Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Easy as Pi - A Pizza Theory Review

 Pizza Theory

  • Designed by Greg and Brian Powers
  • Published by Gryphon Games
  • Plays with 2-3 players in around 10-20 minutes (I've only played as a 3-player game).
  • Recommended for ages 6+, but I really think you need to be older to see the strategy.

Start of game Set-up
I saw Pizza Theory on Kickstarter and decided to take the plunge.  The game looked interesting, the theme was something a little different, and a 3 player game was a needed addition to my collection.
Pizza Theory has no randomness and simple turn actions, but the outcome each round is unpredictable since each cook has his own idea for the best way to create the pie. (BGG description)

All the different toppings.
The components in Pizza Theory are well done.  There are 12 different toppings in 3 colors.  The topping disks are good quality, and move around nicely.  The board is very high quality and easy to follow.  The pizza cutters (aka sticks) are colored and easy to lay on the board.  The dice are a bit large, but they work well.  An excellent 9/10.

The game is pretty straight forward. Players take turns adding a toping to the pizza.  The only catch, you can't place next to a topping of your own color.  When all players are out of placements, the real game kicks in.  Each player uses their die to determine which line they will place their pizza cutter on.  Once everyone has decided, players simultaneously reveal, and then divide the pizza.  Whoever has the majority of toppings in a slice replaces other player's toppings with their own.  In a tie, the low score goes away and the tied players stay put.  This goes on until one player has placed all 16 of their toppings on the board at the end of a round. A solid 8/10.
End of the first round, pre-cut

There is a moderate amount of player interaction.  Some blocking can occur based on where you place your toppings, but for the most part, players will be able to place toppings in a way that lets them have about the same number on the board.  The real interaction comes with the slicing of the pizza.  A skillful player can try to figure out where his opponents will cut the pizza, and based on that where they should cut.  The trick is that a player can never really know for sure where his opponents will cut, so there's a lot of educated guessing going on.  It's not combat, or trading, but there is a lot of good player interaction here, even if it is more indirect and subtle.  7.5/10.
Cuts for the first round

Pizza.  Love it or loath it, it's a staple of college life and a regular weekly meal for a lot of Americans.  The toppings add to the idea that this is a pizza game.  Pizza Theory is all about the strategy, so this game could be played as easily with 3 different colors of cubes placed in different areas, but I don't think it would be as fun.  The theme definitely enhances gameplay, and it's pretty fun and not overdone.  9/10.

Learning Curve
Pizza Theory has a short entry time.  The idea of play adding a topping to a pizza is accessible .  There's some strategy in terms of where to play early, and recognizing where both your opponents can't place, thus leaving those spots to the end, but new players have a good to win.  

Why I like Pizza Theory
State of the board mid game.
The game is easy to teach.  That's a huge plus.  It's simple enough that non-gamers will enjoy it, it's complex enough for gamers to enjoy, and it looks fun from a distance so people will come over and watch, and maybe even play a game themselves.  The theme is enjoyable.  There are meaningful choices, yet the game doesn't take hours to play.  It's short enough to play multiple times, and it's a great game to play while you wait for more people to show up.

Why I don't like Pizza Theory
There is absolutely no luck in the game.  If you get behind, you're going to stay behind.  Also, the game can end in one round, though it shouldn't.  That typically happens when someone isn't paying attention to what could happen, and the breakdown of toppings just falls the right way for someone.

There's some decent replayability here, but I worry about the longevity of the game.  The Anchovy expansion does change game play significantly, which gives the game new legs, but even that grows stale after time.  I think it's a matter of trying some different ideas with the cuts, and watching new people learn.  It will be interesting to see plays when everyone knows the game well to see if/how things change.   
Green Wins by a lot.
He would need 5 more tokens
to cover all of the right slice.

I like Pizza Theory.  I don't love it, it's not a top 10 game for me, but it's an 7 overall.  The lack of luck makes it hard for some groups, but great for others.  It's sticking around in my collection, mostly because I want to see what the official rules for the Anchovy expansion will do for the game.  (I got the demo version through Kickstarter)  I still like the game, and it may have a place on a shelf for years to come, but I could also see it departing the collection in time too.  Only more plays will tell.

Final Thought
If you love the idea of a Pizza game, but aren't sure if Pizza Theory is right for you, take a look at Top This! A Pizza Flicking Game. Here's the boardgamegeek link

Sometimes a game can seem like a perfect fit for a group, and then it flops.  What do you do when that happens?  You'll have to wait for the next article here at bitsofboardgames.

Want to buy Pizza Theory and support BoBG?

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