Game Buzz: Chicken Caesar

I’ve been following this game for a while, and it’s finally up on Kickstarter.  The game is:

image by BGG user Bryan Fischer

Chicken Caesar was designed by Bryan Fischer and John Sizemore, and is being released by their company, Nevermore Games.  The game is for 3-6 players aged 12 and up, and takes around 90 minutes to play.  The game is all about aristocratic families in ancient Rome trying to establish a lasting legacy.  That in itself might not be that interesting, but you make the families into chickens, and all of a sudden, you’ve got my attention.  I have to say that I love the title of the game, and I hope the final product lives up to it.

The game comes with a board; 42 rooster pawns; 42 rooster cards; a tax rate pawn; two tax rate markers; 20 praetorium cards; 110 office insignia tokens; 1 voting marker (called the Suffragium);, 60 frumenti (currency coins in denominations of 1, 5, and 25); a veto marker; and 6 player summary sheets.  Each player gets 4-8 roosters and matching cards in their chosen color (depending on the number of players), and then take turns placing their roosters into offices on the board.  When all spaces get filled up, the remaining roosters go to the Quaestors’ office.  The rooster in the office of Caesar gets the Suffragium token and the Veto token.

The game is played over a series of turns, each of which follows a certain sequence of phases: advancement, actions, awards, attacks, attrition & adjustment, and accolades.  That’s a lot of A words.

ADVANCEMENT: This phase does occur in the first turn, but in all subsequent turns, you’ll fill the empty offices from below.  First, empty senior seats are filled by junior members in that office.  Next, the higher offices are filled.  Any Consul is eligible to be elected Caesar, any Praetor is eligible to be elected Consul, and any Aedile is eligible to be elected Censor.  If there are more or equal open seats as there are eligible roosters, all eligible roosters are advanced.  If there are more eligible roosters than open seats, an election takes place.  The player with the Suffragium token can nominate a rooster (including his own for one Frumentum), second a nomination (resulting in a win), or abstain by paying one Frumentum.  After taking the action, the Suffragium token passes to the left.  You can negotiate for votes, and in fact are encouraged to do so.

After the higher offices are filled, the lower offices are filled with roosters from the Quaestors’ office.  The player with the Suffragium token may advance one of their own roosters for one Frumentum, another player’s for free, or pass for one Frumentum.  They then pass the Suffragium token to the left.  This continues until the offices are all full.  The last thing that happens in the phase is that exiled roosters are returned to the Quaestors’ office to restart their career and plot their revenge.

ACTION: You’ll now resolve actions in order based on each office.

  • Aedile: This office is responsible for taxation.  The most senior Aedile (in space A) chooses a tax rate (between 1 and 5) that is within 2 of the last round’s tax rate.  The middle Aedile (space B) then either agrees, or proposes his own tax rate that is one or two higher or lower.  If there is agreement, the tax rate is set.  If not, the junior Aedile (space C) breaks the tie by choosing one of the proposals.
  • Praetor: This office is responsible for placing guards.  The most senior Praetor (space A) takes 3-7 Traditors (determined by the tax rate) and adds Vigils to bring the total deck up to 10.  He will then take one of the cards and place it face down next to one of the offices.  The next Praetor (space B) will then place a card, followed by the next (space C) and back to the senior until all cards have been placed.  Only three cards can go next to the Consul and Praetor offices, while only two can go next to Censor and Aedile offices (the Aediles have a permanent Traditor card printed on the board).  You’ll find out what happens next when we get to the attack phase.
  • Censor: This office is responsible for internal security.  The Censor (there’s only one) chooses a rooster other than the Caesar and exiles him from the board.  This includes himself.
  • Consul: This office is responsible for making improvements to monuments of slain roosters.  Each Consul, in order of seniority, approves or denies an improvement, which is based on what you do in the Accolade phase.  Approved improvements result in the insignia token being placed on the card of the slain rooster.  Denied improvements result in the insignia being returned to the general supply.
  • Caesar: Caesar has no actions.  He can try to influence others in what they do, but he doesn’t do anything in particular.  His biggest power is that he can veto the results of one election once while occupying office.

AWARD: Every officer receives an insignia of office for service (including the Censor if he exiled himself, but no other exiles).  Each rooster may only have one insignia per office, and if you get an insignia you already have, you must set it to the side in hopes of putting it on a dead rooster later.  At any time, you may turn in an insignia for money (1-3 Frumenti according to the insignia type).  In addition to insignias, Aediles receive money equal to the tax rate minus one, and Caesar receives money equal to the tax rate.

ATTACK: It’s a game about chickens, so you have to be on the lookout for the Fox.  If there are more Traditors than Vigils next to an office, the Fox will carry off a number of roosters equal to the difference. If there are more officers than what should be carried off, there’s a vote to determine who gets eaten.  Dead roosters go in the lowest numbered alcoves around the board.

ATTRITION & ADJUSTMENT: You now determine if Caesar will last another turn.  There are two Caesar spots, and if Caesar ends in the second one, his reign is over anyway.  If any chickens were carried away by the Fox, Caesar is killed and the tax rate goes down by two.  If no chickens were carried away by the Fox, the tax rate remains the same.  If the Caesar leaves office (either because of dying or retiring after his second term), the current Censor is returned to the Quaestors’ office.

ACCOLADES: If your family stash has extra insignias, you can propose that they be added to dead roosters.  The Consuls will decide if this will happen during the action phase of the next turn.

The game ends after the Attrition & Adjustment phase if there aren’t enough roosters left to fill the offices OR if the insignia supply for any office has been exhausted OR one family’s roosters are all dead.  You then cash in any extra insignias you have left for 1-3 Frumenti.  You’ll then take all the insignias from rooster cards and arrange them by office.  You’ll then consult a chart to turn them in for Frumenti.  The player with the most cash wins.

This game is another example of how just a small theme change can amp up an experience.  The designers could have just had this to be a game about ancient Rome, and attacks by Visigoths or something.  But by making all the characters chickens, it adds an extra element of uniqueness.  The chickenness of the characters doesn’t really matter so much, but I think it was a stroke of genius all the same.

The mechanics look pretty good as well.  This seems to be a negotiation heavy game with no luck and a lot of maneuvering to get where you need to be.  The concept of collecting insignias is a good way to make sure people are using all of their chickens.  The Fox attacks help thin the chicken population, and I like how people can try to make their dead chickens more valuable.  Unlike a lot of worker placement games, this one has three chickens trying to negotiate a single action.  I can imagine this game getting pretty vicious.

I’m keeping my eye on this one.  It looks like a lot of fun.  With 25 days to go as of this writing, the project needs a little over $3,000 to hit the $20,000 goal.  It should make it, so I look forward to hearing about it when the game is released later this year.  Thanks for reading!

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