Ender Wiggins
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Introducing Why Did The Chicken...?



We've all probably heard the classic "Why did the chicken cross the road?" joke, and its usual answer: "To get to the other side." Did you know that this joke first appeared as early as 1847, in a New York magazine called The Knickerbocker. No joke! Although surely anything in a magazine with a name like Knickerbocker has to be somewhat of a joke! For whatever reason this riddle has come to be a standing joke even in a variety of languages, and it's even spawned a variety of other riddles that assume a familiarity with the original. Like these: "Why did the bubble gum cross the road? It was stuck on the bottom of the chicken's foot." "Why did the chicken cross the playground? To get to the other slide."

But my favourite answers are some of the ones offered by famous personalities in response to the classic riddle. So why did the chicken cross the road?
Aristotle: To actualize its potential.
Martin Luther King, Jr: I envision a world where all chickens will be free to cross roads without having their motives called into question.
Darwin: It was the logical next step after coming down from the trees.
Newton: Chickens at rest tend to stay at rest. Chickens in motion tend to cross the road.
Richard M. Nixon: The chicken did not cross the road. I repeat, the chicken did *not* cross the road.
Jerry Seinfeld: Why does anyone cross a road? I mean, why doesn't anyone ever think to ask, "What the heck was this *chicken* doing walking around all over the place anyway?"
Saddam Hussein: This was an unprovoked act of rebellion and we were quite justified in dropping 50 tons of nerve gas on it.
Colonel Sanders: I missed one?
Grandpa: In my day, we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road. Someone told us that the chicken had crossed the road, and that was good enough for us.

If you want to learn more about this enthralling subject of chickens crossing the road, you may enjoy the website devoted to the subject: whydidthechickencrosstheroad.com - yes, really! Alternatively, you might also want to read reports of the Fourth Chicken Crossing Conference, held in the Poultry World Hall of Fame on May 10-12, 2000, where a team of distinguished scholars met once again to consider this poultry matter in depth. Unfortunately no consensus was reached, but you will find over 150 possibilities put forward to explain the behavior of the chicken, based on observations using chicken psychology tests, media reports, forensic evidence, public and private investigations and human intuition.

So what does all this have to do with the game? Well occasionally a game comes along that needs just the right kind of people to work: people with some creativity, a good dash of humour, perhaps even to the point of zaniness. When such a group does come along, I feel right at home, because that describes me pretty much. And when this group is combined with a game that brings out the best of such zaniness, I can't get enough of it. Why Did the Chicken...? is exactly that kind of game, and if you - like me - would feel home in a group with a wacky sense of humor, then you definitely need to consider whether this is the kind of party game that might be for you. If you liked any of the jokes listed above, this almost certainly is a game for you!

I first got interested in this game several years ago when Tom Vasel stated that it was one of his all time favourite party games. And isn't Tom Vasel always right? (at least, when he's not standing on his roof!) Scott Nicholson also spoke about it with much enthusiasm. And you know, I found that these big name reviewers proved to be right on this one: this game - when played with the right people - can be a real blast! Think Balderdash - but with a good sense of humour added. Keep reading to find out why I'm not intending to throw this off my roof any time soon!

COMPONENTS

Game box

I'm not sure whether it's fortunate for them or unfortunate. But whatever the case, my children seem to have inherited my love for a certain measure of wacky humour, and a delight in humorous word-play, puns, and especially riddles. Now look what we have here right on the cover of the box: "a riddle game"! My friends and my children are going to love this!



From the back of the box we quickly get the general gist of how the game works: Players get two minutes to come up with funny answers to randomly generated riddles, and each round a different player takes turn being the `judge' to pick out the ones they like best.



Here's how the designer Kory Heath described the essence of the game in an interview: "The game is all about coming up with funny answers to randomly generated riddles. Each round, the current "judge" turns up a question card and two noun cards, resulting in a riddle like "What did a traffic light say to an ant?", or "What's the difference between a jack-o-lantern and a plumber?" The rest of the players write down as many answers as they can in two minutes. Then someone reads all the answers, and the judge awards points to his or her two favorites. Play until exhausted... from laughing!"

And yes, the riddles are random - like the one pictured on the box: "What do you get when you cross a lion with a pizza?" Seems corny? Wait till you hear some of the answers. "A real meat lovers pizza." "Junk food that people are scared to eat." And just wait until you hear some of your friends' answers! Maybe it will get even better yet?!



