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Subject: Pig Pile - A Light Review rss

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All of my 'Light Reviews' aim to offer a brief overview that allows people to get a good feel for what the game may offer them, the options involved and general flow of play.

Summary

Game Type - Card Game
Play Time : 15-30 minutes
Number of Players: 3-6
Mechanics - Hand Management
Difficulty - Pick-up & Play (Learn in 10 minutes)
Components - Good to Very Good

Having posted a very detailed and lengthy review yesterday, I decided my next review should be of a filler to help clear my head. So I sat down to Pig Pile (a game I had played with a friend and borrowed to review months ago) and almost fell off my chair when I saw that Richard Borg of Command & Colours (Memoir, BattleLore etc) fame was the designer.

I wonder if he too needed a break from designing heavier games and Pig Pile was the result?


Image Courtesy of Psauberer

What Have We Here? An Overview

Pig Pile is very much a filler game that doesn't expect to storm the world. There is certainly room for clever card play but the luck factor and importance of timing are also highly evident. Some of you may already be turning away and that is fair enough. But the fun factor is pretty high and a game like Pig Pile can be perfect with just the right kind of people or situation.

The Components

Pig Pile comes with a total of 80 cards. There are 72 numbered cards (6 of each) but within these cards the numbers 4, 8 and 11 offer a special effect (more on those later). The final 8 cards have no value and are called Hog Wild cards. I'll cover their benefit in due course also.

Each card features artwork consisting of a pig doing something. The 'non-special' numerical cards all feature a pig surrounded by corn and as the number increases the piles of corn increase. This reminds me of the artwork in David & Goliath and is a nice touch for a relatively cheap game.

The Hog Wild cards feature a pig in a grass skirt juggling fruit. In other words the hog is going wild. It's all rather silly really but I like games that don't take themselves too seriously when they really shouldn't.

The cards themselves are of reasonable thickness and feature bright, eye catching colours on the back.


Image Courtesy of themore5@earthlink

The real eye-catchers though are the small, pink rubbery pigs. There are 40 in all and they need to be captured in order to earn points. They don't have udders (I have a secret rubber udder fetish...there you go it's out blush) like those in Cosmic Cows but they still help the game achieve a solid 6 out of 10 on the cuteness scale.

In fact knowing my friend, I'd say the little pigs sold this game for her.


Image Courtesy of itiswon

Babe - Pig in the Game Room!

That title is totally irrelevant, but I felt compelled to use it given I'm an Aussie. So I better tell you this section will outline the game play.

d10-1 The Aim - Pig Pile will go for 5 hands (rounds) or until the last pig is taken from the pig pile. By being the first or second player to exhaust (play out) their Slop cards, a player can earn pigs from the Pig Pen. When the game is over the person who owns the most pigs will win.

d10-2 The Set-up - All of the pigs are placed in the centre of the table for you to ogle, fondle and covet as you see fit. Joking aside, they really are quite nice to the touch and I bet you will be playing with them as the game unfolds.

Each player is first dealt 3 cards face down, which are placed in their play area and cannot be viewed. These cards are called the 'Slop' to keep with the light theme.

Each player is then dealt 7 cards. From these each player must choose 3 and place them face up on top of the Slop cards (1 on top of each Slop card). There is some strategy possible here, so beginners may agree to make these random as well until all players have played a game or two.

The remaining 4 cards form a player's hand. The rest of the unused cards are placed in the middle of the table and form the draw deck. Play is ready to begin as soon as a starting player is chosen.

d10-3 The Play - On a player's turn they must play a card from their hand to the table or discard pile. If no cards are in the discard pile, they begin a new one by playing a card. The discard deck is referred to as the Pig Pile, hence the name of the game.

The key rule is that the card they play must be of equal or higher value than the top card on the Pig Pile. In this way the player's are slowly but surely escalating the value of the Pig Pile.

After a player adds a card to the Pig Pile they complete their turn by drawing a replacement card, which helps to exhaust the draw deck. Exhausting the draw deck will help players to play cards from their face-up and Slop cards.

If a player cannot play a card from their hand that is equal to or greater in value to the Pig Pile, they must collect the entire Pig Pile and add those cards to their hand.

d10-4 Playing more than 1 Card Per Turn - A player is able to play more than 1 card in a turn provided that all the cards they play are of the same value. In this way a player may be able to exhaust their hand and this then allows them to potentially play cards from their face-up cards (on top of the Slop), provided they are also of the same value.

An example - The Pig Pile value is 6 and you hold 4 9's. You also have a 9 in your face-up cards so you are able to play all five 9 value cards.

d10-5 Gaining Bonus Turns - It is also possible to earn bonus turns, one after the other, by washing away the Pig Pile. The Pig Pile can be washed away if a Hog Wash card is played (see below) or if a player is able to play a number card that forms 3 or more cards of that value in a row (this also works for 3 Hog Wild cards in a row). When this occurs the card(s) are added to the Pig Pile before the entire pile is washed away. All cards in the Pig Pile are removed from play for the round.

