Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Thursday 1 February 2018

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Papa Paolo

Game: Papà Paolo

Publisher: Quined Games

Designer: Fabrice Vandenbogaerde

Year: 2016

Papa Paolo is a traditional pizza maker from Naples, the birthplace of pizza. He is passionate about pizza and wants it to remain the most popular dish in the city. However, he's not getting any younger, so he's enlisted the help of some new blood. He's putting the young pizza makers through their paces to see who is his most worthy successor. Each young pizza maker starts with just a small pizzeria but will have to grow to satisfy the most households with deliveries of delicious pizza.

So much about Papa Paolo makes me excited to play it. Its theme is running a pizza delivery service - something that is definitely unique in board gaming. The board looks amazing and the city tiles remind me of Capital - a game I'm really glad that I got to try in 2017. And finally, the mechanisms include pick up and deliver - something I've really come to enjoy over the last 12 months of gaming. So, how does Papa Paolo stand up to my high expectations?

Papa Paolo is a game for 2-4 players which combines some tile laying, worker placement, auction and pick-up and deliver mechanics. In the game you each run ambitious pizzerias with a delivery service that can deliver right to your customer's front door. The game proceeds over 5 rounds where you place workers on a grid of tiles, using them to expand your town or instead taking the action associated with the row or column. When all players have placed all their workers there is an income phase associated with where you placed your workers. Next is an auction phase where you bid for the delivery vehicles in each round. The delivery vehicles vary in the distance they can deliver and the total number of pizzas that can be delivered. Finally the winner of the auction also gets first choice of a bonus action or player board upgrade. At the end of five rounds, your total score will be the number of pizzas you deliver, plus points for the level of upgrading on your player board.
One player's town and upgraded personal player board
You start the game with one pizzeria that can produce up to 5 pizzas at a time. You build out your town from this point with tiles that have different numbers of coloured houses. The colour of the houses is significant since once you fill a tile with delivered pizzas you can make an upgrade on your player board in the corresponding colour. You might focus on different colours, depending if you want to upgrade your money generation, the number of pizzas you can make, how effective you are at speedy plane deliveries of pizza or how many different routes you can travel on when you deliver pizza. These are the four actions you can take as an alternative to placing an extra tile in your town. When you produce pizza you hold it in your pizzerias until the delivery phase when you distribute it to the houses in your town. You only deliver one pizza per house, so you need to grow your town to a large enough size to take all the pizza you're making else you'll be missing out on opportunities to score more points.

My first games of Papa Paolo were enjoyable, but a little underwhelming. It seemed very simple and wasn't quite the pick-up and deliver game I was hoping for. I also found that it was hard to get ahead in the game as there's only a set number of turns and set opportunities to make deliveries, meaning that all players are likely to end up with similar scores. However, it is this factor that has started to make me enjoy the game more and more with each play. Now that I understand the system, the game is about maximising your opportunity to deliver pizza, getting the right balance of single house tiles and double and triple house tiles so that you increase your player board skills quickly but don't end up with too few houses in your town at the end of the game. The choices of where to place your workers have also become really interesting as you weigh up the actions, the tiles available and whether to position yourself with a view to obtaining the higher value coins.
The worker placement grid
In the long term, Papa Paolo may not withstand lots of repeat plays. However, in the short term, I'm really excited to play more and refine my strategy to the point where I feel like I really am scoring maximum possible points in the game. My only fear is that Amy will get to that level of mastery faster and playing against her will get pretty predictable and will always end in defeat for me. 

I applaud Papa Paolo for its theme and the way it has integrated the theme with a really interesting set of mechanics. The tile selection is done in a way I've never seen before, the pizza deliveries are an interesting spatial puzzle and the two player auction mechanism that was revised for the second printing is a really clever way to make an auction work with two players by introducing some bluffing aspects. I think Papa Paolo is likely to fly under the radar for a lot of people and I'd really encourage almost any gamer to give it a try. For the Yellow Meeple, Papa Paolo is a 6.5/10.

Papà Paolo was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available for an RRP of £44.99 at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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