After interviewing Ben Reingold ’20 for the Collegian last fall about his newly published board game, Risky Chicken, I was itching to play the game myself. Given the positive response to that article, it seemed like the perfect confluence of events: I would play Risky Chicken myself, and write a review about it — and who better to play the game with than my fellow Collegian staff members? So this past Friday, we did just that: With a spirit of adventure and our best poker faces at the ready, editor-in-chief Mae Hunt ’21, chief copy editor Adam Samet ’22 and I gathered outside my Morgan Apartment for an afternoon of Risky Chicken.
Inspired by the prisoner’s dilemma, the game forces players to either work together or betray each other in hopes of coming away with the winning number of gold coins. Rotating “cluckwise,” players take turns being the leader, a role that gets to choose a sidekick with whom to “climb the mountain,” or advance on the board. The leader and sidekick discuss whether they want to climb, which gives players the opportunity to win more gold coins but with slimmer chances (determined by rolling a die), or “chicken out,” ending the turn and splitting the earnings. But, of course, just because players say they will do one thing does not guarantee they will follow through; if one person plays the “climb” card (or “egg card”) and the other chickens out, the person who climbs will receive all of the level’s coins.
Although some of us (me) found the game’s instructions confusing, we picked it up as we went along. Early into our first of two games, we realized that, as one player begins to pull ahead, there is more incentive for the other players to work together to give themselves a fighting chance. As Samet put it, “It’s like in Sorry! when you all choose to bully one person.” With the repeated prisoner’s dilemma at work, however, these alliances only last so long; on more than one occasion, Hunt exclaimed, “I feel so betrayed!” Despite our betrayals, she ultimately won the first game.
In our first game, no one made much use of their “chicken tricks” — cards dealt at the start of the game which grant players specific powers not outlined within the rules — mostly because we didn’t understand how they worked. But in game two, we took advantage.
I had drawn the “psychic chicken” card, which allowed me to roll the die to see whether my sidekick and I would be able to advance prior to deliberating with my partner. Although when played, this card took away from the element of reverse psychology that makes the game so enticing, we all agreed that the psychic chicken card was the most powerful of the chicken tricks we had tried. Hunt had a close second in the “copycat chicken” trick, giving her a third egg card which, when played, would mirror the card of her sidekick, avoiding a potential betrayal.
These two chicken tricks paid off, sending Hunt and me into a tie-breaking round. During the tie-breaker, the players take turns rolling the die in an attempt to advance (this continues until one player falls, the climber being declared the winner). At the end of this process, I came away with the victory in game two.
Reflecting on the game, the general consensus was that the game has a simple concept and it executes it well. Though the three of us really enjoyed playing the game, we questioned whether it would be fun to play often. We therefore give it a rating of four out of five clucks.