One Pizza The Puzzle (Part 5)



As usual, when I wrote the base rules for the game, I kept inventing new mechanics and ideas that I wanted in the game. Unless they are clearly much better than the rules for the base game, I move them to a section "Ideas for Expansions" by default.

These ideas mainly fell into four categories:

  • Ingredients: more ingredients that do cool stuff. (Although I don't have room for them on a pizza, so these would act more like a "chameleon" and could be stand-ins for any other ingredients.)

  • Special Buildings: more buildings and locations on the map that do something special when you're on or around them. For example, maybe there is a small market where you can trade any ingredient for another one.

  • Pizza Police: add traffic signs into the game (like one-way routes), but compensate this by allowing players to break traffic rules. However, if you break the law with the pizza police watching, you are in trouble! (I don't know yet how that works, or how the police moves/operates, but this is the main idea.)

  • Extensions to the core gameplay: simple rules or mechanics that change or expand one of the core mechanics. For example, here I could re-introduce the fact that the first player to deliver a pizza gets a tip.

It felt like the Pizza Police was the most impactful expansion, which is why I wanted to start there. There wasn't a concept of "breaking traffic laws" anymore at this point, though, so I had to bring that back for this expansion.

(As I create more of these games, I keep wondering whether the word expansion is even a good fit. These are more like add-ons, or upgrades, or higher difficulty levels which you often see in video games. An "expansion" feels more suitable for something that adds like twenty new components and a whole extra game board. Something bigger.)

Pizza Police

Breaking traffic laws has many consequences. Both in real life, and in my pizza game.

Why? For example, without those laws you can just turn around 180 degrees on the same road. This means you can zigzag back-and-forth around an ingredient building to just get infinite ingredients! (Within a few turns, you can have like 10 tomatoes.)

It also means you can go against the usual direction, or become much more aggressive when cutting off other players.

Therefore, whatever rule I invent for the pizza police, needs to make sure the board stays readable, there are no exploits, and there is a way to (strategically) counter the aggressiveness.

Here are the images from the final rulebook for extra clarity, below I'll explain everything in detail.

Police Line of Sight

Police Move

Readability: at first, I wanted to make police identical to couriers, in the sense that they also move along a line that you cannot cross. This didn't work. There are already many lines on the board and it would be hard to retrace whether a line came from the police or another player.

The most logical solution, of course, was to make police lines different (dotted, curvy, zigzag, whatever). In practice, however, this was hard to discern as well. (Most players have trouble drawing straight lines as it is, so they might accidentally draw a police line.)

All of these solutions were just ... messy and convoluted, which is why I eventually decided to pick the simplest option: police are represented by icons at a specific location. To move them, simply write their icon at a location at most X steps away. No line needed, just teleport the thing. (As of right now, 8 steps of movement seems like a good amount, but that will need playtesting.)

No exploits: I added an extra rule to this expansion. "You may only possess one ingredient of each type." I like these kinds of rules. They solve the issue of "collecting infinite ingredients", whilst adding an extra layer of strategy, because you need to plan when you collect specific ingredients. That's a win-win! (I still need to see if it actually works and is fun to play, though.)

Counter the aggressiveness: if I allow players to move the police, they can protect themselves. ("Oh no, that player might cut me off and ruin my plans, let's move the police here so they can't do that anymore!)

Whilst writing the rules, I also realized that it would be useful if players could remove the police. I don't like creating an extra action or ingredient for this. Why? Because the action isn't that powerful (so eating one of your ingredients feels like a waste) and because I don't want players to be able to remove police whenever they want.

If somebody places police to foil your plans, and you can just be like "oh well, guess I'll immediately remove the police", then the whole mechanic doesn't work.

Eventually, I came up with the following: "whenever you pass over a police icon with your courier, you may remove a different police icon for free"

This is easy to learn and use, but also creates strategy: if you want to break traffic rules, you need to stay away from police ... but also close enough that you can remove other police icons if needed.

