Base price: $XX.
2 – 4 players.
Play time: 40 – 60 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Check it out on Kickstarter! (Will update link when Kickstarter is live.)
Logged plays: 2
Full disclosure: A preview copy of The Big Pig Game was provided by Evan’s Games. Some art, gameplay, or other aspects of the game may change between this preview and the fulfillment of the Kickstarter, should it fund, as this is a preview of a currently unreleased game.
I think I’ve done a Kickstarter preview at least once a week since like, late July? Oh, no, I took one week off at the end of August (just of Kickstarters; I still reviewed three games). They’re fun, but they can be a breathless business, at times. More deadlines and such, and I’ve been slightly off my writing game, as of late. But, oh well. That’s why I’m taking the time now to write more. Hopefully it’ll work out! First step is getting these reviews done. So let’s dive into The Big Pig Game, new from Evan’s Games and hitting Kickstarter this week!
In The Big Pig Game, you’re in pretty good luck! You and your animal friends live with some lovely humans who have just stepped out for the day, and you’ve decided you’re going to eat everything they have in the fridge. Absolutely monstrous, but hey, y’all don’t practice human ethics. You’ll have to move quickly, though! They could be back any minute. Will you be hungry enough to make it through a four-course meal? Or have you bit off more than you can chew?
First thing’s pretty easy; set up the board. The actual board you use depends on your difficulty, between Breakfast (Easy), Lunch (Normal), and Dinner (Hard):
Depending on which you choose, you’ll have a bunch of food tokens to place on their respective spots:
Set out the car tracker and the car token next:
You can set the Encouragement Tokens nearby, as well:
Now, shuffle a few decks of cards. Might as well shuffle the Bad Things first:
You can set aside the Very Bad Things (or use them instead):
Next up, shuffle the Items:
Finally, shuffle the Action Cards:
Before dealing anything out, each player should take a Character Card:
They also get four Snack Tokens:
Last thing, take one of each food bonus (Sweet / Savory / Healthy) by shuffling each set separately and drawing one. You can set the others back in the box:
You should be ready to start!
The Big Pig Game is played over a series of rounds, as players seek to munch basically everything in a house. It’s inspiring, in its own specific way. Let’s get into it.
Play a Bad Things Card
Every round, something bad happens. That’s just life, probably. Reveal the top card of the Bad Things deck and perform whatever action it demands. Then, if there are any Lasting Effects, place the card somewhere visible to all players (I usually put it face-up on top of the deck). The Bad Things card will be discarded later, either way.
Add Items to Counter
Now, draw X+1 items (where X is the number of players) and add them to an area within view of all players. This area will be the Counter, and that’s where players can get items from.
Players then take turns in clockwise order! To take a turn, take a Snack Token and place it on any of the four indicated spots on your Character card without a Snack Token already. These generally let you do various actions:
- Play a Card: You may play an Action Card from your hand and perform the action on the top half of the card. If you have enough Food Tokens on your Character card, you may boost it by discarding the indicated number (not value) of tokens to use the bottom half of the card’s action instead. These actions have various effects, many of which are explained below. If you would take the Play a Card action and you have no cards in hand, you draw and play the top card of the Action Deck, instead.
- Munch: Munching is going to be one of your primary actions during the game. To Munch, choose a food type and then remove Food Tokens from that food type whose total value is less than or equal to your Hunger Value. Note that various items / card effects / Character abilities may modify your Hunger. Any Food Tokens removed are placed on your Character card, where they can later be used to boost Action Card effects. If there are no Food Tokens available that are less than or equal to your Hunger value, this action does nothing. Taking the last Food Token of a Food Type (other than Spicy) gains you the corresponding Food Bonus! The Food Bonus card is discarded at the end of a round in which it’s activated. Fully eating every food type means you win the game!
- Ravenous Munch: A Ravenous Munch works identically to a Munch action, but the Food Tokens are removed from the game, rather than placed on your Character card.
- Take an Item: You may take any Item card from the Counter and add it to your play area. Note that every character has an Item limit; if you would take an Item that puts you over that limit, you must discard any of your items (even the one you just took).
- Encourage: This action allows you to give any player (including yourself) an Encourage Token (either +4 or +6, depending on the action’s effect). This boosts that player’s next Munch / Ravenous Munch by that value.
