Chickapig : herd your chicken/pig hybrids to safety!

While I was moving I was contacted by a guy called Brian who asked if I was interested in trying out his new game Chickapig. Of course I was! So across the big Atlantic these chickapigs flew, and landed on well, my balcony. The inaugural game for both apartment and (my first own) balcony became Chickapig. I received a prototype as the game has not been released yet. So yes, this is a preview! In this cute and simple game you are trying to get your chickapigs to simply cross the board. Why? To get to the other side of course! So let’s have a look shall we?


The Components

Chickapig is a somewhat abstract game played on a board consisting of 14 x 14 squares. To win you simply have to get all six of your chickapig markers through the goal, made up of two squares, on the opposite side of the board. Sounds simple doesn’t it? It pretty much is, but your opponent will do everything to block your route to the finish line. There’s also a cow loose on the board and she poops! No one likes to step in poop… But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s have a quick look at the different components of the game and how you use them while playing:

The die: is a normal six sided die with pips. You roll this die to see how many moves you have on your turn.

Chickapigs: are you main pieces. There are six of them in each colour and they start off at their assigned positions on the edge of the board (one side per colour). When they move they go as far as they can in one direction, and will only be stopped by other chickapigs, hay bales, the cow (and fence), goal posts, and the edge of the board.

Hay bales: there are four of them in your colour, and they’re there to help you as well as to block your opponent. Hay bales move one square at the time, and they will stop chickapigs. You can only move your own hay bales.

chickapig-components
A chickapig and hay bale of each colour, the cow, and a poop marker.

 

The cow: starts off surrounded by a fence, which is removed once the cow is moved the first time. During the game you can move the cow just like a hay bale – one step. But if you roll a 1 on the die, you can move the cow anywhere and she will poop! Anyone can move the cow on their turn.

Poop and poop cards: If the cow has been moved due to a 1-roll she will poop and a nice little wooden poop marker will be placed under her. Once the cow has been moved away and a chickapig or hay bale eventually travels through the poop (it does not stop them!) – that player has to take a poop card and immediately resolve its effect. They are all bad. Then that particular poop marker is removed.

Daisy cards: are all good cards! If you roll a two you can choose to take a daisy card instead of moving. You can only hold one daisy card at the time, but you can use it whenever you want.

chickapig-cards
Example of three poop cards, and three daisy cards.

Setup & Gameplay

This game is for two or four players. Three players would have to include some serious houseruling to work, as you are attempting to cross the board. With three players one side would be unguarded and the game would break down. So, in a two player game you first have to choose if you want to play with one or two colours each. The latter will obviously take longer, but will probably be more fun. It’s a good idea to start off with just one colour each to learn how the game is played. I actually rather enjoy this simpler two player mode  – quick and fun!

All the chickapigs of the chosen colours are placed on their assigned starter squares (indicated with coloured dots). Two of your own haybales are placed one square up from your two pigs closest to the goal, on each side. Then two squares further from your hay bales, two of your opponent’s will be placed. That setup is mirrored on the other side (and in a four player game the same thing happens with the other two players across form each other). The cow is placed in the middle, surrounded by the fence. The poop, and the cards are placed to the side of the board. Each player rolls the die to see who will go first. We are ready to begin!

chickapig-setup
The board set up for two players playing with only one colour each. In a four player game the blue and yellow side would be set up the same way.

As mentioned earlier, the die dictates how many moves you have at your disposal. You do not need to take all of them if you don’t want to. You can move chickapigs, hay bales, and the cow (if the fence is gone) in any combination you choose. One chickapig can be moved several times for example. The trick to the game is to use your moves to set up hay bales and the cow so that your chickapigs can “bounce” off them and into the goal. Of course, sometimes moving a piece will be more advantageous if you put it in the way of your opponent rather than just somewhat helping yourself.

There are however a few rules to moving and blocking. How the pieces themselves move has been outlined in the Components section above. A really important thing to remember is that pieces can only move orthogonally (that is left, right, up, and down. Not diagonally.) You are not allowed to go into an opponents goal with your own pieces, nor are you allowed to completely block their way into their goal (which is on your side of the board, if you’re playing a 2-player game at least). But remember, the cow can be moved by everyone so you can put the cow both in the goal or as a part of a blockade. As long as your opponent can get into the goal by moving pieces, no matter how many moves it will take, it is a valid block. Do note that the cow cannot be moved via the normal one-square-move action until a one has been rolled resulting in the cow being moved to anywhere on the board and the fence removed. And yes, you can move the cow directly from the starting enclosure into your opponents goal if you’re the first to roll a one. A mean, but excellent move probably. Poops won’t block anything, but simply force the player who goes through them to pick up a poop card.

When rolling a one or a two you have the choice to move the cow or take a daisy card respectively, but you do not have to. Depending on your position it may be more advantageous to move a piece one or two steps.

chickapig-gameplay
Example of gameplay, focus is on the green player’s side with the red goal. Green has made a very effective block for red using both the hay bales and the cow. For red to get into the goal with this particular chickapig they would first have to move the cow and then their own hay bales in a way to get the chickapig around the green blockade. It will require many moves. If the green player does not move these two green hay bales at all it will also mean that the red player goes through poop when reaching the goal and therefor has to take and resolve a poop card. Bummer!

