You Are What You Eat… Err…Play, A TGN Review of Chew: Cases of the FDA
Chicken is outlawed. Over 100 million people died after the Avian flu outbreak. At least that’s what the governments are saying caused it. In the wake of the disaster, the US’ Food and Drug Administration became one of the largest and most powerful policing agencies around. Tony Chu is an agent of the FDA with the power to know the history of anything he eats. He is a Cibopath. This is the world of Image’s Chew, a comic created by John Layman and Rob Guillory. Now, IDW Games presents Chew: Cases of the FDA, a game based on the popular series.
Just the Facts
Leaning in to the case solving side of Tony Chu’s day to day life as an FDA agent, players in Chew are attempting to solve a mystery by connecting clues from the crime scene to their suspect. Sounds simple, but like any detective work, there is more to it than that. Two to five players are each dealt a random Case and Culprit card. The only real difference (besides art and names) between each Case and Culprit card is the color on the right and left of each card, respectively. And those colors are very important.
Your goal is to match Clue cards from the Crime Scene (a row of four Clue cards) to your Case, other Clue cards, and, ultimately, your Culprit, according to the colors on the sides of the cards. For example, a player’s Case starts with the color red on the right of the card, so only a clue with a red or a Wild border on the left can be connected. If you managed to match the Clue colors, then the color on the right of the new Clue is the next one to match.
To solve your mystery, you must attach your Culprit card to the Case card after scoring at least 20 Clue points and match the left hand color of the Culprit to the final connecting Clue card’s right hand color. Getting 20 points (or more) can happen really fast, so I like that last bit of color matching because it forces you to be a little more strategic with the Clue cards you’re choosing from the Crime Scene. However, strategy only goes so far when all of the other players are trying to screw you over.
Along the way, players can play Pain-In-The-Ass cards in to your mystery that subtract points. These are aptly named because when it happens, you usually exclaim just that. But even worse are the Bad Guys that actually dead end your mystery unless you pay a Chog cost (more on the wonderful creatures that are Chogs in a moment). Playing these on other FDA agents in the game is a real jerk move, but makes you feel oh so good doing it. I stopped a person who had their Case ready to solve only to swoop in and finish mine first thanks to some well-placed Bad Guys. Of course, I’ve had it done to me just the same.
And what about Chogs? Those are the cute, little chicken/frog hybrids that act as currency in the game (and food in the comic). These are used to play Investigation cards (both of which are acquired at the beginning of your turn) that have different effects on the game, such as the two previously mentioned annoyances and ones that give you additional Clues to add to your mystery, Chogs, and Partners that give you permanent bonuses as long as they are in play. The best part is that the Chogs are sculpted tokens. I wish they were sold separately, so I could have tons of them all over my desk.
Chew is one of my favorite comic books, and I was really looking forward to Cases of the FDA from IDW Games. While the game doesn’t disappoint, offering a lot of give and take between players with a relatively small learning curve and play time, I’m not sure it completely embraces what Chew is. Honestly, the game’s mechanics would feel right at home with any type of detective property. If you work in some of the optional rules, like eating something weird or spicy when a card has a pepper icon on it or drinking something like beet juice when a glass of juice icon appears on a card, then you start to embrace some of the comic’s weird. I would have liked it to be a bit more relevant to the food powers idea that permeates the series.
But I don’t want to judge a game on what I think it should be. So with that in mind, I highly recommend Chew to players looking for a light and fun card game. It’s a good game to have on hand if you’re tired of co-op games and want a quick round of something competitive. If you’re a Chew fan, you’ll enjoy the art by Rob Guillory, the awesome sculpted Chog tokens, and the special edition Chew #1 comic that comes with the game.
A copy of Chew was sent to TGN for the purposes of this review