Chicken Time Warp

Publisher CrashStache Games
Design Credits Jesse Harding, in theory
Art Credits Also Jesse Harding, in all likelihood
Game Contents 78 cards (six Cheat Sheets, six Characters, 11 Timeline, five Time Slips Away, eight You Dead, 40 Game Play, Escape Pod, Special Thanks), rules
Guidelines Take-That Temporal Poultry Face-Off
MSRP $19.99
Reviewer Andy Vetromile

The good news: Time travel has been invented. The bad news: Those responsible have been swept into the time vortex that ensued. But wait, there’s more good news: The scientists had the foresight to create an escape pod. Hold on, there’s more bad news: The escape pod was built for only one chicken. Oh, and the scientists are all chickens. Welcome to (or goodbye from, depending on your relative position) the Chicken Time Warp.

The object is to leave the time warp in the escape pod.

Three to six chickens, all with the appropriate degrees and accreditation, have accidentally managed to invent time travel (let’s face it, how else could anyone have managed it?). Their joy in this moment of triumph is only slightly eclipsed by the fact they’re all in a time warp from which only one of them can escape in the pod built expressly for this purpose (how they knew to build an escape pod allowing them to escape from something they accidentally invented is anyone’s guess). Good thing they have a wingful of cards to play.

Try not to bury the lead

The Escape Pod card hovers somewhere in the deck, and if you have it you’re king of the roost – for the moment. Before you count your eggs, the cosmos must align for you to employ it. The timeline is a series of 11 cards running the length of the table, counting down from 10 minutes to the Escape Window Open! card. At the beginning of his turn a chicken flips over one of these cards to show how far off is the critical moment, and when the last card is revealed whoever has the pod can play it. Then again, another chicken might steal or swap cards before that player’s turn. What usually ensues is a juggling act as everyone tries to snatch the pod for themselves.

There’s more to the timeline than just an impending sense of doom, though, it tells you who’s dead. Draw a You Dead card, and the answer to that question is self-evident. You’ve suffered some sort of fan-based fatality like, say, a history-hacking cyborg and are out of the running. You have died and you cannot win the game – unless you or someone else uses the time machine to activate a Clux Capacitor. This sends everything back in time three minutes; the last three faceup Timeline cards are flipped face-down and anyone who stopped living in those three minutes has their death erased. Another type, Time Slips Away, eliminates the oldest card in the timeline, closing the noose around everyone’s necks and ensuring the back-and forth between players doesn’t go on endlessly. Anyone whose Character died “on” that lost Timeline card is themselves lost and can no longer be retrieved.

Later or sooner the timeline is opened, time runs out, and either someone uses the escape pod or all but one chicken paradox themselves out of existence, leaving the sole survivor top dog. Or chicken.

Dang, Sarah, cutting it kind of close, aren’t you?

Cards are the only component to the game but they seem fairly firm. They’re bright with colorful if simple graphics and even simpler artwork. The designer presumably pulls double duty here (the credits for the creative force aren’t listed anywhere in or on the box), with straightforward but capable, clean-lined, and often subtle illustrations reinforcing the humorous theme. Oddly the rules, small but still legible, state there are 76 cards when there are 78; one of those extras is a special thanks card, itself a clever homage to all who backed the project in its crowdfunding effort, but the other? Apparently just an anonymous part of the deck. The box itself is fantastic – tough, slightly staggered for easy opening, and just the right size to hold all the eggs in one basket – and deserving of mention all on its own.

Thick as Super Thieves

For such a simple game, Chicken Time Warp is certainly a crowd pleaser. Employing a few insightful mechanical interventions like the Clux Capacitor they not only reinforce the time travel theme, they prevent it from running long or losing momentum. The strategies don’t exactly dive deep and the premise depends more on laughs tempered by chaos for some of its appeal, but anyone with a head for timing can go far. Peppered with smart in-jokes and references to temporal hijinks in popular culture, it can waver between cryogenic cease-fires and hand-swapping frustration. Some cards lose much of their usefulness by the end of the game – once discovered players don’t quickly forget who has the Escape Pod but Peek-A-Boo might still tell you who has the counter-cards you want – and it’s hard to maintain a plan if you have to grab the cards you need, offensively or defensively, a turn ahead of when you might use them.

The lack of a lot of “meat” means it’s almost certainly an appetizer, not the main course, but then again this is the kind of game the appeal of which catches you by surprise. Drop it on the table as “one last quick round of cards before we go” and next thing everyone knows time has lost all meaning, midnight has come and gone, and someone’s once again shuffling the deck. Whether it’s used to caulk the small spaces between larger games or grabs hold of everyone’s fancy and makes them forget the clock, Chicken Time Warp is the kind of deliciously unapologetic guilty pleasure people raise their eyebrows at until they, like their fowl counterparts, get sucked in playing it.

They’ll be back.

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