With a fair bit of controversy flying around Kickstarter thanks to the spectacular failure of The Doom That Came To Atlantic City and the pure shameless fraud that happened with the reprint of Odin’s Ravens, it can be difficult to remember that there are countless projects on the site that are doing their thing, plugging away and delivering fun, entertaining games. As seems to be the norm, the negative aspects of anything rise to the top, drowning out the stuff that goes to plan and the projects that deliver without any stress. One that I’ve had the pleasure of trying out in advance and is currently *that* far away from hitting funding is a lovely little game called Pigpen from Island Officials (who you may know as the team behind previous runaway success Pixel Lincoln).
Pigpen is a very quick playing card game where you and your fellow players become farmers who are trying to grab as many pigs as possible in order to score points. These pigs aren’t your normal hogs though – each one is very special, having their own character and rather charming card art, and they really don’t like to share their living space. Thanks to these fussy swines’ demands, you’ll need to build each one an individual pen where they can live out their days for good and not be turned into bacon and sausages. Oh no. Mercifully, they’re OK with sharing walls with their neighbours at least – no detached pens here, like some exclusive gated piggy community.
Starting with a hand of five cards, you’ll get to play up to two of them each turn, with the option of discarding a further card – you then get to draw back up to five. Cards allow you to build pens, with each one requiring two wall cards on either side (made of either brick or fence, which can be combined as you please), some feed to entice the pig into the pen, and a sturdy gate to shut behind them that will keep them safely inside. Once you’ve managed to build a set of six cards like this, you get to claim the top card from the pig cards deck, scoring you either 1,2 or 3 points. Getting the pig in the pen is only the start though – your fellow farmers will look to do their very best to ruin what you’ve built using other cards that have a slightly more aggressive bent.
Hammers and Jackhammers will destroy Brick wall cards, while Saws take down fences and Hole In The Fence cards ruin any fence (surprisingly enough). If one of these cards are played, the owner of the pen has until the end of their turn to replace any elements that have been removed or the pig contained within will run away to a face-up discard pile (which then means it’s available for other farmers to steal away to their own new pens…). There are also Feed stealing Vacuum Cleaners to contend with; basically, if you’ve got a pig in front of you, you’re going to be attacked, so prepare to lose it. One thing to consider though – just playing a card isn’t enough to remove an element from another player’s pen. Cards have either an attack or defence rating, and in order to successfully destroy an opponent’s card the attack value must be higher than the defence. When that happens, both cards are removed and discarded.
Pigpen is a game with a LOT of back and forth action and plenty of opportunity for screwing over everyone else – the usual caveat applies that if you don’t like take that style gaming, this probably isn’t the game for you. However, if you can get by that, it is also a very lovely little game that is perfect for a trash-talk filled, screw-you thirty minutes. The game ends once the final pig has been taken from the face-down card pile, meaning that you’ll never be playing for ages and ages. Turns fly by and games never outstay their welcome, meaning that Pigpen functions well as both a filler for your collection as well as something that is very accessible for younger players. The cute art (especially the pigs themselves) is joyful and appealing – though I was left wondering where the inspiration for a few of them came from. I’m sure that Peggy Pig is based on the Mad Men Character of the same name…
If you’d like to get your hands on a copy, head on over to the Pigpen Kickstarter page. The campaign ends on Sunday, August 11 and a copy will set you back $20 (free shipping in the USA, add $15 for international backers). Designed by Kevin Kulp, the game plays with between two and four farmers and games take around 20-30 minutes. Thanks to the guys at Island Officials for sending over a preview copy!