Move the Car
After every player has four snack tokens on their Character Card, the round ends. The car immediately moves to the next available space on the tracking board. If that space is the House, the game ends immediately and all players lose! Otherwise, the next step is cleaning up after the end of the round.
End of Round
Clean up to get the game ready for the next round by doing the following steps:
- Move Snack Tokens to the side of each player’s Character Card. They should be off the symbols so that they can be used again next round.
- Discard all Bad Things cards in play. It’s possible that there might be more than one! Hopefully not.
- Discard all Item Cards on the Counter. Should have taken them when you had the chance!
- Players may discard any number of cards from their hand and draw back to their hand size. Use this opportunity to get rid of cards you hate!
After doing those things, start a new round!
End of Game
The game ends in one of two ways:
- You clear every Food Token from the board: You win!
- The car returns to the home space: You lose!
Player Count Differences
The game can be fairly different with more players, as it’s easier to get things done when you have more people around to collaboratively do them. With more players, for instance, you have more hand cards in play (making cards that let other players play cards more useful), a wider range of abilities, and more items in play each round. To balance that out, the game reduces the number of rounds that you can play as the player count increases. At lower player counts, building up a good, cooperative engine matters more, as you’re trying to cover each others’ bases. Also, Bad Things happening isn’t the worst thing, as they last a relatively short amount of time. At four, a particularly not-great Bad Thing can be really bad, as it hits four consecutive player turns. I wouldn’t say anything feels particularly off as the player count increases, though; the game otherwise scales nicely. I’d enjoy The Big Pig Game with any player count, as a result. It also has a solo mode! But I didn’t try that prior to this preview.
- It’s not a bad idea to prioritize getting Food Tokens onto your Character Card early so that you can use them for boost effects down the line. Early-game, you’re not going to be able to afford much or be able to munch much; you don’t have enough stuff! Making sure you can get some early Food Tokens will allow you to chain together more effective card abilities, which can help you obtain Items and boost your Hunger so that you can eat even more! It’s almost engine-building, in that way. Getting early Food Tokens will help you get more later!
- Even though it might give you a bigger Hunger threshold, don’t just always Ravenous Munch! Unless you’re Scout. Ravenous Munch removes the Food Tokens from the game! You need some of them, but you certainly don’t need them all. If you’re not focused on keeping some Food Tokens, it’s going to be hard to boost your cards! That said, Scout can keep any Food Tokens that they Ravenous Munch, so they can disregard this helpful (?) and unsolicited advice.
- Overindexing on one type of food is actually a pretty good idea; you can dump items that aren’t useful once you’ve cleared that food. This also can help you with Bad Things cards; certain ones will give you -3 Hunger on a specific Food Type; if you’ve already cleared that one, the Bad Things card is essentially a no-op, which is great. Better to have that than something that actually messes you up.
- The high-value Food Tokens are going to be the hardest to get rid of, so cards that let you do that early while you’re still building up Action Cards and items might not be a bad idea. It means that you don’t need to build your Hunger quite as high if you can knock out the 10 and the 9 early enough. That said, you might be able to hit those high points with the right amount of Encouragement. You are a bit dependent on which cards you get, but if you can string them together, getting the high-value Food Tokens is possible! Otherwise, just knock it out with some of the right cards!
- Lean into your character power, as well. At least early on in the game. Certain character powers become less useful (specifically ones that give you a bonus to certain food types), but a few are pretty much always useful. I particularly like the ability that reduces all Boost costs by one; that’s just always useful.
- It may be worth waiting a turn to finish off a food type so that you can start a round with the bonus, rather than finish a round with it. There are a number of good bonuses that last for the duration of the round, so, why start that off when the round is basically over? Focus those big plays
- Communicate with your teammates! That can let you set each other up for big plays. You can play with your hands open, so do that! Ask for things! Don’t necessarily play your coplayers’ turns for them, but if something they have would really help you, use your words! Getting Encouragement lined up for a huge turn can be super useful, but it can also be worth strategizing with other players so that you can line everything up first!
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- A lot of this game is building up to having a superturn where you take a ton of tokens, and those turns are inherently very satisfying. Superturns are amazing! It’s really nice to have a like, 18 Hunger turn and knock out three or four Food Tokens all in one go. There are a number of pieces that have to come together to make it happen, but it can happen. The joy of some of these games is just getting to have a huge turn, and helping everyone get there is fun.
