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[Review] Pick Picknic

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tomvasel
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Joined: 03/23/2011

Sometimes a game’s name or silly theme draws me in like a fly to flypaper. Other times, I look at the name and assume that the game is silly and stupid. Time has proven me wrong time and time again, so I tried to have a better outlook when first playing Pick Picknic (Rio Grande Games or Gigamic, 2001 – Stefan Dorra). The game sounded, and indeed – looked like a game exclusively for children. A friend prevailed upon me to try out his copy of the game, however, and I agreed to play it (I can’t really avoid playing a new game - it’s like an addiction).

I was immediately impressed and wanted to play again. I took the game to my youth game club, and they loved it. After several playings with them and other groups of people, I have determined that kids and teenagers are the optimal playing group for this game; but that it works well with all groups. Because of the cubes and their movement in the game, it’s a bit more fiddly than Nobody but Us Chickens, a very similar game. Yet I still highly recommend it, and it makes an excellent filler, especially for young people.

Six poultry yards (large cardboard squares) are placed in the middle of the table in six different colors (red, blue, green, black, yellow, and purple) each representing a different type of poultry. A pile of blue, green, and yellow cubes (corn) are mixed up and placed in the small game box. Five cards from a deck are dealt to each player, and the first of thirteen rounds begins. At the beginning of each round, one cube is randomly placed on each poultry yard. Each player then plays a card from their hand face down on the table simultaneously. At the same time, all players reveal their cards, and the results are determined. Each color is consulted...
- If nobody played a card of that color, the cube stays on it, and nothing happens.
- If only one player played a bird card (duck, pheasant, chicken, etc.) of a color, they get all the cubes in that poultry yard.
- If only one player played a fox card of a color, they get nothing (because foxes eat only birds, not corn).
- If more than one player plays a bird card of the same color, each player rolls a die, and adds it to the number on the card (from 3-6). The player with the highest number wins all the cubes in the pen; the others get nothing.
- If one or more players play bird cards, and one player plays a fox card (all of the same color), the player with the fox cards collects all the bird cards, placing them face up in a pile in front of him. All the cubes stay in the poultry pen.
- If one or more players play bird cards, and one or more players play fox cards (all of the same color), then the foxes fight over the birds. Each fox player rolls a die and adds it to the number on their fox card, with the winner getting all the bird cards, and the cubes staying where they are.
- If a player plays a “fleet fowl” card of a certain color, they take one green cube from that yard, and leave before the other birds fight over it. If a fox is played at the same spot as a “fleet fowl”, they eat the bird like any other bird.

Once each pen has been settled, the next round begins with all players discarding the cards they played (except for birds captured by foxes), and drawing a new card each. Another cube is added to each pen - unless there are no more cubes in the box, in which case the games ends. At game end, players add up their scores - scoring one point for each green cube, two points for each blue cube, and three points for each yellow cube. “Eaten” birds are worth points equal to the number on the card, while “fleet fowl” cards are worth 2 points each. The player with the most points is the winner!

Some comments on the game...

1.) Components: Pick Picknic comes in a very small box - and when I say small, it’s only in comparison to how many components are in it. The box, very sturdy and with cartooned illustrations on it, is about four times the size of a box of playing cards. The cubes, in all three colors, are nice and easy to handle, but my biggest gripe about the components is that there are no extra cubes, making the loss of one cube (not a difficult task) rather crucial. However, I guess you could always transfer cubes from any of my other twenty games that have cubes. The cards are small; but because of their white borders, they can take a lot of wear and tear. The reason I state this is because the cards are handled a great deal in this game, so the wear and tear will occur. All the artwork on the cards, the box, and the pens is very cute and makes the theme likeable. The square pens are a terrific addition to the game, because they aren’t necessary, but certainly help ease the game play. When they are laid out, one realizes that a full-blown board could have been used in their place; but this allows a much more compact box.

2.) Rules: The rulebook is eight pages long, which seems awfully long for a game with rules this short and simple, but there are many color illustrations; and it would appear that the author of the rules directed them to children. This is especially nice, as I don’t like when rulebooks leave ambiguous rules, and this rulebook goes out of the way to prevent any misunderstandings at all. I mean, the rules are so clear that I don’t think anyone would ever have any questions! The game is really easy to teach, after only one or two rounds, almost everybody understands it.

3.) Nobody But us Chickens: The comparisons to this game are going to be obvious, even though Pick Picknic came first. Both of them are about foxes raiding a chicken pen, but Pick Picknic has a great deal more luck. Of course, it also has a great many more choices, and because of that, I like both games about equally. Pick Picknic’s components, especially the cubes, make it a much more visually attractive game, but it’s also slightly more complicated, and not quite as “pure”.

4.) Bluffing: The game is perhaps less about strategy than it is about bluffing. When one pen has a whole pile of cubes, which player will go for it, and with what - a bird or a fox? Sometimes hilarious situations occur, where several players play a fox for a lucrative pen, and then nobody plays a chicken, so everybody’s wasted their foxes. This, of course, makes everybody laugh (usually), and then everybody resolves to play differently next time, which of course could change also.

5.) Time and Players: The game can accommodate up to six players (although some rules do change slightly for two or three players.) What I find quite enjoyable is that the game doesn’t slow down with more players; it flows at a very fast pace. The box says that games take about thirty minutes, but I’ve found that once everybody understands what’s going on, that games take between fifteen and twenty minutes. This makes Pick Picknic a perfect candidate for the “filler” category.

6.) Fun Factor: And the one thing that solidifies this game’s “filler” status is that it’s a blast to play. Sure, there are no deep strategies, and you won’t find people writing long articles about Pick Picknic strategy on the internet. Yet at the same time, the game is a blast to play; and it’s not a total luckiest. In fact, I don’t believe a player could ever lose, if they were a perfect bluffer and reader of bluffs. Poker players would probably enjoy this game quite a bit!

This game is inexpensive, fun, and plays in a short time. That categorizes it as a “must-buy” for me. After my initial playing, I immediately wanted to play it again; and almost bought it on the spot. Very few fillers have entertained me as much as this one - both in theme and mechanics. The game has worked wonders with the youth; they clamored to play it again and enjoyed it tremendously. However, I played the game with full compliments of “die-hard” gamers, and they also enjoyed the game. It mixes well and fits almost every situation. If I had a list of definitive games every gamer should have, this would be on the list. It’s not one of my favorite games, but it is a very good game. It fits so many situations well, that it would be one of the last games I would get rid of in my collection.

Tom Vasel

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