The box itself is somewhat smaller than most party style games, and our first look inside suggests something rather unassuming - but don't be fooled!

Component list

Here's the complete list of components:
● box with 20 Question cards and 300+ Noun cards
● 6 pads and pencils
● 2 minute sand timer
● 1 rules sheet



Question cards and Noun cards

The game comes with a sturdy looking box not unlike the ones housing cards in other party games like Pictionary.



The cards themselves are fairly ordinary in quality, although they do feature rather humorous artwork on the reverse side. There are two types of cards, Question cards and Noun cards.



Question cards

There's twenty question cards, each featuring a riddle with two blank spaces that represent missing nouns.



The questions are framed in a manner similar to familiar riddles, such as the examples seen here.



Noun cards

The missing nouns are determined by a random selection of Noun cards, like this one.



There's well over 300 different Noun cards altogether, such as the examples seen here



Pads and Pencils

Players will write their answers to the riddles on the pads and pencils provided.



The side of the box says the game plays with 4-8 players, but only six pads and pencils come with the game. Maybe an eight player game requires people to pair up in teams? If so, I could find no mention made of this anywhere. I can also envisage going through the 50 page pads fairly quickly anyway if the game was played intensively, but blank paper is easy enough to acquire anyway, as is a writing implement.

Special mention should be made of the pencils, however - in a game that for the most part is somewhat on the `plain' looking side, the pencils stand out as most impressive, with the name of the game marked on each in gold plated lettering. This is a very nice touch!



Timer

There's no room for analysis paralysis in Why Did The Chicken...? Players will only get two minutes to come up with answers, and for that purpose a sand timer is provided.


A. "Because the UFO is vegetarian."

Rule sheet

The rules consist of just a single sheet of paper - this is a very easy game to learn and explain after all! They're also listed online here.



GAME-PLAY

In turns, players take a turn at asking a riddle that the other players will answer, and judging the answers. Here's how a turn works:

Create Riddle: The Judge for that round randomly selects a Question card from the box, along with two Noun cards, and uses them (in his preferred order) to create a riddle.

Answer Riddle: The sand timer is flipped, to give the other players two minutes to write down their answers to the riddle - players are not limited to coming up with only one answer. Come up with crazy funny stuff, folks!


A. "They both have at least 10 pairs of shoes."

Judge Riddle: After the time is up, another player (not the Judge - to ensure that the answers are presented anonymously) reads all the answers aloud, from which the Judge selects his favourite two. The rules recommend splitting the answers into `maybe' and `no' piles on the first pass, and then re-reading the `maybe' pile to make the final decision. The judge can use whatever criteria he wants in order to make his selection - whichever ones he likes the best or thinks are the funniest are the two he can choose. This `judging' system will be familiar from Apples to Apples. The players who wrote the two winning answers get one of the Noun cards used that round, which will count as points at the end of the game.



After everyone has had a turn being judge, the player with the most points (Noun cards) is the winner!

CONCLUSIONS

What do I think?

The components are somewhat minimalist. By today's standards, the game bits here look fairly ordinary. And including some blank cards for creating your own questions might have been a good idea (although you could easily use index cards for this purpose if you really wanted to). But the down-to-earth components really don't matter with a game of this sort. In the end it's not about what's in the box that makes it excel, but it's about what's not in the box: the creativity and humor created by the group playing - that's the real attraction, and the components are perfectly adequate to bring out the best from the players themselves.

It's like Balderdash, but made funny. The gameplay is reminiscent of the classic Balderdash, which has players invent legitimate sounding dictionary definitions for obscure words, although here it's combined with a simple `judge chooses favourite' scoring system borrowed from Apples to Apples. But Balderdash is more of a serious game in which the objective is to sound clever and convincing, whereas in Why Did the Chicken...? the aim is to be funny. To quote the designer again: "I love games which allow players to be truly creative, which is why Balderdash is my favorite party game. However, in each new round of Balderdash, I find that the first answer I come up with is a funny one, not a serious one. I'm always tempted to write down the funny one and go for the laugh, but this is a sure way to lose the game. There's a direct conflict between being funny and playing to win. So my goal with "Why Did the Chicken...?" was to create a game in which being funny and playing to win are the exact same thing." Check out some of the BGG session reports to get a taste of what people come up with - there's some pretty funny stuff, and these become even funnier when you're with a group of friends!

