Like many, I am partial to the odd shorter, party-style game, and usually only get the chance to play them when there’s little else on the table, most likely because I’m waiting for other people to turn up for ‘the main event’ or when the bulk of the evening is over, a couple of people have departed, etc. and there’s a handful of us left that are happy for ‘a quick filler game’ to round off the evening. The Chameleon slips nicely into that role.
Figuratively speaking, if Codewords and Spyfall had a baby, it would look something like The Chameleon — a multiplayer ‘odd one out’-style word game, in which a single player is trying to identify a word from a Topic Card that the rest of the players already know…
And it’s soooo much fun!
The rules for this fit on a single double-sided sheet, and couldn’t be easier to grasp: players are all dealt cards (face down), one of which clearly identifies the chameleon on the other side (“You are the chameleon!”), while the other cards all show the same grid of 48 letter-number references.
All players have a look at their card (in secret) and the dealer rolls the 2 dice (one 6-sided, the other 8-sided) — cross-referencing these on their grid against the revealed Topic Card will identify what keyword all the players who are not the chameleon should now know. The chameleon, of course, won’t have a clue what word is being referred to at the start of the round… It’s a beautifully simple mechanic.
Players are given a few minutes to think of a single word related to the identified keyword (on the Topic Card), and once all are agreed, play then proceeds quickfire around the table starting from the dealer, with each player supplying a single word loosely associated with the subject/topic referenced by the dice roll (eg. “Farm”, “Animal”, “Fried” for the word Chicken!)
Word choices here are all-important, because you need to be close enough to ensure other players know that you know what the keyword is, whilst still being vague enough that the chameleon can’t easily guess which of the keywords everyone else is talking about. This is where the comparison with Spyfall is most evident, but I won’t knock it for that, ‘cos Spyfall can be pretty fun, too (but not as good as The Chameleon imho!)
The principle behind going around the table quickfire is to ensure the chameleon cannot gain any advantage by hearing everyone else’s single word, but the rules do state that you can repeat a word that’s already been said if that was the word you also planned to say. Of course, the chameleon can try and use this to their advantage as well, but they could still become unstuck in the second stage…
To be fair, it’s also really tough if you’re the dealer (and thus charged with going first) and also happen to be the chameleon for that round, as you will literally have absolutely nothing to go on unless you can cajole something out of the other players before everyone is ready to go around the with their one-word clues.
It’s the second stage of the round that’s the really fun part, because here is where players get a chance to recap the words they said and start defending their choices, pointing the finger at others to try and identify who might be the chameleon, etc. A good chameleon will do well here, but could just as easily get themselves into trouble, and it’s this interplay that really makes The Chameleon an enjoyable experience for all. It can be hilarious to turn the entire table against another player, especially if you are in fact the chameleon yourself, but this works both ways, so don’t expect much in the way of sympathy if your one-word guess is so off the mark that everyone else around the table immediately rallies against you!
Once the discussions are done and dusted, players then get to point at who they think is the chameleon, with the majority choice having to reveal the truth (albeit with some protestation, no doubt!) If there’s a tie at this point, the dealer gets to choose who gets declared as the chameleon.
Ahhh, but the round doesn’t end there, because if the player thus accused is not actually the chameleon, the true chameleon gets revealed and wins the round (for a suggested 2 points). If however, the chosen player is indeed the chameleon, they get a last-ditch opportunity to guess what the word was, and if they get it right, can claim a nominal single point for doing so. Play continues until a single player gets to 5 points, although in truth you can just keep playing over and over just for the fun of it or until you’re ready to enjoy something else. There are some alternative rule options included to vary things a bit, but they’re really not needed in a game as beautifully simple and fun as this.
A ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ aspect is an important part of any half-decent party game, and I’m happy to say The Chameleon really is heaps of fun and a barrel of laughs, howsoever and whenever you choose to break it out.
As with all these sort of games, the people you play them with can make all the difference, and I recall at least one instance when the same player kept getting his grid references the wrong way round, which just added to the hilarity, especially because the rest of the table ‘in the know’ immediately wondered if he was the chameleon even when he wasn’t!
In summary, The Chameleon is a cracking little game, but I have seen it priced as high as £30 in places, so it’s well worth taking the time out to shop around for it.