17 December 2012

Tossed Salad- Chicken Caesar Review

The salad that got me to love salad was the Chicken Caesar Salad. Something about the creamy, cheesy goodness with romaine lettuce and Parmesan cheese, made it just taste better. I guess all my previous salad experiences were iceberg lettuce (nasty) with an unhealthy amount of Fat Free Ranch (no thank you). Anyway, the Caesar Salad has made me enjoy salad and even venture into other dressings and toppings. So, does Chicken Caesar the board game have the same effect? Does it make you love games even more? Does it give you a love of history and chickens? Does it make you want to explore other games in the gaming world?

Overview
Chicken Caesar is a pure negotiation game for 3-6 players. The game plays in 90-120 minutes. It was designed by Bryan Fischer and John Sizemore and was published by Nevermore Games. In Chicken Caesar, a chicken coop has decided to model their government after that of the Roman Empire. The goal of the game is to have the most influential chicken family. This is either by actually influencing via holding offices and collecting taxes, or by creating great monuments to those chickens who have come before you.

Game Play
The game play for Chicken Caesar takes places in a series of turns with each turn consisting of 6 phases. Since all the players are in government, there are not individual player turns, but rather each seat of government takes a turn. The six phases of a turn contain Advancement, Action, Award, Attack, Attrition & Adjustment, and Accolade. Just remember the 7 As and you are good to go.

Advancement
This is the phase where Chickens will advance to higher offices from the lower ones. This is accomplished via votes and nominations. Unless there is the same number of chickens available for promotion as there are seats, all the chickens move forward. This continues until all available seats are filled.
Action
This is the heart of Chicken Caesar. Each office takes an action except Caesar. Each office decides on one of the following: taxes, security, exile, and the building of monuments.
Award
During this phase, the office in control of taxes and the Caesar take their tax cuts. Then, all the players take an insignia of the office they are holding and places it on the respective Chicken. These will be worth points at the end of the game
Attack
The security action phase is resolved and if the number of traitor guards outnumbers the number of vigil guards for any office, a chicken or chickens will get carried away by the fox.
Attrition & Adjustment
If any chickens died or if Caesar is in his second term, he dies and the Censor returns to the lowly ranks, because he can only serve one Caesar. Taxes are adjusted and game end conditions are checked.
Accolade
Any chicken may propose upgrades to the monument of a dead chicken. This will be resolved in the Action phase of the next round

After the Accolade phase, you return to the Advancement phase and continue in this fashion until one of the end game conditions is met: Not enough roosters to fill all the open offices, an insignia stockpile has run out, or one family has no living roosters.

Review
Components
The components for Chicken Caesar are nice. I love the graphic design; it really gets you into the theme. The look and feel of the board and cards are unique and it gives the game a great feel that differs from most games. I think the board is very functional, however, I wish there was a quick reference guide on the board, and a reverse side with a simple or advanced game would have been interesting. I know the second part is more difficult, but quick reference, even just what the 6 phases are would have been nice. I did like that there were quick reference cards though, since those came in handy, especially when trying to keep track of 6 phases. The only other complaint about the components was that the chickens were simple wooden blocks. I think it would have been great to have wooden or plastic chickens. Again, I know that adds to the cost, but it would have made the theme come out a little more. I can also see how a color blind person could have trouble distinguishing which color is which, a symbol of some sort of each wooden block would have been helpful as well. Other than that, the components are solid, the rule book is good, but not great as I had to reread some sections a couple times. Finally, I think the price of $50 is right on.
 Game Play
As I said this game is filled with negotiation  There is really no luck or randomness in the game. It is solely based on how well you can influence other players to get them to do what you want to do. For some groups, this is going to be great especially if you are into politics, history, chickens, etc. Groups that love stabbing each other in the back and cutting deals under the table are going to have a blast. However, if you hate negotiation, and you can't stand getting stabbed then this is not going to work well for you. If you hate politics, this is not going to be one of those game you enjoy. And finally, if you are an animal rights activist that can't even imagine the death of imaginary chickens in the shapes of wooden blocks, this one is going to be too much for you to handle. However, if you do like those things, you are going to have a blast with this one: cutting deals you wish you didn't cut, and influencing votes through bribes and office positions all for your own political gain. These are the kinds of beautiful things that Chicken Caesar does so well. Finally, it's a great place to bring out the puns (and you have a two-headed monster to work with, Chickens/Salads and Rome/Politics/Shakespeare--can it get any better than that?

Dead Chickens: you will not be forgotten
Chicken Caesar is a well put together game. It is very deep with tons of strategy, I don't think we even began to scratch the surface (see what I did there) as to what this game has to offer, and that is good for the gamer that loves a deep game. However, the theme almost seems to be false advertisement. When you hear about a group of chickens running their coop like the Roman Empire, you immediately think this is going to be light-hearted fun, but nothing could be further from the truth. This is going to be a knockdown drag out blood bath that ends in the deaths of many a roosters via foxes and the farmer having dinner. This is not a game to bring over to grandmas or even to breakout amongst casual gamers. This is the one you bring to the game night at the Friendly Local Game Store (FLGS), for they are the die-hards that can handle just about anything. My last nasty thing to say is that the game does not play well with just 3 players. This is really a 4-6 player game. It can work with 3, but it is painful. There is little negotiation that can take place, and any that does occur feels like 2 players ganging up on the other. Don't even attempt this with 3, as it really needs a higher player total to be successful.

Final Thoughts
Overall, Chicken Caesar is a solid game. It has quality components and quality game play. The game is more on the difficult side, so be sure you give the rules a good reading so that you have a good understanding of the game play before teaching it. I would also be selective in who you play this one with as it is not going to be universally welcomed. However, if you love negotiation and climbing the ladder to success, this could be an excellent option. And who doesn't enjoy throwing some terrible puns around about chickens and politics. I don't know if there are two subject matters that would be better, and for that I say "well done" Nevermore Games.

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