The player then gains a bonus turn to play a card(s) to start a new Pig Pile. It is certainly possible to create multiple 'washings' in a row.

d10-6 Special Cards - There are 4 special cards that have a direct effect on the play. The numbers in brackets denote how many are in the deck.

Hog Wild (8) - These are highly desirable as playing a Hog Wild means you do not have to beat the current Pig Pile total and the total is reset to 0 for the next player, provided the turn ends with this card on top of the Pig Pile. If you don't want to add that huge stack of Pig Pile cards to your hand, you'd better keep one of these in reserve.

Hog Tied (6) - These cards have a value of 4 but more importantly they force the next player to miss their turn. If a Hog Tied card is played on top of another Hog Tied card then the next 2 players will miss their turn.

But it is important to note that this effect only applies when a player ends their turn with one of these on top of the Pig Pile. If a player washes the Pig Pile by playing 3 Hog Tied cards, the entire pile is cleared away and therefore never ended the turn on top of the pile. This is subtle but important.

Hog Wash (6) - As the name suggests, the play of a single Hog Wash card is enough to wash the Pig Pile away. This play also bestows a bonus turn for the player in question. These cards have a value of 8.

Ewe Turn (6) - If a player ends their turn and one of these cards sits atop the Pig Pile, the direction of play is reversed.

d10-7 The Strategy - Because a player must always end their hand by drawing a card, it is challenging to exhaust one's hand in such a way that cards can be played from your face-up cards and then your Slop. The key of course is to have cards of the same value and for the most part this will require a bit of luck when drawing.

Having said that, a clever player can watch the Pig Pile closely and decide at key moments that they would like the cards in the Pig Pile, to help create sets of like valued cards. They simply do this by not playing a higher valued card on their turn before taking the Pig Pile to their hand. In light of this I think Pig Pile is roughly 80% luck and 20% skill.

d10-8 Finishing a Hand - A hand can end only when 2 players are able to exhaust (play out) all of the cards in their play area (Face-up and Slop).

Face-up cards cannot be played unless a player has no cards in hand (usually the result of washing the deck). However they cannot play more than 1 face-up card at a time unless they too are of the same value or type (Hog Wild). In this way it is most common that face-up cards are played 1 at a time. The good thing however is that they are never replaced. Once they are gone they are gone so slowly but surely, each player will make progress.

Once all Face-up cards have been played and a player has again exhausted their hand, cards can be played from the Slop.

When playing Face-up or Slop cards, they can still only be played if the value is equal to or higher than the Pig Pile total..

If the draw deck is exhausted, the players are not required to draw a card at the end of their turn. This ensures that a hand cannot continue indefinitely.

d10-9 Scoring - The 1st player to exhaust their Slop is rewarded by taking 3 pigs from the Pig Pen (supply). The player to go out 2nd earns 2 pigs. All other players, except last place (the player in possession of the most cards), receive 1 pig.

d10-0 Grab your Partner and Docey Doe - All that is left now is to reshuffle and repeat for a total of 5 rounds or until the last pig is taken from the Pig Pen, whichever comes first. This triggers the end of the game and he player holding the most pigs is the winner.

The Final Word

Pig Pile is light, fluffy and luck filled. But there is a fairly decent game in there for those 'filler' moments or when the brain matter is a little low.

I should also highlight that this would be a great game with kids thanks to the visual appeal and luck factor, which gives them a fairly equal chance.

The rules may sound a little complex in print but after 2-3 hands they are pretty simple really and this is a strength of the game. It is ideal for non-gamers and I think it would make a decent little drinking game for those that partake in such activities.

There really isn't too much here for serious gamers as I could name a dozen more interesting filler games that would keep Pig Pile on the shelf.

Pig Pile is indeed a bit of light relief and at the asking price it is a pretty good pick-up for the right moment and the right crew.
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June King
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Nice review. This has long been one of my favorite filler games. I even got to play it with Richard Borg (super guy) at Origins a couple of years ago.
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Ludocrazy wrote:
Nice review. This has long been one of my favorite filler games. I even got to play it with Richard Borg (super guy) at Origins a couple of years ago.


Thanks.

It must have been a blast to play with him.

My gaming fantasy would be to play him a game of Memoir.
 
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Joy Lederman
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"The real eye-catchers though are the small, pink rubbery pigs. ...In fact knowing my friend, I'd say the little pigs sold this game for her."

We have an older version of Pig Pile (from 2001). The cute little rubbery pigs are really what makes the game a hit...everyone LOVES them pigs! We recently got a new copy of the game (6th edition) because the older one is so worn. The updated rules don't really seem to do much to change the game. But what RUINS the new game is the crappy new pigs. Instead of the tactile delight of rubbery pigs, the oinkers are now a slick hard plastic. They no longer bounce or feel fun in your fingers. Instead of the cute winsome faces of the older pigs, now they are cheaply, sloppily painted on--runny noses, smudged eyes...horrible mutant pigs. Had I first encountered these CHEAP CHINESE PIGS, we never would have been so enamored of the game. NO ONE tries hard to win these nasty new pigs, or plays with their won swine. Going to cheaper production may destroy the popularity of this fun little game.
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