The Chameleon Review:
Big Potato is at it again with one of their newest party installments: The Chameleon. When was the last time you played a party game requiring quit wit, creativity, and customization? The Chameleon brings all three of these flavors to the forefront of party gaming. The best party games always showcase both social conundrums and efficient playability, and Big Potato hits one par for the course as this functional re-print does well on both. This social deduction game has a playing time set around 15 minutes, great for playing multiple rounds or using it as a filler. The amount of recommended players is from 4 – 6, and the minimum recommended age is 14. It is available now and retails for $20 at Target. You can also check it out for yourself on Big Potato’s website. This is definitely a family friendly game, so there is as much opportunity to break this out on a rainy day as well as at your next party.
Party games can often act as a gateway towards opening the mind of traditional non-gamers. While most party games have been fairly consistent in mechanics, The Chameleon takes a refreshing new perspective on mechanics by implementing dice rolling to enhance the focus of the creative outcomes developed by the players.
The basis of The Chameleon is built on the idea that, while all of you are in the same group, one of you is a fraud (or in this case, a chameleon). The ultimate goal of the chameleon is not to get caught, while the rest of the group is trying to search you out.
How does this happen exactly? By using creative word play and making a convincing case for yourself. I’ll explain. Players get dealt either Green or Blue cards. Each player’s (except the Chameleon) card displays column headings of a d6 die and row headings of a d8 die (think of a Bingo card). For each round, a Topic Card will be drawn containing 16 keywords related to a common theme, and the dice (d6 and d8) will be rolled. Each player will use their card and the roll of the dice to decipher which keyword within the Topic Card will be used for that round. Once the keyword has been established, players take a few moments to come up with a one-word clue related to the keyword. This could take the form of a synonym, a one-word description, etc.
It’s important to note that the Chameleon’s card doesn’t indicate anything to the player except that he/she is the Chameleon. This means that this person will not know what the keyword is during the game. Once a few moments have passed, each player takes turns telling the rest of their group their one-word answer. It is up to the Chameleon to pick up on what each player is saying, deciphering how their words relate to the possible key-words on the Topic Card, and give their own answer without being spotted as the Chameleon. Once everyone has answered, players then make accusations and defenses as to who they think the Chameleon is and why. Once the accusations and defenses have passed, the players vote on who they think the Chameleon is (the dealer breaks any ties in voting).
If the Chameleon is not found out, they win! If they are found out, the Chameleon has one chance to guess what the keyword was. Should they successfully guess the right keyword, they avoid the loss as well. Otherwise, the Chameleon loses and the rest of the players win. There are several variations for the game, including optional scoring guidelines and rule modifications if there are more (e.g. 7-8) or less (e.g. 3) players playing.
The game has some similarities to BANG! in relation to hidden roles. It also has a Mafia feel to it in that you’re voting on who you think should be eliminated. That is where the similarities stop, however, as The Chameleon’s game play is very different. Instead of making your case as to why people shouldn’t vote you out, the basis of the vote is usually focused on each person’s performance during the round.
I very much enjoyed how thorough the game is. There are so many types of Topic Cards to choose from, and the topics range greatly in category while maintaining their family friendliness. A party game is only as good as its replay-ability, and The Chameleon hits all the factors necessary to accomplish this.
Another positive aspect to this game is how they use the dice. It was great to see a game utilizing dice for a reason other than player movement or some sort of combat mechanic. Using dice to ensure that every player (except of the Chameleon) is on the same page regarding the keyword was unique and something I think we’ll see more of in future party games. Using the dice to find the keyword also enhances the creative focus of each player by narrowing their role.
Additionally, something I intentionally left out in the premise was the aspect of customization in the game. The Chameleon comes with a blank Topic Card and a dry-erase marker to create your own custom keywords and topics. This means that even if you exhaust the topics included in the box, you can create your own to add a new flavor of play to the game! While this may seem like a small add-on, it greatly enhanced the overall experience by giving the players the ability to create their own scenarios. This likely won’t be used until the game gets played a few times, but it’s well worth it. Having this option results in the game containing a new dimension that the game would not have otherwise.
Although the game essentially pits one player against the rest of the group, I found that the keywords all relating to the same Topic in a given card greatly helped turned the odds in favor of the Chameleon. This may be daunting for those that are not the best at thinking on their feet, but after a game or two the gameplay gets more intuitive.
The overall quality of the box and the component also needs to be discussed. The box looks very clean and the aesthetics of the entire game definitely add to the overall experience. I’m not worried about the card falling apart or getting damaged (as can happen quite often to the components of party games). If you use the dry-erase Topic Card every time you play, you may end up investing in anther marker somewhere down the road, but that’s to be expected. The Topic Cards will give most party gamers more than enough playing time for normal use at parties.
Sometimes party games can get stale after a while. The goals of the games are always similar and often the experience gets stagnant. I’m happy to say that this isn’t the case with Chameleon. The creative utilization of dice brings a streamlined approach to the game, while the depth of each Topic Card results in a great deal of replay-ability. Furthermore, the blank Topic Card ensures that the game can be as relevant as your imagination can go. Though the game doesn’t involve the greatest amount of strategy, there’s plenty of depth here for a party game. The quick playing time, alternate rules, and family friendliness ensures that this game can be a hit in any home for any type of get-together, be it with friends or family. For more info or updates on Big Potato, be sure to check them out on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram