“What’s wrong McFly? Chicken?” were the immortal words spat out by Biff in the Back to the Future movies. These words rang around my ears when I watched the Kickstarter campaign of Hens pass before my eyes without backing it. I read and reread the info, thinking that this could be a game for me, but equally feeling like I had reached Kickstarter saturation. Clearly I was having an eggs-istential crisis!
I’m sorry I’m winging it, but what did you egg-spect? If you don’t like it you should find the egg-sit. I don’t really want you to leave, I’ve been working round the cluck to get this review written for you. Anyway enough clucking about with this introduction, you’re here for a review of Hens, and if you’re not you should’ve kept your beak out. Seriously, read on to find out feather or not this card game is any good. Oh and sorry for the fowl language there!
If playing with four players you will use all the breeds of hen, but for two and three player games some cards need to be removed before shuffling. Deal four cards and a rooster token to each player. Place the remaining cards as a draw deck in a central location, with space for each player’s discard pile around it. Also randomly pick a goal card for end game scoring objectives.
You will be creating a 3 x 4 or 4 x 3 barnyard over the course of the game. On your turn, you will draw two cards You will then play one card from your hand to your barnyard and discard another. The first round everyone draws from the deck, but thereafter you can take your cards from the top of the deck or any discard pile, except your own.
The cards have different coloured borders representing different breeds of chicken. Card placement has some limitations. While same-coloured cards can happily sit next to each other, if you are placing a card of a different colour, it must be one number above or below all adjacent cards. I guess this has something to do with pecking order! If you cannot place a card you can flip one over revealing a coop, but this will score -1 at the end of the game.
There are a few things to tally to work out your end game score. Firstly, the eggs on your largest hen group will score you a point each, a group has to have breeds adjoining. Half way through the game though, all players will simultaneously place their rooster token on a card in their tableau hoping to predict that this breed will not have the most cards. If this breed doesn’t have the most cards you will additionally score a point for each egg on these hens. If however, this breed equals or exceeds your biggest breed in number of cards you will only score the rooster set. This will be disastrous.
Medals on cards will also score you points, two points for every three medals to be precise. Negative one point for each coop, then you score the end game bonuses. Highest points tally wins so then you can declare a winner!
There is a solo mode available but I haven’t been inclined to try it. If ever I do I will update this section!
What it’s like
Hens offers a really nice puzzle for a card game. The restrictive card placement reminds me a little bit of Sagrada, which is a good thing.
The unique twist of being able to take from any discard pile, except your own adds to the decision making process. You never want to discard a card that will be perfect for an opponent, equally though you don’t want a hand full of cards that are only good for other people. I really like these agonising decisions to consider. It’s not too mean and it’s not too nice.
While you are reliant on some cards becoming available, it feels like the luck of this is mitigated somewhat by the choices you have in your hand, and where to draw from. Not being able to place isn’t really a detrimental issue either.
The cards with their different breeds are nicely balanced too, offering some risk and reward. It is much easier to build a tableau with mid-number chicks, but 1s and 6s offer better rewards. Similarly it is much easier to get a majority with a more common breed, but these have less eggs on them. I really respect the designer for seemingly getting this right.
It also scales nicely. Play moves round quite quick. While three or four players would be my preference, it is still good at two.
The simplicity of learning how to play is fantastic. I find the rooster tricky to explain succinctly, but other than that it is a breeze.
There is a solo mode but you won’t be surprised to read I haven’t tried it – I am tempted though!
I’m a big fan of chickens and in an ideal world would have them in my garden. It will therefore come as no surprise that I like the theme and artwork. Sure it could be anything, but I’m pleased I get to look at hens on the table!
Hens is well thought out, with useful player aids showing the frequency of the cards and a box that does the job nicely. The rulebook was also clear and concise with good clarifications on the end game scoring cards too.
The scorepad is perfect and the reference cards are useful too, but the typography on the latter could be improved. The rooster tokens are good, but I kinda wish they a bit more like cockerel from the Kickstarter edition of Villagers.
Final thoughts on Hens
For me, Hens is a fantastic midweek game. By that I mean it’s a nice card game to play after a busy day at work, or after dinner while letting your coq au vin go down.
It offers a nice amount to think about in a relatively quick play time. The more you play, the more you see how numbers work well together, but if the cards don’t go your way or you make a mistake, they aren’t too punishing with a coop only costing a single negative point.
Hens is one of my favourite new card games I’ve played in a while, it has a lovely cozy appeal.
Number of players: 1 to 4
Board Game Review Recommended Age: 9+
Publisher’s Recommended Age: 10+
Playing Time: 25 minutes
Setting Up and Take Down Time: 1 minute
Designers: Giampaolo Razzino
Publisher: Litte Rocket Games
Hens has a lovely traditional feel to it but without it feeling dated. The thinky puzzle it presents is very welcome at my game table. I can see this game being played plenty more in the future. Although simple, the gameplay Hens offers is very good indeed for the play time.
Artwork and Components
Value for Money
- Cozy and vintage ambiance
- Lovely puzzly strategy
- End game objectives changes strategy
- Works well at all player counts
- Currently difficult to buy
- Hard to describe the rooster scoring
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