A game that plays equally well with my family and game group is a bit of an obsession of mine. The fantastic tile drafting game Micropolis achieved this, but I'm always on the hunt for more. Pie Town promised this with an intriguing mix of deduction and worker placement. Players compete to keep their secret recipe just that while selling the best pies around.
Opening the box of Pie Town is great, the wonderful chunky dice, tree shaped board, and pre made little boxes to store your secret ingredients in are all cutesy in the right ways. These components are mostly good, apart from the upgrade tokens which are a little small.
Set up is mostly straight forward apart from the selection of your secret recipe, which because it requires blind drawing and a certain mix of ingredients, can be fiddly. Ingredients come in two types - rare and common. As you bake your pies the mix of these you use will determine how valuable your pie is. The trick is that every time you bake you must show the ingredients to the other players, giving vital information to the other players if you choose to bake your secret recipe as one of your pies.
This deduction element is a key part of the gameplay with Pie Town, as if you discover another players recipe you can earn extra points, and they earn less. They can change their recipe but it will waste a turn to do so.
The rest of the game proceeds through worker placement with the clever use of dice as workers. You start with two worker dice and their face up number represents their 'level'. Placements will influence workers level, adding to or reducing it, meaning that you will have to level up workers to access some of the placements. Also at certain places you can put a higher level workers over your opponents to peek at their secret ingredients.
This dice placement is my favourite part of Pie Town. It makes sense and is used super well. Higher levels can also improve actions such as harvesting ingredients, but at the cost of of your levels. You start with two dice but can unlock an additional two as you play. The game also provide a dry wipe pen and wipeable tile for you to make your notes on.
Sweet Potato Pie
So there are a few elements in this game, and for the most part in Pie Town they work together well. The deduction elements sometimes feel a little tacked on at times and create a bit of a juxtaposition. Almost everything about Pie Town screams family hit, but the deduction elements are just a step to far for most kids in my experience.
The dice make the worker levels and placement quite straight forward, and the theme is great, and you could easily ignore the deduction elements with some house ruling, but it feels a little like a missed opportunity.
Slice of Heaven?
Ultimately for me this game falls just short of staying in my collection. It isn't quite 'deep' enough and not quite 'family' enough for me. However if you have children who are up on their deduction, and looking to learn worker placement then this could be a really good choice.