Full disclosure: A review copy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Ninja Pizza Party was provided by IDW Games.
It’s been an IDW-heavy time of year, with Towers of Arkhanos and Batman: Gotham City Under Siege reviews already last month. I had covered Amoeba previously, so that was the whole of my recent shipment. This time, I go back to a dark place in my mind and attempt to review another Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game, after my previous go at it. Wasn’t my favorite game, to say the least, but I reviewed it, so let’s see how this second run goes.
In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Ninja Pizza Party, the game’s name isn’t the only mouthful you have to deal with, as you try to make pizzas to satisfy hungry characters. Thankfully, because they live in a nightmare world, they only want some creative topping combinations on their pizzas. You’re a crowd-pleaser, so you figure you can probably make some pizzas that work pretty well together, as long as you can find where you left the snails and the toasted marshmallows in your kitchen. Don’t think too much about that one. Will you be able to feed these hungry characters? Or will your attempts end up being a flash in the pan?
First, shuffle up the Customer Cards:
Place one fewer than the number of players face-up. If playing with two players, reveal two Customers.
Divide the Pizza Slice cards into equal stacks for each player, and give them a shuffled stack, face-down:
Set the point tokens aside, for now:
You’re ready to start!
The game takes place over a series of rounds, in which players attempt to satisfy customers by making … weird pizzas according to their needs.
To start a round, players count down from three simultaneously. Then, the round is played in real time. To start making a pizza, flip the top card of your Pizza Slice deck and then choose:
- Add it to your pizza
- Put it in the discard
If you add it to your pizza, place it adjacent to an existing slice, provided that at least one of the ingredients on the slices matches the slice it’s being placed adjacent to. If it’s a Kitchen Sink Slice (has every ingredient on it), you may place it adjacent to any slice, but you may only play one of those per pizza. This means that the last piece you play for a pizza must match both slices on either side of it.
If you choose to discard the slice, put it in the discard pile face-up near the player on your left. You may not retrieve slices from the discard; who would want a pizza you pulled out of the trash?
When you run out of slices in your Pizza Slice pile, you may take the discard from the player on your right and turn it face-down to form a new Pizza Slice pile.
When you’ve finished assembling your six-slice pizza, yell “Cowabunga” (because why not) and take one of the Customer Cards. You’re done for the rest of the round! You can only make one pizza.
After all Customer Cards have been taken, the round ends. Now you score!
- Your pizza must be properly assembled to score points. This means that you have to follow the adjacency rules and have only one Kitchen Sink slice, maximum. If not, return your Customer Card.
- If any players returned Customer Cards, the player who didn’t take one may choose from those if their incomplete pizza is still correct.
- Score 1 point per Pizza Slice card that shows your chosen Customer’s favorite topping.
If any player has scored 15 points, the player with the most points wins! If not, shuffle your pizza with your Pizza Slice pile to make a new Pizza Slice pile, deal out new Customers, and start again!
Player Count Differences
I would not recommend it at 2. At two, players can effectively shut each other out by finishing any pizza, so it’s more of a race to see how quickly you can get six pieces down. There’s very little strategy to it; it’s all speed, at that point. If you shut your opponent out, it doesn’t matter if you score 1, 2, or 6; they score nothing, every time. It’s just not as interesting. At higher player counts, you have more options, but there’s more risk, as any player could take the scoring card you have your eye on. Be careful with that, but I think that’s where the fun lies. My recommendation is definitely going to skew towards the higher end of the player count, for this one.
- Speed over all things, other than accuracy, at two players. When you take one of the scoring slices, they can’t score, so you might as well block them every time. It’s a really mean way to play the game, but, I mean, if you’re trying to win, you could be like that.
- The Kitchen Sink piece is very useful; try to leave it open on one side. It lowers the difficulty you’ll face trying to add another piece to finish your pizza. If it’s the last piece you play, great! If it’s not, try to make the piece adjacent to it the last piece you play; it’ll make your life a lot easier.
- Sometimes it’s better to make a workable pizza rather than an optimal one. If you try to make an optimal one, you risk getting clowned on by another player who steals the exact scoring card you were going for. I’m not saying go for the average, but it might be worth burning two candles at once and trying to make a decent double pizza rather than an optimal pizza.
