Chicken Caesar Game Review

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The Basics:

  • For ages 13 and up
  • For 3 to 6 players
  • Approximately 90 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Reading
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Hand/Resource Management
  • Bidding
  • Worker Placement & Area Control

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Moderate
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Rise through the ranks of chicken government to rule the coop!

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek approved!
  • Parent Geek rejected!
  • Child Geek rejected!

Overview

We chickens have lived a life of repression, existing only to be slaughtered. No more, I say! Today, chicken-kind takes control of its own destiny! We must work together to govern the coop so all may be safe and prosperous. While foxes remain a constant threat, let us not forget that we are also a threat to ourselves, as ambition is just as deadly as any dagger. We live for family and honor, but we die for the greater good of the coop!

Chicken Caesar, by Nevermore Games, is comprised of 1 game board, 42 Rooster cards (8 blue, grey and white; 6 green orange, and purple), 42 Rooster pawns (8 blue, grey and white; 6 green orange, and purple), 100 Office Insignia tokens (30 Aedile, 30 Praetor, 18 Censor, 18 Consul, and 12 Caesar), 66 Frumenti tokens (in values of 1, 5, and 25), 1 Veto token, 1 Suffragium pawn (a large wooden chicken), 1 Tax pawn, 2 Tax Proposal markers, and 6 Player Reference cards. All the components are made of either thick cardboard, thick card stock, or wood. Excellent production value throughout.

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Game Set Up

Note: Prior to your first game, you will be required to place stickers on the 42 Rooster pawns. This will take you about 10 to 15 minutes, as there are 42 in total. Not difficult, but do take this into account before putting the game on your table for the first time.

To Set up the game, first unfold and place the game board in the middle of the playing area.

Second, hand out Rooster cards of the same color to the players. The number of Rooster cards given is dependent on the number of players. For example, in a 3-player game, each individual will be given 8 Rooster cards, but individuals in a 6-player game will only have 4 Rooster cards each. The rule book has a handy and easy to read table that shows how many Rooster cards per player are used.

Third, hand to each player a Rooster pawn for every Rooster card they have. The Rooster pawn’s color and roman numeral value will match one and only one Rooster card each. Once done, each player should have one matching Rooster pawn per Rooster card. Any unused Rooster cards and pawns are removed for the duration of the game.

Fourth, hand to each player 1 Frumenti token with a roman numerical value of “1”. All the remaining Frumenti tokens should be placed in a pile and set to one side of the game board. It might help to assign one player as the “Banker”, but this is not necessary for overall game play.

Fifth, separate and stack the Office Insignia tokens onto their designated spots on the game board.

Sixth, place the Tax Rate pawn on the roman numeral value of “2” on the Tax Track located on the game board. The Tax Proposal markers are set to one side of the game board and near the Tax Track.

Seventh, place the Veto token on its designated space located in the office position of Caesar.

Eighth, and finally, hand each player a Player Reference card.

Determine who will go first and hand the first player the Suffragium pawn. You are now ready to play.

The Initial Filling of Seats

The new chicken government is ready for leadership, but it does not yet have any roosters occupying the positions. The first objective of the players is to fill as many seats of chicken government as possible with their own roosters. This is done by each players, starting with the first player, placing one of their Rooster pawns in any vacant office position seat. Turn order goes clockwise until the last player has their turn. Then the last player gets to go again and the turn order changes to counter-clockwise. If there are still positions to be filled by the time the turn order gets back to the first player, the first player takes their turn and then another turn, with the turn order returning to clockwise turn order.

The office positions of Caesar and Censor only allow for 1 Rooster pawn each. The office positions of Consul, Praetor, and Aedile have 3 seats to fill, with the most senior being in the “A” position, followed by the “B” position, and the least senior in the “C” position. Any Rooster pawns not assigned an office seat are placed in the Quaestor section of the game board to patiently wait for their turn to advance in the government.

Once all the office seats have been filled, the game begins.

Playing Chicken

The game is played in rounds with each round broken down into 6 sequential phases. Each phase has several actions the players will take, but not all the players. Available actions are dependent on where the Rooster pawns are located. A typical round and the phases it contains are summarized here. The intricate details each phase’s actions are not included, however, and we invite you to read the read the rules of the game for full details.

Phase 1: Advancement

In this phase, all the Rooster pawns in an office that have a vacant seat are shifted upward to a more senior position. “B” moves to “A” and “C” moves to “B”. All movement is only within the office itself. Caesar, if he is still alive, will serve his second term, and the Censor simply remains. If an office has vacant seats after advancement, voting takes place with the players bribing and paying for votes. Office positions are filled from the top down. Caesar is filled first, followed by Consul and Censor, which is filled by roosters in the lower offices of Praetor and Aedile. Then the lower offices of Praetor and Aedile, which are filled by eager rooster in the Quaestor. During this phase, an exiled Rooster pawn returns home and joins the lower ranks of those milling about in the Quaestor, regardless of their previously held government rank.

