Favourable Winds: A Review of The Three Little Pigs
The fable of The Three Little Pigs is about the virtue of proper preparation.
Though it may take more time and resources to put up, a well-built brick house will stand firm against huffs and puffs that'd take apart shoddy straw huts or slapdash wooden shacks. For a pig, having good, strong walls between himself and any hungry, hirsute howlers means the difference between being a homeowner or a ham sandwich.
Laurent Pouchain's The Three Little Pigs is a little different. Here, a sturdy home doesn't necessarily mean a safe pig; sometimes wolves have their 'on' days, and their breath can blow away even the brawniest brick. Likewise, on occasion a lackadaisical oinker in a house of thatch will catch the Big Bad slipping; despite a mighty gust, the straw will stay together, retaining his bacon as well as the property value. Due to the uncertainty inherent in every domicile, there exists a housing market: as architect hogs, the players will compete with each other to build dwellings fit for a pig. With a little luck and a decent sense of timing, a savvy swine could do well for himself. Of course, even the soundest foundations aren't completely safe, and an ill wind could blow at any time...
The game plays somewhat like a mash-up between Yahtzee and Dominion. On his turn, a player rolls the five dice, setting aside whichever he wants and rerolling the rest; after three rolls, the player must make do with what's in front of him, though he may choose to stop at any point beforehand. Having multiple of the same symbol showing will allow the player to purchase house tiles; the more symbols matching, the stronger the material it's made of. There are only four of each type of tile; once a number of piles dependent on the number of players have been completely depleted, the game ends.
Besides being made of straw, wood, or brick, tiles can be doors, windows, or roofs. Each house can have only one door (though it's not absolutely necessary to have one), but can also have an unlimited amount of windows. Tiles in houses may be made of disparate materials; via what can only be assumed to be next-level mud-packing techniques, a house can easily have a brick window over a straw door. Players can have as many houses as they wish under construction simultaneously. Better materials mean more points, though a house is worthless if it has no roof on it; since Reynard's Fox News exposé on Parachute Wolves, pigs have been wary of moving into roofless homes. A house with a roof on it is considered complete and can no longer be added to, but it may definitely be taken away from.
Three of the five dice are filled in black; these three have the potential to have the wolf symbol appear. A player must keep any wolf symbols rolled, and if he ever has two, must immediately stop building to blow at a neighbour's house. Here, the wolf spinner is used. 1/2 of the spinner corresponds to straw, 1/3rd to wood, and 1/6th to brick. The player picks a house to target, flicks (or for maximum theme, blows on) the marker, and all tiles in the house made of the material the marker lands on get removed from play. This element of uncertainty adds a lot of fun to the game; it can be exhilirating to target and demolish someone's meticulously-made brick villa on the off chance, and it can be infuriating when a ramshackle hut of wood and straw refuses to fall.
When the game ends, players are awarded points for their completed houses, and are eligible for bonus points depending on the composition of their neighbourhood. Tallest house earns points, as well as most complete houses and most flowerpots, which a few tiles have visible on them. Players may have also earned points during the game for building 'perfect' houses, i.e. homes made with only one type of material and comprised of a door, a roof, and at least one window. The player with the most points after final tally wins, and is bestowed the ornamental title of Prize Pig.
This game is a winner. The box is styled like a storybook, and all the components are cute and well-made. The wolf spinner could have easily been a die, but the uncertain revolution of the pointer adds a lot of excitement and suspense to wolf attacks. It is relatively simple to learn, but there is just enough strategy to keep veteran gamers clamouring for more, with several different methods of play being viable. Best of all, a game rarely takes longer than twenty minutes.
Its short play length lends itself well to marathon sessions; it is quick-paced, dice-rolling fun for anywhere between two to five players. We played several times in a row during a recent game night; the action is frenetic and satisfying. It's worth a try the next time you're in the café; however, as we currently only have one copy open, we ask that you share with your fellow patrons. Nobody likes a game hog.