CHEW: Cases of the FDA
Who among us can’t recall play-acting as agents of the Food & Drug Administration as kids, taking our friends to task on the shady ingredients used in their “secret recipes” or their concealment of side-effects on a radical new pharmaceutical? As government agencies go, what could be sexier than working for the FDA? Well, get ready for “sexy” to turn “disgusting” in Kevin Wilson’s boardgamification of John Layman and Rob Guillory’s Eisner-winning comic book.
You’ll need about 3 minutes to get CHEW from box to table.
Each player receives a Case card and a Culprit card, as well as 3 Chogs (plastic “chicken frogs” that serve as currency) and a starting hand of 5 Investigation cards. The rest of the Investigation deck, as well as the Clue deck, are shuffled and placed in the middle of the play area. Four Clue cards are revealed, and you’re ready to go.
The purpose of CHEW is to connect your Case card to your culprit card. This is done by matching colors that run the length of the cards via the Clue deck until your line (or your “Mystery”) is complete and contains a cumulative clue value of 20 or greater.
Each player turn is broken into 3 phases: Requisition, Investigation and Connection.
During Requisition you’re able to claim up to 3 assets. These can be Chog tokens, which are required to play most cards during the Investigation phase, or Investigation cards. If your hand of Investigation cards exceeds 7 you’ll have to discard down to that number before proceeding to the next phase.
During Investigation you’ll play cards from your hand to gain an advantage. As previously mentioned, most Investigation cards have a printed Chog cost on them – these are due when played. Investigation cards are typically one-shots, discarded after playing. But some stay in your play area and provide longer-lasting advantages, while others are played into an opponent’s Mystery to slow them down.
Each turn ends with a Connection. Your Mystery builds from the left (your Case card) to the right, until it can eventually attach to your Culprit. During the Connection phase you’ll claim one face-up Clue card from the central play area that can legally be added to the right side of your Mystery (the left side of the new Clue card must match the color of the right side of the rightmost card in your Mystery). There are many cards played during the Investigation phase that will allow for more than one Clue card to be added during the Investigation phase. Regardless of how many Clue cards you’re able to claim, the face-up cards are always reset to 4 prior to the next player’s turn.
Clue cards have a printed value in the top right corner. Once these exceed 20 you need only connect your Culprit to the Mystery to claim the victory.
Who would enjoy this game?
CHEW: Cases of the FDA is not a hastily-assembled “game” thrown haphazardly onto a much-loved piece of pop culture. It’s a game without the parenthetical, and it’s quite fun. And gross. But certainly fun.
However, it will need some help to have legs. At just 5 Cases and 5 Culprits in the base game the “story” will lose it’s punch quickly… it will become an abstract, color-matching and resource managing exercise at that point. Still decent, but not the more rounded experience it is when the story is fresh. Hopefully IDW has a few cards up its sleeve here. Sorry for that.
Now about that box… yes, it is much bigger than the game requires (this was probably done to house the included variant-cover issue of CHEW #1 without damaging it). But among the contents the gigantic box holds is a drawstring bag, ostensibly used to hold the Chog tokens but serving no purpose in gameplay and too nice to simply use for storage. In fact, all of the game’s contents – the Chog tokens and all cards – fit comfortably and safely in that bag. You can actually fit the contents in the bag and the bag in your pocket. It won’t be a fashionable bulge your sporting… but we’re boardgamers! What do we care about fashion?
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