Caesar has the power to veto votes. If Caesar does use the veto power, the Veto token is lost, but the veto is unblockable. Whatever was decided by the vote is now null and void. A new vote must be completed.

Note that this phase is skipped in the first round of the game.

Phase 2: Action

This is a very active phase and players are now able to influence events to come. The players in the Aedile office first adjust the tax rate with the senior office holder suggesting a new value, followed by the next senior player who either counters or approves the suggested change. If there is still an argument over what the new tax rate is, the least senior member of the Aedile office breaks the stalemate by deciding which of the two suggestions are used.

Based on the current tax rate, the Praetors now build their deck of soldiers that guard the city from foxes. Note, however, that the tax rate impacts the willingness of soldiers to protect government officials from foxes. The higher the tax rate, the less likely the soldiers are to willing put their lives in danger for those who are already harming their coin purses. Once the deck is built, the senior most Praetor takes one of the cards from the Praetor deck and places it face down in any of the open card slots located around the offices. Then the deck is passed to the next senior member to select and place a card, and then to the least senior who does the same. The cards are then returned to the senior Praetor who plays another card. This continues until all the cards are played out, face-down. Note that the Aedile office is always at risk of being attacked by foxes. Even in the world of chickens, those who raise taxes are shown little love.

The Censor, ever loyal to Caesar and to the coop, can now exile any Rooster pawn except Caesar and Quaestors. Exile is not a death sentence, however, and depending on how high the tax rate is or how popular a player is at the table, exiling a Rooster pawn might be seen as a mercy or a strategic move to remove a strong opponent. The Censor can even exile other family members or themselves if they think it will save their feathers from certain doom. The Censor, being very organized, makes it a point to take the Office Insignia with him if a hasty retreat into exile is necessary.

Lastly, the Consuls who are tasked to honor those fallen roosters and seen as moral leaders in the coop, quietly accept bribes to improve the memorial of long dead roosters with titles they never earned. Of, if they have a vendetta against another chicken family, they can deny it and further tarnish the memory of a fallen family member.

Politics can be ugly business.

Phase 3: Award

During this phase, each Rooster pawn is awarded 1 Office Insignia that is placed on the Rooster pawn’s corresponding Rooster card. If the Office Insignia being claimed is already held by the rooster, it is placed in the rooster’s family treasury to be either sold for Frumenti or to be placed on a dead family member’s memorial in hopes of honoring them with a title they did not earn. Exiled roosters, as you probably guessed, get nothing.

The Aediles now collect the taxes and pocket their “share” of it, which is the current tax rate minus 1. For example, if the tax rate was 4, each player would receive 3 Frumenti per Rooster pawn in the Aedile office. The great and illustrious Caesar, being great and illustrious, collects a number of Frumenti equal to the tax rate.

It’s good to be Caesar, but not for long.

Phase 4: Attack!

During this phase, the Praetor cards are turned over and revealed for each office, one at a time. The number of Traditor and Vigil cards are counted. For every Traditor card in excess to the total Vigil cards, a Rooster pawn will be removed from office because a fox found its way into the coop. If there are more roosters than there are foxes, the players do the honorable thing and vote who will take one for the team. Voting to see who will leave the office (that is, “eaten”)  is done in the exact same way as voting roosters into office, ironically enough. Again, Caesar can veto the votes if possible and desirable.

Roosters who are eaten have their Rooster pawn removed from office and placed in the first available memorial alcove space located around the edges of the game board. Additionally, the Roster card is flipped over, but all the acquired Office Insignias remain on the card as badges of greatness!

The Consuls, being living examples of honor, duty, and justice, can bribe one of the Traditor soldiers to protect them.

Phase 5: Attrition & Adjustment

During this phase, the attack of the foxes has concluded and life in the coop attempts to return to normal, but not without some adjustments. First, if any rooster died during the attack, the great and illustrious Caesar does the honorable things and takes his own life to repent for his sorrowful lack of leadership. Or, if no roosters have perished, and this is Caesar’s second term, he collapses from the stress. Like a rooster fallen to the foxes, the Rooster pawn of Caesar is placed in a memorial alcove. The Censor also quietly leaves the office if Caesar perishes, but not on the edge of a knife. The Censor, being  more practical, simply steps down and joins the ranks of the Quaestors. The tax rate in the coop also changes, adjusting itself to a higher or lower value depending on the fate of Caesar.

During this phase, the players check to see if the game’s endgame condition has been met. If so, the game ends and points are counted. Otherwise, the game continues to the next phase.

