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Piña Pirata

To be perfectly honest, I forgot where I heard about this game first. But the whimsical art and the name “Donald X. Vaccarino”, the designer of Dominion, drew me in.

What Is It?

Box Cover Art

Nifty box cover art

Piña Pirata is a light Uno-style card game for two to six players designed by Donald X. Vaccarino and published by IELLO. Each player will have a hand of cards that depict one or two animal pirates. On your turn, you must play a card on which one of the animals matches one of the animals on top of the discard pile. If you can’t play a match, you must draw a card and play passes to the next person. This continues until some empties their hand. That person wins the round.

Special Rules Tiles

A couple of the special rules tiles along with a completed treasure map.

If that was all, I wouldn’t trouble you with this game, but that isn’t all. At the start of the game you lay out two random special rule tiles. These special rules change how the game is played in goofy ways. For example, one tile declares that all alligators are also turtles and all turtles are also alligators. So now, you can play a turtle on an alligator and vice versa. Another tile lays a card out in front of each person and the animals on that card are considered wilds but only for that person. At the end of the round, the winner of the round gets to draw two new tiles. One is added to the other rules tiles and the player keeps the other one. The back of each tile is one quarter of a treasure map. The first person to four tiles wins the whole game.

What Do I Think Of It?

I imagine you sitting there and saying “this is a kids game” or “that sounds way too simple.” It is simple. We’re not discussing an entire evening’s entertainment here. This game falls squarely in the category of filler games. And it’s a really fun filler game. It is simple enough that my daughter can play with some prompting to remember the special rules, but goofy enough that I’ve seen more hardcore gamers have a blast.

Card Art

The art on the cards adds to the charm of the game.

The rules tiles add a hint of the chaos of a game like Fluxx without resorting to the all-out chaos that is that game’s hallmark. The simple mechanics make it easy to teach and the modular nature of the rules mean you can limit how many are in play if things are too complex for the players at the table. The rules recommend replacing rules on successive rounds after you hit six extra rules, but you could easily alter that limit or remove it entirely.

If I have one complaint about the game it’s that the play time isn’t accurate and can easily inflate with larger numbers of players. Since you’re playing to four wins, it’s very easy for those wins to get spread out among the players and push the game longer. If you’re going to keep it to the stated play time of 30 minutes, you definitely want to stick to the lower player numbers. Or just stop playing when you feel like it and the person with the most tiles is the winner. The rule book does include a variant where you just play and only track who wins from round-to-round. That would probably work best if you’re trying to play in a fixed time limit.

Final Thoughts

Open Box

The open box. Excellent closure and box insert by IELLO.

While this game may not be everyone’s cup of tea, at an MSRP of $20, it’s easily within the budget of most gamers and very much worth a try. The box also deserves special mention. It has a small footprint and a fold-over lid with a magnetic edge that holds the box closed. I have a couple of games from IELLO with this style box and I love it. More small game producers should consider this box style. If you’re looking for a filler game or something to play with the younger set, I would definitely include this game in your research list.

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