicken Caesar?

Sure thing! In Chicken Caesar, players represent chicken families who are sending their roosters into coop politics, which of course are modeled after the Ancient Roman Government. Through deal making, breaking, bribes, and manipulation, players will compete for legacy.

There are five offices in the game where roosters have actions they have to complete. The roosters in the Aedile’s office decide the tax rate for the round, which in turn determines how upset the coop guards are (and how many will betray the coop by letting the fox in to gobble up politicians). The roosters in the Praetor’s office decide where loyal and traitor guards go. The Censor can exile people, and the Consuls can take bribes to “rewrite history” and give roosters additional accolades they never earned in life. And of course there is Caesar, who gets the all-powerful Veto token and makes lots of corn (money).

So which came first, the Chicken Caesar or Nevermore Games?

Chicken or the egg, huh? Well, both. They happened simultaneously really. I had been designing games for years and about the same time that Corey and I started Nevermore, I was also toying with Chicken Caesar. Of course, Chicken Caesar didn’t really take the shape of its current form until John came on board.

When and how did the idea for Chicken Caesar hatch? (Okay, I promise that’s the last chicken pun!)

These puns are getting pretty fowl ;)  Actually, my wife came up with the name. She was eating a Chicken Caesar wrap, and I was of course annoying her with talk of game ideas I had and she said “Why don’t you call a game Chicken Caesar?” We both had a good laugh. Little did she know I was seriously storing that one away.

What were the pros and cons (if there were any) to co-designing Chicken Caesar instead of going it alone?

For me, co-designing is the ideal situation. I don’t think any game in history has been designed entirely by one person. Whether it’s through co-authorship or not, game designers have play testers and friends, critics and spouses who influence the design process and often come up with ideas for mechanics and theme. Having people to bounce ideas off of is a huge necessity in game design.

John and I make a great design team. He’s a walking economics textbook and calculator rolled into one. It compliments my theme-centric approach to gaming and I believe that’s the greatest pro of co-designing games. Complimentary designers can take collaborative game design efforts to a new level. That being said, John and I argue a lot. That’s what happens when you spend so much time together trying to get something right. It can be stressful, but ultimately the arguing leads to better communication and therefore better game design. I guess that would be a con that turns into a pro.

What’s the one element of Chicken Caesar that makes you all giddy?

Well, mechanically it’s the Suffragium (the voting marker) that makes Chicken Caesar unique in its approach to luckless negotiation and shrewd bargaining. But really, for me, it’s that moment when a player about to be passed the Suffragium suddenly realizes… “I’m going to be deciding the fate of someone else’s rooster; I have the power, and I can be bought!” that gets me. Well into the testing of Chicken Caesar, players were discovering new ways to bribe each other and get epic revenge. Fantastic!

How do you balance being a person of faith and a big geek?

It’s funny how faith and being a geek interact sometimes. Some geeky endeavors, like science fiction, beg answers to questions of morality and truth. They present impossible and (often) unnatural circumstances where people have to make decisions often alien to us. It’s fascinating. Fantasy can often blur the lines for people of faith through use of magic and divination, but it’s not always the case. Look at Tolkien for instance. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is touted as a great Catholic work by many theologians. C.S. Lewis was much more overt. Read A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr. and you’ll see how faith can only make a science fiction experience even deeper.

I find the best way to reconcile something that might be offensive to my faith is to first learn about it. If it’s a game, I’ll look at the rulebook or play it. If it’s a film, I’ll usually watch an excerpt or do some reading about the story. There have been times when, after researching something, I have still found it offensive. And the opposite has also been true.

What has been most surprising to you about the response to Chicken Caesar from the gaming community?

The fact that people know of the game! It’s been incredible. At GenCon we had the game set up in a number of places and people walked by and said “Oh yeah, it’s that Chicken Caesar game!” On top of that we met a ton of our Kickstarter backers there and sold out every demo event for the game through Saturday. John and I walked over to the Asmodee booth one morning and while chatting with a French guy working the booth, he says “Wait, you two are the Chicken Caesar guys?! Very cool!” So cool.

So, we've been following the Mars Needs Mechanics Kickstarter; beyond that, what's in the future for Nevermore Games?

We actually have quite a few things lined up for the future. We're working with some really awesome designers to bring the world an awesome, big game next Spring. We have some others in the lineup for after that, so expect plenty of games in 2013 from Nevermore.

Okay, the 1-word 5! Give us your 1-word answers to these questions. (For names we’ll allow 2 words!)

Favorite doctor? (In the BBC Series Doctor Who, please don’t tell us your dentist’s name!)  David Tennant

Who shot first, Han or Greedo? Greedo

Favorite salad?  Potato

Favorite game?  Lifeboat

Cylons or Sleestaks?  Caprica-Six ;)

If you'd like to place your pre-order for Chicken Caesar you can do so RIGHT HERE!

You can also find out more about Nevermore Games RIGHT HERE!

And of course they're on Facebook and Twitter as well!

A big thanks to Bryan for spending some time with us, and as always a big thanks to you for reading!