Phase 6: Accolade

During this phase, stacks of Frumenti and extra Office Insignias are placed in front of Rooster pawn memorials in hopes that the Consuls, being good and just individuals, will quietly accept the donation offered to them to improve the memorial in question with an Office Insignia that technically shouldn’t be given.

This ends the round. A new round now begins with phase 1 noted above.

Greasing the Feathers of Government

Each office position holds some power, but not enough to rule outright. Power is shared, for the most part, within the office and across all the government. For example, Caesar is above all other offices, but can only veto, and the majority of offices have more than 1 member to share (or squander) the burden of leadership. But a little power is still significant and useful. This should not be lost on any player. To obtain favors and privileges will require bribes and promises. Chicken Caesar highly suggests and supports open table talk, backdoor deals, and outrageous bribes or threats. Power is not absolute and nor is any player, but if two or more players work together, an equally beneficial resolution to most issues can be found.

Promises can be for anything and money should freely exchange hands. Those players who have the most money tend to have the most influence, even though they might not hold a majority of office seat. Still, each office can benefit another and without teamwork no chicken family will succeed in its mission of rising above everyone else. Of course, all the other chicken families have the same goal. This means help will be expensive and not always available. Indeed, political partners during one round might find themselves bitter rivals the next!

Government officials referred to this practice as “negotiation”, despite the fact it is completely based on bribes, blackmail, threats, and questionable acts of honor. Office titles might open doors, but not wide enough to get you far. Players must spend points to get points in the game. Knowing when the cost is too high is the key to victory.

Rewriting History

Players make the most points by collecting Office Insignias. The problem is, each rooster can only own one insignia from each office. This makes it difficult to collect them as most roosters in government seldom last long enough to collect multiple insignias and not all roads in government lead to the same office. Luckily, there is a solution and it’s perfectly legal.

Roosters who have slipped the mortal coil are remembered for their past deeds through memorials. A surviving relative can attempt to attach extra Office Insignia tokens to these memorials. It’s up to the Consuls, of course, but once placed, the Office Insignia is permanently attached to the Rooster card. In this way, a player can ensure that the chicken family they are responsible for gains honor and respect, even though the dead rooster who is receiving it did nothing to earn it.

Endgame

The game ends when one of three conditions are met. They are as follows:

  • Not enough Rooster pawns to fill in vacant office positions
  • One player’s chicken family is all dead
  • All the insignias from any office are claimed

Each player should now cash in any remaining insignia tokens in their family stash, receiving 1 Frumentium for each Praetor and Aedile token, 2 Frumenti for every Censor and Consul, and 3 Frumenti for each Caesar token. Once the exchanges have been completed, each player will collect the insignia  tokens from their individual Rooster cards and arrange them by office. Each insignia set is exchanged for Frumenti, with the player receiving more Frumenti for larger sets. A table is provided in the game rules to help with this step.

All the players now count their Frumenti and the player with the most Frumenti wins the game. When it comes to a tie, the player who owns the Rooster who died for the good of the coop first wins the game.

To learn more about Chicken Caesar, visit the game’s web page.

Prediction

Chicken Caesar is going to be a difficult game to play if you are not in the right mindset or bold enough to wheel and deal at the table. If a player only does the minimum during the game, which is vote, advance in the government, and unceremoniously die in the jaws of a fox, they won’t score much of anything as far as points go. The more aggressive the player is, the more successful they will be. Of course, they will also be a larger target, but this can be deflected with properly timed bribes.

For the Child Geeks, the rules of this game are very straight forward, but the social aspect of the game might be too much for them to keep up with. This is going to be especially true if they play with Parent and Gamer Geeks. I have no doubt that the more unscrupulous players will take advantage of the Child Geek’s unfortunate innocence when it comes to matters of short-term gains and unkept promises. I’ll have to watch the emotional state of the younger players to make sure they are not feeling picked on, abused, or cheated.

The Parent Geeks are only going to enjoy this game if they relax and are horrible to each other. Chicken Caesar is a social game and plays rather casually (easy phase order steps), but unless a player interacts with others, the game is going to fall well short of “entertaining”. In fact, if the Parent Geeks don’t go into the game knowing they have to backstab and bribe to compete, the game will fail. I’ll have to make sure the Parent Geeks know this up front and are comfortable with it to get a good read from them to determine their level of game endorsement.

I think the Gamer Geeks are really going to enjoy this game. The rules are simple and there is much strategy and tactics to be had, both on the game board and within the circle of players. It is the meta game being played out among the players that involves alliances between enemies, destruction of allies, and the constant search for leverage that will be the biggest hit for them. This is a game of intrigue with much risk and reward to be had for those who are bold and sly enough to play the game and the players like pieces on a Chess board. Yes, I think the Gamer Geeks will enjoy this game very much.

