“Do you lead a terribly boring life? Do you need something extra to spice things up? Like perhaps a great new board game? About chickens?”
Thus begins the advertisement for Ben Reingold’s ’20 recently published board game, Risky Chicken.
The game, which is described as one of “strategy, danger, trust and betrayal,” is based on the repeated prisoner’s dilemma, a thought experiment that forces individuals to weigh trust and loyalty against their own self-interest.
Reingold was initially inspired to create Risky Chicken during a lesson in Professor of Economics Jay Corrigan’s Game Theory class (ECON 360) last fall. Immediately after class that day, he rushed back from Ascension Hall to his dorm room in Leonard Hall to make a preliminary model of the game.
“I had the thought this could be a really cool idea for a board game,” Reingold said.
In Risky Chicken, the prisoner’s dilemma unfolds as two players pair up to climb to the top of a mountain, earning gold coins along the way. As players climb the mountain, the potential payout for more coins increases, but so does the risk of falling off. At each level of the mountain, players must decide — as a team — whether to continue climbing or “chicken out.” But the catch is, just like in the prisoner’s dilemma, the two players are able to make their own decisions as to whether to ultimately climb or chicken out — taking advantage of their partner’s trust.
“The interpersonal aspect, the tension between what’s best for you in the moment and your reputation and your long-term, strategic planning,” Reingold said, “that’s what I found really interesting.”
A few months later, while home on break, Reingold showed the game to two friends, who then showed it to their parents. Impressed, one of the parents agreed to sponsor Reingold’s game, and make it a reality.
Upon returning from winter break last January, Reingold began to host what he calls “play tests” on the fourth floor of Leonard, where he invited friends and classmates to play the game and suggest improvements. In the first six weeks of the spring 2020 semester, Reingold said he held play tests virtually every day. At this point, players were still using a paper game board and pieces that Reingold had drawn and cut out himself, but Reingold still found the workshops to be tremendously helpful in refining the game.
“Without clever and witty and creative Kenyon students, the game wouldn’t be what it is today,” he said. “In that way, it’s kind of a Kenyon story.”
While finishing his last semester of college from home, Reingold continued to improve the game and said he has founded his own board game company, Moraine Road Games, in the process. Soon, he hired an illustrator to spruce up his graphics for the game, which he later sent to a manufacturer. Now, as Reingold waits for the first shipment to arrive, he is focusing on marketing.
Although he is unsure of how the general public will react, Reingold remains optimistic about the game’s prospects.
“My hope is that it gains popularity, that we’re able to do another print run and print a lot more and sell a ton, and it’s a sensation,” he said. “Regardless of how it goes, though, it definitely taught me that there is something very rewarding about creating something, and bringing it to life and seeing it exist.”
For those interested in pre-ordering Risky Chicken, visit riskychicken.com.