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     " We paid just over 17 bucks at our local game store for Chez Geek and are still, unfortunately, really waiting to feel like we’ve gotten our money’s worth. "

      Title: Chez Geek by Steve Jackson Games

      Format: Party Card Game

      Reviewing Monkey: Dungapult

      The Hype: It’s the start of another amazing Friday night at Chez Geek…The ultimate frat house for the coolness impaired. You’re mission? To acquire beer, Mary Jane, movies, games, and friends to help turn your particular part of the pad into the ultimate geek heaven. Succeed in this lighthearted party oriented card game and be crowned the perfect geek. Fail and be forced to kick out what little guests you’ve managed to acquire and crawl into someone else’s room to party.

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Playability: I’m very on the fence about the overall playability of Chez Geek. Game play, in fifty words or less, is about you using your randomly drawn character’s attributes to perform activities, invite friends over, and buy items to help make your geek pad as hip as it can possibly be. For every thing you do to spiffy up your pad (represented by cards played from your hand) you get Slack points. Get enough Slack points and you’re declared uber geek and win. Gaining slack is controlled by two factors: your Income and your Free Time. Income lets you buy more expensive stuff each turn and Free Time governs how many different things you can do when your play comes around. So, of course, the better your job, the better your Income, but the less Free Time you can scrounge up…and that works to balance the game fairly well.
          But, where things start to fall apart is where you actually get to acquire Slack. You see, each turn there are a myriad of cards in play at any given time- from the cards your playing now to incease your room’s Slack to the cards you’re playing to screw your neighbor over, to the cards you already have in play that are getting you slack as you speak. And, when you add all this up, you end up with an average of 20-30 cards in play- each with at least it’s own value towards your total Slack score and, often, an extra effect as well…And that’s just too much to keep track of. Every game we’ve played around the office has ended up with two universal truths: That people have lost track of what cards they have in play (both their benifits and detriments) and that when the end finally does come to the game, it’s snuck up on everyone (including the winner) so much that it’s incredibly anti-climactic. Thus, what should be a wild and raucous party experience ends up much more like a math problem gone awry…Everyone desperately trying to figure out where the hell the remainder went.
          Still, all in all, the game isn’t a bad one and plays relatively smooth. If not for the simple problem of tracking over load, it would probably rate among the great geeky party games of all time. 3 out of 5

      Aesthetics: As with playability, Chez Geeks aesthetics break down into two simple points- one good, one sort of bad. On the good side is the art. Simple comedic full color line art does a great job of setting the tone and humerously expounding on a card’s effects. Unfortunately, on the down side, are what the art- and indeed the cards in general, depict. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with any 1 card individually, the problem is that they as a whole depict one simple theme: "Con geeks." Now, if you don’t know what a Con Geek is, they are a sub-sect of our society that travel from state to state commandeering hotels for weekends at a time to role play, dress up like sci-fi characters, do drugs, have sex, and generally have a really good time. And that’s not bad. What’s bad is that if you don’t know about this hidden world-within-our-world, half of the cards may not make a hellova lot of sense and definitely won’t appeal to your playing interest. Cards like "[Collecting] Action Figures," "Lord [of Role Playing Games]," "Gaming Nookie," "Mr. Gamer," and the ever powerful and important "Cats [on my bed]" cards really detract from a "Mundane’s" (or non geek) ability to enjoy what’s going on. And, while for a lot of people totally immersed in the geek world that’s okay, for any of use who like for our games to appeal to our non-geek friends as well it makes it tough. 3.5 out of 5

      Learning Curve: One of the very strong points to Chez Geek is the almost minuscule learning curve. There are, really, 3 types of cards and figuring out what each does is no sweat at all. 5 out of 5

      Balance: Despite the list of 20 odd playtesters on the instruction sheet, the balance of Chez Geek really never quite evens out. Unfortunately, the game is really governed by two types of cards: Those you need and those you need to discard. Certain characters, randomly drawn, are simply bad to have and you’re play will be delayed until you can get rid of them and find one worth keeping. So, too, is the need to keep discarding the half assed cards (of which there are many) from your hand so that you can get to the one’s you’ll need to win. On the plus side, however unfortunate the balance issues are they certainly don’t keep the game from being playable. 3 out of 5

      Value vs. Cost: We paid just over 17 bucks at our local game store for Chez Geek and are still, unfortunately, really waiting to feel like we’ve gotten our money’s worth. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun…And we’ve played it about a half dozen times, but it’s starting to grow very stale and I’m not sure we’ll finish recouping our expenditure. 2.5 out of 5


      The Verdict:

       All in all, when you add the numbers up, Chez Geek falls into the category of "Decidedly Average" and I think it fits there. Fun but not great. Amusing but not well balanced…This would be a good game to find in a used bin somewhere and play one night after you’ve run out of movies to watch.

      The Good: Great concept and full of geeky fun.

      The Bad: Not terribly well balanced, hard to keep track of, and has a very limited scope of interest.

      The Overall Ugly: It’s entertaining if you run across it…but I wouldn’t go out of my way to find it.

      What it's Worth: About 10 bucks.

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