I struggled when teaching this game. For the Child Geeks, I just took them through a round as a “trial run”, and that seemed to work well. There were many questions, however, and that really bogged down the game play. For the Parent Geeks, I gave an in-depth explanation of each phase. This helped them understand what was going on, but not why. This resulted in lots of questions, too. For the Gamer Geeks, I took the middle road with explaining a little at a high level and then further explaining each phase when we were in it. On a sad little side note, I messed up the scoring explanation with the Gamer Geeks, but it worked out well in the end, because they were all smart enough not to listen to me.

And so, after summarizing the game to my little geek and getting ready for our first trial run, I asked him his thoughts on the game so far.

“If I understand it correctly, this a game about chickens who are mean to each other to get ahead. That’s not very nice and I have no idea how I am going t play this game.” ~ Liam (age 8)

Being only 8-years-old, he is well outside the targeted age range for this game, but he has all the Geek Skill necessary to play it. What will determine his level of success will be his ability to socially interact with the other players to achieve his goals. That’s not easy for a Child Geek. Heck, it’s not easy for a lot of Parent and Gamer Geeks, either! Let’s play Chicken Caesar and see if it wins his vote or he vetoes it for another game.

Final Word

The Child Geeks liked the theme, but didn’t understand the subtleties of the game play well enough to be competitive. When to say “no”, “yes”, and seek for better offers was lost on them. They have played games before where the players must wheel and deal, but those were for short-term advantages in games that weren’t very long to begin with. As such, they could tell if a deal was not in their favor. The same could not be said for Chicken Caesar. The game is won through little victories and well-timed defeats. All the information is visible to players and a quick math check is enough to let you know if your supposed “friend” is in a better position than you to define the terms of a deal. Without this knowledge, the Child Geeks tended to make choices at random which almost always hurt them. The more savvy Child Geeks caught on that they couldn’t win the game alone and made alliances, while the less organized and inexperienced Child Geeks painfully stumbled their way through the game. In the end, the game was found to be too long, too complicated, and the social aspect too abstract to be a good time. The Child Geeks all agreed that this was a game not meant for them.

The game fell flat with the Parent Geeks for two reasons. First of all, you must not only engage the game, but also the players. Chicken Caesar is a very social game which means you must constantly interact with your opponents. This is, in itself, not a big deal. However, when Parent Geeks get together to game, the Child Geeks are seldom far away. This means distractions, interruptions, and noise. You need to be able to hear everything another player says, join in a discussion, argue for survival, and vote to put a rival into the ground. The game is casual, but requires a lot of focus and energy from its players. Too much to be enjoyable by the Parent Geeks who always felt the game was demanding more of them than what they could provide. The second reasons is actually pretty silly, but a legit issue. The game is about using and sometimes abusing relationships. For Gamer Geeks, this is not such a big deal, but for those not used to such games, the mood at the table can sometimes shift and go from friendly to distantly cold and somewhat passive aggressive. Here’s a pro tip: don’t play with this game on couples night with a couple you know are having marriage problems or non-gamers.

The Gamer Geeks had a very good time with the game and took it very seriously. There was much swearing at the table, quick math, and glares of disapproval. I was unable to read the Gamer Geeks on this one until the very end. Again, I messed up the final point explanation, but the Gamer Geeks played correctly resulting in no damage being done. Still, felt really stupid about it, especially when I argued that I was right when I was all kinds of wrong. That’s the problem of having 5 or more game rules in your head at any one particular time. They tend to get jumbled around. Regardless, the Gamer Geek persevered, played their alliances and enemies like harps from Hell, and did an outstanding job of jockeying for position to obtain much-needed Office Insignias. The Gamer Geeks approved the game and I look forward to getting it in front of them again with more players so the yelling matches are longer and louder.

The Gamer Geeks watch each other closely as one of their own makes a move

The Gamer Geeks watch each other closely as one of their own makes a move

I really like Chicken Caesar, even though I am now completely burned-out on it. I’ve played it too much in the last couple of weeks and this game takes a lot of energy to play. You must constantly be watching for an advantage, look for subtle changes in your opponent’s behavior, remember who helped who, and always redo the math at the end of the round to know who is in the lead. That’s a lot to keep in your head. It’s very much worthwhile, though, and Chicken Caesar  is an entertaining and challenging semi-cooperative deep game when you play it with skilled game players. Especially when you play it against folks who can read you just as easily as they would a book. Chicken Caesar will keep you on your toes, second guessing, and really pissed off at times. The endgame reveals to all who was the most skilled in playing under, over, and around the other players’ radar to become the “top bird” in the coop. It also reveals who you don’t want to play games with for at least a week.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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