Pie Face (part 2)

I do not, in general, enjoy watching professional sport. Nor do I even think that I am that likely to enjoy watching pro gamers. Why? Because the longer people spend playing a game the better they understand it, and the less pressure there is to improvise and invent new approaches to playing it. Creativity and strategic diversity eventually get replaced with a set of standard moves that are widely accepted as optimal plays. If it was up to me, every football pitch would have random terrain features added to it, and they would only be revealed to the players at the start of the game.

Pie Face defies this trend. A game as unpredictable and strategically diverse now as it was on its very first release, players continue to find this game so engaging that the results are invariably visible on their faces. Last week we dealt with the multiplayer variant, now we will tackle the solo game.

The first lesson to learn from the Pie Face solo game is how to deal with being wrong. No player can achieve a 100% win rate in Pie Face, and the average win rate for the solo game is very low indeed. There are two key points I would make about how to deal with being wrong. The first is that it is perfectly legitimate to be wrong sometimes, and indeed to change your mind about it later.

For example, the last time I played solo Pie Face I was hit in the face with the pie on the final round. In retrospect, after carefully analysing the position, I realised that this was not in fact the optimal move in that situation. Getting hit in the face had actually somewhat decreased the probability of me winning. I therefore resolved to adapt my behaviour in future games.

The important lesson to take from this is that by accepting my mistake I was able to learn from it and improve my future odds. What is also important is that I only had to admit my mistake to myself in order to learn from it – I could still secretly profit from the lesson while spinning whatever lies and/or excuses I felt like to everyone else.

There is also the point that in this particular situation I had no way of knowing in advance what the outcome of my move would be. There is a difference between the right decision and the right outcome. Betting on someone rolling a six on a fair die with only a 2:1 return is still stupid, even on the one time in six when you win. Avoid being too “results focussed” when analysing your play retrospectively. Try to assess the quality of your decision making not the quality of the ultimate outcome. In particular, when you are dealing with a game like Pie Face that is far too complicated to analyse from a purely theoretical perspective, a bit of experimentation is perfectly legitimate. In this particular situation, I would even consider it acceptable to admit that my original approach was non-optimal to somebody else!

The second point about how to deal with being wrong is that we have to learn to accept imperfection. There is no strategy – no single move even – that guarantees your safety in Pie Face. Some players have been driven mad by this, and given up on trying to improve their odds at all because they know they will never reach certainty. This is to be avoided! The question you have to ask yourself before deciding whether to adopt a strategy is not “Is this perfect?” but rather “Is this better than every alternative I have thought of so far?” Pie Face, like many other games, is all about knowing what undesirable things to accept in order to get the best overall outcome possible. Battlestar Galactica  is a game where this feature is very obvious: you have to deliberately fail some of your crises in order to retain enough skill cards to pass the ones that really matter.

More generally, in almost every game you will have to choose what not to do. Whether you have limited resources or limited actions, it is important to accept that you probably can’t do everything you’d like to and make sure that you can do the MOST important things. Pie Face exemplifies this – every turn could be your last, so you are forced to prioritise and make the most of it!

On the subject of accepting imperfections, and though many of my readers may find this deeply shocking, I suppose I ought to consider the possibility that Pie Face itself could be imperfect. One criticism that is sometimes leveled against Pie Face is that the theming is immature. Well, I think the people who say this are smelly poo-heads. If you want to be immature, be immature! Provided you aren’t causing any harm, “maturity” shouldn’t be about doing what people expect or what is normal, it should be about having the confidence and the self-awareness to accept what you really enjoy doing.

So, on the subject of accepting what you enjoy doing, I’m off to play some boardgames rather than just writing about them!


<Previous @ Maven Games                  Next @ Maven Games>

<Previous by this author                          Next by this author>


I am a physicist who lives in Nottingham and I have been boardgaming for the last 10 years. My favourite boardgame is Agricola. I also enjoy playing the Yetis in Terra Mystica, hence the profile pic. I should also credit Sophie for drawing most of the cartoons that feature in the blog. Without her, there would be no grumpy oxen.

Leave a Reply

Notify of