The Chameleon, by Rikki Tahta and Big Potato Games, is a social deduction, word-based, family-friendly, party game in which the players have to work out who amongst them is hiding as the chameleon.
The game is a simple game of hide and seek where players each draw a card one of which will state that you are the chameleon. All other cards are identical and contain a grid of the different die roll combinations which in turn provides the co-ordinates of the word you will describe from one of the topic cards in the main game.
One player rolls the two dice and players use their grid to locate a word on the topic card being played that round. Each word is loosely linked to the topic title. Players then go round providing a one word clue to the secret word on the topic card, being careful not to use any of the words that are on the card, or the word itself.
This is difficult for the chameleon as they must blend in without knowing the specific word the team are describing. However, players cannot provide too easy a clue as otherwise they may help the chameleon to guess the hidden word. Once all players have stated their word, the team then discuss and attempt to work out who is hiding as the chameleon. This requires deduction skill and some good bluffing from the chameleon. Once deliberations are concluded, players vote. If they are correct and unmask the Chameleon, the chameleon gets the chance to guess the secret word, it successful, the Chameleon stays hidden.
It is the balance here that creates the enjoyment as players must choose their words carefully so as not to make it too easy for the chameleon, whilst the chameleon needs to choose a word that is open ended enough that they don't get caught.
There is an option to score the game with the undetected chameleon scoring two, the chameleon scores one if they're unmasked but guesses the secret word. The team score two if the find the chameleon and he/she doesn't guess the word. In this game, it's the first player to give points that wins.
This game goes down well with families and at parties. So... can you manage to blend in well enough to play as the Chameleon? Do you have the detective skills to successfully unmask the chameleon? Get the game deal our the cards and find out.
Player Count: 3-8
Time: 15 Minutes
The Chameleon is a quick-playing, hidden identity party game reminiscent of both Codenames and Spyfall. As the name suggests, The Chameleon is about blending in with your fellow playmates as you try and bluff that you know what everyone else is describing. It’s a proven mechanic that works time and time again for a fantastic party game.
The box artwork is incredibly vivid and bold. I personally like this type of design, but maybe it is too whacky for others. The components are neatly packaged and the topic cards are clear and well-designed. The rules took a few moments to read through and were incredibly clear and easy to understand. We were all ready to play a game in under 10 minutes.
The Chameleon Gameplay
First you allocate roles to each player. You will either become a regular player or The Chameleon. Next a topic card is selected. The topics are broad, versatile and suitable for a range of ages. If you are frequent players of The Chameleon, you can also create your own topics and words on the dry-wipe board. This is a really nice addition which adds infinite replay-ability.
After the topic card is selected, dice are rolled to determine the secret word. This selection mechanic is so simple and random and I’m amazed it hasn’t been utilised more often in these secret identity games; it’s really great. All regular players will be able to decipher what the secret word is via their legend. However, The Chameleon will be left in the dark unable to decipher the dice roll. The Chameleon will have to rely on the regular players clues to try and determine what the secret word could be.
Then, all players take it in turns to say one single word to prove to the others that they know what the secret word is. For example, if the secret word is ‘Peas’, then a player may say ‘Green’ to prove they know what the secret word is. Whilst you are trying to prove that you know the secret phrase, you also need to ensure that you are vague enough not to tip off The Chameleon.
The Chameleon has to bluff their knowledge of the secret word, hoping that they have said something which relates to the phrase. If the regular players are too obvious then The Chameleon will find it easy to identify the secret word.
For example, the secret word could be ‘Monkey’. There are other options on the topic card like, ‘Squirrel’, ‘Owl’ and ‘Chicken’. If someone said ‘Chimp’ then it would prove that they knew the secret word, but also it would be an obvious giveaway for The Chameleon. Another clue like ‘Tail’ would be more ambiguous, whilst still proving that you knew the secret word.
Finally, as soon as everyone has said their one word a simultaneous ‘pointing’ occurs. Each player simultaneously points to who they think The Chameleon is. The player with the highest amount of votes reveals their true identity. If The Chameleon is correctly found then they lose and everyone gets points.
However, if you are caught as The Chameleon then there is still a chance for points if they can successfully guess the secret word; this is why the clues have to be as ambiguous as possible to ensure that The Chameleon doesn’t find the secret word. If The Chameleon goes undetected then only they get points.
The Chameleon, published by Big Potato Games, stands out as a streamlined alternative to Codenames and Spyfall. It offers huge replay-ability thanks to the numerous topic cards, especially when combined with the dry-wipe boards which allow you to create your own topics. The addition of the dice roll allocating the secret phrase is a great mechanic which sets it apart from other social deduction games.
The Chameleon offers the opportunity to delve into versatile wordplay and general knowledge. It manages to be both light-hearted, but also highly strategic and thought-provoking.
This game is incredibly easy to teach and learn and players of all ages will find it really enjoyable and accessible. It isn’t a long game and shouldn’t be considered as the ‘main event’ for a games night; however, it is great fun for as long as you want it to be.
Deceiving your friends and family, or uncovering who the traitor/liar/Chameleon is, remains a very enthralling dynamic which has worked countless times in the board gaming community. Heavier secret identity games like Shadows over Camelot or Battlestar Galactica can result in a huge amount of tension, resulting in some players feeling uncomfortable. This game allows you to lie, deceive and bluff without the uncomfortable tension that this genre can sometimes cause.
The Chameleon manages to be distinct enough to stand out against similar games currently in the market. If I had to choose just one game out of Codenames, Spyfall or The Chameleon; it would be The Chameleon. It does everything its predecessors have done and (in my opinion) it does them better.