Piece o’ Cake

They call the game Piece o’ Cake, though any mildly discerning eye would immediately perceive that what we’re playing with here is plainly cheesecake, with clearly graham-cracker crust.

Before we go into details and rationale, let us pause for a moment of mutual assurance. Though it may not be apparent at first taste, Piece o’ Cake is Major FUN. In fact, once you have whetted your appetite with a preliminary round or two, everything about it becomes fun, from beginning to end. For 2-5 players of strategic playing ages, Piece o’ Cake is cunningly designed by Jeffrey D. Allers to provide the aforementioned players with 30 minutes of sometimes excruciatingly delicious conceptual glee. Allow me to reiterate and perhaps repeat – a preliminary round or two, despite the apparent clarity of the rules and this review, is everso wholeheartedly recommended.

There are 8 varieties of cheesecake. A whole cake, is made of 11 pieces – very nice, thick, well-finished, brightly colored cardboard pieces, which look quite delicious, actually, while remaining firmly, and somewhat disappointingly inedible. There are two attributes of strategic note about each variety of cake: the number of each variety (plainly inscribed thereon), and the number of whipped-cream-like dollops).

To prepare for the game, the 57 pieces are turned face-down, mixed (but not beaten), and assembled into 5 stacks of 11. The two extra pieces are returned to the box. The 5 stacks are then assembled, still face-down, in pie-like fashion. The first player then prepares the first cake, turning over the pieces of one stack, carefully maintaining the randomness in which those pieces have been ordered, to create a whole, multi-pieced cake, appearing, should one require more tempting vividness, much like one of those sampler cheesecakes one sometimes acquires at the fancier of cheesecake stores.

That same player then divides the completed cake into slices, each slice containing one or a multiple of adjacent pieces. This slicing is not in the least arbitrary, but chock full of tastily strategic implications.

Here, we require a bit of elaboration.

The point value of each slice is determined by two different factors – the number of dollops, and the number of that particular variety. Chocolate cheesecake slices, for example, are the most tempting. Each has three dollops, and hence, when eaten, is worth three points. Should one choose to collect, rather than eat one’s chocolate cheesecake slices, and, should one manage to have, by game’s end, collected a majority of said slices, one would have gained 11 calorie-free points.

Thus, though perhaps not immediately apparent upon the first foray into the goodiness of it all, the very first stage of each round of the game – the division of the cake into pieces (as many as there are players) – is crammed full of deliciously strategic implications, and evermore crammed every round of the game as it becomes evermore vivid which varieties of cake each player is hoping to collect. The slicing player, as tradition has it, gets the last piece, making this process of division tinged with a taste of abstract agony.

Once a piece is selected, that player may choose to eat (turn over and collect the dollop-score) any of the slices in that piece, or keep those pieces face-up in hopes of collecting more of the like kind. The game continues with each player getting a turn to be slicer. With each turn, what each player is hoping to collect becomes evermore obvious, and the significance of the slicing similarly evermore strategic.

When it becomes clear that you have no hope of collecting a majority of a given slice, you may choose to forgo a turn, and eat (turn over) one or many of your pieces, thus collecting dollop-score for each.

O, the choices, the yummy, yummy strategy-filled choices. The palatable pleasure. The luscious, mouthwatering, delectable, ambrosial, toothsome delight. The appetizing, scrumptiously finger-licking, lip-smackingingly melt-in-your-mouth-and-mind fun of it all.

Should you need to further whet your theoretical appetite, you can always download the complete rules, thoughtfully provided as a further customer service by Rio Grande Games.

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