Posted by: gschloesser | August 9, 2011

Pig Pile

Design by:  Richard Borg
Published by:  R&R Games

3 – 6 Players, 30 minutes
Review by:  Greg J. Schloesser

EDITOR’S NOTE:  This review also appears in Counter Magazine # 15

Richard Borg, designer of Liar’s Dice (Bluff), Battle Cry and numerous other games, has a new one:  Pig Pile. Yes, this is decidedly on the ‘lighter’ side, with players attempting to get rid of their cards and collect small, rubbery pigs.  The game is essentially a remake of the Finnish card game Paskahousa, with a few twists thrown in to give it a slightly different feel.

The deck of 80 cards is numbered 1 – 12 (with some wild cards), each depicting cute, overweight pigs in various poses, most of which involve munching corn.  A few numbers also carry special powers and bear clever names:

Ewe Turn:  Reverses the sequence of play from clock-wise to counter-clockwise (and vice versa).

Hog Wash:  Clears the Pig Pile, discarding those cards for the round.

Hog Tied:  Forces the next player to lose a turn.

Cuteness aside, the game is actually quite fun.  No, there isn’t a ton of deep strategy here, but just enough to keep it interesting.  Plus, it has somewhat of a ‘Rummy‘ feel to it, and I’ve warmed up to Rummy considerably, thanks to the excellent Mystery Rummy series.

Each player is dealt a hand of six cards, plus three cards which are dealt face-down in front of each player. These three face-down cards are known as the ‘Slop’.  From their hand of six cards, each player places three cards face-up in front of them.  These three face-up cards cannot be played until a player gets rid of all of the cards in his hand.  The rest of the deck is placed face-down and forms the draw pile.

Each player, in a clock-wise fashion (well, at least initially!), plays one or more cards face-up to the center of the table.  This is the beginning of the ‘pig pile’.  If a player opts to play more than one card, they must all bear the same value.  The main rule to follow is that the card or cards played MUST have a value equal to or greater than the top card on the pig pile.  The ‘Hog Wild’ card is a wild card and can assume any value.  When it is on top of the pig pile, however, it is considered to have a value of zero.

If a player cannot make a legal play, he must take the entire contents of the pig pile into his hand.  Since players are attempting to get rid of all of their cards, this is NOT a good thing and should be avoided whenever possible. 

Once a player depletes all of the cards in his hand, he may then begin playing the three face-up cards he has in front of him.  Once these are depleted, he can play the face-down cards.  Of course, he has no idea as to the value of these cards, so it simply a matter of crossing your fingers and hoping it will be a legal play.  If not, the player must take the entire pig pile into his hand.

This actually isn’t as bad as it sounds, however.  You see, once the cards are in your hand and no longer face-down in front of you, you now have more control over how to play them.  It is rare that a player will be able to play all three of his ‘slop’ cards without having to take the pig pile into his hand.  Thus, once a player depletes his three face-down cards, he has much more control and is nearing the point where he goes out.

The first player to deplete ALL of his cards receives three pigs.  Play continues until the second player goes out (he receives 2 pigs).  All other players receive one pig EXCEPT the player who possesses the most cards.  He goes pigless.  Play continues until all the little pigs are taken (there are 40 of the piggies) or a pre-determined number of rounds are completed.

One of the main strategies in the game is washing the pig pile (discarding it) at opportune moments.  This can be accomplished by playing the ‘8’ card (Hog Wash), OR by playing the third number card or third Hog Wild card in a row onto the pig pile.  This, too, will wash away the pile.  Further, the player who accomplishes this feat is allowed to take another turn.  It is a powerful play.  This tactic comes in especially useful when you have just been stuck with a large collection of cards from the pig pile.  Often, you will be able to play several sets of cards in a row, washing the deck several times in succession and drastically reducing the size of your hand.

Another strategy is keeping a careful eye on the hand size or face-up cards of your opponents, particularly the players to your immediate left and right.  If they are low on cards, or down to their face-up cards or slop pile, attempt to play a ‘Hog Tied’ card (forcing them to lose their turn) or high valued cards to the pig pile.  This may make it impossible for your opponent to make a legal play, thereby forcing them to take the entire pile.

That’s about it.  Simple as it is, however, we botched a few rules in our first few games.  One really must read the rules and examples very carefully.  Although they’re all in there, they are really not as clear as I would prefer.

No, this isn’t Spiel des Jahre material, but it is fun to play.  Both my gaming group and my family and friends have found it to be quite entertaining.  It’s one which should continue to see regular table time.

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