Despite the quirky theme - flocks of kiwis competing for food - cut through the cute art by Gnomosapiens' Ivan Escalante and sculptor Heriberto Valle and what you have left is an essentially abstract area control game. But it's an accessible area control game where designers José Macias and Ruben Hernandez have introduced some interesting mechanics...
The modular board is varied in size according to the number of players (the game take 2-4 players, but there's a solo mode too). Players will populate some of the hexes with the stackable discs that represent their kiwis and with a mini representing their flock leader. The leader counts as a three-stack (maximum size) kiwi but it can also be activated for its unique special ability. Fruit tokens are a key commodity, used to feed and grow kiwis and to build nests. The fruit tokens are drawn from a bag, so you don't know quite what fruit type you'll get, but for some actions you need two different fruit and for others you need two or three the same. The fruit, however, is only ever a means to an end. This game is about controlling territory and putting out domain markers in matching areas you control. Game play involves action selection, playing one of the three cards in your hand, and you'll take three actions in each of the game's four seasons, resolving the objectives on that season's card at the end of the season.
By feeding a kiwi, you make it grow (stack the kiwi discs). When subsequently you move that kiwi to another hex, it can push up to two of the smaller kiwi on that hex to adjacent hexes. The kiwis you push can be your own or those of other players. If you push a piece off the map (from a hex at the edge of the board), it disappears to its owners' supply. And in a fascinating twist, you're always at liberty to feed an opponent's kiwis. If you feed a three-tier kiwi (other than a leader) then it explodes! It's removed from the board and any other kiwis at its location are displaced to neighbouring hexes. If you take an action to build a nest, it gives you an immediate and recurring benefit which can turn out to be just what you need to steal a march on your opponents.
This all makes for a highly entertaining tussle for position. Just occasionally it can be frustrating not to have a card in your hand that you need in order to take a particular action but that's a rare misfortune, and even then it's unlikely to make your turn completely fruitless. You need to gather your resources (fruit and domain tokens) judiciously so that you can profit from the area control opportunities you set up. For sure, there's a 'take that' element in pushing opponents off the map and overfeeding their kiwis but this is a game that's more about jockeying for position than beggaring your neighbour, especially when you are playing with just two. The dynamics inevitably change as the number of players increases: tho' you're playing on a larger board, you're more likely to have to amend your tactics to reflect the changes that occur before you get to take your next action.
Shown here on Board's Eye View is a preview prototype of Kiwi Chow Down from publishers Draco Studios and Detestable Games. The game is currently on Kickstarter so click here now because you've got just a day or so to back the game. It's already more than quadrupled its funding target, so it's definitely funded and has been ploughing through stretch goals.