A nice, harmless little game that blends into the background a little too much
Players: 3 – 8 Best with: 4 – 6
Age: 14+ GN Age: Pre-Teen
Game Type: Party Time: 15 minutes
Publisher/Year: Big potato Games – 2017
Game Play: Word Guessing, Deception
Score: out of 12
Chameleon is fun. It is fast and easy. It is a good way to spend time with those you love. It is also easily forgettable and will never be anyone’s favorite game. But we like it and James put it on his Top 10 list so here it is.
At its core, Chameleon is a word guessing game similar to Password or Codenames. But instead of one player knowing the answers and trying to get the others to guess the correct word, in Chameleon, every player, except one, knows the word and is trying to hide it from that player. Meanwhile, the Chameleon player pretends to know the word and “blend in” with the rest of the players. Can the players expose the Chameleon or will the Chameleon guess the secret word?
At the start of each turn, each player is dealt a Code Card. The Code Cards have a grid of letters and number on them and are all identical except one. One Code Card reads “You are the Chameleon.” That player will not know the secret word and will have to bluff his way through the round.
Once everyone has a Code Card (or the Chameleon card) two dice are rolled. These dice when used with the grid found on the Code Card will determine the secret word found on the Topic Card. This grid is our only issue with the game.
Our Game Night family consists of a lawyer, an MIT professor, a scientist, and me, the odd duck. And our children are all bright students. But invariably, in almost every round we’ve played, somebody messes up the grid and now his (or her) secret word is different from everybody else. Now this issue is strictly our own problem (i.e. we’re idiots) and is not the fault of the game, the creators, or of any real, live chameleons anywhere, but it is so, so annoying.
Once the non-Chameleon players think that have the secret word, play begins. Each player, including the Chameleon, gives a one-word clue related to the secret word. The challenge for the players is to give a clue that the other players will identify with the secret word but is vague enough that the Chameleon does not. Inversely, the Chameleon tries to make his clue sound plausible even though he does not know the secret word. This is fun when a few players have given clue before you and impossible if you have the bad luck to be the Chameleon and the first clue giver in the round.
There is a rule that if a previous player gives the same clue you thought of then you can repeat the clue. Well, what’s to stop the Chameleon from always saying, “Uh, yeah, I had the same clue as that guy.” Often the kids are not as savvy at picking less than obvious clues. And they more often than not are ones to resort to repeating a clue.
Once everyone has giving a clue, then the debate begins about who the Chameleon is. Each player gets to vote on his identity. The player with the most votes reveals his card. If the card is a Code Card than the Chameleon wins, if it’s the Chameleon Card than the other players win. But the Chameleon can still escape if he can correctly guess the secret word.
There is a point scoring system but it is completely arbitrary and irrelevant. We usually just play until everyone gets to be the Chameleon at least once. But due to the random dealing of the Chameleon Card, a player can go forever and not be the Chameleon, meanwhile the player who hates being the Chameleon will get stuck with that card every time.
Due to our inability to read a grid and multiple uses of a repeated clue, almost every round ends the same way. The group successfully reveals the Chameleon, who then correctly guesses the secret word. There just never seems to be any surprise in the outcome.
Like we said, the game is fun, but it is not very challenging and there is nothing really intriguing about it. I really only enjoy the game when I am the Chameleon and the other rounds, I’m just waiting to play the Chameleon again.
The game rates itself for ages 14+. I fully understand their reasons, Teens and adults will have an easier time coming up with clue words. But we have no problem playing with our pre-teen kids. In fact, it was the 10-year-old that put this game on his Top 10 list.
We don’t play this game often and when we do it is usually as a palette cleaner between more unique games. This is a shame; we really do like this game. I just hope that it doesn’t “blend in” so well that it disappears completely into the background.
As always, never put your chameleon next to a bag of skittles, and Game On!