Chicken! is live and clucking over on Kickstarter! Grab those egg baskets and check it out.
Here at Keymaster, we like to do a deep dive into our games from time to time. Think of these posts similar to a “behind-the-scenes,” or director’s notes on the process that goes into hatching up the fun. What better time than when we have a new game right around the corner. Meet Chicken!
The story of Chicken! starts several years ago at one of our weekly game nights. We were in that “buy-and-play-everything-you-can” phase, and the Tiny Epic Series was blowing up Kickstarter after Kickstarter. Tiny Epic Western and Quest were our first forays into the world of Scott Almes’ mind. Scott had a way of creating fun and exciting moments by interpreting familiar systems in a new light. Scott’s games feel like several fun mini-games across one big arc with quirky mechanics like poker-driven worker placement or dice-fighting goblins. With a tiny epic BANG, we were hooked, and now there’s a joke around Keymaster that Kyle buys every Almes game—sometimes without even knowing it.
Scott may be known as the maker of the Tiny Epic series or Heroes of Land, Air, and Sea, but to his family, he’s the guy that made Martian Dice. This title caught our eye in the past because it was so easy to pick up and play with friends—you can try it right now online on Board Game Arena. It’s a clever and straightforward press-your-luck dice game that feels like a standalone mini-game in one of Scott’s bigger titles. It’s easy to teach to new players, but still holds strategic weight and doesn’t skimp on the fun. We weren’t sure if the rights for that game were available at the time, so Keymaster Jen reached out to Scott. He let us know Martian Dice was not available, but he had another ace up his sleeve—or should we say–egg in his basket.
Scott shared a one-page rule sheet of this game he called Chicken! “One page?!” we said, “One page! Who is this man?” We quickly threw together a Tabletop Simulator mod of the game and from the first roll, we couldn’t stop clucking about Chicken!
The core of Chicken! thrives on classic press-your-luck dice rolling: score points (roll chickens), increase risk (hatch eggs), and don’t bust (avoid foxes). Where Chicken! stands out is the unique ability to pass riskier rolls off to the next player. This creates hilarious moments of overcommitting to risky rolls and goading one another into “Chickening out” (a player can choose to lose a point to roll less risky dice). Lots of chicken noises were made while we played, laughs were had, and the next thing we know we bet the farm on Chicken! and development began.
Our rough first version of Scott's dice based on the rules. Symbols drawn courtesy of a much better illustrator than me—Kyle.
In development, we think about where the most fun moments of the game are occurring and try to focus the design around them. Chicken! is about fun at all ages, so of course we turned to our most important product testers: the Keymaster kids. There were quite a few times when our Keymaster kids ran away from the table balling their eyes out because of a busted roll or a lost game. We know kids sometimes need to learn hard lessons, like persevering when luck doesn’t go your way, or when you try your best and still lose, but in this case, we noticed some sore turns that just didn’t seem fun. Sorry kiddos. Two big areas of development that occurred as a result, were the hatching of eggs to get more dice, and the consequences for busting on a roll. Even in a simple game, minor tweaks can bring about major variations. But let’s save that for a design diary down the road.
Once we felt like the development was landing in a good place, it was time for the art. Whenever we work on a game, we think about which art style fits the game and the artists we would love to work with. We look for areas where those things overlap with the theme and complexity of the game. Even though Chicken! is our lightest game with our lowest rules overhead that doesn’t mean it holds back on the fun. It didn’t take us long to decide it had to be the Carpenter Collective. We have always loved the Carpenters’ work and have been looking for an excuse to work with them ever since we met some years back at Creative South.
A quick sample of the Carpenter's catalog
Their style has lived rent-free in our mind and it felt like such a perfect fit for Chicken! Their use of geometry and shape may seem simple on the outside, but holy smokes, it is so smart. The Carpenter’s art feels charming, whimsical, inviting, exciting, colorful, simple-yet-intriguing, classic-yet-modern. These are all words and ideas we use to describe the gameplay of Chicken! The Carpenters hopped in the chicken coop and we started hatching up the good vibes.
Chicken! with game components on display
My job (Keymaster Mattox) on the creative side is to make sure the gameplay, components, and overall product design are so married to the art that it all comes together to form a Keymaster game like we all know and love. For a game as daring and unique as Chicken! I knew we needed to try something new…and so the tube was born!
The use of the tube as packaging here is not just to look quirky and different. You roll lots of dice in this game–up to 12 if you’re not too chicken! We know it can be a challenge for small hands to hold 12 dice at once, so we created fun(ctional) packaging to help. Throw them dice in that tube, give it some good shakes, and let ‘em rip. Besides being great for the dice, we think the tube is something artfully tasteful to display around the house and makes an awesome marquee piece on any game shelf. Lastly, it’s close to the size of a tall boy of your favorite beer or a small water bottle, making it easy to carry with you to family get-togethers, conventions, bars, or just your weekly game night.
Note: The final version of dice will be engraved.
Them dice are the heart of Chicken! For such an important component, the icons needed to feel distinct and be easy to see at a quick glance, yet still dripping with style. The colors also needed to communicate the different dice you will be hatching as the risk–and the fun–increases. The Carpenters put their hands to the plough and crafted the perfect dice, and we can’t wait for you to get your hands on these beautiful components.
Game mat, player tokens, and dice
The Cloth Board and Score Tokens
We thought about score pads or tokens but kept coming back to the board as it was the simplest version of a score keeper, and contributed to the game’s classic feel. It’s easy for any player to change their score by moving their piece around the board, and cloth just felt so right for this farming world—it doesn’t hurt that it’s a whole lot easier to fit in the tube. In the game, each player starts by choosing a score token and we know everyone will find their favorite farmyard friend — we’re looking at you, Patty.
That’s it for now folks! We can’t wait to share more about Chicken! in the coming weeks. Be sure to hit that “notify me” button on our Kickstarter to get an email when Chicken! launches.