m a r k a n d e y a

Board Game Review: Ciao Ciao

Posted by Brian on February 25, 2007

I’m a big fan of Alex Randolph’s games because of his knack for taking a simple concept and spinning it into a fun game. Take his Ricochet Robots, for example. Here’s a game that involves moving robots around on a map while trying to get one robot from point A to point B. It sounds dry as hell, but it works splendidly as a multi-player experience (in fact, it’s one of only four games that I’ve rated as a 10). Ciao Ciao is another such game with a simple idea that makes for a surprisingly fun game.

The game is simple. The bottom of the box is lined with cardboard showing a host of man-eating plants on the floor of a humid jungle. A small cardboard “bridge” is placed on top of the game box, resting on two sides of the box’s rim. Each player has seven pawns which will try, one at a time, to cross the bridge over the danger below to find sanctuary on the other side. Beyond the bridge is another cardboard tile for placing the pawns should they make the dangerous journey across the bridge. To start the game, each player places on pawn on the starting side of the bridge.

The only other component to the game is a special dice tumbler. It’s a small cardboard tube with a clear plastic cover on one end, with a special d6 sitting inside; it’s designed so that the die roller can roll the die and get a result secretly. The die inside is distinct in that it is labeled 1-4, with two sides with a large X. On a player’s turn he’s to roll the die and look at the result without letting the other players know what he rolled. If the result is 1-4, he simply says the number out loud as shown. But if an X turns up, he needs to bluff by giving his opponents a number from 1-4. Once he gives a number (either truthfully or otherwise), the other players have a chance to challenge his or her statement. If no challenges are made, then the player can move his pawn across the bridge a number of spaces equal to the number he called (and again, the player may have lied). If someone challenges the die roller, then the die result is revealed to all and someone’s pawn will take a dive. If the die roller was telling the truth, then the challenger’s pawn is tossed over dramatically and the die roller can move his piece across the bridge in accordance with the rule above. If the die roller was bluffing, then his pawn is pushed off the bridge and the challenger gets to move his pawn a number of spaces equal to the number called by the die roller. Play proceeds in this manner until one of two ending conditions is accomplished.

The simplest way to win is to be the first player to get three pawns across this bridge, though this condition isn’t reached nearly as often one might think. The challenges come fast and heavy, with pawns constantly taking a dive into the box of death. It just isn’t likely that one player will have the luxury of getting 3 pawns across the bridge without any sort of challenge from his opponents. The other victory condition, should no player get 3 pawns across, is based on the order in which the successful pawns crossed the bridge. The cardboard tile playing home to the pawns that made the crossing is numbered form 1 to 8, with the first pawn across placed on the 1 spot, the second on the 2 spot, and so on. Should no player get 3 pawns across, then the pawns on this tile are scored for points based on the order in which they finished (1 point, 2 points, and so on), meaning that a late finish is worth more points than an early one.

My description probably makes the game seem more complicated than it really is. It actually is quite simple and moves along quickly. Its main asset is the fun that ensues as people make lousy attempts at bluffing while the rest consider the risk of challenging or not. It is, however, nothing more than a roll-a-die-and-bluff-if-you-have-to game, meaning it can be a fun diversion but nowhere near meaty enough to warrant more than the occasional game. It could also serve well as an introduction to gaming for non-gamers due to its simple gameplay and fun theme. Though a special caveat is in order for all the lousy liars out there: you will do very poorly at this game, though with the right mindset that doesn’t necessarily mean you will have a bad time.

Nevertheless, I find Ciao Ciao to be a fun game that deserves an occasional spot on the old game table. It’s light, quick, and fun, which are all good qualities for an occasional filler game.

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