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Pie Town: A Great Game for Pi Day 2019

Pie Town Box

We are celebrating Pi Day 2019 with a game of Pie Town!

Key Lime? Lemon Meringue? Perhaps a simple peach or blueberry? I don’t think so! Typically, I make a variety of pies every March 14th for Pi Day (you can find out more about Pi Day and its origins at the Exploratorium website). They have ranged from sweet to savory. This year, however, I have decided to include a board game with our festivities as well: Pie Town from Renegade Game Studios! In this 2-4 player game, players will bake, sell, and try a variety of recipes for pies while competing for points and trying to discover each other’s secret recipes. With all of the teased “spies, lies, and apple pies” and other shenanigans going on at the table, will we still be able to keep an ear out for the oven timer or will we miss it due to the excitement of the game?

Pie Town Components

Great quality components!
(All photos of Renegade Game Studios product were taken and edited by KristaG)

Pie Town was designed by Daniel Fremgen with art from Charlie Bink and Jeanne Torres. Hidden behind a whimsical color scheme and atypical cooking theme lies a fairly strategic game involving worker placement and a light hidden information mechanic. The game itself was released in 2017 but did not make it onto my game shelf until just last year. As stated above, the game is playable by 2-4 players, but we found we enjoyed it more at 2 or 3 players, with 3 being the “sweet spot” for a player count. Pie Town’s component quality is the first thing that really catches the eye upon opening the box. The cardboard is colorful and thick, the dice are surprisingly large and awesome, and the wooden markers are a really nice touch. The game also comes with dry erase markers to use during the game and while these are not my favorite things in the world to use during a game, I do appreciate having them there if a player wants to use them while trying to deduce another player’s secret recipe.

A set up of the 3 main game boards. The game itself takes up a lot of space for everything that goes on the table!

Setting up a game of Pie Town is explained exceptionally well in the rule book, but I need to make note that it also requires a good bit of space as there are 3 actual game boards to set up without including the individual player boards! The Market Board, Score Board, and Orchard Board are placed in the middle of the play area. Each player then receives a Store Board, character card, said character’s matching components (12 Pie Tokens, 4 Worker Dice, 3 Upgrade Tokens, and a Score Marker), a Secret Recipe box, dry erase marker, and 1 of each of the 3 Common Ingredients (yellow, green, and red apples). These Common Ingredients are placed in Storage on the player’s Store Board. All players begin with 2 Worker Dice in play. They are placed in the Break Room with one die starting at a value of “2” and the other at “3.” The remaining Worker Dice are left off to the side for later use in the game. All 3 of the Upgrade Tokens are placed in their respective locations according to the picture (i.e. the Chef’s Hat Upgrade on the space marking “1” VP for each Pie Baked in the Kitchen). Once each player’s Store Board is set up, they each place their Score Marker as well as placing the tiny rolling pin shaped Round Marker on their proper starting spaces on the Score Board. Before setting up the Orchard Board, each player must first choose their Secret Recipe. Each player may choose 2 Common Ingredient Tokens and 1 Rare Ingredient Token (Pumpkin, Strawberry, or Banana) to make up their recipe and then secretly places them in their recipe box. All remaining ingredients are mixed together in the cloth bag before distributing 2 Ingredients per space at random on the Orchard Board. As the game scales based on player count, there will be some empty hex spaces on the Orchard Board in games with fewer players. The Chef’s Hat or Toque shaped First Player Marker is given out at random before the game begins. Typically, we decide based on who cooked last.

Pie Town Combos

Possible ingredient combinations for baking a pie (minus example Secret Recipes)

