I love party games, as they are versatile and can be used in group settings quite frequently, leading to some of the most fun moments I've ever had in gaming. I have quite a few party games, but very few of them are good enough to crack my top three - Time's Up, Beyond Balderdash, and Apples to Apples. Finally, I've found one - Why Did the Chicken (Play Again Games, 2004 - Kory Heath) - that has shot up to my number two party game and definitely one of the most fun games I've ever played.
When I get together with my family, we invariably play Balderdash, and our Balderdash games invariably deteriorate; with no one caring who wins. Instead, everyone eventually writes definitions designed to make others laugh. This has produced extremely hilarious results, with uncontrollable laughter and a general good time. It doesn't make much of a game; however, because the one person who maintains some kind of serious demeanor ends up wiping the floor with the other players. What I love about Why Did the Chicken is the fact that it encourages the writing of silly definitions, yet the laughter is just as loud and long as it was with Beyond Balderdash.
Each player is given a pad of paper and a pencil. A box of cards is placed in the front of the table, divided into two sections: twenty question cards and three hundred noun cards. One player is chosen to be a judge, and the first round begins. During each round, a question card is chosen from the box (examples include "What happened at the wedding of... and ...?" and "What's the difference between ... and ...?") Two noun cards are drawn to fill in the blanks, giving rise to questions such as, "Why does a bride always win a fight with a pair of combat boots?" A two-minute timer is flipped, and everyone except the judge immediately writes down answers to the random riddle. The participants can write as many answers as time allows, piling them up in the middle of the table. Once the time runs out, the pile is shuffled, and one player is chosen as a reader. The question is read aloud, and then the answers are read aloud. The judge chooses whichever two answers he thinks are the funniest. The players (or perhaps only one player) who wrote the answers get one of the noun cards. After every player has been the judge three times, the game ends, and the player with the most noun cards is the winner!
After those incredibly short rules, some comments on the game...
1.) Rules: The game is extremely simple to play, and can be taught in less than a minute. I usually tell people it's all the funny parts of Balderdash, just with a riddle.
2.) Components: The box is attractive and very sturdy. It's larger than necessary, but at least there is plenty of space to include the massive amount of paper I store in it. Several tablets came with the game; but after only two games, I already ran out of paper. This, of course, is easy to remedy, but I try to keep a lot of paper in the game. Since players can write as many definitions as possible, quite a bit of paper is gone through. Very nice pencils with the logo of the game are included - an extremely nice touch. The cards are of good quality and come with a little cardboard divider in the card box to separate the questions and nouns. I wish that some blank cards had been included to allow player-specific nouns, but overall, the game comes in an attractive, well laid out package.
3.) Fun Factor: It's hard to describe how fun the game is - it's a real riot, and I've laughed until I cried. Of course, I've also noticed how almost every game with new players doesn't start out this way. At first, during the first riddle, I've always heard some people muttering about how hard it was to think of something funny. And yea, verily, some of the first answers aren't funny at all. But gradually, people suddenly come to life - sometimes those you least expect - and the laughter and noise level of the game increases. Answers in previous riddles are referred to, as well as local and world events. Jokes begin to build on each other, and sometimes the winning answers have nothing to do with the questions! Since players can write on the card that they want the reader to sing their answer, wave their hands, or do whatever is necessary to make the card funny; hilarity ensues. When I first played the game with the company representatives at Origins, I sat there, a little overwhelmed at the massive silliness factor that was occurring at the table. But when I took the game out at a teacher convention the following week, it was a smash hit. People were constantly asking me to play "the chicken" game, and several of them vowed to buy the game immediately. Marathon games began that lasted for hours, and then players wanted to immediately play again. It's the most successful party game I've ever taught except for Apples to Apples, and it's certainly one of the most fun.
4.) Time and players: The game box states that the game is for four to eight players. I successfully played it with more, but it surely is necessary to cut down on the number of times each player is judge; because otherwise the game can stretch out to immeasurable lengths. Most games I've played have lasted an hour to ninety minutes. This is longer than some folk want a party game to last, but we kept playing until we tired of the game. If strict adherence is given to time constraints, then the game should run just under an hour.
5.) Variability: I think that the company did a good job including nouns in the game. Obligatory joke nouns were included: such as a lawyer, Santa Claus, and a banana; and many of the nouns automatically make one think of a joke situation. Even though only twenty questions were included with the game, I think the combination of them and the nouns make for enormous replayability and a lot of funny jokes.
It's hard for me to believe that the designer of this fantastic party game, Kory Heath, is also the designer of the brain burner Zendo. But he has done a great job in taking a simple concept - the fun parts of Balderdash - and turning it into a game that everybody loves to play. I've seen people balk at the idea of playing the game, and by the end they become as enthusiastic as everyone else. If you only buy one party game this year, then this is the one to get. It's top notch and will definitely produce a good time.
"Real men play board games"
You can buy this game directly from Funagain games.
BoardGameGeek entry for Why Did The Chicken?