SNAP Review – Gem Hens

Gem Hens box

Feed your chickens sparkly gems.
Can your Gem Hens lay the most valuable egg?

In Gem Hens you play as a chicken picking up sparkly games in hopes of laying a jeweled egg suitable for the tsar. 

Game

Today’s review is for Gem Hens, designed by Jim DiCamillo and Patrick Marino. It’s published by Social Sloth Games (an imprint of Grey Fox Games). 

Art

The Gem Hens artwork is great! Everything thematically ties together, from the barnyard and hen houses on the game board to the player boards. The chickens on the power cluck cards (below) are super cute.

At the end of the game, you have a pretty cool looking egg board full of sparkly gems. Even the box art is cool. 

Mechanics

Gem Hens is a smorgasbord, including dice rolling, action programming, and a main course of set collection. The game plays over the course of three rounds and each round consists of three phases.

Grain Throwing Phase

Roll dice to populate the barnyard grid with gems. Place the dice in specific rows and columns based on the rolled results.  

Four chicken figures standing on the edges of a board filled with sparkly crystals
Yard after the grain throwing phase

Chicken Dice Rolling Phase

In this phase, you flip the egg timer and every player starts rolling. You can keep rolling and placing dice onto your action board after each roll. Continue until the sand timer runs out.

The action board has spaces that will activate on your turn, if you’ve placed dice there. The action spaces are: Move 1, move 2, move 3, scratch 1 row/column, and pecking order (which also serves as a wild action). 

Purple dice on the Gem Hens action board. Two each in move 1, move 2, move 3, one in the scratch action, and one in the pecking order action.
Diversifying dice for movement, but could end up in the lowest pecking order with only one six locked in.

Now that dice are all placed, you’ll determine pecking order, (aka turn order). This is done by rolling all your sixes. The player with the highest total among their dice goes first, then second and so on.

Chicken Actions Phase

Once pecking order has been determined, it’s time to move on to the actions phase.  In pecking order, players will choose a die from an action space on their board, then take that action. Move a chicken pawn to collect gems, or scratch the ground to add gems to the barn yard grid. As a chicken collects gems, they “eat” them (place onto the player’s egg board). 

Here lies the crux of the game: placing these gems onto the egg board is strategic.

A purple chicken figure next to a black gem
Purple chicken about to eat a onyx gem

The egg board has multiple sections (ranging from 2-5 spaces) to place matching groups of colored gems. You’ll get points based on the size of the section and the color of the gems. Gem values are depicted on player boards; diamonds are worth the most.

The round continues until all players have used up their dice. You’ll play two more rounds, then tally up points and declare a winner. 

Expectations 

Izzy thought there was going to be a chicken queen that needs gems for her crown, and the hens had to go out and acquire them.

I was expecting a shorter game.  I think it plays better at two players, because when played with three, the game dragged a bit. With more players, chickens can get shoved around more often. Which is a little frustrating because it could mess up your plans.  

I’d have a plan for my turn but it would only get trashed by my mom or dad bumping my chicken father away from the gems I need to collect. 

Izzy
Blue, purple, green, and red hen figures on the farm yard board
Purple hen about to shove blue to get onyx gem.

Especially since Izzy is new to this style of game, we felt bad for shoving her chicken out of the way. With just two players, we didn’t shove each other at all because we didn’t want to waste the extra die that’s required to shove. 

I (Nick) expected a set collection game with a unique theme. But instead of drafting cards to collect sets, you’re rolling dice to program moving your chicken around a grid to snag gems. I wasn’t expecting that at all, and appreciated the different take on how to collect sets.

I found myself analyzing a little too much at the beginning of each round, counting out how many spaces I needed my chicken to move, then rolling dice like a madman. The pre-action planning can slow down a bit here, especially with younger players or more players.

As we already mentioned, it is frustrating getting your chicken shoved and disrupting your turn. This is slightly offset at higher player counts by having more dice rolled during the gem throwing phase. Sometimes you just can’t mitigate a shove, so you’ll waste extra dice to move.  

Surprises

The components for Gem Hens are cool. We loved the chicken pawns and the use of real gem stones names and colors. We also learned about fabergé eggs (which aren’t really laid by chickens).

Izzy especially liked designing her own egg by choosing where to place gems and which point sets to attempt. She was surprised by how taking a risk with “scratching” could pay off.

I gave my dad 4 gems he couldn’t place and gave him negative points causing him to lose 14 points!

Izzy
Gem Hens
The yard mid-game. Plenty of gems for snacking on.

In that game, Izzy ran out of movement so she kept scratching dice to place gems onto our chicken spaces. But it was in the last round and Nick’s egg was already mostly done. There was some tension and egg-citment watching her pull those gems from the bag… but I didn’t get too cracked up over it.

There is something really fulfilling about placing all those gems on the egg board; it looks look pretty cool when the game ends. I was surprised by the puzzly nature of collecting and choosing which gems to put in the different sections. Since gems have limited quantities, you really have to calculate your odds of finishing a section.

Gem Hens Player Board Final scoring
A nearly-complete egg board in final scoring

Advanced Rules 

We weren’t expecting an advanced ruleset. Now you can use Power Cluck cards. (I’d like to high-five whoever came up with that name.) 

These cards get drafted each round and give players special abilities. They spice things up a bit and bend the rules. They’re pretty fun and I suggest adding them in once you’ve got the game down. 

Power Cluck Cards: Kick N Scratch, Eat and Run, Flight, Farmer's Favorite, High Endurance, Wanderer, Waste Not
Lots of Power Cluck cards to draft from!

Chickens shoving each other around was another surprise, though it makes sense. Kids might have a hard time coming back from a shove as it will goof with their plans and they’ll need to use extra turns to move where they want to go and get the gems they need.

Lastly, there can be some gem hate drafting, especially at three or more players. There are 100 grain gems, but each color has a different distribution. Diamonds are the rarest (only 7), while there are 24 ambers. It can benefit you to take a gem your opponent needs to complete a high scoring section – as long as you have a space for it. (Two spot sections work great for this strategy). But when playing with kids, it will be tough when you steal a gem they need.

Gem Hens was a neat take on set collection, using dice to program movement around a board.  

Rating

We rate it 3 out of 5 Fabergé eggs. Find it on Amazon or at your local game store.

Gem Hens Game Setup

The Family Gamers received a copy of Gem Hens from Social Sloth Games for this review.

SNAP review music is Avalanche, provided courtesy of You Bred Raptors?

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.

Gem Hens
  • Fabergé Eggs
3

Summary

Age Range: 14+, but we say 10 and up

Number of Players: 2-4

Playtime: 30-45 minutes

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