If I had to pick the one game that most surprised me at GenCon Indy this year, it would be Iello’s Three Little Pigs. I admittedly hadn’t given this title a second thought going into the conventional, writing it off as a simple kids’ game that would hold no appeal for me (being the elitist snob I am). I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Designed by Laurent Pouchain, and featuring art by Xavier Collette of Dixit fame, Three Little Pigs is a press-your-luck, dice-rolling game that anyone can learn in literally a couple minutes and then start having fun with immediately. Although it’s billed as a family game, there is more interaction and decision-making present in this unique title than I ever would have given it credit for. While it’s not a heavy game by any means but, for a quick-playing filler title, it definitely packs a punch.
So let’s check out the components and how the game plays. Set up is a breeze thanks to the relatively small amount of pieces in the box. You’ll find 36 cardboard tiles depicting house parts in constructed from three different material types. There are 12 straw, 12 wood, and 12 brick tiles. Of those, each material type is divided into three housing sections – so you will have 4 doors, 4 windows, and 4 roofs for each type of building material. Each of these tiles is laid out in a grid, separated by material and housing section, yielding nine equal stacks, each containing four tiles.
Five custom dice are included, all in an appropriate shade of pink, with three of them sporting black detail and two of them with white detail on each face. Each die contains symbols representing doors, windows, and roofs, with the black dice also featuring a wolf’s face. Much like Iello’s smash hit King of Tokyo, the active player will roll all the dice and then determine whether they would like to reroll some or all of the dice up to two times. The player would select which dice, if any, to re-roll depending on the results they’ve received and what they’re looking for. Rolling multiples of any building symbol will enable the player to build a section of housing of a specific type, depending on how many identical results were achieved. For example, getting two “door” symbols would allow you to take one of the tiles from the straw deck that depicts the door. If that player had, at the end of all their rolls, gotten three door results, they would be able to obtain a wooden door tile, while four matching door results would net them a brick tile. This also applies to window and roof tiles, although roofs cannot be acquired unless you already have a section of housing to place them onto.
Once a roof is placed onto either a door or window section, that house is considered to be completed and cannot be added onto any further. This is important because, at the end of the game, only your completed homes are scored. In a similar fashion to their purchase requirements, straw sections of a completed house are worth two points, while wood and brick are worth 3 and 4 points respectively. A home may be constructed of mixed materials and players can construct as many buildings as they wish. It is even possible to construct one building with several sets of windows, although they may still only have one door and one roof.
So what happens if you roll a wolf? If one wolf head result is rolled, the die is set aside as it cannot be rerolled like the others. If a second one is rolled, the player that rolled it is no longer permitted to obtain a house tile during that turn. Instead, they must choose one of their opponent’s homes and attempt to blow it down. A spinner is included with the game with six possible results that the arrow can land on – three of them are straw, two are wood, and one is brick. Once the active player flicks the arrow (or blows on it for more fun as the rules suggest), whatever material the arrow lands on is instantly destroyed from that house. The affected tiles would be removed and the others shifted down. If this causes everything but the roof to blow away, the entire house collapses as a roof cannot exist by itself. All tiles affected by the wolf are removed from the game. Play continues until a pre-determined number of building material stacks are exhausted and all players then count up their scores for each level of their completed homes. Buildings that don’t have a roof are discarded once the game ends. To make things as streamlined as possible, there are small pig icons on the sides of each tile to make for easy scoring. In addition, some of the tiles incorporate flowerpots into the artwork – each instance of a flowerpot in players’ houses is worth one victory point, with one more victory point awarded for every house that you’ve completed.
There is also a variant to scoring, which I prefer as it adds another layer of depth onto the game without changing any of the mechanics themselves. There are six “award” cards included in the box which award victory points and would be used instead of counting for the bonus points flowerpots and completed homes provide. Three of these could be awarded during the course of the game to the first player(s) who have completed a house built completely of straw, wood, or brick. Even if the house is later destroyed, the award would stay with that player, granting two victory points at the end of the game. The others are worth three points each and are awarded at the end of the game for players who’ve achieved the following goals: having the most flowerpots, having completed the most houses, and building the tallest house (as long as it has a roof and a door, it may have as many windows as you like).
The whole thing playsout in about 20 minutes and it’s an absolute blast, with a great balance of strategy and interaction that will appeal to gamers of any age or skill level. In my opinion, it was one of the best games debuted at GenCon Indy. The components themselves are of great quality with brilliant artwork throughout. The box is even constructed to mimic a thick story book and sets up the mood of the game perfectly, especially when, packaged inside, is a fun take on the classic story complete with original illustrations. The aesthetic obviously doesn’t affect the gameplay but, when you have a game that’s already built on such a solid foundation, the fantastic artwork just puts it over the top. I foresee Three Little Pigs hitting the table very often with my regular gaming group.