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Subject: A Game for the Holidays rss

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Jason Farris
United States
Medford
Oregon
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There is a duck in every game. You may not see it, but it's there.
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So it’s the holidays where I am. As BGG is international, I am sure it is not a holiday for many people and many others may object to holidays or commercialism or religious appropriation or any of a number of things that have nothing to do with game reviews. So if you are offended by this holiday eve, just stop reading now because I am really writing this review for people who will be getting together with family and might want to play games. If you are not one of them, I’m sure there is an internet debate somewhere with your name on it.

I love games and it has been recently pointed out that I am pretty much game agnostic. I enjoy any game that is fun to play for me. This means Euro games, American games, even games that are not games (Pie Face comes to mind) can be fun with the right people. So when you are faced with that holiday question of what games to bring to a family gathering of heterogenous gamers who are fickle and don’t get real games, what do you play? Clue Master Detective is one that is easy for me to bring as everyone knows Clue and the extra items actually give gamers a little more to think about. Rummikub is another good one that keeps the gamer mentally active while still being fun for the family. These are pretty standard choices.

Today I am going to introduce you to two games, seemingly diametrically opposed, but still great holiday fun. This review will cover the first one, an unassuming small pink box that holds some cool holiday fun. “Piece O’ Cake” is simple. It’s so simple that the designer remade it as a pizza game with additional rules and complexity to appeal to gamers. You can find “New York Slice” pretty easily. “Piece O’ Cake” is not as easy to find but fits the holiday spirit better than pizza in my mind, unless your family does pizza, which I’m totally cool with.

At its heart Piece O’ Cake (POC)is the I split and you choose dilemma made maddening. It’s a game of tiles that are shaped like wedges of cake with various toppings on them. Not all the cakes will make sense from an American standard (some look downright European) but are easily distinguishable from each other. You shuffle the various cake tiles face down and create enough stacks to make 5 cakes. Each round you will flip the tiles over and form them into a whole cake. At this point, one player must split this cake into no more portions than the number of players. Each portion will usually have more than one slice of cake, and they will usually contain slices of different cake. After the slices are divided, everyone but the divider chooses, in player order, their portion. The divider gets whatever is left over. So, all you need to do is split the cake evenly enough so that no matter what is left, you benefit. Easy, right?

Yeah, not so much. You score points at the end of the game by having the most slices of each variety of cake. If I have the most chocolate cake at the end of the game, I and only I score the points for chocolate. Everyone else gets zip. If I tie, then all tied players score the points for the cake. There are many types of cakes, and each type of cake has a different number of pieces in the game. Chocolate has the most pieces, so it is the hardest to collect a majority of but is worth the most points. The smallest cake (apricot I think) has only 4 pieces in the game. While it can be easy to get the majority of pieces, it only scores you 4 points at the end of the game. All the other cake types fall somewhere in between.

So I’m the player divvying up a cake. I have to look at all the pieces in the cake and separate portions out (you cannot rearrange the order of pieces, just split them out). While doing this, I need to look at everyone else’s cake slices to make sure I don’t divvy it up in a way that another player gets a majority of a cake type, while also making sure that last paltry portion that I know nobody else will want, benefits me.

That alone can bake your noodle good, but then we get into the meta game. Everyone will be choosing in player order. So I can try to set up an attractive portion of cake slices for the first player, that just happens to give them an unwanted strawberry cake slice. So they take the portion to get the slices they do want and take that unwanted strawberry which just happens to make them tied with another player who has strawberry. So now those two will naturally start vying for strawberry cake, which I have none of and don’t care about. A simple cake splitting games starts having layers of how to set your opponents up to fight and leave your stuff alone. Of course, they will do the same to you…

So far so good, the game is simple enough to play with almost anyone. But… there are some other wrinkles. You can take your portion and eat it instead of saving it for cake type majorities. Each cake slice has a number of dollops of whip cream on it from 1-3. If you eat the portion, all those slices are turned facedown in your area and will be worth a number of points at the end of the game equal to the number of dollops of whip cream total on those slices. So now your carefully staged plan to have player one take that extra strawberry may be dashed when they decide to grab another portion and eat it for points instead of saving it. Also, you may choose not to take a portion on your turn and instead eat all slices of one type of cake that you have been saving. Lose the chocolate majority, instead of ending up with 0 points for chocolate at the end of the game, why not just not take a potion on the last round and eat all your chocolate for their whip cream value.

Right there, you can see that POC has simple mechanics, but many interesting decisions. The cool thing is that at the end of the game, players often have close enough scores that everyone feels like they were contenders but got knocked out because of the flop of the tiles or one of their devious opponents. It doesn’t have high conflict and is easy to set up, play, and tear down when you are done. If you have a lot of people, players can rotate in and out incredibly easily. Also, it is relatively easy to grasp. The biggest challenge I see with new players is remembering they can eat slices. But if they don’t like their choices, you can remind them that can always just pick one and eat it.

I have looked at the rules for New York Slice, but have not actually played that version of the game. It adds a little more complexity and things to remember, which won’t matter to many people, but it is also not nearly as festive as POC. So the decision on which one floats your boat (if either do) is for you to decide. The one thing I wouldn’t want you to do is see the pink box on some dusty game store shelf some day and pass it by because it looks too silly or not cool enough. Not every game needs to have space marines, ancient civilizations, or farmers to be good. Some are unassuming and seemingly innocuous, but still a lot of fun.
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Darin Bolyard
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Oak Grove
Missouri
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But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
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In your world, I have another name. You must learn to know me by it. That was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.
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Smilinbrax wrote:
...Some [games] are unassuming and seemingly innocuous, but still a lot of fun.

I think this↑ is a fine closing statement to be made for POC. Played just last week with the full count of 5 players, and such fun! I have no desire to play the recent New York Slice. It's predecessor did just what it needed to be both simple and good. Pice O' Cake is simply good.
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