Tuesday 2 July 2024

Pie Factory


The Game

Pie Factory is a light card game about making pies. The cards in the game are ingredients. There are three types of ingredients - crusts, fillings and toppings. Pies can be just the crust (probably not very interesting), or crust plus filling, or crust, filling and topping. You score points by completing pies and selling them. The game ends after you go through the deck twice. 

This is a 2-player game in progress. The two cards on the right determine player order. Player order is checked and can change every round. On the left there is an assembly line of cards. You can take cards from this assembly line. 

You only perform one action on your turn. You can play a card from your hand, play a card from the assembly line, draw a card from the deck to your hand, or box pies. Playing a card means adding it to a pie or starting a new pie. You can work on at most three pies at the same time. If you already have three, you will need to box them in order to be able to work on a new one. To start a pie you will always need a crust. Fillings can be put on crusts. Toppings cannot be simply added to any filling. The toppings only go well with specific fillings. 

The text and icon at the bottom of the card indicate what ingredient it is. The icon at the top right corner indicates what it can be placed on. In the photo above, the card on the left is a crust, so there is no icon along the top. This means you can play the crust directly onto the table as a new pie. The card in the middle is a topping. Along the top right corner you can see that the meringue topping only goes well with lemon, lime or chocolate fillings. The card on the right is a filling. So in the top right corner you see that it must go on top of a crust. 

The point value of a pie (when you box it) is the dollar value of its topmost card. When you box a pie, you score it, putting the top card in your score pile. The other cards go to the common discard pile. 

When you take a card from the assembly line, you must immediately play it. If there is no valid play, you can't take the card. Only some of the leftmost cards in the line are free. To claim the rightmost card, you must discard two cards from your hand. For the middle cards, you need to discard one. During a game round, if a player takes a card from the assembly line, the assembly line is not immediately refilled. This is only done at the end of the round. So player order is important. The early bird can get the free cards and also have more options. 

When refilling the assembly line, the cards are first shifted left to fill any gaps. Cards are then drawn from the deck to fill the rightmost spaces. So newer cards will be more expensive. 

The player order of the next round is determined by cards played in the current round. There is a preparation time at the top left corner of the cards. Whoever has the shortest preparation time gets to go first next round. If you do not play a card, i.e. you draw from the deck, or you box pies, you automatically go last next round. 

Some cards have an icon at the bottom left. This is the area majority aspect of the game. There are three main icon types - presidents, foremen and secretaries. At game end, you compare who has collected the most in each category. This gives bonus points. The icon in the photo above is not the secretaries. It is the grandma. This is a special card. If you have the grandma, during the president reckoning, you may convert one of your presidents to a foreman or secretary. 

The Play

The game is generally simple. The art is lovely. I found the change in player order every round tedious. The game procedure feels unnatural and unwieldy to me. When you play a card, you can't directly put it on your pie. You have to set it aside first, because after everyone has played, you need to compare prep time to determine the new turn order. I played many rounds and couldn't get used to the round procedure. It felt convoluted to me. When you pick a card from the assembly line, it must go directly into play, but when you draw a card from the draw deck, it goes into your hand. This may be a small difference, but I got confused and it made the game feel non-intuitive to me. 

You want to make pies of high values, and that means you want to make pies with crust, filling and topping. This seems to depend a lot on the luck of the draw. If a topping appears but you don't have the right filling, you are out of luck. You can't take the card into your hand, since anything you take from the assembly line must go into play in the current round. 

I can appreciate the importance of player order. You get more options, and you are more likely able to get a free card. In our game, we often had few or no cards in hand. That limited our options. First we couldn't take those cards from the assembly line which required discarding cards. That means we could either draw from the deck, or take the free card. The free card was not always playable, which meant we couldn't take it. Then we were left with just the blind draw. Maybe I just played poorly and I shouldn't have allowed myself to get into a situation with no cards in hand. 

Taking a card from the assembly line allows you to put a card into play with just one action, compared to drawing from the deck to your hand and then playing it from your hand, which is two actions. Instinctively, taking a card from the assembly line is the better option. It has double the efficiency. However when you have no hand cards, you can only take the free card, which severely limits your choices. Spending two actions allow you to do some planning and saving up of good cards. The cards go through your hand and you can do your strategising. However the cards are blind draws. Then you are dependent on luck. That doesn't seem fun. 

During play, you have to keep in mind the area majority competition - collecting cards with customer icons. The points from these are significant enough that you can't ignore them. 

My score pile at the end of a 2-player game.

The Thoughts

Unfortunately this is a game I doubt I will play again. The art is nice. It's a generally simple game. However I find the gameplay unintuitive and tedious for the amount of fun I get out of it. It also felt restrictive and it didn't allow me to plan or strategise much. 

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