by Matthew Pook
Nobody But Us Chickens
Published by Dancing Eggplant Games
Designed by Kevin G. Nunn
Nobody But Us Chickens is the second release from the Austin based
publisher Dancing Eggplant Games (formerly Diet Evil Games), after their
earlier game, Fraud Squad: Who Cooked the Books?,
which was designed in-house. Both are card games, but where Fraud
Squad took a timely and
topical swipe at corporate greed and corruption, Nobody But Us Chickens is a far more genteel and simpler affair, as well as being a step up in terms of quality. It is also likely to be more appealing to a younger audience than was the case with Fraud Squad. Down on his farm in Littleton, Kentucky, Farmer Johnsonís Chickens have spent an exciting day of scratching, pecking and egg laying, and as Nobody But Us Chickens begins, it is time to put them into the Coop for the night. Unfortunately, both a pack of foxes and a den of Rats have got wind of the plump birds and plan to get into the Coop that very night and swipe as many Chickens as they can. Of course, Farmer Johnsonís loyal Guard Dog hopes to catch them in the act, but he cannot be everywhere at once...
Designed for three to six players, ages eight and up, Nobody But Us Chickens comes in a small rectangular box containing the following high quality components:
- An 8Ĺ by 11-inch double-sided rules sheet
- One Fox King and one Top Dog card, each with a plastic stand
- A Scoring Pad and pencil
- Six distinct, brightly colored and nicely illustrated card sets that each contains a single Fox Card, a single Rat Card and a single Guard Dog, plus one Sickly Chicken (worth -1 points), three Healthy Chickens (worth 1 point each), one Plump Chicken (2 points) and one Prize Chicken (4 points).
The aim of the game is to score the most points, by either snatching Chickens - sending Rats and Foxes into the Coop to do the dirty deed - or by rescuing them - sending the Guard Dog to intercept the predators before they can get away with their prize. The game is played over several nights (rounds), one for every player, with each night lasting nine hours (turns), which is also the number of cards in a set at the beginning of the game. Each hour, the players select one of their cards to send to the Coop, which lies in the center of the table. Once done, all cards are revealed simultaneously and the results determined from those played.
If everyone sends Chickens into the Coop, they settle down for the night, nothing happens during that hour, and the Coop becomes a bigger prize for the predatory Rats and Foxes, and the protective Guard Dog. If a Fox goes to the Coop when it is unguarded by the Guard Dog, it grabs the best Chicken (the one with the highest point value) and takes it home before returning again and again until the Coop is empty. Should there be multiple Foxes, they take it in turns, starting with the current holder of the Fox King card (or the closest player to their right who sent in a Fox), to grab Chickens until all are gone. Unlike Foxes, any Rat sent to the Coop takes only one Chicken, and this only after the Foxes have grabbed the choicest birds first. Should a Guard Dog go to the Coop at the same time as a Rat or Fox, then they are stopped and the Dog has been successful in protecting the Coop, and its player gets all of the Chickens currently in the Coop.
More than one Guard Dog successfully protecting the Coop means that the Chickens are divided between the players who sent in their Dogs, with current holder of the Top Dog card (or the closest player to their right who sent in a Guard Dog) choosing the most valuable Chicken in order until they are all gone. Any Guard Dog sent to the Coop that discovers it free of predators fails to protect any of the Farmerís chickens, scores no points and is retired for the night (that game round) and cannot be played again until the next night. Likewise, any Rat or Fox stopped by a Guard Dog also scores no points, retires for the night and cannot be played again.
A round continues until the players have sent all of their cards to the Coop and any Chickens left in the Coop at the end of the night have survived and nobody scores any points for them. At the end of a night or round, the players total up the value of the cards they have won and this is noted down. The Fox King and Top Dog cards are passed to the next player, another night is played through and the resulting scores are noted. Once everyone has been the Fox King once, each playerís scores from the successive nights are totalled, with the highest being the winner.
The simplicity of the play in Nobody But Us Chickens really only hides a few strategies to winning the game. Players must of course anticipate what cards their opponents will send to the Coop and take advantage of it. It helps to keep track of the cards that have been played, but a player can spike the Coop by sending in their Sickly Chicken (worth negative points); bait the Coop by putting down their Plump or Prize Chickens, so that on subsequent turns the others might send in a Rat or Fox that can be countered by a Guard Dog; or simply send in a Rat to sneak out a Plump or Prize Chicken from among the Sickly ones. These tactics are suggested in the rules, as are a couple of variants.
Initially, Nobody But Us Chickens appears very simple, but the game reveals some pleasing tactics and plenty of opportunities to outwit or outguess your opponents. Adults will find this easy to grasp and their games should not last more than fifteen minutes. For children this time will be longer, and of course, they are likely to have a harder time against adults. Regular gamers will find Nobody But Us Chickens a pleasurable diversion between deeper and longer games, but no less enjoyable. But at its heart Nobody But Us Chickens is really a family-oriented game, more so than Fraud Squad, benefiting from a simpler design and unfussy game play that anyone of any age should enjoy.