Bake Baby Bake
Get your bake on in Renegade game’s title that teaches you its ok to put bananas in apple pie. Pie Town sets you in the role of baking business mogul who won’t shy away from a bit of subterfuge to see yourself victorious. Each player plays a owner of a local bakery competing in the local apple pie competition. Whoever’s pies claim the most fame by the end of the baking competition wins. You gain fame by baking pies, selling pies and having your pies sold.
Pie Town is a worker placement game where your workers are dice! The dice face shows you how “happy” your worker is and therefore how good they do at the tasks given them. While most jobs will actually raise your workers happiness, there are some that lower it so it is important to plan what tasks to send which workers to.
The last fun twist to the game is that each player secretly selects three ingredients at the start of the game to create their bakery’s secret apple pie recipe. While secret recipe pies sell for quite a lot of fame at the shop, it is important to note that everyone else is trying to figure out your recipe so they can sell pies with your recipe! This game of deduction and misdirection adds a nice light element of bluffing and planning which is quite enjoyable.
It’s Off to Work You Go!
Pie town is played over a series of 9 rounds with each player placing one of their workers until all have been places. As with all worker placement games, the meat of the game is based off of determining what action to take when. Let me walk you through all the actions your workers can take. There are effectively two areas to the game: your home bakery, and the town locations.
There are three locations in town that you can send your workers to. The first and most notable is the orchard. Here you can send your worker to pick fruit from surrounding areas up to the number of his happiness as represented on their dice. For example, if you had a worker with a 3 dice face, they can pick up to three ingredients from the surrounding areas to where they are placed in the orchard. This is the main way that you will collect ingredients to bake your pies. There are two levels of ingredients, common and rare. Common ingredients are apples of three colors where rare ingredients are either pumpkins, bananas or strawberries. These components are what you will mix and match to make your pies. It is worth noting that in pie town you can make 4 different types of pies: a common pie that just contains common ingredients, a rare pie that has one rare ingredient, a special pie that has two rares, and finally,s your secret recipe pie. Along with providing you the resources needed to bake, harvesting also raises your workers happiness by 1.
The second location in the town is the pie convention. There is only one spot for a worker here each round so it is first come first served and it is the only spot with two action options. If your worker is here you can choose to change out one ingredient on your secrete recipe if you feel like the competition may be on to you or you can choose who is first player next round granting you the valuable first choice in rounds to follow. This location can raise or lower your happiness depending on the choice you make.
The last location in town is the pie shop. Here your workers can sell pies to gain fame and draw two random ingredients. This location is interesting in that what you sell is based on where you place your worker. You can either sell all of one “type” of pie or the bottom most pie from each type. All pies in the selected area are sold and give fame to their baker regardless of who actually placed a worker there. This give you some interesting choices one what to sell where. Often times I found myself sending a 6 happiness worker to sell an opponent’s pie because I would get more fame from the sale than they got from the pie itself. The pies grant fame based on the type with common pies granting only 2 fame and secrete recipe pies granting 7.
The other location of note in Pie Town is your bakery. This you home base where you store ingredients, bake pies and hire more workers. There are three actions you can take at your Bakery and they play a key role on getting a leg up on the competition.
The first action you can take is to hire a new worker. This process costs a worker 2 happiness because resume sifting is no fun but at the end of the round you will have a new worker join you team to help. You start the game with 2 workers and can gain 2 additional workers through the hire action.
The next action available to you is the most important: baking your pies. Workers are able to bake a number of pies equal to their happiness while gaining a small amount of fame per pie baked. Each pie you bake requires 3 ingredients. To bake a pie you must have the necessary ingredients in your storage area at your bakery. You must then select which type of pies you are making… secretly select your ingredients per pie and then put them all together and lay them out on the table for others to see. This proves you are able to make the pies you claim and is especially important if you make a secret recipe pie. Since you are forced to reveal all ingredients used to make your pies it is easy for others to figure out your secret recipe if you are not careful to hide the ingredients in with several other pies. All of the pies you bake must go to the store to be sold later. This step offers some fun options and is where you must contemplate the risks involved with getting out some secrete recipe pies. If you succeed you can get a lot of fame but each pie baked could lead others closer to figuring out your recipe. If they succeed, when they bake pies they can attempt to bake a pie with YOUR recipe and score it as a secret recipe. Better bake carefully!
The final action in the game is the upgrade action, which allows you to send a worker to upgrade the bakery. Here you can choose to upgrade your ingredient storage from 8 to 14, increase your fame gained per pie baked from 1 to 2, or unlock a second over for even more baking.
That is all of the actions in the game. You will go through the rounds each playing one worker at a time until all workers are placed. You will then restock the orchard with new ingredients and go again until all rounds are complete. After that is the final bake off where you have one last chance to score big!
And the Winner Is….
At the final bake off each player secretly marks what they believe each other player’s secrete recipe is. Then moving around the table each player reveals their guesses and scores fame based on how many ingredients they got right. This is a enjoyable mini game of sorts that is great for breaking apart close games at the end or really solidifying your lead if you are smart(or lucky).
Once all the fame is added to the track the baker with the most fame is crowned king (or queen) of Pie Town!
Fresh Out of the Oven Fun
Pie Town is a fun and light worker placement game with a few nice tweaks and a really unique theme. I would say this falls into the “gateway game” category, as while there were a few components to how things correlated, overall your choices per round were very straightforward and simple to deduce. Pie Town’s multiple rounds make it easy for new players or even newer gamers to really learn the feel of the game without sacrificing a whole game to get up to speed. I do feel like there is enough subtle strategy and careful planning necessary to keep all at the table interested. From stealing the ingredients you need to blatant hate placing workers where other players need to go to sell pies, Pie Town has its share of calculated counter play which I found enjoyable for a game that also felt approachable from a depth perspective. The dice manipulation, while light, was enjoyable as well but I will say by the end of the game is almost a non factor because most negative actions are only needed to be performed a set number of times.
As for critiques, I feel that Pie Town is very fun with 4 players but relatively less so with fewer. The great joy of the game is from the mad scramble for resources and the fun guessing game to figure out your opponents secret recipe. This diminishes drastically as does the overall game impact of the final bake off with less players as your chance to score fame becomes so trivial it turns into an afterthought.
I really enjoyed Pie Town and think it fits a unique niche in the entry level but still thoughtful strategy category that I love to see in a table top game. I believe Renegade excels at making games just like Pie Town that are both unique with great aspects to them but still are simple enough to easily teach and enjoy by all walks of board gamers. With all that said, Pie Town easily has the blue ribbon for best baking game around. If you are looking for a enjoyable worker placement game with a group of 4 bakers or just love making apple pies then Pie Town is for you.
Category: Worker placement, Dice manipulation
Pros: Easy to learn, Great depth, Unique theme
Cons: Not ideal at lower player counts, Dice manipulation falls off late game