Thoughts

This game turned out to be a bit more fun than expected I must say. It’s cute, it’s lighthearted, and it can get really mean but while still staying fun. I’ve played it with a few friends who prefaced with “I’m not really good at these kinds of things. It’s hard to think!” but who then proceeded to have great fun and even beat me. And I should add that games like these are not really my thing either. Abstract spatial thinking with setup to pay off for later moves… yeah that sounds a bit too thinky for me. But turns out it isn’t! You’re fine just thinking one single turn ahead. I have yet to try this game with four players (it’s hard to get four people together right now for some reason!) but I can only imagine it becomes more chaotic and probably more fun. Once I do play a four player game I will update this post. That said, it works great as a two-player!

The theme is a bit… I dunno, childish? But that could be said about many games. I do think that the theme might deter certain kinds of players from it. At its core, Chickapig is a light abstract. It could’ve been done with just geometrical shapes, but what’s the fun in that? It’s definitely different that’s for sure. It doesn’t really feel like the kind of game you’d pick up from your trusty local game store, and something about that intrigues me. Since I’m trying to include this in my reviews nowadays, I must say that this is sadly not a game for colour blind people. The chickapigs are slightly different (my favourites the greens, they’ve very round), but probably not enough for good gameplay when you can’t really separate the colours well. The hay bales would be impossible. That’s a bit sad, since a lot of abstract games share this limitation and Chickapig has a theme that could’ve actually solved the problem with more chickapig differences or some extra symbols. Sure, it would take away a little from the clean theme but still. The theme does help with thinking about movement limitations and such. And the pooping cow is just good silly fun!

chickapig-rulebook

I have to say though, when I first saw a picture of it, and when one of my more seasoned gamer friends saw it too, we both thought it was a dexterity game. It would be kinda fun trying to figure out alternate rules for that! If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a dexterity game is based on physically moving pieces with quite unpredictable consequences. A classic dexterity game is Jenga, but then you have more modern designer board games along the lines of Terror in Meeple City (where you’re monsters moving around a city trying to eat meeples) or Flick ’em Up (where you flick discs in the wild West). Chickapig looked perfect for some disc flicking, but turned out to be an abstract predictable moving game instead. And hey, nothing against that! It turned out to be good fun.

I received a prototype, the last version before going into final production. And I must say, I am very impressed by the quality, especially for a prototype. The board is nice and sturdy, the main game pieces are made from really nice maple discs with vinyl stickers on them. This is the only difference compared to the finished version according to Brian. In the official finished version the chickapigs, hay bales, and cow will be printed directly onto the discs. The poop discs seem hand drawn actually, but I’m sure they’ll also be printed once the game goes into production. The cards are okay, not great. But they’re a good size and decent card stock, just not the finished touch (like rounded corners) you’d find in most games. It doesn’t really take away from the game though. The most original touch however is the box… or rather, the lack of one. Instead the game comes in a burlap bag! And yes, it has a plastic lining of some kind so the game is protected, don’t you worry. I don’t know if this will be part of the official run but I hope so. While it’s hard to place it in the game shelf, it does fit very nicely with the theme and makes me want to take the game with me on a picnic or something. As long as you keep the cards secure with rubber bands, and place any daisy card halfway underneath the board, you are totally fine playing this outdoors – even when there’s a breeze. Finally, the rulebook (not really a book, but a fold-out sheet) is good. Everything is clear, and the back of the sheet even has an example gameplay showing how if you roll a six on the first turn you can actually get a chickapig in your goal.

chickapig-bag
The bag the game comes in. Very neat!

Chickapig does not come from an established publisher. Actually, it’s going to be completely self published. The Kickstarter for it is planned for late July, and I will of course remind you of that in an upcoming Kick It post once it is live. Brian Calhoun, who’s actually a custom guitar maker when he doesn’t play with chickapigs, is a big chess fan but ended up getting stuck playing a few games he didn’t really like. This resulted in a decision to create a new game himself and he came up with Chickapig. Brian has playtested and tweaked the game for several years together with his good friend Dave Matthews (yes, of Dave Matthews Band fame), and eventually they decided to work together to bring the game to a wider audience. They’ve held many meetups where people could come and try the game while having a beer and a good time, and it’s about time to release the chickapigs into the wild! So keep your eyes peeled, and in about a month we should see a Kickstarter.

It’s a fun game and I hope you’ll give it a try!

And finally, a big thank you to Brian for sending me this!

THE SPECS

  • Title: Chickapig
  • Designer: Brian Calhoun
  • Publisher: self published by Brian Calhoun and Dave Matthews
  • Players: 2 or 4 
  • Time: 30 min
  • Type: abstract
  • Size: medium
  • Release year: 2016

(there is no BGG entry yet, but you can visit their Facebook)

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