Ender Wiggins
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Introducing Pizza Theory

I'm a sucker for novelties in board games. And I'm a big fan of creative box designs, where a game box has been designed to look like something else (see my geeklist listing them all). So when I saw that Pizza Theory came in a pizza style box, I was hooked already.

In this family game for 2-3 players, you're putting toppings of your colour (red, white or green) on a pizza, trying to establish majorities in your colour when the pizza is "sliced" through a simultaneous selection by all players. So it combines elements of majority area control with simultaneous selection. The best part: it plays in around 10 minutes - less than it takes to cook a pizza!

The game comes with the distinction of having won the 2011 Ion Award for Best Strategy Game at the SaltCON gaming convention that's held annually in Utah. If nothing else, it gives the game some credibility before we even play it. Let's go check it out.



COMPONENTS

Game box

Here's the bit I just love. Doesn't this look just like a pizza box? The colours are perfect (Italian anyone?), the artwork is fantastic, and if you look carefully the box even looks like it's made out of the style of cardboard that pizza boxes are made from! It's only when you run your hand over the box that you discover that it's actually a smooth and quality box, but the artist has done a terrific job to make it look like a cheap-and-nasty pizza box, just waiting for some pizza grease!


Box cover

I like the pun as well: "Easy as Pi!" The game is all about the theory of pizza slicing, and we all know that "pi" is pretty essential when figuring out circumference or area of a circle. Not that you're going to be doing math at that level in the game, but it's a nice touch that shows a good sense of humor. There's more warm humor on the back of the box, where we're reminded that "There are few things in life more difficult to agree on than pizza toppings." Amen brother!


Box back

One more thing that deserves mention - once again the publisher has done an outstanding job in coming up with a wonderful custom plastic box insert that works just beautifully for housing the game components.


Box insert

It may be as "easy as pi" to play, but can YOU come out on top?" Let's find out!

Component list

Here's what you get inside the box:
● 1 pizza game board (of course)
● 48 pizza toppings (in 3 colours)
● 3 pizza cutters (in 3 colours)
● 3 wooden dice (in 3 colours)
● instructions


Everything inside the box

Pizza board

What's a pizza game without a pizza? Here's our lovely pizza board, which is beautifully round, and is going to be the chief component of gameplay. The artwork shows a well cooked base and crust, and you'll see that there are areas for three players, with numbers 1 through 6 in front of each player - these correspond to the six choices a player will have for slicing the pizza along the corresponding lines on a turn. The board will rotate each round in the direction indicated by the white arrows.


The pizza board

There's only one thing missing: pizza toppings! There are 37 circular indentations where the pizza topping disks will be placed, so let's go look at them!

Pizza toppings

Pizza toppings come in the three player colours, red, white, and green. There are 16 in each player colour, and while they could all be the same, the publisher has gone the extra mile of adding theme to ensure that there's some variety, so that there's four different types in each colour. Green toppings are basil, broccoli, green pepper, and chives; red toppings are tomatoes, bacon, red pepper, and pepperoni; white toppings are mushroom, garlic, onion, and extra cheese. I like the fact that they've done this, even though it doesn't have any significance for gameplay as such, because all that really matters is the topping colour. But it's a nice touch that helps give the game extra taste - much like extra cheese on a pizza really! As far as quality is concerned, the topping disks are very thick cardboard, so they should last well. The reverse side of these disks is a plain green/red/white, so this helps sort them easily - I like it when game makers give this kind of attention to detail!


All the toppings in the game

Pizza cutters

The pizza "cutters" are thin wooden sticks in each player colour, and these will be used to indicate the location of the `cuts' made by the players.


Three pizza cutters

Dice

Each player gets a large wooden die in their player colour, which they'll use to determine the location of their `cut' on a turn. The colours match the other game components nicely, and help give the game a sense of internal unity.


The three game dice

Rules

The rulebook consists of just a few pages, and is clear and well explained. The rules are very straight forward, and you shouldn't have any difficulty figuring them out in a matter of just a few minutes.


The cover of the instruction book

GAME-PLAY

Set-up

Each player gets the pizza toppings, pizza cutter, and die in their chosen colour, with the "1st" side of the gameboard facing the starting player. Two starting toppings for each player are placed on the board as seen in the picture below.


Complete set-up for a three-player game

Flow of Play

The aim of the game is to get all 16 of your toppings on to the pizza. Each round consists of the following four steps:

1. Add toppings

In turn order (1st, 2nd, 3rd), everyone adds one topping to the pizza. There's one restriction: you may not place it onto an empty space beside one of your existing toppings (although there are other ways to make this happen).


Green is leading at this point of the game

2. Cut pizza

Everyone secretly chooses a number from 1-6 on their die, and reveals it simultaneously, and then places their pizza cutter on the line in front of them corresponding to their choice.


Red selects a cut along #2

3. Replace toppings

The pizza is now divided into areas called "slices", and the player with the most toppings in a slice gets to replace toppings of their opponents in that slice with their own. In the case of ties no toppings are replaced, although the toppings of a third place player in such a case are removed. There's one exception, called the "safety rule", which is designed to keep losing players in the game: if all your toppings are spread across difference slices and there's no more than one of yours on any slice, they are protected and can't be removed that turn. Here's an example of how replacing toppings works:


Game-play example of how to replace toppings

4. Rotate the pizza

Now you rotate the pizza in the direction of the arrows, thus changing who is 1st/2nd/3rd, and repeat the above process.


A fairly well divided pizza where Red makes the biggest gains

Game End

The game is over when at the end of a round one player has been able to place all their toppings on the pizza.


Green wins the game with all 16 toppings on the board

Variants

The rules also include a variant which enables gameplay for two players, with the help of a dummy player.

