Published by Sunrise Tornado Game Studio, Kung Pao Chicken is a new party game for 3–5 players. It is due to launch on Kickstarter in January 2018.
The title is perhaps a little misleading. If you were expecting a game about hot and spicy Chinese food, you may be disappointed. This is a secret role card game where players are either a fox or a chicken. The twist, distinguishing this game from the majority of other secret role games, is that players all know each other’s identities but do not know their own. They have to try to deduce their own identity from the actions of other players.
Chicken and fox cards are shuffled and one card is dealt to each player. It is possible that all players could be chickens or all players could be foxes, tho’ the likelihood is that there will be a mix of roles. Players do not look at their own role but they hold up their card so that the other players can see what role they have. Players then place their identity cards face down below the card representing their barn.
Players are then dealt a hand of cards (three each in a four-player game), and they take turns to pass a card face down to the players on their left and right. The cards will be chickens, foxes or hounds. Players then play a card, again face down, to any location: their own or another player’s barn, or the ‘grasslands’, which is where the remaining undealt cars are located. Immediately after playing a card, a player may flip over a previously played card at that location, revealing whether it is a chicken, fox or hound. If it is a fox, the player can relocate it at whatever location they choose, provided there is not already a hound face up at that location.
When all the cards have been played, players must signal the role they think they have (the rules suggest they do this by striking a pose as a fox or chicken). They score two points if they deduce (or guess) correctly. Then the cards at each location are revealed. Hounds at a location remove an equivalent number of foxes. If there are one or more foxes at a location, the fox players score a point for every chicken there. Chicken players score a point for every chicken at a location where there are no foxes.
That’s all there is to it. Kung Pao Chicken plays quickly and it offers a fun variation on the standard hidden role game. Though it deliberately engenders a degree of humour, play does require a surprising amount of concentration: you only have extremely limited information to go on in deducing your role, and so you have to try to keep track of who played what card where when cards are flipped over. It’s a little easier to keep track of who moves a fox, and where, but any deduction from that requires confidence that that other player knows what they are doing; after all, they also don’t know what their own role is.
This is not a game to take too seriously; winning and losing is at least as likely to come down to sheer luck as to players’ powers of forensic deduction. Kung Pao Chicken has its own charm, however, and the theme and artwork help it to better qualify as a party game than many of the other secret role games on the market.