- On that note, if you see someone going for an optimal pizza, clown on them. It’ll be worth it, I promise. It’s extremely rude, but most lessons are best learned on the job, where the job is getting dunked on by a friend because you put all your pizza eggs in one pizza basket. On the plus side, the metaphor here really got away from me, too.
- Don’t be last. If you’re last, you don’t score anything, which is the least radical possible thing you can do.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I do naturally have an affinity for real-time games. I just think they’re really fun???
- Seems like it could be played pretty happily by families. It’s got silly stuff to engage the kids without being too uninteresting or random that you regret having to play it with them. I don’t know if I’d be jazzed if this became my kid’s favorite game, but given that my coworker has added Frozen Monopoly Junior to his 10×10, there could be worse fates?
- I mean, it’s a game about making nasty pizzas. That’s a bit funny, not going to lie. These are truly terrible pizzas, which is a shame, because I love pizza.
- It’s very quick. I will say that the game does not in any way overstay its welcome, which I appreciate.
- The component quality isn’t amazing. The cards are a bit too thin, it feels like, which makes me feel like they’re going to get damaged pretty quickly after any given game (especially if this is catering to a younger audience, which I have to assume it is).
- It’s hard to affect any player but the player after you in the order. And even then, the only thing you can do is just play slower to mess with them. You may be able to take a pizza another player wants, but if you’re not equipped for it you may end up hurting yourself even more than you hurt them. Up to you if you want to go for that.
- … can we stop putting games in tins? Please? They’re really difficult to store and there’s a lot of wasted space and it’s just … frustrating.
- Underwhelming at two. Just make the first pizza you can. Remember, your opponent doesn’t score if you score first, like Hyakke-Yagyo (weird comparison to link to, but hey whatever). This doesn’t really work at higher player counts, though, as there’s more of a challenge there since the pieces are a bit more distributed (and since other players can still score even when you score, so this is a bit less ideal). It’s a bit boring if you choose to play that way, though, so maybe set it so that you must score at least X points in order to consider yourself done?
- The pizza slice-passing system only really feels like it works if everyone plays at about the same speed. If one player is slower than the others, a bottleneck is introduced that clowns on the player after them (who eventually ends up with no cards). The best way to respond to this is to slow the whole game down to their pace, but that kinda ruins the real-time element of it.
- At times, it can feel like the game War. There’s a certain amount of choice you can make, relative to that game, but once you’ve put down pieces, there are essentially somewhat-optimal cards for you and you have to hope that they’re either in your deck or that you can cycle your deck and grab the next one as quickly as possible. It doesn’t make you feel like there’s a ton of agency within your choice set.
- I understand the aesthetic appeal of the cards, but they are very difficult to shuffle. I’d honestly go so far as to say that I hate shuffling these the most out of any game cards I’ve ever had to shuffle. They’re thin cards, so you can’t really get a grip on them, and they’re too small to try and get a hook in for a riffle shuffle, so you end up kinda haphazardly shifting the cards around and calling it a shuffle, which feels insincere.
Overall: 5.75 / 10
I mean, after the last one, this is a pretty marked improvement, in my opinion, as far as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games go. It’s just … not quite there, for me. It would be fine, but the pizza cards being as difficult to shuffle as they are ends up being irritating more than anything else. Beyond that, it’s not bad, honestly. It’s a quick real-time game about slamming down pizza slices that pretty much plays the same way for 3 – 4 rounds as players accrue points. Given the … offbeat nature of some of the pizza types, I could see this actually being a pretty huge hit with kids, especially if they’re not really playing to win from a strategy point of view. If you are, you’re going to notice pretty much immediately that once you run out of cards, you’re at the mercy of how quickly your opponent moves. If they don’t, and the player after you does, you’ve messed up and given them enough cards to knock you out in a round. That’s, I feel like, a missed opportunity in the game to try and figure out a way to speed up another player; maybe it’s if you have no pizza slices to give me, I can take one of yours, or something that incentivizes all players to move as quickly as possible. It’s a cute game, but that interaction causes it to fall pretty flat for me, especially when compared to other real-time assembling games that I love, like Lovelace & Babbage or Eco-Links. That said, if you’re a huge fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, gross pizzas, or know someone who is, it’s a very quick game and they might enjoy it? I just think that it’s targeted for a different audience than the one I’m in.