Flocks of ravenous kiwi birds race around their small island to find the best places for their favorite food: kiwi fruit, of course. However, each flock wants all of the fruit to themselves. They push other kiwis out of the way and build nests so they can reap in the harvest at the end of each season. Their goal is to dominate the island and the kiwi fruit which grows there. Can you lead your flock to victory?
Kiwi Chow Down is an area control game for 2-4 players, ages 10 and up, and takes about 60 minutes to play. It’s currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, with a pledge level of $65 for a copy of the game. This includes the free Powers and Goals expansion and all unlocked stretch goals. The Kickstarter edition will also include the ability to play solo. The campaign will offer a limited number of early bird discounts. In the game, players lead their flock of kiwi birds to spread out across the island and take control of as many spaces as possible by the end of the fourth season. Meanwhile, they must also prevent their opponents from doing the same. Kiwi Chow Down was designed by Rubén Hernández and José Macías, published by Draco Gaming, Inc., with illustrations by Gnomosapiens.
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Note: My review is based on a prototype copy, so it is subject to change and may not reflect final component quality.
Here is what you get in the base game:
The game includes four different kiwi leaders. They are represented on the map with a miniature and their matching card is placed on the flock board. They can use their special ability once per season. These abilities often include moving multiple spaces on the island and moving away several kiwi tokens in the process.
Four map sections are used to create the island where the game is played. The number of sections used depends on the number of players.
Fruit counters represent the four different types of kiwi fruit which can be harvested and serve as currency as well as food for the game. Domain markers are used to claim spaces on the island which count as victory points needed to win the game.
Four season cards are randomly chosen and placed on the season board which keeps track of the rounds of the game. Each season card has a different objective as well as rewards for the player who achieves the objective as well as for those who do not.
Each player receives 9 action cards in their flock’s color. These are used during each round to play an action for the flock. There are four main types of action cards: move, feed, build, and wild. Wild cards can be used either for a choice of the three actions or to receive the benefits for that specific card which can include gaining kiwi fruit or domain markers, placing a kiwi token, on the board, and so forth.
Each player gets a flock board in their color. This contains the six buildings or nests which can be built, has spaces for the 8 kiwi tokens that don’t already start on the island, a list of costs for various actions, and spaces to place the player’s three action cards during a season as well as the leader card.
The goal of the game is to gain the most victory points by claiming island sections as Domains for your flock.
Start off by building the island. Use one section per player and assemble them to create a symmetric island. Place the fruit counters in the pink bag and the domain markers in the blue bag. Players them randomly select a turn order nest counter and then seat themselves around the island in order starting with the player who has the nest with the “1” on it. Give that player the first player marker as well. Deal each player a leader card and then give them the corresponding miniature. Each player then selects a color and takes the flock board, action cards, kiwi tokens, and nests for that color.
Now each player looks at their turn order nest and collects the number of kiwi fruit counters and domain markers as shown. Keep the domain markers face down near your flock board. Place 8 kiwi tokens on your flock board and then the six nests in the matching spaces. The leader card is placed in the slot on the left side face up. In turn order, each player picks 8 hexes and places their leader mini and ten kiwi tokens in any configuration. Then add an additional token to the top of two of your kiwi tokens to make them size 2.
Shuffle the season cards and then place four of them face up on the season board. Return the rest to the box since they will not be used for this game. Each player shuffles their action cards and forms a deck. They then draw three cards which will serve as their starting hand. Don’t show these to your opponents. You are now ready to play.
Kiwi Chow Down is played in four seasons of four phases each. Let’s take a look at each phase in turn.
For the first season, you only turn your turn order nest over to the numbered side. For seasons 2, 3, and 4, the starting player marker is passed to the next player. All players then discard the three action cards from their flock board. If you used your leader’s ability, turn your leader card face up. Finally, in turn order, players gain all the benefits from the nests they have built by viewing the uncovered nest spots on their flock board. They can gain benefits in any order they choose.
Starting with the first player, each player plays one of their action cards. It is placed in the first slot at the top of their flock board. They perform the action on the card and then the next player goes. This continues until all players have played three cards each. After playing a card, draw a new card from your deck so that you always have three cards from which to choose your next action. There are four types of action cards: Move, Feed, Build, and Wild.
The Move card lets you move two kiwis on the board for free. Your leader may be used for one of these moves. The kiwi can move to an adjacent hex. If you play your leader, you may choose to use its ability. Resolve the ability and then turn the leader card face down to remind you that you have used your ability for the season. You must take both move actions with two different kiwis. After that, you can pay the two kiwi fruit counters as shown on your flock board to move an additional unmoved kiwi one hex. Continue moving as many kiwis as you wish, paying the cost for each. If a kiwi of size 2 or 3 moves into a hex with smaller kiwi, you may push two of those kiwi to an adjacent hex of your choice. They can be your kiwi or an opponents’. You may even choose to move them off the map if the hex is on an edge and those tokens are returned to their owner to place in a reserve pile near their flock board.
