Theme and What is It?
The Chameleon is a battle of wits. The players will try to unmask the chameleon without giving away the secret word, while the chameleon will try to blend in with the other players and determine the secret word.
The Chameleon is a fast-paced game of deduction with rounds that play out in a matter of minutes. Games are either single-round affairs, or can play out over multiple rounds if the optional scoring rules are used. The Chameleon is intended for four to six players, but the rules indicate changes that may be made to accommodate down to three players or up to eight players. To play, shuffle the blue chameleon card into the matching set of code cards so that the total number of cards matches the number of players and deal one to each player.
The dealer turns over a topic card and rolls two dice, a d6 and a d8, which when referenced on the code card yields a location of the secret word on the topic card. The chameleon will not have access to this information. Starting with the dealer, each player (including the chameleon) says one word that is related to the secret word. Once everyone has said a word, begin debating the identity of the chameleon. After a couple of minutes, each player points to the player they think is the chameleon. The player with the most votes reveals their card. If it isn’t the chameleon, then the chameleon escapes and wins the round. If it is the chameleon, then the chameleon gets one chance to guess the secret word and if they get it right, they escape. The chameleon becomes the dealer for the next round and switches to the green deck of cards and sets up a new round, identical to as before.
The Chameleon generated a lot of buzz over last convention season. It’s short play length and pick-up-and-play design interested me as a potential filler or game night starter game.
Game Build Quality
The Chameleon includes two sets of Chameleon/Code Cards and 40 topic cards. There is also a jumbo topic card and an included dry-erase marker so you can design your own. All of the cards are thick, heavy plastic cards that are very durable.
The artistic direction in The Chameleon comes in two varieties. The card faces, which are easy to read, and the artstyle of the card backs, rulebook, and box cover which uses subtle color variation make the words appear hidden. Unfortunately, for most people I spoke with, the distinction is too subtle and can only be read at extreme angles. This isn’t really a problem and it does kind of fit the theme of being a chameleon and blending in, but is a bit tough on the eyes.
Difficulty and Age Range Suggestion
The Chameleon recommends ages 14 and up, but could easily be played with younger players as the foundational deduction mechanism is very simple.
There isn’t much too The Chameleon, but it knows what it wants to be and it delivers. It takes the ever-popular deduction genre of games and distills it down to quick, simple, single-round events. The game moves fast and sometimes finding The Chameleon is as much luck as it is skill, but the game is just fun to play. It elicits finger-pointing and belly-laughs and often seems ridiculous, but it owns what it is and it works. The Chameleon is unlikely to be a game night feature, but for starting an evening or ending an evening it is great. I could also see just having it out at a party and rotating people in. Players can easily rotate in and out and stay for as many or few rounds as they like. I think a lot of people will want to put this in their collection, particularly if you enjoy deduction and lack a deduction game that doesn’t take itself too seriously.