The Chameleon

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Some top secret information has been made available to the members of your team. Unfortunately, not all of the team can be trusted – one of the members is a spy, a sly character who can change colour to blend … words … in any situation. The Chameleon has infected your ranks and seeks to feed important information back to their lizard people allies.

3-8 Players | 5-10 Minutes (per round) | Designed by Rikki Tahta

The Chameleon is designed by Rikki Tahta of Coup fame, and is a mashup of word games like Codenames and social deduction games like Spyfall. Impressively, The Chameleon manages to loan mechanics from these popular titles, while keeping it’s rule set simple enough to be accessible to almost anyone. Publisher Big Potato Games has put every effort into creating a polished experience, including lots of content in a striking box that certainly draws all eyes in its presence.

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Topic cards and Code cards

How does it work?

A round of a game of The Chameleon‘s uses a set of ‘code cards’, a topic card, and a pair of dice. The round of starts with the code cards being shuffled and dealt out to each player, and someone rolling the dice. Players then look up the dice roll on their code cards, which points them to a word (one of 16) on the topic card. This word is the ‘keyword’ for that round.

Now here’s the catch – one of the players around the table is just miming checking their code card for co-ordinates and looking at the topic card for the word. That player is The Chameleon, and their code card simply says ‘You are The Chameleon‘ – no lookup table for them. After a moment of thinking time, each player gets to say one word. The goal of the word said, is to indicate to the other players that you know which word on the topic card is the keyword for this round. Of course, The Chameleon has no idea what the keyword is, and needs to think on their feet and say something that sounds about right.

After each player has said their word, players vote for who they think was The Chameleon that round. There are two possible outcomes: either the voted player isn’t The Chameleon, in which case the true Chameleon successfully blended in, and wins. If The Chameleon was successfully caught, they are given a chance to guess the keyword. If they get it right, they still win (players gave away too much information about the word). If they are incorrect, all other players win.

The game includes a scoring system (for playing multiple rounds) if you are so inclined, but I will be honest, I didn’t even read through it. The game is more than fun enough played as independent rounds, but if you want a bit of a more competitive experience, the scoring rules are available.

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A dry erase board allows for custom Topic cards to be made!

What do I think?

I’ve played 3 sessions of The Chameleon now, each containing 10-20 rounds. The games were played with 6-8 players. Despite having played probably 40 or so rounds of the game, it is definitely not wearing thin or becoming any more ‘samey’ or predictable. Rounds can be very quick (a few minutes), but sometimes entertainingly drag out as people struggle to come up with clues or argue over who might be The Chameleon before voting.

The Good Stuff

  • The Chameleon is an amazingly social party game, that works even better with family or closer friends that enable you to use in-jokes and references.
  • The entry level complexity means anyone can play.
  • High player count makes it great for larger groups.
  • The game has great quality cards, nice dice, and an amazing looking box. There is a high wow factor visually with The Chameleon which draws people in and makes them interested in playing.
  • It has quick and satisfying rounds. As a party game this allows for easy additions and subtractions of players with little overhead.
  • There is a lot of material included – each topic card has 16 words so even once you’ve gone through all the cards it will be rare you will ever have the same word twice. Additionally – there is a dry erase topic board and marker included so you can make your own topic boards!

The Bad Stuff

  • Similar to a lot of party games with many short rounds that you play over and over the game eventually trails off, there is no climax or ending over multiple rounds. Scoring probably fixes this but we play games too casually to really care about scoring in this.
  • Being The Chameleon multiple rounds in a row can suck, same with not being The Chameleon ever. Unfortunately there is no way to fix this really.
  • If you played this game a lot, like A LOT, you would risk players eventually memorising the code cards. In a good spirited group, hopefully no one would try to do this intentionally.
  • The box probably could have been a lot more compact.
  • With low player counts it’s very hard for The Chameleon to win (less space to hide, less information to guess a clue or the word if caught) and for higher counts, it’s the opposite. We found the tip (in the rulebook) to try and help mitigate this isn’t really that effective.
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Mmmm, dice.

For a filler or party game, The Chameleon is perfect. It’s great for a light game after dinner or at a family gathering. It also works well as something to do while people turn up for game night as it’s quick and flexible with numbers. I recommend it over Spyfall for this style of game as I think it’s easier to pick-up for new players and doesn’t suffer from the ‘thinking of a question’ issue that Spyfall has. If you like the prospect of having no idea what everyone else is thinking, and blurting out something you think is relevant and then getting laughed at by everyone else, then pick-up The Chameleon and give it a try!

 

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