Which pizza toppings are your favourite? Mushrooms? Pepperoni? Bacon? All of the above? You are in luck because Pizza Party is a rapid, dice rolling game of building a pizza. You are racing another player to build a full pizza first. Each die has a different pizza topping and to complete a slice, you need to put corresponding die faces on each space. Pizza Party isn’t really a game. It is rolling dice as quickly as possible and yelling ‘Mama Mia!’. There is nothing more to explore.
Or is there? How do you review a game that is so simple? The answer is to over analyse every minute detail and think deeply about the core of this hobby.
One of the first questions we need to ask, is what constitutes a game? Is it mechanical elements? Fun factors? Competition? Fail states? Theme? What is the difference between rolling dice aimlessly and rolling them in Pizza Party? For me, and this might not apply to you, it all comes down to intent. If the game’s creator and design team intend to make a game, then that is exactly what they’ve done. You would never consider rolling a regular six-sided dice on a table to be ‘play’, would you? However, when instigating a game of something as simple as Pizza Party, then you might say something like “Would you like to play…?”. This simple statement is one of intent. One conveyed to you by the designer and then further extended to the person joining you.
So, we can confirm that Pizza Party is a game even though it boils down to little more than quickly rolling dice. Pizza Party is a game solely about luck and dexterity. You might not think that dexterity would play a huge role, but it does. Roll too slowly, and you won’t see the die faces that you need. Roll erratically, then you will have to chase after escaping dice. If you become overeager, then you can waste successful die results before you realise what has happened. You need to be equal parts cautious and hasty. Are you able read the results and place them on your slice with speed? While this is a skill, does it even matter? There isn’t any strategy involved.
When you reduce board games, what are they other than placing things on other things to make something happen? This is just as true in Pizza Party as it is with Terra Mystica. The games could not be more different, but at their simplest level, they are very similar. Now, I’m not saying that Terra Mystica has no strategy involved. That would be madness.
However, what dictates strategy? It would be options, right? The choice of going left or right, up, or down, buy or sell. This allows you to form a strategy. If Pizza Party allowed you to work on two pizza slices at the same time, then it would add choice to a game that has none. As it stands, this is not the case. Pizza Party has no decisions or strategy, and yet it is still a game and a form a play. Curious isn’t it?
Finally, let’s talk about theme. Board games are abstractions and theme allows them to feel real and tangible. Certain games rely on their themes like a crutch, while others marry theme and mechanics perfectly. Others still, return to the abstracted roots of things like Chess and Go. Does Pizza Party need to be about pizza? Rolling dice to place on slices could easily be rolling troops to place in areas of a castle. The theme and mechanics aren’t at odds, but the game never needed to be about pizza. Was this decision, then, one meant to target a specific audience? Were pizza lovers clamouring for a theme dedicated to their passion? Are they now sated thanks to Pizza Party? I’m being ridiculous, but every choice a designer makes is for a reason. It is likely that pizza is the theme because it is child-friendly, and this matches the simplistic nature of the game.
However, theming itself is always important. The theme of a game allows a sense of escapism. You might be hunting monsters in a dungeon, tending to your farm or commanding armies, each theme gives the illusion that you are performing these acts. From the heaviest euro to the most thematic games, this holds true. Even completely abstracted games like Chess allow the player to feel like they are in command of a great army. Pizza Party could easily have been matching numbers rather than toppings, and you would mechanically have the same game. In fact, you could go make that game right now with some paper and D6’s. However, a game is more than its mechanical elements. If somebody said, “Do you want to match die faces with the numbers on this paper?” does that sound as interesting as “Do you want to make a pizza by rolling dice to get the right toppings?”. They are both mechanically the same, but one gives you a splash of colour and theme to help sell the idea.
This might seem like a lot of unnecessary information about a game that is so very basic. It is unlikely anyone would recommend Pizza Party. If you want a real-time dice game, then there are better choices such as Escape from the Temple. You have no reason to play Pizza Party unless you have small children. They are the only ones who are going to have any kind of ‘fun’ with Pizza Party. That aside, even something as simple as this gives us an opportunity to understand what makes a game a game.
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