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[Review] Piranha Pedro

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sedjtroll
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Joined: 07/21/2008

While cruising BSW last Saturday night I noticed again the new game available and I finally decided to give Piranha Pedro a shot. Someone was nice enough to teach me the game and I played a few. I thought I might as well share my thoughts on the game with you guys, in case you've been thinking about trying it or wondering what it's like. I hate re-inventing the wheel, so here's a decent description of the game from a review on BGG:

Gerald Cameron wrote:

Each player starts the game with the same set of twelve cards. There are three cards for each direction (shown by colour coding based on that direction's landmark - red for the town/north, yellow for the sun/east, green for the jungle/south and blue for the waterfall/west), with each card in a given direction allowing Pedro to move a different number of squares on the board (1, 2 or 3, indicated by the number of arrows on the card). In addition, each player has four stepping stones that they can play in front of Pedro. The players in Piranha Pedro direct the eponymous hero's wanderings by selecting and then simultaneously playing one of their set of twelve cards. Beginning with the card played by the current round's start player, Pedro moves a number of squares equal to the number of arrows on the card in the direction indicated by the colour, and then as indicated by the card of each subsequent player in sequence. After each movement round in which Pedro manages to stay out of the water, the start player rotates to the left one spot. In a two player game, the first player that round chooses two cards, one for Pedro's first move, and one for his third move, with the other player only choosing one. Cards played are flipped face down, but do not return to the players' hands, so a given direction/distance combination can only be played once until the players' hands are refreshed.

If Pedro moves onto an open water square during a player's turn, that player must play stepping stones from his reserve on the water square(s) he has directed Pedro onto. The stone remains until the end of the game, and, if Pedro crosses that square again, another stepping stone does not have to be played. If a player's direction moves Pedro across more open water squares than that player has stones left in his reserve, Pedro drops into the drink. Pedro also falls in if his orders put him on a square inhabited by a piranha, where no stones may be placed, or if he tries to move off of the edge of the board (sadly, he cannot reach any of the ground-based landmarks - I guess the water gets too deep for his stepping stones at board's edge).

When one of these conditions occurs, the current movement round ends, with the player whose card was being executed at the time choosing and taking a Piranha tile from the board. Pedro is then placed on the last safe square he moved across. All of the players then gain stepping stones based on the cards that they have played so far - none for each one arrow card played, one for each two arrow card played, and two for each three arrow card played, and then return all played cards to their hands. Play begins again with the next start player (that is, the player to the left of the start player from the last round). The first player to take two Piranhas for dropping Pedro in the water (three in a two player game) loses the game (and the game ends - there is no winner in Piranha Pedro, just a loser.

For starters let me remind you that I am a cynic, so take my opinions with a grain of salt.

The first thing I noticed about this game was, as Mr. Cameron says in his BGG review, that it's a simultaneous Action game. Everyone plays a card at the same time and they are resolved in turn order. This means that depending on where you are in the turn order of any given round, your play may be more or less obvious. You will also have more or less control over your affect on others. This part is kinda neat I guess, at least in the turns where you are early in turn order. I suppose many other games have this kind of turn order affect, even notable games like Puerto Rico (the more players, the more obvious the effect), so who am I to discount that aspect of the game?

The beef I had with Piranha Pedro was more the second and third things I noticed.

The second thing I noticed was that the game was very easy. Even when going late in the turn order, as long as you can count on your opponents to not be complete morons you can usually make a pretty safe play, ensure you won't be the loser who drops Pedro in the water, and even conserve some rocks. Now, it's not fair to fault a game for being easy. Certainly for kids or parents with kids this might be a fine game to play and have fun with. For me it's not particularly fun, especially if I'm guessing what my opponents will do and they just eventually run out of rocks. In a way it's like Citadels, where you can do better if you are able to figure out which role your opponents want to take. In much the same way perhaps this game could be treated like Citadels where you make plays that AREN'T optimal with respect to rocks, just so that other players end up having to use their rocks up themselves. This is where the meat of the game appears to be, and to play the game where everyone is interested in trying to manipulate their opponents into using up their rocks and eventually simply running out of options might be rather fun. However with so few piranhas it seems like it might be difficult to orchestrate any really tactical moves, and even if you do the fact that you can really only 'attack' the person to your left might be annoying for some. Of course the fact that in the end you want to 'attack' everyone, that you have to do it in a particular order might be excusable, except...

You can't end up 'attacking' everyone because of the third thing I noticed, and this to me is very annoying, there is no winner. There is a loser, and Gerald pointed out on BGG that this single loser might be a sore point for some (I didn't give it a second thought), but the fact that there is no winner made me think "What's the point of playing this game?" In the several games I played I don't think I took any fish at all. I could have gone on like that all day. And even if I didn't play the best out of the 6 people playing, I can guarantee I wouldn't play the worst and therefore I could play that game all day long and never lose. So what's the point? In addition to that, the games were pretty short. I would like the game much better if players were eliminated, and the last player standing were the winner. Or if a player getting a second fish (dying a second time) caused a scoring round (instead of a game end) and points were awarded based on remaining rocks, with negative points (or positive points?) for having a fish. Something interesting like that, so there's something to shoot for, would give this game some sense of purpose. Without that it's basically a waste of time. If I want to sit and watch, Law and Order is on TBS 7 days a week, and that's a lot more interesting than watching Piranha Pedro.

That's my 2 cents. Play this game with your kid to get them used to the idea, but then make some house rules and play to win. A game in which you play not to lose is a silly concept and to me hardly qualifies as a game. If something were done about the game end, maybe the suggestions I've made or maybe something else to give the game some purpose, then it could be a fun and interesting game. As is it's little more than a distraction from things like Saint Petersburg- which is an actual game at least until you figure out 'the system', which in that game takes a bit longer.

- Seth

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