- The game is a very fun set of colors, which I appreciate, given the family-weight nature of it. The box is definitely an intense pink, but it’s cute, fun, and saccharine. I think that makes it more engaging for a wide family audience. The theme helps on that front, as well.
- Also some pretty great art, if you’re into cute animals and such. The art is very cute! I like how Big Pig looks almost-sketched, but all the other animals get a lot of detail. It looks like Evan’s Games is generally going for a cute theme for their stuff, and, I mean, it works.
- I like that the characters get backstories on the back of their cards. I liked that in Bunny Party in Maple Valley, as well, and I’m glad they’re doing that again, here.
- I appreciate the variable difficulty levels of the game, as well, including the Very Bad Things cards as sort of half-steps between levels. Having a lot of difficulty options is great! It gives players a lot to do. Especially for family games, trying to get the whole family to move up difficulty levels also gives players exposure to deeper strategy in a low-stakes environment, so they grow as players along with the game. I like the natural progression of that; it dovetails nicely with some things I know from my limited background in education theory. You generally want learners to be in a spot where they’re engaged and challenged without being too much or too little of either, and games work via a similar principle, especially cooperative ones.
- The simple math elements of the game are also well-scoped to keep this game firmly in the family-weight zone. Doing a little bit of math never hurt anyone, and you’ll likely only ever be adding four or five small numbers together. I think the highest Hunger I ever got on a turn was 18? That was pretty impressive, but hardly brain-burning.
- A good variety of items makes every character pretty viable while allowing you to specialize or explore different paths each time you play. I like that you can pick up items that cover gaps in your character skills or allow you to try new paths or new food types, even if those don’t line up with your ability. It makes your ability a bit less important if it’s specific to one thing, but that’s not always bad. Just gives you more to try from game to game!
- We spent a solid five minutes debating if penguins have fins or flippers as a result of this game. Looks like the answer is flippers. Not a huge deal, honestly; more of a “this was a fun distraction”. This resulted from them referring to “hands” as hooves, fins, or hands, depending on what animal you are playing as. Cute, yes; thematic, absolutely; but it does allow for some confusion when cards specifically refer to player hands.
- It’s not that bad, but the rulebook does use a lot of flavor text in its rules explanations, which can cause players to miss finer details. This is related to the previous thing, in that the game’s investment in its own theme is admirable, but not always well-placed. Having flavor text in the rulebook can be cute and fun, but can definitely make things more complicated to understand, since you’re essentially having to translate an in-universe document to a player-readable one. I’m generally against that kind of thing, but I’m also no fun.
- “The Big Pig Game” isn’t terribly evocative, as a title. I understand that not every game can be adequately explained by its title, but this one is extra vague, I think. I had absolutely no idea what kind of game this would even be before I opened it. Is Big Pig the villain? An ally? Are they always playable? Just an odd choice for a game’s title.
- Setup can be a bit clunky, given that you have to place 16 tokens on four different food types. Even though the images match, it can still take a minute. It helps a lot that the tokens all have their desired position on their back. That softens this con, a bit, but you still have to get 64 pieces in place every game that are often jumbled and flipped, and that’s a bit … clunky. It’s not a smooth setup process.
Overall: 7 / 10
Overall, I think The Big Pig Game is a pretty fun family game! It’s probably not going to be one of my all-time favorites, sure, but I think it’s got a fair amount of fun things going for it. Evan’s Games, I think, is indexing on making cute games that can be played with a bunch of people, and it seems to be working out. The box is bright, the art is engaging, and the whole thing just … looks fun. I like that kind of thing! And the actual game itself is a nice, straightforward, cooperative game. I like that the various characters play differently, with unique actions and abilities that play to their general strengths. It’s a good way to learn a bit about variable player powers and how those affect your overall strategy. Similarly, I like the variety of the Action Cards and the Boost abilities. It’s a good system! Generally, I think the game does a good job of teaching its various mechanics to players. I wouldn’t say it’s an easy game per se; it’s more that I think the game does a great job teaching its mechanics to players. The challenge comes from figuring out how to build a strategy off of understanding those mechanics, and I think that The Big Pig Game has a good bit of challenge. It technically has six difficulty levels! Really lets players grow with the game. I will say I’m not entirely sold on the game’s name, but I’m tragically bad at naming things, so I’m also not really equipped to suggest a better one. If you’re looking for a nice, introductory cooperative game, or you just want something that you can play with the family that doesn’t have too much math, The Big Pig Game is a solid contender! I’d recommend it.
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