When you choose to play the Feed action, you first pay the cost shown on your flock board, then place a kiwi token from your flock board, or reserve if none are on your flock board, onto the top of a kiwi on the island. You can feed a size 1 kiwi to make it a size 2 and feed a size 2 to make it a size 3. If you feed a size 3 kiwi, it explodes. Whoever fed it returns the kiwi tokens of the exploded bird to its owner and then moves all other kiwi in that hex out of that hex. If you feed your own kiwi, you gain one domain marker. If you feed an opponent’s kiwi, you gain two domain markers.
Building nests is an important since you gain benefits at the start of the season. After playing a Build action, pay the cost to build one of your three types of nests: tree, cave, or control. You must build the nest in the top row on your flock board before you can build the one below it on the second row. In order to place a nest you must select a hex without a nest, where you have at least 2 kiwi tokens, and where a combination of your tokens outnumber any of your opponents’ combinations in that hex. Each nest provides a benefit on placement which you collect after placing your nest on the map. From then on, you only gain benefits at the season change.
Wild cards give you a choice. You can either take an action of your choice, or you can gain the benefits on the card. These can include gaining fruit, gaining a domain marker, placing a kiwi on the map, increasing the size of one of your kiwis, or a combination of two or three. Remember, you can either pick the benefit or take the action, not both.
After all players have played three action cards, look at the current season card and identify the objective shown at the top. The player that meets that objective then gets the reward on the bottom left side of the card. All other players get the reward on the bottom right. If there is a tie, the tied players get the reward on the bottom right and the rest get nothing. These seasonal objectives give players a short term goal for each season in order to gain some useful benefits.
Following the turn order, players may place one of their domain markers on the island. These count as victory points at the end of the game. You must select a hex that matches the icon on your marker, where no other domain marker exists, and where you have a total combination of kiwi tokens and nest which is greater than your opponents’. A nest all by itself can qualify if there are no opposing kiwi tokens there. While players can only play one domain marker for each of the first three seasons, on the fourth season, players can place as many domain markers as they are able. When placing a domain marker, take one of your available kiwi tokens and turn it upside down on top of the marker to show that you control it. If you ever run out of kiwi tokens and must place one, you must remove a token of your choice from the island and use it for placement.
The game ends when the domain marking phase of the fourth seasons is complete. Now players tally up their victory points. They gain one victory point for each domain marker they have on the map. In addition, victory points can be earned by building one of the nests from the bottom row and as a reward for winning one of the season objectives. The player with the most victory points is the winner. In case of a tie, the winner is determined by the player with the most size 3 kiwis on the island, then size 2 kiwis, then size 1 kiwis, then finally if there is still a tie, the player with the most unused domain markers.
While Kiwi Chow Down’s objective is to control hexes on the map, this game is much more than just area control. There are a lot of decisions to make and you only get three actions per season. Do you move your leader to force opposing kiwis off the map or away from hexes you want to claim? Do you feed some of your kiwis so you can push smaller birds as you move? Do you build nests so you can collect benefits at the start of the season? These can be tough choices. This game is all about opportunity cost since each action you take means there are other actions you cannot take. Meanwhile, while you are trying to plan out the perfect three actions for the season, the actions of your opponents may bring it all to naught.
My first game of Kiwi Chow Down ended up in a loss. I was trying to plan out a series of actions. However, I forgot to take into account how my opponent could foil my plans. I fed one of my size 2 kiwis up to size 3 so I could move in and force an opposing size 2 kiwi off the board. However, my opponent fed my kiwi again before I could move and it exploded and forced my other kiwi out of that hex. It is also important to pay attention to the season objectives. Even if you don’t really need the winning reward, sometimes it is beneficial to at least tie for the objective to prevent your opponent from gaining the reward. Finally, building is a must. It costs kiwi fruit, but the benefits are worth it. The sooner you can get a bunch of nests built, the sooner you can reap those benefits. Those second row nests are really worth it, so be sure to do some building right from the start.
I found myself enjoying this game much more than I expected after just reading the rules. There is a lot of player interaction that has to be experienced to be realized. I really like the kiwi leaders. Each has their own unique ability and your strategy for the game can really depend on these abilities and when is the right time to use them. You can move your leader more than once during a season, but only use their ability once during that time. Do you wait to see what your opponent does and react, or do you use your leader to pre-empt their future actions. While I reviewed a prototype of the game, the components were good and from what the company is planning, I expect the final components to be even better. The miniatures are detailed and look great and I love the colorful and whimsical style of art. This is a game that can be played with kids, and 10 years old is a good starting point. Yet it also has depth and decisions that adults will enjoy. My family had a great time playing this game and we found ourselves wanting to keep playing it to try something different. If you are looking for a family friendly game that looks good, is fun to play, and keeps you thinking, I recommend Kiwi Chow Down.
For more information or to make a pledge, visit the Kiwi Chow Down Kickstarter page!
Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.
This post was last modified on May 4, 2021 2:45 pm
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