Don't take it too seriously. This isn't really the kind of game that you should take too seriously, because it's more about the fun and laughs than about `winning'. Really, you knew that from the moment you saw the question "What did a psychiatrist say to a potato?" and "Why does a duck love a zombie?" surely?! This makes it more appropriate as a party game, since the essential requirement for playing isn't necessarily creative genius, but a good sense of humour. Perhaps even a wacky sense of humour! As much as I love Balderdash, it's rare that I have the right group to play it with, whereas I can successfully play Why Did The Chicken...? with a variety of folks - even just with my family and children in a casual format.

You will need the right crowd. The above point does mean that the game isn't going to be for everyone, and it will require the right mix of people to work. But if you do have that mix, boy can you ever have some fun and laughs! Some people are just naturally creative and funny, and these people will be at an advantage. The downside is that not everyone meets the criteria for enjoying this kind of game; or perhaps they enjoy the laughs that result but aren't any good at coming up with any themselves. In some instances this can be avoided by playing the game as a team scoring game (see under "house rules" below) rather than having individual scores - this could reduce the pressure to be competitive, and make the game more fun even for those in the group whose answers never get chosen. I suppose there's also potential for inappropriate humour - this hasn't been an issue with the people that I've played with, but some folks may need to set boundaries in advance to keep things clean.

You can play in groups. Need to accommodate more players than the maximum of eight? It's easy enough to come up with a way to play in groups. Here's our solution, which worked well: put people into groups of 2, 3 or 4, and each round have two judges (from different teams) both separately choosing their two favourite answers (with the condition that they don't pick ones from their own group). Works well, and it also helps take some of the pressure off people who aren't good at coming up with good jokes. See this thread for more discussion about rules for playing in groups.

It lends itself to house rules. The game works okay with the existing rule-set, but there are some ways to customize it for different settings, in order to improve the experience. Some house rules I've come across, or that we've come up with ourselves:
a) More flexible riddles. Some combinations of questions and nouns are somewhat lame. So instead of picking just one question and two nouns, let the judge pick two questions and four nouns, and create the preferred riddle combination of his choice. This makes choosing the question more fun for the judge as well.
b) More casual play. As mentioned already, one alternative is to play in groups. Another alternative is to play non-competitively, and not keep score at all. We've done it this way: the judge picks his two favourite answers, but afterwards we also have the rest of the group indicate which were their favourites, and identify the writers, but don't keep track of scoring. We've tried playing non-competitively and in groups, and these solutions work just fine - even with families and kids. It's a casual game rather than serious one, and is more about the social interaction and laughs, so scoring should really fall to the background anyway.


A. "Because whenever they meet they get into sticky situations."

What do others think?

The criticism

Not everyone likes Why Did the Chicken...? - not surprisingly given that not everyone likes the `Why did the chicken cross the road?" type riddles either! We don't all have the same sense of humour. If you browse some of the negative reactions to the game, you'll find that some of the critics consider it "torture for the unfunny". Bobby Warren points out that the audience is limited: "The limited audience is one which has a sense of humor attuned to making up punchlines to random categories on the fly. I'm not one of those people and I know a lot of others who fit in this category." He's probably right, because you will find other comments like "I'm not good at coming up with punchlines" or "I'm just not witty enough to do well at this" or "I'm not funny enough to enjoy this game." Having to come up with a joke under time pressure will sour the experience even more for such people - although my suggested house rule for group play may be a partial solution for this. Others point out that some combinations are hilarious, but others fall short of that. On the whole the criticisms don't mean it's a bad game as such, but they do mean that the success of this game will depend on the capability of players to be creative and witty, and on their sense of humour - otherwise there is a risk, to use the words of another BGGer, that "it just generates random lameness." If you are considering the game, you'll just need to think about whether you and your group are the right kinds of people for it. In reality you only need a few witty folks in the group to make it fun to play, especially when played casually rather than competitively. And sometimes even the most unsurprising member of the group can come up with a real beauty!