Also available is Pizza Theory: Anchovy Expansion, an expansion which adds 16 anchovy toppings. This gives players an additional challenge, because throughout the game anchovies are added to the board and all the players can lose if all 16 end up on the pizza.



CONCLUSIONS

What do I think?

The components are pizza-tastic! I really can't say enough about the components of this game. It starts with the fantastic looking pizza box, and continues with the pizza board and the colourful toppings. The artwork is very attractive, and the quality of the game bits is very high. Absolutely nothing to complain about here!

It may not be healthy, but it tastes good. There are foods out there that aren't the healthiest, but you still like to enjoy them anyway from time to time. From the perspective of a gamer, this game probably isn't the healthiest - there's no heavy strategy or deep thinking. In fact, even though there's no randomness whatsoever, there is quite a lot of chaos, because it all depends on where your opponents are choosing to slice, and sometimes you'll get `burned' by their unexpected choices! You will sometimes have somewhat of a runaway leader and it can be hard to get back into the game if you're far behind (we've seen games where a player ends up losing all his toppings!), but usually the `safety rule' does help losing players stay in the game. We have also seen unexpected turnarounds happen, and some tense finishes, so be prepared for some tasty and zesty results, and never give up!

There's no such thing as a lucky pizza. It seems hard to develop any real long-term strategies, because a lot of the game depends on what your opponents are trying to do - which can be hard to predict, but given that the game is over in 10 minutes it doesn't really matter. And the outguessing can make the game even more compelling when playing multiple times with the same set of three players. The end result does come down entirely to the choices made by the players, both in terms of their topping placement, and their choices about where to cut the pizza, so strictly speaking there is no luck.

It delivers quicker than a pizza delivery driver. Don't like waiting for your takeout order to be ready, or for the pizza delivery driver to show up? Have no fear, this game delivers in less than 15 minutes. Most games will only take you about 10 minutes flat. Any longer and it could become painful, just like eating a pizza over an entire hour, but as it is it's just perfect. Despite a strong sense of chaos, the short game time makes it just right, and in most cases you'll find that people want to play again immediately afterwards, and that you'll play several games in a row. If your take on pizza theory fails, you just start over and try again in the next game!

Just like pizza, don't make it your whole diet. This isn't the kind of game that you'll be playing for hours on end, because in the final analysis despite the lavish components it's really a filler kind of game. Yet it is the kind of game that kids are happy to play over and over, and even for gamers it works well as an occasional snack. It's like take-out food - not healthy in large doses, but as a snack it's just fine, and even desirable.

Good family food. The rules are very straight forward, and when combined with attractive components, engaging and quick gameplay, this is an ideal game that's just right for a family menu. We haven't needed to try the 2 player variant, and actually like the fact that Pizza Theory caters exactly to 3 players - a number that can sometimes be hard to find suitable games for. I'm somewhat surprised the game won the ION Award in the Strategy category rather than the Family category, but perhaps that's a testimony to the fact that even though it is a family type of game, it does have enough tactical and strategic choices to make it interesting for gamers too.



Recommendation

Is Pizza Theory for you? Whether you're the serious gamer who usually enjoys a gaming diet of elaborate and meaty three-course-dinners, or the family man who's focused on feeding the kids, around every gaming table there's always room and time for pizza. This is that kind of game - a quick takeout that's pleasantly satisfying on the level of components and gameplay, and can be enjoyed quickly and easily. I'm not going to be playing this every night, but from time to time I'll be happy to sit down for the 10 minutes it takes to play. And isn't there always room for some pizza in everyone's gaming diet?



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mb The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596

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Curt Carpenter
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Quote:
I was hooked from the moment I saw it came in a pizza box!

That's not really a pizza box. Pizza Box Baseball really comes in a pizza box, and the novelty quickly wears off and the annoyance of not having a decent box remains.
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Ender Wiggins
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curtc wrote:
That's not really a pizza box. Pizza Box Baseball really comes in a pizza box, and the novelty quickly wears off and the annoyance of not having a decent box remains.

In other words, Pizza Theory goes one better than the Pizza Box Sports series by having the cool looks but not the crappy quality box. I fully agree.
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Andreas Hellwig
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Thanks for the excellent review.thumbsup
 
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Andy Andersen
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Not for me, but a great review. Thank you.
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Craig.
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curtc wrote:
Quote:
I was hooked from the moment I saw it came in a pizza box!

That's not really a pizza box. Pizza Box Baseball really comes in a pizza box, and the novelty quickly wears off and the annoyance of not having a decent box remains.


I think it should have been in a pizza box style box. That would have been very thematic!

Do the round stick stay in place or do they roll around a lot?
 
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Eagle-Gryphon Games
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shigadeyo wrote:
curtc wrote:
Quote:
I was hooked from the moment I saw it came in a pizza box!

That's not really a pizza box. Pizza Box Baseball really comes in a pizza box, and the novelty quickly wears off and the annoyance of not having a decent box remains.


I think it should have been in a pizza box style box. That would have been very thematic!

Do the round stick stay in place or do they roll around a lot?


We were originally going to use actual pizza boxes. However, they lacked durability and would have gotten destroyed very easily. Instead we opted to use a standard game box, but use the white corrugated background to retain the pizza box feel.

The sticks stay in place very well.
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Ender Wiggins
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shigadeyo wrote:
I think it should have been in a pizza box style box. That would have been very thematic!

Do the round stick stay in place or do they roll around a lot?

As has been mentioned, an actual pizza box wouldn't be as durable. This is a much better solution, because the artwork cleverly retains the look of an actual pizza box, without sacrificing quality.

As for the pizza cutter sticks, we've found that they don't really roll around as one might expect, and tend to stay in place just fine.
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