Special Ingredients I

I decided to work on the "ingredients" expansion next, because it felt the simplest. Just draw some more ingredients, invent cool actions for them, and make them appear on the board.

Unfortunately, it wasn't that simple.

My brain is really good at coming up with ideas, which is both a blessing and a curse, because it also means that even the simplest ideas can blow up into something much bigger and harder to figure out.

Eventually, I saw three types of ingredients:

  • Chameleons: can be a substitute for regular ingredients, or somehow make it easier to get them.

  • Superheroes: are useless when it comes to baking a pizza, but have a really powerful action associated with them

  • Side dishes: can be served on top of a regular pizza for a certain bonus. These can be optional or required (in which case they appear next to the pizza icon on the board).

Because I wanted at least two of each type, this expansion ultimately received 7 more ingredients.

The chameleons are the easiest: just make them appear on the board, and players can figure out themselves (during the game) how they want to use them.

After that, the side dishes were also relatively easy to implement. It's quite intuitive that adding extra sauce (or a nice dessert) to a pizza order will earn you more money. (The most difficult part was adding these icons to the game board, because it was already quite full.)

The superheroes, however, took some time to figure out. In my notes, I wrote the following ideas:

  • "I want something that allows you to save or delay turns." (Because of all the same reasons I mentioned in the paragraphs about Timing before.)

  • "I want something that can definitely cut off another player." (Because you have to extend your current line, you can never 100% cut off a part of the board. Other players can simply take a detour and then follow your line until they get where they want.)

Special Ingredients II

After sleeping on it, I woke up the next day with the ultimate solution to the second problem: line merging. If you stand in the same cell as someone else, or an adjacent cell, you may merge the lines into one (by connecting the endpoints).

Both players must reset their courier to the start, because, well, they can't extend their line anymore. (Although they suffer no extra penalty for this.)

This allows you to immediately end another player's courier, whilst also creating a line that you can't move along, because it's connected all the way through.

The first problem is still a work in progress. I'm thinking about an ingredient that multiplies with itself. Let's say the ingredient is ... lettuce. If you have 1 Lettuce, you may eat it to take 1 action (which is useless). But if you have 2 lettuces, you may take 2x2 = 4 actions in a row (really powerful!) If you have 3, you may take 3x3 = 9 actions, and so on.

It has a nice risk/reward balance, because you need to collect multiple lettuces over time to get a huge benefit. The problem is that this quickly becomes too powerful, so I'm still thinking about this.

I'm done with thinking! (About this expansion, not in general.)

In the last few playtests, I said that it was too easy (and too powerful) to get new couriers. As I was solving some other problems, I saw the focus of the game shift more towards "line splitting". That's when you send a courier in two different directions. This can happen by eating the Broccoli ingredient, but there are also movement shapes that have a split directly inside of them.

As such, the "Superhero" ingredients ended up as a way to punish players if they split their line too often. For example, this is the "Garlic" action:

> If another courier is (at most) 3 cells away, you may steal 2 ingredients from them.

If you split your line a lot, you have many open-ended paths all over the board. This increases the probability that someone is 3 cells away from an endpoint on your line, allowing them to use this Garlic action!

The "Side dish" ingredients also became slightly more complex. It was boring to have an ingredient that "always adds X money when delivered with an order", because there was no strategy there. It was always better to have it, and you were sure about the reward.

Instead, the three side dishes now do slightly different things:

  • Kale: when delivered with an order, pick one reward: either get 2 money or an extra courier. (The simplest one, but at least you get some strategy here.)

  • Dessert: when delivered with an order, the reward depends on how many ingredients are in your pizza! So, preferably, you'd add a dessert to a large pizza ... but that also brings a great risk with it, as it's much harder to deliver those.

  • Smoothie: these are required, which means they automatically show up on the board and you must add them to a specific pizza. However, they also have a very strong "Eat" action (duplicate one of your ingredients for free), giving players a hard decision: use it for that pizza, or use it for its action?

Below is the final list of ingredients in this expansion.

Special Ingredients

This devlog continues at part 6, with even more talk about expansions!