Chez Geek is a nifty little non-collectible card game about life with roommates. Chances are, if you’ve never rented an apartment or house with several of your closest friends, you’ve thought about it. The more rational of us understand that friends are best in small doses. Others get that house or apartment and learn quickly what the rational already knew. Remember that you can’t throw them out, they live there!
The rules are printed on one large sheet of paper, front and back. They’re easier than poker, but not as easy as blackjack. There are nine job cards and a healthy stack of other cards. Each player gets one job card, dealt face-up, and five other cards, dealt face-down. Your job card tells you your Income, how much Free Time you have, and how much Slack you need to win the game. Play proceeds as follows: you draw up to six cards, roll any dice you need to roll, call people, do stuff, and discard back down to five cards. The instant you get enough Slack to win, you win.
The cards (once again illustrated by John Kovalic) are divided into four types. There are Activity cards (everything from Mutant Olympics to Gaming Nookie); Thing cards (Booze, Cigarettes, Weed, Pricey Electronics, etc.); Person cards; and Whenever cards, which are events or dirty tricks that you can play on your roommates. You only need one die to play, a single six-sided. You’ll also need a heap of counters to represent Slack. Pennies, dice, or poker chips work well.
After drawing up to six cards, we come to the dice-rolling phase. Most commonly, you’ll be rolling for your income if you have an unsteady job like Temp or Waitstaff. You might also roll to see if your car breaks down, or if a parasitic visitor leaves. All the rolls in this phase break down to the 50/50 rule. 1-3: Bad Stuff happens (the loser in your room doesn’t leave, you have the lower income value for that turn), 4-6: Good Stuff happens (loser leaves, higher income value).
Next comes the “Calling People” phase. You can call as many people as you like in a turn, provided you have their cards in your hand. There are two types of people: those that provide Slack and those that don’t. The people who don’t provide Slack will always come over. Usually you play them on your roommates and they eat their Food, drink their Booze, smoke their Weed, disrupt their RPGs, or hog their computers. There are a few cards that allow you to get rid of annoying visitors (including Justifiable Homicide).
After you’re done attempting to get people to hang out in your room, we come to the “Free Time” phase. It is here that the amount of free time your job affords comes into play. You can play Activity cards like Sleep, getting Nookie (a crowd favorite), or playing RPGs. You can also go shopping and buy Things like a Playstation, a bong, cigarettes, beer, even Harold the Hoopty Car!
There’s a strategy element to the game that still manages to be comical. On the surface, the high-paying jobs have it all compared to the folks like the Drummer and the Slacker. In one shopping trip, a Corporate Drone can, provided he has the right cards in his hand, buy five or more points of Slack. The better your job, the more Slack you need to win, but it still seems like the Corporate Drone or Tech Support guys have the game in the bag; you can, however, drag them down to your level. The Corporate Drone, for instance, has only one point of Free Time. If he announces he’s going shopping, you can cancel his action by playing a TV card, “Dude! Check out this episode of Hitler Science Theater Y2K!” He still gets a point of Slack for watching TV, but he was going to get more than that by shopping. You can send parasitic visitors to your opponent’s room to consume their Things. Of course, they can get back at you by making your cat do it’s business in your bed, or playing Moron With A Chainsaw or Car Alarm to disrupt your precious Sleep. Before the game has ended, you might even murder their live-in significant other, or have a burglar break in and steal their stuff.
The game really captures the feel of college or post-college living and it only sets you back twenty bucks. A little more if you buy the two 55-card expansion sets, Chez Geek 2: Slack Attack and Chez Geek 3: Block Party, which add more jobs, people, and activities.
If you now bask in the glow of the awesome brilliance that is Steve Jackson Games then I heartily suggest you check out his true glory at www.sjgames.com and see what you’ve been missing.