Pie Town is played over 9 rounds and concludes with a Final Bake Off round to determine the winner. Beginning with the starting player and going clockwise, all players take turns moving their Worker Dice one at a time from their Break Rooms to an available action space. There are 7 actions to choose from: Orchard, Bake, Market, Pie Convention, Upgrade, Hire, or Spy. Each of these actions is drastically different from the others and, if timed right, can seriously impact a player’s turn. Most of these actions are also explained on their respective spaces on the multiple boards as well as in the rule book so I’m only going to give a basic rundown of each one. Going to the Orchard is where a player collects ingredients by placing a worker in a space on the Orchard Board and choosing a number of ingredients from the surrounding spaces equal to the rank of the worker (for example, a Rank 2 worker can pick 2 total ingredients). Without ingredients, a player can’t bake pies so this is almost always an integral step as long as there is still room for them in Storage! When choosing to Bake, a player can use the ingredients in their Storage to bake any number of pies up to the rank of their worker. There are 4 different types of pies that can be baked: Common-Common-Common Ingredient, Common-Common-Rare, Common-Rare-Rare, or Secret Recipe. Players may also attempt to bake an opponent’s Secret Recipe. To bake a pie, a player chooses which ingredients they will be using and returns them to the bag. Baked pies are added as Pie Tokens to the Market Board in columns based on which type was baked. Each type of pie is worth a different number of points once they are sold, which is what happens when a player chooses to use a worker for the Market action. On the Market Board, there are 2 options for selling pies: selling the bottom row or selling all of a column. In order to sell pies in either fashion, a player must be able to sell at least one of their own pies.

Pie Town Secret Recipe Box

At several points in the game, the secret recipes will come into play — especially during the Final Bake Off when trying to earn extra bonus points at the end of the game!

With all of the ingredient collection going on, it is highly possible for a player to be running out of space in storage or have a ton of pies ready to bake. To help with this, there are 3 different Upgrade actions available for the Store Board during the game: expanding storage from 8 to 14 Ingredients, upgrading the Kitchen so 2 points are earned per pie baked instead of 1, or a second “Bake” space can be opened up, which allows a player to Bake twice in one round. These upgrades are immediate so a player can use them right after achieving them. When going to the Pie Convention, a player may either change one of their Secret Recipe ingredients or choose to assign a new starting player for the next round. Sometimes going first is extremely advantageous so this is never a bad idea if you a worker to spare! Speaking of having workers, 2 is a very small number to have when trying to run a growing Pie Empire! Therefore, the Hire option is a great early game action choice. When a new Worker Die is hired, it is placed in the Hire Space on the “1” face, but can not be sent out to work right away (I like to think of it as a new hire that must attend orientation before it can start working). Up to 2 additional Worker Dice can be hired per player per game and only by an “experienced” worker with a rank of “3” or higher. The last and probably most complicated to explain action is spying. That secret recipe that player are hoarding in their recipe boxes? They can be learned through some covert operations using some experienced workers. In order for this to happen, a player must have an available worker that is at a higher level than the workers placed in the Orchard or Market. The more experienced worker is then placed on top of the other and uses the differences in rank to randomly look at an equal number of secret ingredients (if a rank 4 is placed on a rank 3 worker, for example, only 1 ingredient is learned). After spying, a worker may continue to complete either the Orchard or Market action as normal. Once all players have placed all of their workers, the Worker Dice are recalled to their respective Break Rooms and has their level adjusted based on their performed action (Note: there is no dice rolling during this entire game!). Some actions adjust in a positive manner while others will decrease a worker’s rank. After the completion of the 9th round, the Final Bake Off is held. During the bake-off, players take turns trying to prove they know the secret recipes of their opponents by pulling ingredients out of the ingredients bag in order to try to earn additional points. Once the bake-off concludes, all unsold pies in the Market are sold for 1 point and final scores are checked. The player with the highest score is declared the winner.

Pi Day 2019 Pie

We baked a wildberry pie with a lemon crust this year for our geeky pie!

In my honest opinion, Pie Town isn’t a game that hits it out of the park when it comes to worker placement, but it is a great one to play as a family or at themed events such as our Pi Day celebration. The artwork is more than family appropriate with its bright colors and fun characters. Pie Town’s theme is also still one that I find to be unique even amongst other cooking games. As I stated earlier, we found that this game works better with 2 or 3 players than with 4. At 2 players, there are almost too many options available, which makes the game seem a little long – especially once you have hired all of your workers and completed all of the upgrades. At 3 players, though, there’s a bit more competition and player interaction without the game feeling “cluttered” with so many workers on the board. While I don’t think it will ever be one of my favorite games, Pie Town is definitely one that I’d bring to the table to play again. All in all, we learned that it really pairs well with actual pie!

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