Time to deliver another edition of Off the Shelf. If you’re just joining us, this is a series where take a slice of my collection and reconsider it, maybe after having not played for a while. Let’s dive into the culinary arts this time as we look at
New York Slice is a 2-6 player game from designer Jeffrey D. Allers, published in 2017 by Bézier Games. The basic idea of the game is that you’re trying to collect sets of pizza slices for points. The official description says that you’re a pizza chef trying to beat out the other wannabes.
New York Slice began life as …aber bitte mit Sahne, published in 2008 by Winning Moves. Rio Grande published the first official English version, retitled Piece ‘O Cake (even though the original German translates to “…but please with cream”). That’s the version I first played, way back in 2009. I didn’t get to play the system again until Bézier published their version, and I reviewed it then.
At the beginning of each game, you’ll divide up the 69 pizza slices into six equal piles of eleven face down slices each (with the other three discarded from the game). Each pile gets a face down special. At the start of a round, the active player (known as the Slicer) will choose a pile and reveal the eleven slices, arranging them in a pizza shape (you can’t mess with the order). The special is also revealed.
The Slicer know divides the pizza into as many sections as there are players. Because there are eleven slices, you will not be able to make the sections equal. The Slicer also places the special for that round on one of the sections. Then, in turn order, starting with the player to the Slicer’s left, each player will claim a section. The Slicer gets stuck with the last section.
When you take a section, you must decide what to do with each slice. You can collect them, or (if they have pepperoni), you may eat them. Once everyone has decided what to do with their pizza, start a new round with the player to the left of the Slicer becoming the new one. After six rounds, the game is over, and you score.
Whomever has the majority for each different type of topping scores points based on what the topping is. Ties are not scored. Specials also score points, as do eaten pepperonis. Collected anchovies, however, lose you points. The player with the most points wins.
To begin with, this is a game that is highly thematic. Topped with theme, you might say (or not, depending on how cheesy you like your pizza puns). Every molecule of this game presentation is in service of the theme. The game comes in a pizza box. The rules are printed like a menu. Even the scorepad looks like a waiter’s checkpad. Then you’ve got the slices themselves, and the Specials look like they’ve been written on a chalkboard. It’s a great presentation. The pepperoni often stands out too much against the other toppings, which I think makes the slices look a bit odd. I know the pepperoni needs to stand out, but I think it takes away from the overall aesthetic.
The big change from the original Piece O’ Cake is that you’ve got pizza instead of pie. I like pizza a lot more than pie, so that’s a good change for me. However, I do question the naming of this game. When I hear “New York Slice”, there’s a certain image that comes to my head. And that’s an image of huge slices, much bigger than what you get here. Also, I can’t imagine any pizza maker putting together a pizza with as wildly varying ingredients on each slice as this game has. I know that they wanted to give an image of some pizza dive in NYC, but I might have just called it “Piece O’ Pizza” and left it there.
The big thing to talk about with this game is the I Cut You Choose mechanism. It’s a mechanism that people use in real life all the time – you cut a piece of cake, say, and offer the slices to someone else before you take yours. And we all knew the person who would look at that slice of cake from every conceivable angle, possibly even whipping out a tape measure to take dimensions before making their selection.
The first game in the BGG database with the mechanism is 1979’s Panzer Force, a wargame where one player sets up the position of all tanks before their opponent decides which side to play. It was also used in games like Quarto and San Marco before Piece O’ Cake came out in 2008. Since then, it’s been more popular in games, and frequently shows up on lists of mechanisms people would like to see in more games.
As I’ve thought more and more about it, I don’t think I’m as big a fan of this mechanism as most. And I think it’s Castles of Mad King Ludwig’s fault. Castles is another Bézier title that uses a variation of this mechanism – one player sets the prices for all the available rooms, then everyone else decides what to get before the price setter does. That kind of put the idea in my head that ICYC is really an auction mechanism in disguise. I do have a personal bias in my head against auction games, and I become automatically predisposed to distrust them.
My big problem with auctions is that the player has to decide for themselves what the value of something is, then decide what other people perceive as that item’s value and make a determination of what the best price is. Some people love this. I feel like it’s a puzzle with a subjective answer, and that doesn’t sit well me. It could just be that I’m terrible at it.
But, as it is, I just don’t think this mechanism appeals to me as it does some others. That process of determining the value of stuff and then having to wait to see what others valued less is a little more tension than I want. It’s not a mechanism that I hate, and like it better than most auction mechanisms. It’s just not my favorite.
On the other hand, you could think of this as an area control game – you’re trying to gain majority in the different pizza slice types. Having the most scores, and if you’re not going to get the most, you can always ingest a lot of pepperonis for points. I do think the specials add a new layer to the game, and while I might not recommend them on the first game, I definitely would after that.
Overall, this is a good looking game that is the archetype for the I Cut You Choose mechanism. I think it’s probably best in a more casual session where people aren’t trying to overthink things.
I’ve been ranking my Off the Shelf games as I go, and I struggled with the placement of this one. It came down to whether I wanted to put it ahead of or behind Rattlebones. On one hand, I think this is a better game than Rattlebones overall. However, this list is more about what I would rather play, so I think I’m going to go ahead and drop it between Rattlebones and Lost Cities, landing it currently at #5. You can always check on the current rankings on the tab at the top of the page.
That’s it for today. Thanks for reading!