The praise

Clearly there are groups that do love this kind of thing - and I'm glad to know that my family and I aren't the only ones with a wacky streak of humor. Here's what some other folks who enjoyed the game had to say about it:
"Better then Balderdash! " - Joe Steadman
"You definitely need a funny group for this, but it is SO great when you have one. Leagues ahead of Apples to Apples. The idea behind the game is great and the rules are incredibly simple. One of the all-time greatest party games." - Mandy Heiser
"More fun than I anticipated. GREAT party game." - Joel Gabelman
"A very good party game... great, when played with naturally funny people." - Jack Reda
"I found that this game needs to be played by people that are witty. Upgraded from 8 to 9. I just spent over an hour and a half laughing my ass off without stopping for a break. One of the best times I can remember playing games." - Curt Collins
"Simply put, one of the best party games ever. Balderdash, but when it's always funny." - Tom Vasel
"This is an incredibly fun--and incredibly funny--game." - Daniel Karp
"With the right crowd (and a few drinks) this is a terrific party game." - Geoffrey Engelstein
"My favorite, favorite, favorite party game of all time." - Christopher Bartlett
"Great game - If you like to laugh, this game is for you!" - Russell Grieshop
"Simple and brilliant. It is true that you have to play with folk who have a certain mindset, but those are always the people I want to play with anyway. " - Daniel Cooksey




Recommendation

So is Why Did the Chicken...? a game for you? If the questions on the box, and some of the suggested answers made you smile, then you might well be the right person to play this game! Grab some friends, pull out this game, and have some laughs together!



Credits: Answers to riddles pictured above have been provided by my children. See more of their answers here.


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mb The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596

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Joel Eddy
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This looks hilarious. Thanks for highlighting it.
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Joseph Ellis
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Ender, as always, thanks for the review.

It sounds like with some note cards to write the questions on, you could easily transform a copy of Apples to Apples into this game. Perhaps I'll do that next time someone suggests Apples to Apples.

The game sounds funny but I have a hard time believing any game can make me laugh more than (Beyond) Balderdash. In that game, people's answers tend to be funny whether they mean it or not.
 
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Curt Collins
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joepinion wrote:
Ender, as always, thanks for the review.

It sounds like with some note cards to write the questions on, you could easily transform a copy of Apples to Apples into this game. Perhaps I'll do that next time someone suggests Apples to Apples.

The game sounds funny but I have a hard time believing any game can make me laugh more than (Beyond) Balderdash. In that game, people's answers tend to be funny whether they mean it or not.


As an avid party gamer I can say that without a doubt this is better than balderdash (which I also enjoy). The lack of a real meaningful victory condition oddly makes this game more fun as winning doesn't matter, only having fun does.
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Joseph Ellis
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Spleen wrote:
As an avid party gamer I can say that without a doubt this is better than balderdash (which I also enjoy). The lack of a real meaningful victory condition oddly makes this game more fun as winning doesn't matter, only having fun does.


I suppose it varies by group. My family loves having the competition + creativity + fun... Maybe Balderdash is sentimental to me. :) All I mean is that there's never been a sense of "seriousness" to my games of Balderdash. Pure fun and laughs, even though we play competitively.
 
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howl hollow howl
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The dubious quality of answers in the Play By Forum experiment - in which we had 24 hours to think of our most clever answers - pretty much convinced me to avoid playing this F2F except with pre-established improv masters.
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Ender Wiggins
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Dave wrote:
The dubious quality of answers in the Play By Forum experiment - in which we had 24 hours to think of our most clever answers - pretty much convinced me to avoid playing this F2F except with pre-established improv masters.

Thanks for sharing that link! - I hadn't seen that list previously. Gives a great idea of some of the kinds of questions that can come up, and the kinds of answers people come up with! There were some great entries there - here are a few I really liked:

Quote:
Q. What's the difference between the Universe and the Loch Ness Monster?
A. A Miss Loch Ness Monster contest wouldn't attract many viewers.

Q. Why is a Knight afraid of a Cake?
A. Wouldn't you be if you knew you had to fit back into that armor?

Q. What did an Astronaut say to Glue?
A. "Stick with me baby, and I'll take you to the moon!"

Q. What happened when a Cow turned into a Tapeworm?
A. It became an udderly ridiculous parasite.

Q. What happened at the wedding of a Computer and a Vegetarian?
A. "I now pronounce you man and wifi."

Q. Why does the Neighborhood Bully want to be a Chimpanzee?
A. He was hoping to move UP the evolutionary ladder.

I do think you're right that the game is ideally played face-to-face. As good as these entries are, for some reason it becomes far funnier when hearing them for the first time along with a group of friends! - perhaps it's the atmosphere and the contagious effect of laughter.
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James Fehr
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Great review as always! This is one of my childrens' very favorite games - the very top game for two of them, and they've played hundreds of games. It's amazing how creative young people can be when given a simple silly riddle. Best played when already a bit giddy.
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